08 January 2007

Disparate Reparations

Hail 2007! Bold bicentenary of the Slave Trade Abolition Bill!

In honour of which - and before I get stuck in on my own  petty quibbles - let's admire how the UK Spectator's Fraser Nelson kicks off his observation that, Two hundred years after its abolition, the slave trade will return to haunt Britain in 2007

"It is hard to describe the Slave Trade Abolition Bill 1807 as a Labour victory, given that it predates the party by a century.

Still, this does not deter Tony Blair or Gordon Brown from staking their claim to it.

‘The reactionaries told us that to abolish slavery was an impossible cause,’ the Chancellor recently declared to Labour members.

Abolition was a great victory against ‘Tory money’, said the Prime Minister.

On the eve of the bicentennial year of William Wilberforce’s legislation, both men are preparing to take a vicarious (if wholly undeserved) bow.

Set aside the fact that Wilberforce was a Tory MP. Messrs Blair and Brown make a deeper error in presuming that slavery has been banished from Britain. It has come back — and on their watch. It now involves mainly Slavic or Asian woman, rather than African men. The slaves of 21st-century Britain work in bordellos rather than fields, and are bought and sold in airports rather than a Caribbean market place. The price is £8,000 a head rather than £200. And the trade has acquired a new name: human trafficking."

Meaty stuff.

My own bean-counting whinge is nowhere as current or punchy. All I want to know is, given this correctitude kerfuffle about compensating the heirs of those traders put out of business -

  • To whom does the money go?
  • And how much?

    Damn but we're talking global commerce. The shuffling shackled bent to the lash across:

  • Mesopotamia
  • Egypt
  • Hebrewshire
  • Greece
  • Rome
  • Persia
  • China
  • All them Mayan and Aztec civilisations
  • India
  • Africa, natch
  • New Guinea
  • New Zealand
  • Germany
  • And don't forget those horny-helmeted Viking raiders (from whom yours truly is proudly descended, courtesy of some brooding Danes over on a rape-n-pillage daytrip, liked it so much they set up holm in God's own county of Yorkshire.)

    That is a lot of senior slavers out of decent home help. No wonder we're looking to redress the balance.

    Related reading: From Accra/Cape Town, Manu Herbstein writes politely to put my niggardly cavils in perspective.

    "You might be interested," he suggests, sending me details of his very own Ama, A story of the Atlantic slave trade, and winner of the SABC's "Award for Innovative Use of New Media" at the 2003 Highway Africa conference.

    You know what, MH? Sounds rude and dismissive, I know, but I'm not. I'm here for the beer and to score cheap points with tasteless puns.

    But I am happy to recommend your worthy chef-d'oeuvre  to one and all and wish you hearty and deserved sales during this commemorative year. I trust your publishers have clinched all relevant tie-ins and grabbed prominent window displays along the busiest thoroughfares.

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