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Labour is playing with fire by repeating racist ideas

This article is over 14 years, 7 months old
If anyone thought that Margaret Hodge's recent jibes against immigrants were a one-off, a series of pronouncements last week by senior New Labour figures should tell you which way the wind is blowing.
Issue 2055

If anyone thought that Margaret Hodge’s recent jibes against immigrants were a one-off, a series of pronouncements last week by senior New Labour figures should tell you which way the wind is blowing.

It started on Tuesday of last week with Gordon Brown declaring his intention to ‘ensure that the jobs available in Britain are available for British workers’ – a line that was widely interpreted as a sop to anti-immigrant hysteria.

Cabinet minister Ruth Kelly followed this up at the weekend by calling on local authorities and health bodies to slash their translation services – a policy first pushed by the Tories earlier this year.

Translating NHS and council materials acted as a ‘crutch’ for people who ‘come here from Pakistan or elsewhere in the world’, she said.

Not to be outdone, deputy leadership contender Hazel Blears laid into immigrants for ‘street drinking’ and ‘undercutting wages’.

This decision to grub for votes by lashing out at immigrants is disgusting even by New Labour’s dismal standards. Giving a green light to racism will only play into the hands of the fascists and their bigoted fellow travellers.

‘Boycott motion’

Who’s afraid of a debate?

‘Free speech’ and ‘academic freedom’ are the slogans pushed by those campaigning to block a motion on Palestine passed by the university and college lecturers’ union, UCU, earlier this month.

Tony Blair phoned the Israeli prime minister to apologise after the vote. Education minister Bill Rammell used a trip to Israel to denounce it.

Supporters of the state of Israel have mobilised on both sides of the Atlantic vowing to overturn the vote.

The truth is that the motion does not call for a boycott, but for a 12-month debate about an academic boycott. Israeli academics are being invited to visit British colleges to put their case.

The torrent of abuse hurled at the movers of the motion has been strangely absent on each of the 15 occasions from 1973-92 when Birzeit University – the first university to be set up in Palestine – was closed by the Israeli state.

Nor is there such outrage at the current economic boycott imposed on the Palestinian Authority by the EU and the US. This means funding for courses and study has been cut off – a very effective block to the most basic academic freedom.

Many of those rushing to denounce the UCU motion are in reality trying to avoid a real discussion of Palestinian rights.

Private equity

Brown shields the vultures

Nearly 20,000 British jobs could be at risk after Ford decided to sell car makers Jaguar and Land Rover. Unions fear the firms could fall into the hands of an asset-stripping private equity company – leading to at least one factory closure.

And what is Gordon Brown’s response to anger over private equity firms? According to the Financial Times he is ‘resisting pressure to scrap generous capital gains tax reliefs on business assets, despite the furore over the use of those reliefs by partners in private equity firms to pay tax at a rate of only 10 percent’.

It’s tax cuts for the rich, wage cuts for the public sector.

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