Sunday, 24 March 2013

Immigration: The wailing banshee of racism haunts the land where even the Queen is an immigrant.


Immigration is the poisoned cup from which politicians in trouble love to sip.

In Britain of late we have seen the beginning of the race towards the bottom of the barrel on this issue. All parties and most disgracefully, the Labour Party have now decided that whipping up sentiment against immigrants is a price worth paying for electoral success.

Ed Miliband first “apologises” for Labour’s mistakes on immigration, followed swiftly by Nick Clegg on visas, and now the Prime Minister muscles in wanting to get his snout in the trough.

We hear of his intent to implement laws and policies that will result in the denial of welfare benefits, access to public housing and most bizarre given the public health implications, access to NHS treatment.

Lynton Crosby. Photo:
I recognise this tactic as it has Lynton Crosby’s fingerprint all over it and I can tell after being a victim of his during the 2008 London Mayoral election where he unleashed a frenzied and racist media campaign: the man has the scruples of a hyena when it come to race and immigration. He is the Godfather of “dog whistle politics” and the calculation made by the Tories is he may, using the same tactic, do for Cameron what he did for Boris in 2008. He specialises in the politics of smear, fear and hate. It is going to get very nasty between now and 2015.

 When you examine the statements of all three party leaders all are roughly similar in tone and content. We will “crackdown” and “get tough” on “immigrants who abuse our goodwill”. This type of rhetoric reappears regularly on the British political landscape from time to time, but of late these calls, have become increasingly more bellicose.

Nigel Farage. Photograph:

 We could just blame this as being largely as a response to the dangerous rantings of Nigel Farage UKIP party. But there is an even more critical failure at the heart of British politics that explains this shift to the right.

The fact is the public is being conned, mugged by the deceitful and disingenuous, neoliberal consensus of mainstream parties, who have conspired to protect their friends, the bankers.

In doing so they have sought to deflect, downplay and brush aside any attempt to pin responsibility for our economic crisis where it belongs, to the voluminous backside of the fat cat bankers.

Immigrants work harder, set up more business are less likely to be involved in crime, are more likely to be educated and less likely to claim benefits than most in Britain

Yet that’s not the reality the politicians want you to hear, preferring to play to popular misinformed prejudices, so they can protect their robber barons bankers.

Why you may well ask? Because they are in league with them, in short, Miliband, Clegg and Cameron share the same economic interest.

They know that if the real truth were known, about the extent to which their friends and colleagues have robbed the country blind, they would be unable to protect themselves or their plutocratic friends from the wrath of the people. 

So in the current economic crisis, with people casting around for people to blame, each of these social democratic parties lines up the vulnerable and the weak to act as a human shield for themselves and their rich tax avoiding friends in the city.

It’s the fault of the 'feckless poor', 'disability benefit cheats', stay at home mums, foreign students and now, the immigrants.

In this context and in the absence of a clear leadership from the left, the British public have taken this poisonous bait, and fingered immigrants as the authors of many of Britain's problems.

The rise of UKIP says as much about the failure of the left as it does about the right. With nowhere to go the majority in the country are left disillusioned uninspired and simply don’t vote.

At this moment in time, UKIP are talking about Bulgarians, but we all know the sub text and the real political and social dynamic behind such sentiments. Black people have in built radar for this type of double speak: we recognise these subliminal messages.  It is an ability that comes as part of our historical DNA enabling us to smell racism, to taste it when its stench begins to first putrefy the social atmosphere. UKIP are Neo Powellites.

The Windrush arriving in England from Jamaica 1948.

And as Black people let us not fool ourselves. Far too often of late, I hear our own people exposing similar views, conveniently forgetting our own history of racism and oppression. They forget that their parents fought the same fight and they are the recipients and beneficiaries of that struggle.


Any black person who supports Labour, Tory or Lib Dem policies on immigration are akin to turkeys voting for Christmas. They are quite literally black people who have lost their conscious minds.

The truth is, those that are hostile to foreigner’s, are hostile to black people, are hostile to Muslims, are hostile to lesbians and gay people. They are  the UK Twitter Tea Party Tendency, for whom every problem, jobs, wages, housing shortages, crime, the deficit, can be laid at the door of “immigrants” or Europe.

Let us remind ourselves that the UK was built on the backs of immigrants. Every piece of infrastructure, rail, roads, and bridges, our national institutions such as the NHS or education, our great cities and small towns were all built through the forced contribution of slavery and colonialism followed by wave after wave of economic migrants.

Let us not beat about the bush here; even the Queen’s family are all descendants from immigrants. Britain is a nation of immigrants and any notion of a pure indigenous Briton is today, a dangerous fiction.  
We are a mongrel nation.  

Our historic and contemporary contributions to the making of modern Britain are immense and beyond calculation. We work hard, we contribute, we start business, and we make Britain a better place to be.

Notwithstanding this, we face constant discrimination from sections of the press, criminal justice system, housing and the labour market, in public life and elsewhere.

The increasing rabid rhetoric on this issue has changed the mood music for Black people and immigrants in Britain. We no longer dance to the same beat in this country. The politicians think there are few consequences to beating the racist drum, other than short term electoral success, but the long term damages such venomous racism causes, goes to the root of British society.

There are few mainstream politicians who consistently speak out on this issueOur friends in the House of Commons such as MP’s George Galloway, John McDonald, Jeremy Corbyn and Keith Vaz are rare exceptions; the silence of the rest is deafening.

Of late a leading Labour Shadow Minister has added her valiant voice of concern to the debate. It is to Diane Abbott MP’s, credit that she has recently warned her party about the dangers of “pandering on the issue of immigration” and she is right. One wonders where are the voices of MPs Sadiq Khan or David Lammy?

Unfortunately her party has bad form in this area. We can all remember the dark days of Margaret Hodge MP, Barking and Dagenham and Labour’s disastrous capitulation to the then rising BNP.

On a personal note Diane, I don’t believe, that a leader such as Ed Miliband, who singularly fails to recognise the injustice and racism, faced by Palestinians on the West Bank, Gazza is likely to understand, or frankly care about stigmatising immigrants at home.

Blue Labour, the new inheritors of the Blair’s New Labour projects are in the ascendency. 
South Africa during apartheid. Photograph:

The resurgence of anti immigrant sentiment, xenophobia and racism will mean that anyone assumed to be a migrant will be stigmatised. If you’re Black you better start walking with your passport, as once these restrictions come into to force you will be assumed to be an illegal immigrant. You never know maybe they will issue immigrants with a “passbook” as used in the days of South African Apartheid. You can see where this is going right?

Black South African showing his passbook issued by the Government.
The message for the left in general and, more broadly, the anti austerity movements is clear and unambiguous. We have to be radically, uncompromisingly, anti racist and pro immigrant if we are to successfully challenge this unholy consensus. That requires demos, campaigns and opposition to the inevitable social victimisation of immigrant and citizen alike.

 In the fight against austerity we are all immigrants now. I do hope we are ready because given the size and scale of this crisis God help us if we are not.

Lee Jasper