Socialist Worker

Competition to be the nastiest to the vulnerable

Issue No. 1936

MICHAEL HOWARD marked the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by calling for the reintroduction of quotas on refugees—the same policy that denied thousands of Jews refuge from persecution and the death camps.

Many will see through this opportunist electioneering for the vicious racism it is. Shamefully, Tony Blair won’t be one of them. His first response was to claim that a quota system would be too expensive. A day later home secretary Charles Clarke was finalising Labour’s own plans for quotas.

Labour also announced the speeding up of the forced removal of thousands of asylum seekers. The government boasts of its efficiency in excluding more people who fled persecution in countries such as Zimbabwe, Somalia or Saddam’s Iraq. This is on top of seven years of pandering to the racist lies of the Sun and the Daily Mail about overcrowding, excessive benefits for asylum seekers and immigrants “draining” Britain’s resources.

In the run-up to the election, both Blair and Howard will clamour to be the toughest on immigration. They will seek to take people’s bitterness at the lack of social housing, low wages and opportunites for their children and turn this onto some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

At the same time, both Labour and the Tories are happy to take in as many of their overseas millionaire friends as want to come. They are also happy to accept immigrants from the EU, which provides nearly half of foreign workers, as long as they have the “right skills”.

Only Respect will take a principled stand in the election, defending the rights of refugees and arguing that immigration is a benefit to British society.

Police powers

Who will be next in line to get hit with an ASBO?

POLICE HAVE been forced to drop charges made under anti-social behaviour legislation against eight campaigners for Palestinian rights.

But although this is a victory for the demonstrators arrested in Solihull for picketing Caterpillar, the firm that supplies bulldozers to Israel, the arrests show how police and the government are ready to use anti-social behaviour laws to crack down on our rights to protest.

The eight were arrested because they failed to provide police with their names and addresses — details that the campaigners say the police wanted in order to apply for Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) against them.

Tony Blair’s government is using ASBOs to scapegoat and criminalise young people. We should be on our guard against attempts to use them to criminalise protesters too.

Licensing laws

Profits from selling us an empty vision of happiness

What are the only places open in the evenings in so many towns and cities? They are corporate-owned “international” restaurants and, next door, corporate-owned bars whose sole purpose is to fleece people who are sold the vision of a good time.

These areas are awash with CCTV, bouncers, community wardens and police. Let’s liberalise the archaic licensing laws, but why not address why many of our city centres are effectively corporate-run binge drinking zones—alcoholic Disneylands?

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Article information

What We Think
Sat 29 Jan 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1936
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