Socialist Worker

Clinging to New Labour will benefit the right

Issue No. 2111

Last week a senior trade union figure addressed his members in London. Warning that immigration scares could benefit the far right, he argued the need to keep up support for Labour.

Someone from the audience then pointed out that the arguments over immigration might be hard but arguing for supporting New Labour was far more difficult.

There is a whiff of the mid-1970s here – with an increasingly unpopular Labour government facing a sustained campaign by the right over immigration.

On issues such as inequality or privatisation the overwhelming majority of people are to the left of New Labour. The Joseph Rowntree report featured on page 2 of this paper also found people generally positive about the effects of immigration on their particular area.

But that does not stop the steady drip of scare stories or the argument that migrants are a drain on jobs or services.

To their credit some unions have fought to recruit migrant workers and to ensure they have the same conditions as existing workers.

But other unions have shied away from politically defending migrant workers – hoping that campaigning on pay and conditions alone can solve the problem.

Those who traditionally supported Labour desperately want action to end the housing shortage, to win decent wages and to protect their local services. Gordon Brown cannot provide any solutions to their problems.

Arguing to cling to the wreckage of New Labour whatever the cost can only help lay the ground for the right.

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What We Think
Tue 22 Jul 2008, 19:22 BST
Issue No. 2111
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