Concessions to UKIP on immigration is like drinking salt water PAUL NUTTALL’S threat to “replace the Labour Party and make Ukip the voice of patriotic Britain” seems to have thrown some Labour MPs into a panic. Dan Jarvis MP, for example, thinks that, “the Ukip fox is in the Labour henhouse and we have got to make a decision about what we want to do about that fox”.
His answer seems to be that Labour should clone itself into a fox.
In fact, the commotion in the Parliamentary Labour Party henhouse is, in part, a result of the Brexit carnival of reaction and the tabloids’ campaign to “gain control of our borders”.
Although most Labour MPs are well aware that immigration benefit the UK, some of them harp on the theme, “our constituents are telling us on the doorstep how worried they are about immigration”, often adding, “we cannot continue to move the subject onto other issues”, or “how dare you accuse them of racism!” No, it is not a matter of changing the subject, let alone of abusing them.
Every Labour canvasser (let alone MP) should be able to engage with these fears. Labour should long ago have armed itself with millions of leaflets combatting the mass media lies.
The reason behind the lies is to divert attention away from the real causes of the economic and social problems in working class areas: evils that Labour should be fighting to abolish. If we do this, then with a mass party of 640,000 members we can put Ukip to flight.
But the “concerned about immigration” MPs are not just sincere opportunists influenced by the media; they realise that this is another issue with which to attack Corbyn and force him to abandon his principled position and so demoralise the left.
The PLP offensive
Right wing Labour MPs are trying to cause maximum trouble by attacking the line on immigration that Jeremy Corbyn and Dianne Abbot have taken in the context of the Brexit negotiations. Rachel Reeves led the way, claiming that her Leeds constituency would “explode into rioting” if immigration were not curtailed.
After the referendum, the right attacked Jeremy for not supporting the EU enough. Now, they want to make “no free movement of labour” one of the party’s red lines, even though it would guarantee a “hard Brexit”. The only consistency we can expect from these people is to attack Jeremy, whatever he does or says.
Soon a string of Labour MPs took to the tabloids and the airwaves to demand that Jeremy and Diane’s approach be dropped, for fear it will alienate Labour’s working class “heartlands”.
Stephen Kinnock thinks we need “managed immigration”, which he laughably claims is “rooted in left wing values”. Moreover he insists:
“We must move away from multiculturalism and towards assimilation. We must be for one group: the British people.”
Then we have Keir Starmer, who Jeremy unwisely made Labour’s spokesperson on Brexit. In the very first interview after his appointment he said, “There has been a huge amount of immigration… it should be reduced by making sure we have the skills in this country that are needed for the jobs that need to be done”, adding that, “We have to be open to adjustments of the freedom of movement rules and how they apply to this country.”
Wavering on the left
Such responses could be expected from the right. More surprising is that of Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South and a popular supporter of Jeremy Corbyn:
“We have to acknowledge that free movement of labour hasn’t worked for… many of the people in this country, where they’ve been undercut, who feel insecure, who feel they’re not getting any of the benefits that immigration has clearly had in our economy.”
Clive supports Jeremy’s line that employers must be prevented from exploiting migrant labour but presents this as a way of reducing numbers:
“It will have an impact on the number of people coming to this country, if you make it more difficult for employers to bring people in, to undercut people.”
Fortunately, Diane Abbot has taken a firm and courageous stand. In The Guardian, she spoke out against the MPs demanding a change of policy:
“We can’t fight and win an election in 2020 as Ukip-lite… If you are attracted by Ukip arguments, you are going to vote Ukip. And in areas where they are not so upset about immigration they are going to be baffled about what we are actually doing”.
The Labour left and Momentum need to make it clear that opposing a policy of greater restrictions on immigration is a red line for us. We must not let Labour MPs, the Shadow Cabinet or the NEC foist this on us. We must demand that Labour sticks to Corbyn’s policy.
The anti-immigration offensive is another Trojan horse for the right, aimed at overthrowing him and reversing the Corbyn revolution. But if we can stop them – this time on a clear political battlefield – it will be worth even more than the two leadership ballots.