Recent debates around the whole "local driver" issue involving a local taxi firm are illustrated beautifully by two buildings on Hull's Holderness Road. They are connected by real proximity, but separated by the passage of 70 years. Yards from 35 taxi's bustling taxi office stands the Boyes store, built on the site of what was the Savoy Cinema. On 17th March 1945, a swooping Luftwaffe aircraft bombed the cinema, killing 12 and wounding 22. These were the dying days of WW2, the casualties were the last civilians to suffer at the hands of piloted enemy aircraft during a conflict fought against an Aryan regime striving relentlessly for racial apartheid, social cleansing and anti-semitism. My grandfather served valiantly in the Merchant Navy during WW2. My wife's grandfather protected the Humber coastline as a Royal Artillery Gunner. Both men did so out of a desire and a duty to stand against fascism, racism, and the targeting of minorities by those wielding power through hatred and greed. I carry with pride, their memory and dedication to fighting for a free world, every day.
It's of course ludicrous to compare the request for a white taxi driver in one northern city to the advance of the Third Reich across Europe, just as it would be wrong to label the owners of 35 taxis as racist. But we must remember how fascism quietly grew to form sweeping fire clouds from smouldering embers. Nazi Germany emerged from financial depression, and a mosaic of European governments who were distrustful of each other. Jobs were hard to find, and average wages were not enough to save people from poverty. The rich continued to hoard the lion's share of the wealth, whilst media bombarded the German people with propaganda blaming the ills of the nation on Jews. The synergy between then and now is hard to ignore. Where Hitler trained his fire on the Jewish citizens of Germany, we are told it is the fault of Eastern Europeans, Asylum Seekers, and Benefit Claimants that public services are cut, and local wages are amongst the lowest on the continent. The NHS is yet again in mortal danger at the hands of vulture profiteers, and the working poor are floundering within the crosshairs of spending cuts whilst the richest in our society grow fatter, and more affluent as they lecture those on the breadline about the virtues of "going without".
Once more, a Europe unfit for purpose is playing its part in a deepening crisis. European cooperation has brought many fantastic benefits, our magnificent NHS lives and dies on the back of immigrant toil. It is however, the ill conceived way in which big business has been allowed to drive down wages, and exploit unskilled labour that has sown the seeds of discontent within our own workplaces. The people who have moved here from abroad are no different from you and I. They only want to provide for those they hold dear. It is the system that is at fault. Would I move abroad if it were my only option to give my sons the start in life I want for them? Definitely. With that in mind, I cannot thrust the blame for this country's shortcomings on someone whom I have never met, simply because their passport is printed in foreign tongue.
People have every right to be angry, but need to avoid the temptation of being taken in by fringe politicians who tell us our problems would be solved by sending those pesky foreign people back home. We need to make sure we're angry at the right people. Refusing to get into a taxi because the driver has brown skin will not create one single job for hard pressed local jobseekers. We are encouraged to rage against benefit claimants and foreigners in the mistaken belief that they are stealing something from us, despite the fact that the biggest drains on our economy are the several multinational corporations starving the public purse of massive tax payments they rightfully owe. If government focused on preventing aggressive tax avoidance instead of pursuing the disabled, and the working poor, we would have a meaningful chance of paying off national debts without throwing our most vulnerable citizens to the wolves.
There is a quote that says "Before getting angry with someone, ask how much power that person holds. If they have no power, you are getting angry at the wrong person". By all means, get angry, but don't fall into the trap of blaming others simply because you see them as different. Those who fought Hitler did so out of a belief that nobody should be targeted because of colour, creed, or race, just as those who scampered for safety from the Savoy Cinema, under the rainstorms of fire and debris that fateful night in March 1945 stood behind national values of fairness and tolerance. We united against racism and fascism, and we won. Let's not allow ourselves to be duped by axe grinding politicians into unwittingly taking the side of those whose advances our grandparents so bravely repelled.