Kids! Don’t reason with your face!

Using your face, that is. Remonstrating with your own face is fine, but not in public. Anyway. If I’m not feeling entertaining, I might as well be irritable. Today it is Ruth Kelly who is irritating me. Here are the things about Ruth Kelly that irritate me:

  1. Her face

There’s more to it than that, of course, but mostly it boils down to her face. This time it’s something that came out of her face. Hit it, Ruth:

I do think translation has been used too frequently and sometimes without thought added to the consequences. So, for example, it’s quite possible for someone to come here from Pakistan and elsewhere in the world and to find that materials are routinely translated into their mother tongue and therefore not have the incentive to learn English.

Yes, in this story Ruth (pictured below preventing her face from invading Poland) continues the rather bizarre trend of Labour pandering to small-minded idiots who are unaccountably concerned that they won’t be able to order some of what they undoubtedly consider to be “filthy foreign muck”. Why on earth people who have less contact with brown people than Prince Charles’s underwear and who consider anything with more flavour than frozen peas to be a sign of dangerous culinary licentiousness should be concerned about communicating with the Azims down at number 43 is beyond me, particularly given the paucity of conversational material they’ll have available should some sort of detente inexplicably be reached, but there you go. My, what a long sentence.

Ruth Kelly and her Face

Leaving aside little Britain’s prejudices, let’s move on to Ruth, who really ought to know better. Of course, she doesn’t, as her face is to logical reasoning what the presence of an elderly nude man is to the proper enjoyment of a fish supper. She starts out well, mind you, in stating that learning the English language is “key” to helping migrants to integrate.

Where she falls down, of course, is everywhere else. And unlike normal falling down, which is funny, Ruth and her face fall down in deeply annoying ways. From this fixation with language-as-integrator she leaps like a gazelle with an annoying face to the conclusion that the government should stop translating its bureaucratic documents. In so doing, she makes lots of ludicrous assumptions, which I will now point out so that enterprising (read: less lazy than me) members of the public can print them out and staple them to her face.

Firstly, she assumes that immigrants aren’t already integrating. This is a boring one. Even someone with a normal face could make this mistake. So, too, the assumption that the government should Do Something. I covered this earlier, but it’s so ingrained into politicians’ minds that to hold it specifically against Ruth would seem churlish. It would also involve getting closer to her face than is prudent, so let’s keep our powder dry.

No, the most glaring little idiocy, it seems to me, is Kelly’s blithe assumption that immigrants essentially have one motivation in life, and one motivation only: to comprehend local authority forms. Now, let it not be said that an evening spent parsing the H19-B (application for auxiliary wheelie bin) is not an enthralling night for all the family (section C aside, which contains language, and scenes of mild peril). But in the end, I really do question whether newly arrived migrants’ main aspirational concern is to penetrate the core of English bureaucracy, and taste the sweet fruits therein.

After all, this is hardly Tolstoy, for whose appreciation learning Russian is considered by some to be a prerequisite, and whose reward of comprehension might truly be worth the effort. Indeed, those of us in near full command of the English language are painfully aware that government forms are fully capable of being incomprehensible in whatever language you try to decipher them. In fact, given that translators go through years of training, while form-writers seem to need no more qualification than a deep hatred of the reader, it’s quite possible that applying for a passport in Swahili is considerably easier than it is in the original English.

Now, I realise that Ruth, whose entire life will have been subsumed by politics from an early age, might not comprehend that there are those of us who have other pursuits, other joys in our lives than heading down to the council offices to read some pamphlets on parking practices. So what I would like you, both of my loyal readers, to do, is this: write to Ruth Kelly. Perhaps sympathise with her about her face. But then describe to her a joy in your life. It may be the smile of a newborn baby; it may be the frisson of excitement you get from being thrown out of maternity wards – I don’t know. But maybe – just maybe – if we can convince this woman and her face that life outside of government does indeed exist, then the mist will clear from her eyes, and she will run away to join the circus as God surely intended.

If you could write to her in Urdu, that would be even better.

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