MPs passed the third reading of the government’s draconian Immigration Bill in parliament last week. The media has focused on a number of Tory amendments that tried to drag it even further to the right.
Many MPs were only to happy to jump on board the anti-immigrant bandwagon. This makes the building of the 22 March Stand Up to Racism and Fascism events all the more important (see right).
Tory right winger Dominic Raab pushed two amendments on deporting immigrants who have served time in prison.
Though he opposed them, David Cameron said he had “lots of sympathy” with Raab.
Government minsters, including home secretary Theresa May, abstained on the amendment, to avoid being accused of being soft on immigration.
Oddly May has allowed more than 50 amendments to her own bill.
Raab’s amendments were defeated. Yet it is a stark fact that more Labour MPs supported them than voted against the passage of the bill. Supporters included David Blunkett, Hazel Blears, Frank Field, Kate Hoey, and Keith Vaz.
But the debate also saw Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn take a principled stand. He said the bill “is based on prejudice and headline chasing and has nothing to do with the real needs of people who are desperately seeking support, help and assistance rather than the cold behaviour shown by the Government today.”
Also among the 16 who made a stand by opposing the bill altogether were Diane Abbott, John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas.
The scapegoating of immigrants will be the key issue in the European elections in May and next year’s general election.
The race to the right continues as a group of Tory MPs tried to pass an amendment banning anyone from Britain who can’t prove they are not HIV positive.
The whole idea of deporting people who have served time in prison is based on the supposed existence of “criminal types”.
So people who have been in prison are still regarded as criminals.
The government already has powers to deport people who have served a prison sentence, which it uses.
Jimmy Mubenga was in the process of being deported under this rule when he was killed in 2010.
Even where human rights law forbids deportation many people have been held in prison indefinitely. This is not the easy ride that Tories would have people believe.
But the government is not getting everything its own way.
It has been forced to back down and say it will accept some refugees from Syria, if not anything like as many as it should.
Labour will see an early test of its strategy in the Wythenshawe by-election in Manchester on Thursday of next week. It expects to hold the seat, but with a reduced majority squeezed by Ukip.
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