Lily Allen’s experience highlights the double-standards of the UK’s attitude to discrimination

Lily Allen at the Calais Jungle [Image: BBC].

Lily Allen at the Calais Jungle [Image: BBC].

What a messed-up country we live in – where everyone can agree it is not all right to discriminate against gay people, but it’s fine to call a mother-of-two a “stupid tart” for showing compassion to a foreign refugee.

Lily Allen was ashamed of the way refugees were treated when she visited the Calais Jungle (shortly before it was cleared). Now This Writer is ashamed of the way she has been treated by a fellow Briton.

The singer visited the Jungle camp a couple of weeks ago, where she met a teenager who had been sent away from his native Afghanistan, apparently to find relatives in the UK and to escape the Taliban.

Britain became involved in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001 – but campaign’s success is disputed, with the Taliban still a major threat to the country’s government.

Ms Allen was widely reported as telling the young man: “At three points in your life [the UK] has put you in danger. We bombed your country, put you in the hands of the Taliban, and now put you in danger of risking your life to get into our country.”

Then, bursting into tears, she added: “I apologise on behalf of my country, for what we’ve put you through.”

Apparently this has incensed a certain kind of person – the kind who also likes to hurl demeaning slang at a mother, in front of her children.

Meanwhile, just four days prior to this incident, the UK’s legal establishment made a great display of censure against the Christian bakers who refused to make a cake with a message on it in support of gay marriage.

It’s double-standards, folks. The UK is two-faced, showing its acceptable liberal face to the public while only revealing its ugly side in private – or, in this case, in a black cab.

This Writer has never been too bothered about Ms Allen’s career in music, but I certainly approve of her at the moment – because she burst into tears and apologised to a refugee who was stuck in a horrible place, partly due to British aggression.

I felt the same way about Gary Lineker’s show of compassion, that attracted the hostility of The Sun.

Both Mr Lineker and Ms Allen were reacting to the plight of people who, through no fault of their own, had been subjected to extremely harsh conditions – the like of which are probably inconceivable to the taxi driver who spouted the abuse.

They are to be praised, not pilloried.

As for the taxi driver, and all those who share his views: I don’t know what they think they’re doing but they are wrong. They aren’t standing up for their country; they aren’t telling it like it is. They don’t epitomise the values that made this nation great.

They are a national embarrassment.

Singer Lily Allen said she has had a “glimpse of what it feels like to be discriminated against” after being shunned by a taxi driver.

The 31-year-old tweeted she was turned away from a black cab and told to “find an immigrant” to give her a ride.

The alleged altercation comes after she apologised “on behalf of my country” over squalid conditions at the Jungle camp in Calais.

The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association said it condemned abusive behaviour.

The singer wrote on Twitter: “Just tried to get in a black cab with my kids. The driver looked at me and said ‘find an immigrant to drive you you stupid tart’.”

She went on to add: “Having lived a life of privilege, that interaction has given me a tiny glimpse of what it feels like to be discriminated against.”

Her claims have been questioned by some. One Twitter user said it “definitely didn’t happen”, while another asked her to reveal the taxi’s registration plate.

She wrote they were “victim shaming” her and replied: “I had both my hands full with children, couldn’t get to my phone fast enough.”

Source: Lily Allen ‘told by cabbie to find an immigrant driver’ – BBC News

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16 thoughts on “Lily Allen’s experience highlights the double-standards of the UK’s attitude to discrimination

  1. Vernon Moyse

    The abuse of Lily Allen (whoever she is) is unacceptable. But so is her characterisation of UK as being responsible for all the ills of Calais. The French allowed migrants through the Shengen zone and the French have social services which should have been able to look after unaccompanied children. The prominence given to Lily Allen’s views is unwarranted and I do not believe the abuse she suffered is characteristic of British people I know.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      So the French “should have” acted to make the situation different? And the taxi driver “would have” behaved differently, according to what you know about people?
      They didn’t; he didn’t. You have to deal with what actually happens, like the rest of us.
      “Should have” and “would have”, simply, didn’t happen.

      1. Vernon Moyse

        The point I was making is that sweeping generalisations about “the British people” are unhelpful. Anti-Iraq war demonstrations were attended by many hundreds of thousands. Equally the squalid reaction of a taxi driver tells us about that taxi driver, not much else. I am sorry that this view caused you to tell me what I should do as in “You have to deal with what actually happens, like the rest of us.” This in itself makes some sweeping assertions about “the rest of us”. But it is your column/blog or whatever, so my participation in it was always bound to receive “your” treatment.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        The article is about how we present ourselves as a country, as opposed to the way we behave individually.
        As a country, “the British people” have liberal views that mean we support same-sex marriage (for example).
        But individually, it seems, many of us turn into small-minded little-Englanders with the very worst attitudes to anybody who is even the slightest bit different.
        Until the difference between those attitudes is addressed – in a way that doesn’t allow discrimination against any group, then we – as a nation – have a big problem.
        That’s all I was trying to say.

