With multiple charities, members of local government, and countless organisations challenging Priti Patel’s Rwanda Policy, we are currently bearing witness to their motives being actioned.
Speaking with Chris Tregenza, a spokesperson for Open Nottingham, I managed to gain some insight as to why these oppositions are so important.
Who are you?
“We are Open Nottingham. We are a loose organisation of individuals who help and support political campaigns, particularly protests. We generally focus on practical things such as stewarding and making sure the events are safe. But we also place a heavy emphasis on publicising events because many small organisations and campaigns have trouble reaching a larger audience and that’s what we aim to do. We help to spread the word about important news.”
What do you stand for?
“We stand for human rights and particularly the rights of refugees and other disadvantaged communities. We generally speak to make Nottingham a welcome and opening city and a city free of discrimination and hate. Obviously, we end up doing a lot of work with refugees, like Black Lives Matter and associated things, but we also focus on human rights for local people, such as your right to protest, and other areas where the government are attacking our rights.”
What is the need for your services in Nottingham?
“Many small organisations and campaigns appear for very specific and short-term periods of time and as such, they struggle to spread the word of events to people who would like to know about them. So, a lot of what we do is help those organisations to reach a wider audience, put them in contact with councillors and MPs as required, and generally we use our expertise and experience to enable other people to help achieve their goals.”
What, if any, is Open Nottingham’s political alignment and why is that important?
“We are not tied to any political party, though I think it’s fair to say we are a very left-wing organisation. Our approach is generally when someone says something good, we praise them, when someone does something bad, we call them out for it. It doesn’t matter what political party they’re from, doesn’t matter what their background is – we are there to push the positive and subtract from the negative.”
Priti Patel’s Rwanda Policy is your current focus. What are your opinions on the removal of asylum seekers within the UK?
“Priti Patel’s Rwanda Policy is quite simply inhumane. Even worse than that, it’s also pointless and costs us money. It’ll cost us more money to send refugees to Rwanda than it would to keep them here. This shouldn’t be about money; this is about basic human decency. Immigration and migration are a huge benefit to our economy and our culture. If you look around the high street, from eateries to fashion brands, migration brings in new ideas, new blood, and it strengthens our community. It also brings in workers who are willing to do jobs that quite frankly a lot of British people aren’t willing to do because they’re paid so poorly. This is why so many refugees end up in, or certainly migrants, end up in work like cleaning and care services because they are actually willing to work hard because they want to be here. They want to be part of our culture, they want to be part of our country and they’re willing to work for that. The entire hostile environment that Priti Patel has created, and before her Theresa May created, is hugely damaging to us as a country, both in terms of our international reputation, our general human decency and financially, this policy which is wrong on every single level.”
Demonising asylum seekers did not start with Priti Patel. As Chris mentions, Theresa May also encouraged the hostile environments we can see today. In an interview with The Telegraph, May quite literally claimed that “We’re going to give illegal migrants a really hostile reception”. Following that, just a year later in 2013, the “Go Home” vans were actioned across select London boroughs to ensure May’s administrative and legislative measures would keep it just as difficult for people to remain out of the UK.
What can the Conservative government do, if anything, to regain Britain’s trust?
“The only thing a Conservative government can do to regain Britain’s trust is to resign. We have a prime minister who has broken the law. We have a prime minister who has constantly lied to British people, to parliament, to the Queen – he lies constantly. There is no coming back from that. There’s no way to regain your trust after someone has abused it so extensively. It’s not just the lying, it’s the sheer incompetence. Rishi Sunak has written off £4 billion worth of debt, which is highly suspected of being fraudulent. Rather than investigate it and try and recover that money, Boris has just waved his hands and said it’s gone. Now that’s unacceptable. This money was given to businesses, and they signed commitments, and if they haven’t done it, then that money should be recovered. And this is one of many examples of the sheer ineptitude of this government. They are liars and they are useless at their jobs. They simply should not be in government. This isn’t a political position; it’s just they are simply not good enough to do the job.”
How, if at all, can they better implement a fair government for those currently experiencing the extreme changes in Britain?
“The Conservatives, or particularly this set of Conservatives, cannot implement a fair government. They have no concept of fairness. Because fairness means that you understand the other person’s position. These are people who are used to getting their own way, and to hell with everybody else. It is simply impossible for this government to do anything fairly. We need a change of government and quite frankly we need a change in our whole constitutional arrangement. Such a corrupt and useless government cannot achieve an 80-seat majority, we need proportional representation, we need a democratic House of Lords, and we need widespread constitutional change. Only when all that’s done can the British people trust once more in our democracy and in our government.”
What difference do you hope to make in Nottingham? And what changes have been actioned so far?
“The difference we hope to make to Nottingham is to make it a more open and welcoming city. One where everyone can walk around safely, everyone has the right to jobs, to accommodation, to democracy. Because a lot of people, migrants especially, are being denied democracy. So we’ve been campaigning heavily for the last two years on these areas, we’ve made some improvements, we’ve worked very heavily with Next Gen Movement, on the Black Lives Matter protest, etc. The work we make is slow, it’s small, it takes a long time, but that’s how you make real change. It’s not about big headlines, it’s about being in it for the long run to make our city better.”
What advice would you give to students looking to get involved in actioning change?
“Stay informed. Get on the streets to protest and be prepared for the fact that nothing changes quickly. Protesting may not be fun or exciting but politicians know that for every person who turns up, there are a hundred voters who think the same way, and they take notice. Democracy starts in the streets which is why this government is so keen to shut down groups like XR and BLM.”
Lead Image: Anti-drink spiking protest outside Rock City organised by students (Credits: Chris Tregenza)