By Dave Sewell
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Diane Abbott speaks out against racism as Labour MPs call for immigration to be reduced

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Issue 2532
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott is at odds with many other Labour MPs on immigration
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott is at odds with many other Labour MPs on immigration (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has slammed calls for Labour to oppose immigration.

She warned an audience of anti-racists in London last week, “We are running the risk of going to a very dark place on issues of race and migration.

“If we don’t come together and campaign hard, the gains I’ve fought for all my life could be rolled back.”

Abbott was addressing a 170-strong Stand Up To Racism meeting in her Hackney, east London, constituency on Wednesday of last week.

Her comments were at odds with other Labour politicians who say Labour should promise to bring migration levels down.

Right wing Labour MP Dan Jarvis was the latest to call for “greater control over immigration”.

He said on Monday of this week that immigration is a “crucial test” for Labour.

But Labour MPs on the left have also called for immigration to be reduced.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said on Sunday, “Do I think that too many people at the moment come into this country? Yes, I think they do.”


She suggested that negotiations for leaving the European Union should involve keeping freedom of movement but looking at “how it is defined and how it is applied”.

She also attacked “employers who take advantage of sucking people in from other countries and undercutting wages and undercutting conditions”.

But Abbott inisisted that migrants were not to blame for bosses’ attacks on workers. “There is a very common notion now that immigration drives down wages and conditions,” she said.

“Immigrants do not drive down wages and conditions. Predatory employers, a lack of trade union rights and globalisation drives down wages and conditions.”

She warned that the argument to drop the freedom of movement for European Union migrants after Brexit could be “actually a cover for anti-immigrant feeling”.

Abbott told Socialist Worker, “I’m alarmed by people saying we need to dump freedom of movement because people on the doorstep say they don’t like immigration.”

Her speech concluded with a call on the Labour movement

to come to a clear anti-racist defence of immigration.

“It is time people stopped talking about immigrants as a problem,” she said. “Our job is to fight the pressure to move to the right on race and migration.

“Our job is to say to people in the labour movement, what kind of solution is it for the underpaid and exploited to encourage them to think that another section of the working class is their enemy?

“It’s not an answer, it’s never been answer.”

Protests and rallies against racism

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) activists joined an anti-racist march organised by the Scottish TUC in Glasgow last Saturday. As many as 2,000 people joined the march.

And former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg slammed the Islamophobic Prevent strategy at a SUTR meeting in Portsmouth on Thursday of last week.

The government claims that putting Muslim children under intense scrutiny can stop “radicalisation” and terrorism. But Moazzam said, “You don’t make our teachers and educators into informants, you don’t make our students into suspects, you don’t do that.

“We really need to stand firm and recognise that the enemies of all that is good strive and thrive on what divides us.”

More than 100 people were at the Portsmouth meeting.

Some 80 people also joined a SUTR meeting in Sheffield, 50 students in Manchester university and 35 in Essex University.

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