I’ve never been all that concerned about immigration. Perhaps growing up in Liverpool immunised me against such knee-jerk attitudes, since the city has always been to some extent multi-cultural. I will admit that Liverpool does have a tendency – like most cities – to be ghettoized; there is ‘China-town’, and a large black community in Liverpool 8 for example, but people in the city have an awareness of other cultures and identities, perhaps owing to our heritage as one of UK’s largest ports. Liverpool also has its fair share of problems of course, but it is quite a tolerant city.
Racism makes me uncomfortable and as I’ve got older it upsets even more, this is one of the reasons why I dislike politicians who use it to court the ‘populist’ vote. It has been much documented that racism is caused by numerous things; fear of the unknown, scapegoating, ignorance and disinformation.
Those who are racist can actually believe they are being reasonable; they’ll cite statistics to support their position, claim immigrants receive preferential treatment from the government, better housing, more benefits, and that they undercut British workers for work. They even claim immigrants bring with them social problems and crime. All of this avoids the real issue that so-called ‘illegals’ are usually exploited; exemplified by the fact that many work in sweat-shops, are used as sex-slaves and more often than not do the kind of work British workers would never want to do. Is this the fault of the immigrants? No. It is clearly the fault of their abusers, most of whom are British citizens.
Most immigrants are highly skilled and become British citizens – some have fled dangerous situations in their own countries and just want to live better lives. Sometimes the UK is partly responsible for the problems in their native countries, either recently or in the past, and there is a price to pay for that. The tendency among the British is to pompously believe we were benevolent colonialists – maybe it’s about time we were honest about our own history and that may help us to have greater insight about the world, thus prevent us from repeatedly making the same mistakes. There is a lot to celebrate about this country, but our colonialist history was often shameful and as the Iraq war has demonstrated, we still haven’t learned. Is it really any wonder that the Middle East don’t trust us, with our history?
The Labour movement should know better than rattling on about immigration. In fact, New Labour had a very poor record in his treatment of immigrants, using terrorism as an excuse to introduce often punitive legislation – despite much evidence to show that such laws would be ineffective against terrorists. Locking immigrant families up for months was/is shameful and would be more likely to play into the hands of potential terrorists than discourage it. This is not the way for a civilised society to behave and was a betrayal of Labour values.
The leadership contest of the Labour Party has revealed that one particular candidates believes a ‘tough’ stance on immigration will earn votes. Ed Balls seems to have made it a cornerstone of his campaign. Diane Abbott, to her credit, has tried to defend immigration (her ward is very ethnically diverse, and she’s proud of that). To me, the Labour movement is supposed to be about compassion, tolerance and equality, not sweeping statements about immigration. Surely Balls doesn’t believe that Labour is still viewed as ‘soft’ on immigration? Furthermore, is it now the Labour party’s job to pacify bigots? I certainly hope not.
The Daily Mail, The Sun, Sky News, The Daily Express and similar right-wing media outlets are a disgrace to our society and their influence on British politics must be curbed. It does the Labour Party a disservice when Ed Balls joins them in spouting off rhetoric about immigration. We expect this kind of behaviour from the Conservative party who have always been opportunistic and use any dirty trick to gain and stay in power. I’m a Labour supporter but if the party goes any further down this route it will no longer bear any resemblance to the modern, progressive party it was intended to be. The Labour party should be about social justice.