  2. chriskitcher

    The UK is rapidly becoming a place where decent people no longer live.

    People are fed a daily diet of racism and hatred of those who need help and we are rapidly becoming everything we despised in post war Germany.

    It is for the politicians to put a stop to this and start acting as leaders and not just followers of the public’s basest instincts.

  3. Barry Davies

    The reason Lily Allen has been lambasted was that she apologised on behalf of all the people of the UK, something she did not and does not have any mandate from the people of the UK to do. The thing is to say that the migrants in the jungle were subjected to harsh conditions through no fault of their own is also arguable, after all they chose to leave their own nation, and travel through several safe nations where they could have applied for refugee status to go to a place that they would have been informed was not pleasant, to try to illegally enter another nation. Whether the incident with the black cab took place, or not, is actually irrelevant because a driver can refuse a fare for any reason they choose, just like shops and pubs can refuse to deal with anyone the choose not to.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      See, Barry? You’re part of the problem.
      Ms Allen said what she said because she was moved by the plight of the people at the camp – people who were there partly because of foreign aggression by the UK military. It was well done. Would you have preferred it if she had done nothing or said “Too bad, Johnny Foreigner, you’ve brought this on yourself”? Either would have been to deny the UK’s involvement in that person’s misfortune.
      As for the incident in the black cab – do you have any proof that it didn’t? Were you there? If not, I believe the appropriate phrase to use is “Wind your neck in”. Sure, people can refuse service, but they would need to have a good reason for doing so, and the fact that someone spoke to a refugee in a certain way – in a foreign country – certainly doesn’t count.
      That’s why the Christian bakers in the ‘gay cake’ case lost – their reason for refusing service was not good enough and was, in fact, offensive.

    2. joanna

      Why should she need permission? She is a private individual, there is still free speech and this country is fast becoming anti-human rights.
      Thank you Lily!!!

  4. Brian

    Blair’s legacy has far reaching implications, a divided and hateful country, because people refuse to believe or are not given the truth.

  5. shawn

    Could not agree more Mike. The newsprint media have encouraged, miss-informed and miss-led the British people. This is being done to direct public anger away from the failure of austerity economics. Lilly Allen has shown commendable courage in speaking out against recent policies and a too prevalent attitude that places over a common humanity for the suffering of people who are in part fleeing from the consequences of British foreign policy. True, this is considerable force to the argument that unwarranted publicity is given to celebrities who have no more expertise on an issue than the general public. I suspect this is because it usually plays out in the favour of media moguls – it certainly does at General Elections. Back to Ms Allen, as she visited the camp at Calais to see things for herself she is in the position of having more knowledge than the general populous and I suspect most newsprint journalists.

    As to the veracity of her comments about the black taxi driver, my understanding is that you should believe a person’s account unless you evidence not to do so. It’s not really sufficient to disbelieve someone because their viewpoint contradicts your own; which, is not something I think Barry is doing.

    Barry, thing about this a bit more. Would a family, or how often does this occur in nations that are not at war, upsticks from where it has years decades, and family wise generations, without there being a very good reason. It just does happen without due cause. Someone does move from where they lived all their lives, leaving all their possessions, family and friends, school, medical care, support network. Some even spend all their savings to escape from where the lived all their lives.
    Cause and effect and consequences.

    The Tories their austerity is now persona non grata for the Conservatives and why ‘balanced budgets’ have moved from the status of a legal requirement to an aim for some point in the future. Prime minister May herself as stated quantitative easing made the rich, richer and the poor, even poorer. All we need next to confirm the abject failure of austerity economics is a classic Keynesian fiscal stimulus in the Chancellor’s budget. So there is cause enough to be angry, but do not let yourself be conned into thinking Britain’s many problems are the result of too many immigrants. I do not subscribe to this view, but the least immigrants can be thought to have done is made the consequences of austerity worse. Even then it takes some unscrupulous employers to exploit their plight.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Re: The expertise of celebrities… Who was it who said recently that we are all tired of experts?

      1. shawn

        I think some of this dislike of expertise, particularly for socialists, is that most expert’s view quoted are chosen by media barons. In this respect they are not experts but, rather, stooges who share the same view as the media baron’s chosen editor.

        As I’m sure you know Simon Wren-Lewis has covered this issue regularly for the last few years. And I too do not agree with all his political judgements. As others have noted he’s extremely knowledgeable and perceptive on matters economic – as you’d expect of a professor of economics, but not so good in the murky world of politics.

  6. Brian

    shawnsaid:
    True, this is considerable force to the argument that unwarranted publicity is given to celebrities who have no more expertise on an issue than the general public.

    Indeed, a reflection of those lazy thinkers that put the opinions of their manufactured deity’s above the facts. Can they however be blamed, when a member of a youth band is appointed an Ambassador, who had no better qualification than singing, and that was debatable.

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