I HAVE just returned from Croatia. It was life enhancing to escape from the Covid-obsessed UK, to a country that felt pretty Old Normal. It underlined for me just how weird, despairing and corrosive to confidence the mass psychology here has become.

Unusually, we returned to upbeat headlines. A surge of UK-wide ‘national’ pride over British tennis player Emma Raducanu’s phenomenal victory had driven the Forever Pandemic down the news agenda.

Raducanu’s preferred triumphant picture showed her proudly holding a Union flag. Copious back-slapping commentary ensued, stressing the player’s mixed heritage. She was promptly hailed as a “flower of Britishness”, declared a “21st-century English rose”, even though “she doesn’t contain a drop of British blood”.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a past master in virtue-signalling, was quick to capitalise on her success. “Born in Canada to Chinese and Romanian parents, she moved to London at two-years-old. Here in London, we embrace and celebrate our diversity. And if you work hard, and get a helping hand, you can achieve anything.”

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I might have been swept along with this much-needed wave of euphoria had I not received a sobering slap in the face at Gatwick Airport.

Anyone who hasn’t travelled abroad recently will get a shock, or at least a depressing dose of reality, when they have to go through border control.

Where once you slipped effortlessly through E-gates, the vibe has become tense and heavy. We – six adults, a toddler, two babies – were not allowed to use these gates: under-12s are barred.

So we joined the much longer queue where, apart from families, everyone else was travelling on a foreign passport.

A UK Border Force queue-handler barked out instructions, directing us to desks, in such an angry, military manner that you’d think he’d condemn you to a punishment beating if you didn’t jump to it. Not an easy task with tired infants in tow. “YOU! Number SIX!!! NOW!!!

I remonstrated with him. A few Pleases and Thank Yous wouldn’t go amiss. He looked sheepish momentarily, but was too belligerent to be cowed.

Because I’m white I got away with rebuking him, but on the basis of the experience I am about to detail, I wouldn’t advise anyone of colour, or who is travelling with a foreign passport, to try it.

We explained that we were all going to one desk because we were travelling as a family group. “You can’t ALL be a family” he challenged us aggressively.

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What was his problem? Was it connected to the fact that my son-in-law is black, a British citizen, Londoner through and through, of Nigerian heritage?

“Families”, for this throwback creep, are doubtless white. Anyone of colour is “Other”.

We ploughed on past passport control, seething with resentment. Unlike Croatia, where proof of Covid tests and fulfilment of entry requirements were civilly and quickly checked, we were not asked to show evidence that we had filled in the clunky, confusing and time consuming Passenger Locator form or demonstrate that we had taken the costly Covid tests.

If you force people to complete paperwork, you’d think you’d want to check it.

But this travel rigmarole the UK Government demands has nothing to do with public health. It is pure Covid theatre. Its objective is to actively discourage ordinary people from travelling abroad, a goal it has amply achieved.

Continuing through the Green channel of the customs hall – an area about half the size of a school gym – any fleeting doubt that we were over-sensitive on the question of race evaporated.

The hall was packed with white people, all except for my son-in-law who was promptly singled out, a blatant example of racial profiling if ever I saw one.

A weaselly customs officer sidled up to him. “You alright?” “Who are you with?” “Where are you going?”

“Home. I live here”, my son-in-law replied.

Had my son-in-law not been encircled by white women making it evident that they would intervene on his behalf, I'll wager this official would have continued his interrogation.

The fact that he backed down merely betrayed his racial motivation.

My son-in-law found none of this surprising. Shamefully, he is used to it.

But it gave me a flavour of what it is like to be a black British male entering the UK, just half and hour away from Sadiq Khan’s vaunted equality paradise.

“If you work hard, and get a helping hand, you can achieve anything.”

Oh really? My son-in-law works exceptionally hard, is a high achiever despite having had no helping hand. He is an all-round sterling citizen. But achieve anything? For someone of his colour, it’s an achievement just to get through a British airport without being traffic-stopped by government goons.

My blood boils just revisiting these incidents. The injustice hits you like a body blow.

Of course, Brexit has only encouraged ugly chauvinists to indulge in self-congratulatory rituals.

I noticed this last year returning from Turkey. On Border Force notices,“United Kingdom” had been replaced with “Great Britain”, the latter term being more malleable for propaganda purposes.

A full month before this year’s holiday departure, I applied online, and was instantly accepted for the UK Global Health Insurance Card, which confers similar reciprocal health benefits to its European predecessor.

Uselessly, the card, emblazoned with Union flags, only arrived after I got home. Inefficiency, ponderous bureaucracy, and flag-waving go hand-in-hand in the UK these days.

But I suppose I should be grateful that the government website at least recognised me. My other son-in-law, white, born and bred in Lincolnshire, UK tax payer, etc, got an email saying that he had no right of residency in the UK.

When he tried to clear this up, the email address to which he was referred issued an instant response: Mailbox full.

I can honestly say that I have never felt more negative about returning to the UK.

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