History repeats itself; I remember that Enoch Powell told his supporters to vote Labour to stop the EU, but then neither Wilson nor the 70’s left, were pandering to racism. This time, the difference is that Labour are courting that vote. Starmer in his speech to the CBI states that,

But our common goal must be to help the British economy off its immigration dependency to start investing more in training workers who are already here.

Kier Starmer at the CBI ’22

Farage climbs out of his coffin to say, that Labour are to the right of the Tories on immigration. I can no longer forgive this sort of language, pouring over the text of speeches looking for good news is something I promised to stop during Ed Miliband’s leadership. It’s a language designed for the headlines he wants. It’s part of the speech where he is mainly talking about training, and training provided by business. There is absolutely no need to use this sort of language.

A campaigning colleague of mine, Zoe Gardner, called the counter-logic of the policy out on twitter, as did Jonathan Portes

This approach was trialled by Rachel Reeves in a Sky interview, immediately after Labour Party Conference. My disgust and anger led to me proposing and winning the following motion at my Constituency Labour Party and Union branch.

This branch notes the appointment of Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister and the re-appointment of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary with responsibility for immigration and Border Force.

This Branch believes that the Tory immigration policy is cruel and illegal, that Labour should stand for legal routes to enter and stay in the country, that recognises the right to work, a right of family reunification and uncompromising support for the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.

This Branch notes Labour Conference Composites 20/2019 and Composite 14/2021  on immigration, asylum seekers and refugees.  https://bit.ly/lab19immigration or https://is.gd/dq15NL and https://bit.ly/lab21immigration

Labour stands for the repeal of the ‘hostile environment’.

This Branch further notes Rachel Reeves’ reply on Sky News on the 4th Oct, in which she said,

“They need to process claims faster, get people out of the country if they’ve got no right to be here and get a grip of their failed immigration system which is not working for British people and it’s not working for genuine asylum seekers either.”

“Well the problem is the Government are not deporting people today even when their claims have failed.

“What the Government need to do is get a grip of the system, process claims quicker, ensure that people have not got a right to be here are sent home, but that’s not happening today and that is 12 years of Tory failure.’

This branch believes that calling for more deportations weakens Labour’s ability to develop, propose and defend its immigration and asylum policies, including our complete opposition to the Rwanda scheme and opposition to the ‘hostile environment’.

This Branch calls on the Labour Party and the PLP to confirm its 2019/21 policy and disassociate itself from these remarks as contrary to our agreed policy and to fight the racist Tory immigration policies.

In moving it at the CLP, I said,

It is disappointing that this motion had to be delayed; it probably turns it into something it wouldn’t have been last month. (I was wrong, this is obviously planned and deliberate).

The comments made by Reeves and now Starmer are pandering to racism at best.

Competing with the Tories on the basis of competence on this issue is a moral mistake.

Labour Conference policy on immigration is sound and decent and this CLP has played an important part in developing it with Conference motions and speeches on Grenfell, Detention Centres and Asylum policy.

The Labour front-bench in their vision of a redwall full of frothing racists is playing a dangerous and unacceptable game.

Because of this CLP’s historic campaigning work, on issues such as NRPF where we campaigned for the Council and other councils t\in London to reject co-operation with the Home Office who were among other things seeking to charge pregnant women for maternity care.

Both Lewisham and Deptford have massive BAME community, I find it hard to understand how any councillors who want to win re-election can stand by this! And this is why it’s important that we say it’s unacceptable, as has Reeve’s own CLP.

I will finish by paraphrasing Tony Blair who said, 

“Let me make my position clear: I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it. Even if you did [win] it wouldn’t be right because it wouldn’t take the country forward, it would take it backwards. That’s why it’s not the right thing to do.”

That’s how I feel about racism, and the hostile environment and how you should too.

I want really to finish by appealing to those with whom I often disagree. This really is a line too far, a united statement, from a CLP like Lewisham Deptford because of the communities we seek to represent, might make them think twice about this sink hole which they are approaching.

Dave Levy – Notes for a Speech at Lewisham Deptford CLP General Committee

My appeal to hard-line Starmer supporters in the CLP fell on deaf ears, the vote was close, but the motion was carried.

In the context of economics what they argue is nonsense, but in the context of an immigration policy it’s morally vacant, not even guaranteed to be popular, and jeopardises support across the country. Their i.e, the front bench silence confirms Labour’s, if only tacit, support for a continuation of the Tory’s racist and cruel “hostile environment”.

Talking of the hostile environment, I thought I noted that at Conference, there was no mention of the it; I checked Yvette Cooper’s speech. She commits to ending the Rwanda scheme because it costs too much;  actually the quote is,

… cancelling the deeply damaging, extortionately expensive, unworkable and unethical Rwanda plan.

Yvette Cooper – #LAB22

And she plans to use the savings to fund a new Anglo-French police unit to crack down on gangs exploiting the Calais refugees. I suppose that complaining about order of the adjectives is a bit puerile but I am sick of how hard I have to work to extract good news from Labour front bench speeches.Neither Cooper, nor Starmer made any promises on the hostile environment.

Attempting to differentiate from the Tories on competence will fail both in winning the election and making things better. Labour needs to offer hope and needs a movement to sustain it through the inevitable push backs that will occur. Pandering to racism won’t do that.

The Empire strikes back, Labour & Immigration 2022.
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