Perhaps the most sickening moment in Gordon Brown’s speech to the Labour Party conference last week came when he boasted of plans to introduce a “migrant charge for public services”.
This announcement – greeted with applause by delegates – reveals the sinister truth behind Brown’s blather about “fairness”.
Apparently it’s only “fair” to pander to right wing hysteria about immigrants.
In fact Brown was referring to a policy first announced by home secretary Jacqui Smith in February. The idea was to charge immigrants an extra tax on top of their visa fees.
The home office added that “migrants who tend to consume more in public services, such as children and elderly relatives” would pay more than others.
The government conceded that this scheme was not really about raising money – it would only bring in around £15 million.
“The figure this raises [to pay] for overall services is not great,” a government source said. “However, it will have the effect of conveying to immigrants that they have to pay their way and it may dissuade a few from applying.”
At the root of this proposal lies New Labour’s insulting conviction that the “white working class” is irredeemably racist – and that bashing immigrants might win it a few votes.
That’s the logic behind a host of measures, such as the “migrant charge”, the home office’s planned “points-based” immigration system and the new “ID card for foreign nationals” unveiled last week.
But this scapegoating drives the political agenda to the right, playing into the hands of Tory racists and BNP fascists. It fans the flames of racism by saying that it’s OK to treat immigrants as second class citizens.
We need to demand that Labour stops attacking immigrant workers – who slave away on low pay doing jobs that are vital for our society – and starts funding our schools, hospitals and services properly.