The leaders of the mainstream parties are sure that attacking immigration is the way to get ahead in this week’s election. Prime minister David Cameron still goes on about targets for reducing levels of migration into Britain.
And the Tories have just pushed a vindictive new Immigration Act through parliament with little serious opposition (see below).
Tory election literature says the party is “clamping down on benefits tourism and health tourism—so that we only welcome those who want to work hard and contribute to our society.” Yet there is no evidence that people come to Britain simply to claim benefits or use the NHS.
Cameron began playing with anti-immigrant rhetoric when he attacked multiculturalism in 2011.
The government played the race card to divert the blame for the massive cuts it has been pushing through to make ordinary people pay for the crisis. Cameron is worried that Ukip’s racist populism is outflanking it to the right.
Mainstream parties are desperate to dent Ukip’s success, without challenging the racism it builds on.
Labour leader Ed Miliband went out of his way to say that Ukip leader Nigel Farage is not racist. He said, “We will never again turn our backs on people who are worried about immigration. But neither will we turn our back on the rest of the world.”
But there is an alternative—to speak the truth that Farage is a racist and expose the lies he is spouting about immigration.
Sanya-Jeet Thandi, who was until last week one of the leaders of Ukip’s youth wing, is clear on Ukip’s racism. She said, “This anti-immigrant campaign undermines Ukip’s claim not to be a racist party. They are turning the election into a game of ‘us’ and ‘them’. Well, I am with ‘them’.”
The Ukip leader was rapidly put on the back foot when a radio journalist asked questions that exposed his bigoted attitude to Romanians.
When asked what the difference was between Romanians living next door to him as opposed to Germans Farage said, “You know what the difference is”.
The real question is why the rest of the media has given the odious racist such an easy ride. Even the thoroughly hypocritical Sun newspaper called the comments racist, but that was a step too far for Miliband.
All he could say was, “I think they were a racial slur but I don’t think of Nigel Farage as a racist himself.”
Immigration figures actually show that there are fewer immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria since restrictions on access were removed at the beginning of the year.
Yet Romanian activist Tommy Tomescu has pointed out that many media sources still rely on figures given by MigrationWatch, which argues, “immigration from these two countries will add 50,000 a year to the UK population”.
Socialist Worker has always argued against all immigration controls. They only benefit the bosses and serve to set groups of workers with the same interests against each other.
The tories have managed to pass their new Immigration Act without much fanfare just before the parliamentary session finished.
They have retreated on a plan to strip foreign-born terror suspects of their British citizenship. This means that the power can only be used if there are “reasonable grounds” to believe an individual can become a citizen elsewhere.
When the bill was voted on at the end of January, more Labour MPs supported right wing Tory amendments than voted against the whole bill. Supporters included David Blunkett, Hazel Blears, Kate Hoey and Keith Vaz.
The new act brings in powers to take fingerprints, check passports and intervene in weddings and civil partnerships.
It will introduce provisions demanding that people such as students with a time-limited immigration status pay a levy to the NHS. This is proposed to be £200. It will demand that banks check immigration status before opening an account. Driving licence applicants will also be checked.
Jeremy Corbyn spoke in opposition to the bill. Among the 16 who made a stand by opposing the bill were Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas.
One way the Tories pander to Ukip’s racism is by talking up “concerns” people have over “excessive immigration”. This is despite figures showing over half of Britons think immigration has been good or positive.
And Tory culture secretary Sajid Javid complained last week about immigrants who come to Britain and don’t learn English or “respect our way of life”. He said nothing about how government cuts are making it harder to learn English, though almost all migrants manage to do so.
He is also unclear on who he means by “our”. The way of life of the Etonians in the cabinet has never had much to do with how the rest of the population live.
52% of Britons think that immigration is good or neutral to the economy
54% think that the cultural impact of immigration is positive or neutral
83% of Ukip voters think immigration is an issue
Justice for contaminated blood survivors now
Now step up the fight
There was a sense of solidarity and hope