It sometimes feels like the island of Great Britain is floating on stormy waters, its incompetent captain powerless to prevent mutiny, drifting between a series of treacherous rocks, all of which could hole her below the waterline. Brexit, Syria, Russia, energy, Ireland, migration and crime: these and other issues threaten at any moment to capsize the whole country.
The ship metaphor is apt because the Windrush was the ship that in 1948 started to bring Commonwealth citizens from across the Caribbean to help rebuild the motherland following World War II. Britain then was in a far more parlous state than today: economically ruined, its cities devastated by bombing, almost half a million killed, many of them those brave young men sent to fight the enemy. Having spilled much of our own we needed new blood, and the Caribbean migrants provided it: along with the Irish, they helped rebuild our nation and in return we gave them the dirtiest jobs and housed them in the worst slums, where they faced hostility that culminated in the Notting Hill race riots of 1958.
Between 1948 and 1971 hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived, many of them with only landing cards, including an unknown number of children who never needed travel documents and who are now being threatened with deportation because they cannot "prove" their Britishness. The Conservatives blame Labour for destroying the original landing cards in 2010; Labour blame the Conservatives for encouraging a climate of fear for immigrants - such as the 2013 stunt, defended by then Home Secretary Theresa May, in which vans drove round London with the message, "In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest."
It's a scandal, of course, one which helped force Home Secretary Amber Rudd out, and even more scandalous because it was so predictable. No doubt new legislation will be passed, and this crisis will fade to background noise, to be replaced by the next and the next, none of them perhaps ship-sinking in themselves but all adding to the sense of a rudderless boat, a government which is incompetent rather than evil, ignorant rather than mendacious, too busy battling adverse winds to plan for the voyage ahead.
Unlike most of my friends and family, I do not believe the Conservatives are evil; nor do I believe the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn would ruin the nation, or steer it through the choppy waters, the treacherous reefs, to a brave new world. I simply don't believe we are being led by people with the intellect, vision or wisdom to turn this boat round.
How did we get here? In the past we had strong, clever leaders - even if you disagreed with them on policy, you at least had a sense they knew what they were doing and where on earth they were going. Blair, Thatcher, Macmillan, Wilson - all intelligent, driven, learned. Winston Churchill found time during his busy schedule to write "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples;" by the time David Cameron was PM, he spent much of HIS free time playing "Angry Birds." What happened? Did someone slip something into the water at Number 10 Downing Street?
But then, you get what you vote for: perhaps it's no wonder so many of our politicians seem indecisive, uncertain what to do next when we, the electorate, are equally confused. We want efficient public services and more resources for the NHS, but we don't want to pay more tax. We want stricter controls over immigration, but only for immigrant,s we don't like. We voted to leave the EU but want to retain all the perks of membership. We want a free press but believe something must be done to rein in the tabloids. We believe in free speech, but when the BBC broadcast a 50-year-old speech by Enoch Powell we shoot them down.
Powell made that notorious "rivers of blood" speech in 1968, at the peak of the Windrush years: a time when institutional and cultural racism was rife, black people were routinely targeted for abuse and the "Black and White Minstrel Show" was peak-time, rather than peek-through-fingers, viewing. In so many ways Britain has changed for the better: wealthier, cleaner, more tolerant, more opportunities for people at the bottom of the heap to rise.
Yet for many people, and perhaps most of all for its so-called indigenous population, its "English-speaking peoples," the changes have not all been good, and worse, they don't believe they were consulted about change - least of all about mass migration, which has transformed the country beyond recognition over the past 70 years and in particular the last twenty. It was this fear that led partly to the Brexit result, but it is far too simplistic to dismiss those who voted as racist: for one thing a large number of people from ethnic minorities voted Leave, and for another, most of the millions who have arrived in recent years have been white Eastern Europeans. Most Britons understand their mongrel roots, their UN-DNA.
We are an island nation, at home on the stormy ocean: nevertheless, it's hard to reach safe harbour, let alone a brave new world, unless most of you are pulling in the same direction.
Mark Liam Piggott
Political Journalist (London )