There are two arguments which, when invoked, mark the speaker out as a bore.
The first is:
“If you like it so much, why don’t you go and live there”
This riposte has inspired an entire blog, devoted to reproducing idiocies from the BBC’s “Have Your Say” pages. It is a cretinous thing to say. It doesn’t follow that, merely because somebody doesn’t like one aspect of the way things are done in this country, or thinks that we might benefit from following the example of another country, that they ought to follow through, and emigrate.
The other facile quip is the following:
“If you don’t like it here, then why don’t you go back to where you came from?”
There’s potentially, although not inevitably, a racist presumption in such a statement. It might just be acceptable in some, limited, domestic circumstances. For example, a room-mate of mine, some years ago, told me that his grandmother would often chastise relatives with this phrase, when she heard them griping about life in Britain: the family having arrived some years previously from a country which was much less free and which offered fewer opportunities.
However, the racist echoes of the phrase in most contexts is clear. It stems from the assumption that immigrants, or the children of immigrants, have less right to complain about life in this country, than people who are born here. It also suggest that members of minority groups don’t belong in the United Kingdom: that they have another “home” and that they are merely “visitors” here. That’s not necessarily what is meant. A person who advises members of minority groups to “go back home” might in the next breath tell a white Briton to emigrate to another country where they do the thing that the “like so much”. In short, the speaker might be an equal opportunities idiot.
Nevertheless, the formulation is close enough to “eff off back to Africa/Pakistan/Israel” for it to be one which no sensible person would ever use, unless they really don’t mind being though of as a racist.
McGrath was far from politically correct, David-Cameron-new- cuddly-Conservative Party, when I pointed out to him a critical comment of Voice columnist Darcus Howe that the election of “Boris Johnson, a right-wing Conservative, might just trigger off a mass exodus of older Caribbean migrants back to our homelands”.
He retorted: “Well, let them go if they don’t like it here.” McGrath dismissed influential race commentator Howe as ‘shrill’.
The article was penned by Marc Wadsworth. To be frank, Wadsworth’s repeated attempts to blow his own trumpet, make him look absurd. I found the conclusion of the article – in which Wadsworth takes offence at the use of the word “sunshine” – bewildering. I hadn’t appreciated this, but according to Darcus Howe, “sunshine” is a racist term. Apparently.
McGrath was right to resign, though. He didn’t tell people to “go back home” or “go back to Africa”. But that was the implication of the statement, and he should be ashamed of having used such a retort. It makes him look like an idiot at best, and a racist at worst.
Compare and contrast Ken Livingstone, who told two Indian born Jewish businessmen of Iraqi descent to “go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs”, in the context of a business dispute.
There was no apology, and no resignation, and Livingstone’s supporters fell over themselves to explain how their man was no racist.