Still from I AM NASRINE, BAFTA-nominated feature film by Tina Gharavi

Labours Wolf-Whistle to the Right Cripples Britain Further

(Originally published: Blogger, June 2012)


Everybody knows that immigrants make an easy target, especially during an economic downturn. It’s a good distraction from admitting awkward truths. But for a Labour leader to use this tactic to win back a wavering voter base is cowardly and damaging for all of us.

It’s also bad politics and will not win voters; instead it will alienate the majority of voters who are well aware of the economic benefits of migration and who know that this is what has always made Britain great.

Ed Milliband’s wolf-whistle to those tempted by the far-right has all the hallmarks of a desperate gesture by a man who has every right to worry about his unpopular leadership.

Showing a politicians sense of timing, Miliband chose the closing day of the Anders Breivik trail, to deliver his message that the opposition must “listen to those anxieties and speak directly to them in return”. His hollow words offered little of substance. Not facts, just blatant political opportunism disguised as a “mea culpa” perpetuating the hysteria and xenophobia that has been used to sell newspapers for years in this country.

The fact is that immigration is good for us. Britain needs immigrants if it is going to pull out of recession. Immigration is necessary; businesses need and want this labour force and a free market economy relies on the free movement of migrants, as scary as that might sound to some people.

First generation immigrants often become second-generation doctors, lecturers, entrepreneurs…. even Labour Party Leaders. And for Miliband to use the protection from accusations of xenophobia the fact that his own parents were Belgian and Polish immigrants is both disingenuous and typical of those immigrants who like to kick the ladder out from beneath them.

I am an immigrant. I have come to the UK and I have a job here. I would like to assume that I am the best person for that job and also that my net value is of benefit to the UK economy. OK, we’re happy to have you, Ed might say, but it is the others who cause us trouble.

Does this mean that Labour wants to remove those who are working either on the black market or in the fields that the British no longer want to work in? If anyone has ever seen a Slovakian care worker looking after the elderly, perhaps they should consider how many British people applied for the job. In all seriousness, does Ed really believe that an employer would hire a foreigner over a British person who came for the same job and had the same skills?

The papers in the UK have made the population paranoid about a non-issue. Here are the statistics. The data shows that immigration has steadily grown since the 1990s — with 2008 (the latest year available) seeing a record 590,000 people entering the country. But, crucially, there are a record number of people leaving too — 427,200 in 2008. 
 
 So, although immigration is going up, the growth in the population it’s responsible for is going down — the balance was 163,000 in 2008, down from 233,000 in 2007. Even if the official statistics are wrong, the country is hardly being swamped by immigration.
 
 Vast swathes of public housing in cities such as Liverpool and Glasgow are currently lying empty. Britain has room for growth. The problem is not immigrants who are willing to add to the GDP but those who are already here but unwilling to work. Great employees are what will make the British economy grow strong and it doesn’t really matter where they come from. Come to Britain, be the best, contribute to this economy and keep Britain great.

Jewish refugees at Croyden Airport during WWII

Why when Milliband could have embraced Labour’s real core values: workers rights, tempering corporate greed and the decay of family values did he decide to attack those who are neither the real culprits nor able to defend themselves. Only Miliband knows but rather than boosting his support among “traditional” labour voters, my concerns is that by validating their fears rather than reassuring them and setting the record straight, he’s played into the hands of the EDL. And this type of scaremongering will set the UK back into a dark age.

In the North East, I run a small production company, which finds it difficult to find the right skills base in its employees. We want to hire British workers, but the sad truth is, they often don’t have the skills and furthermore, they often lack a good work ethic. Surely, Miliband should apologise for the Labour government’s poor efforts at improving education?

The facts are that during the years that Labour was in power, the size of the state grew, borrowing increased and private businesses got fat on government contracts and public-private partnerships. But you won’t find a Labour leader apologising for any of that. As Ed Miliband knows it is so much easier to point the finger at the guy working in a kebab shop. After all, he’s used to the abuse.

To see the chart: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/apr/12/general-election-immigration-data

Tina Gharavi, Storyteller & Associate Professor, Newcastle University
Twitter: Gharavi
For more info about my work see: www.wearebridgeandtunnel.com

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