After the victory of UKIP in the Euro elections, in which an overwhelming 9% of the electorate voted them into a parliament nobody cares about, Red Ed Miliband and Call-Me-Dave Cameron have been falling over themselves in a mad dash to the right on immigration.
Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t been enough for some of the right-wingers in the Labour Party, who won’t be happy until Miliband publicly flogs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn for their left-deviationist tendencies and leads the party to power with a manifesto promise of replacing fox hunting with immigrant hunting.
Seven Labour MP’s have signed an “open letter” to Ed Miliband demanding that he promise to restrict “the free movement of labour from European countries with much lower incomes”. They are largely “the usual suspects” for right-wing rebellion in the party – Kate Hoey, Frank Field and John Mann to name three – but they represent a large swathe of opinion within Labour, and indeed within the wider labour movement.
We’ve had the predictable rhetoric from Ed that Labour will “listen to the public” on immigration. Good – the political class has been ignoring people for too long, and ordinary people do have concerns about immigration. Of course, Westminster politicos have consistently dismissed them as racist, and refused to engage in a discussion about immigration – remember Gordon Brown’s conversation with “that bigoted woman”?
However, “listening to the public” doesn’t mean you just listen to people moan about immigration (among other concerns) and think “let’s send ‘em back where they came from, problem solved!” “Listening to the public” is New Labour-speak for “moving to the right” – even further than they already have.
Yes, we should listen to people’s views – but we should stand for our own principles as well. Don’t scapegoat foreigners, challenge the narrative that does – it wasn’t Polish plumbers or Indian doctors who caused the financial crisis, it was gambling cokehead bankers and rich tax-dodging bastards.
One million young people are out of work in the UK – not because of immigrants, but because there’s no fucking jobs. Rather than promising to close the borders, why don’t we build some houses and get people back into work and into decent homes?
People see migrant workers working for shit wages and feel like they’ve been undercut by immigrants. That’s understandable, but don’t blame the Polish lad working for peanuts, he’s getting shafted too – blame the boss who’s paying him fuck all, and demand decent wages for everyone!
If Labour keeps tailing the Tories and UKIP on immigration, the political landscape will keep moving to the right. The only way to cut across that narrative is with socialist policies – and they won’t come from Labour. We have to build an alternative ourselves.