Anyone on the Left who thinks it might be “instructive” for Labour under Tony Blair to suffer a reduced majority and who fancies some protest voting (or, indeed, protest abstaining) needs to reflect on Michael Howard’s re-launch of the Conservative election campaign yesterday. Howard, the Jewish son of Romanian refugees from the Nazis, wants to make increased restrictions on both asylum and economic immigration to the UK the central part of his appeal to voters. He made no substantive case for the benefits of the proposals, falling back instead on that Alf Garnett favourite “common sense” to justify his party’s policies.

Anyone on the Left who wants to argue that Labour immigration policy is no better than that of the Conservatives is choosing to listen to this government’s (unpleasant) rhetoric rather than examine the more reassuring facts. Once again The Economist puts it well:

[A]long with more tough language about asylum seekers[,] in some ways, Labour’s proposals consolidated its liberal immigration policy.

This is in curious contrast with the Lib Dems who, perhaps more interested in getting the Guardian vote out, invert this approach:

The Liberal Democrats stayed out of the fray, loftily declaring that politicians should not engage in a “bidding war” over immigration. Yet they, like the Conservatives, want an annual immigration quota.

Tory policy on immigration has nothing to do with the real numbers of new arrivals into this country—“low to medium” by World standards, according to the The Economist. It has nothing to do with the economic impact of immigration on the UK—almost certainly it is of net benefit to an ageing UK population with low unemployment in need of hardworking, skilled, and genuinely entrepreneurial citizens. Howard is also noticeably quiet about one of the largest groups of illegal immigrants currently taking advantage of the UK’s rightly admired generosity to visitors—Australians, New Zealanders and others of the pasty-faced colonial persuasion.

No, it’s not about any of these things. It’s about good, old-fashioned, vote-winning xenophobia. It is illiberal. It is economically illiterate. It is illogical. It is as despicable as it is desperate. Any Left liberal at this election who, even by default, acts in a way that gives any more power to Howard than he has already because they are still in the spasms of some hissy fit over Iraq should be ashamed.

Of course, there could be some people reading this who actively want to support Howard’s stance. A friend sent me an email on Saturday that reminded me of a story about Tony Blair during the ultimately victorious 1997 Labour General Election campaign. (Remember, this is when people were still referring to him as “Bambi”.) Perhaps in a bit of a panic about polling figures, the Tories had decided to play the race card as a last gasp measure. One of his aides asked Blair what he was going to do about it. He is supposed to have said

Nothing. If that’s the kind of government the voters want, then fuck ‘em.

So, if Howard’s is the sort of government you want, then fuck you too.


  1. Posted 11Apr05 at 11:47 | Permalink

    So you’re saying it’s OK for Labour to engage in nasty racist rhetoric on immigration, because we know Tony Blair is a liar and therefore he won’t actually carry out his (rather unpleasant) plans?

  2. Posted 11Apr05 at 15:30 | Permalink

    Even if you think that article was ‘rather unpleasant’, I’m yet to see any racist rhetoric at all from Labour. If your definition is really that broad, how do you think you’ll get a better outcome by voting for (or allowing to be elected) a party that is going out of its way to appeal to people’s intolerance? And that’s being very generous to the Tories.

    So, once again, if you care about racial harmony and want a proper discussion on immigration, you have to vote for a Labour govt. Only when the Tories are hammered again will they be forced to take the issues seriously in future.

  3. Posted 11Apr05 at 16:43 | Permalink

    I dunno bruv, but I think I would rather risk the Tories getting in [if voting Respect effectively means that] than casting my vote for Blair and his party.

    I can forgive a person if he lies to me once, and perhaps even on a second occasion, but there is no forgiving a guy who turns telling untruths into a whole new art form. Even worse in my eyes is the fact that he thinks everyone else is a fool. The man is a patronising plonker!

    In effect Blair has proven himself to be a congenial liar and thus an untrustworthy man. Now if the labour party doesn’t recognise this then I think its incumbent upon us the rank and file of the party to tell them in no uncertain terms. This election is an opportunity we have to grasp with both hands. A clear message has to be sent somehow and though it might prove unpalatable in the final analysis I think it would be worth it.

    Personally until the Labour party get its acts together and selects a new leader, my vote [for all its worth] would be lost to them forever.

  4. Ian
    Posted 11Apr05 at 17:05 | Permalink

    “… but there is no forgiving a guy who turns telling untruths into a whole new art form.”

    Sorry, and you were thinking of voting for Respect !?

  5. Posted 11Apr05 at 17:59 | Permalink

    Sorry, and you were thinking of voting for Respect !?

    You indeed read that correctly.

  6. Posted 11Apr05 at 20:12 | Permalink

    If I thought Blair was crooked, Respect would be the last place I upped-sticks for. Besides which, our Respect candidate in Hove makes not a single reference to ‘socialism’ in on 4 sides of glossy paper – what a sell-out. Even Blair’s prepared to describe himself as a democratic socialist.

    ‘Unpalatable in the final analysis’ – I bet there were people saying that in April ’79.

  7. John
    Posted 12Apr05 at 01:40 | Permalink

    The idea that anyone can regard Respect as a progressive alternative beggars belief – Galloway is the person who praised Saddam Hussein, supports Syrian occupation in the Lebanon, and incidentally almost bankrupted Britain’s most radical third world charity (War on Want) when he was its Chief Executive. To top that, he is very definitely taking full advantage of the fact that Oona King is Jewish in his campaign in Bethnal Green. On the other hand, perhaps it is time to offer ‘respect’ to religious obscurantist apologists for female genital mutilation, the stoning of gays and various other odious practices. Get real – you can take relativism too far!

  8. Posted 12Apr05 at 14:08 | Permalink

    > Blair has proven himself to be a congenial liar

    Yes, he seems quite affable.

  9. Posted 12Apr05 at 14:28 | Permalink

    I’m reminded of the old cricket cliché “If in doubt – bat.” In this case it should be “If in doubt – vote Labour.”

  10. Posted 12Apr05 at 19:16 | Permalink

    Eric, it would be interesting to know what you think my agenda could be?

    As for voting RESPECT, that’s the beauty of democracy, you vote for your choice and I vote for mine.

    No need to exchange unpleasantries especially on a decent blog as this. Gutter politix and stupid mindless one-liners [in a view to wind others up] is for HP and there it should stay, in my case at the very least.

  11. Posted 12Apr05 at 23:36 | Permalink

    Dave, why don’t you openly state your agenda instead of pussy footing about?

  12. Posted 13Apr05 at 10:17 | Permalink

    Eric, as I stated yesterday I would engage in no gutter politics on a blog owned by a brilliant mind as Brother Damien.

    I am so impressed by this guy that I urge my lil bro to adopt him as his role model for as fate would have it; he is interested in following in Damien’s footsteps -academically and professionally.

    So in essence, nope, I won’t be taking your bait and as such you should let go. More importantly, you know where I blog and you also know that I “take a pass” by your blog every now and then. So if you have any issues that need ironing out, please state them there and I shall respond accordingly.

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