Why do so many people turn a blind eye to Labour’s hostility towards minorities?

Jeremy Corbyn addressing a rally

I’ve not had the chance this year to write in-depth explaining which way I’ve voted. Long time readers wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I’ve voted for the Liberal Democrats (I’m a member).

But there is one feature of the commentary online this year that has really bugged me, and I need to get if off my chest.

In an election where we’re faced with a choice between two major parties led by Tweedledum and Tweedledee, both seeking slightly different flavours of Brexit, I might have expected an alternative to cut through. We’re crying out for some liberalism — and for someone who will actually stand up for society’s most vulnerable. Or at least a party that doesn’t weirdly attract people who are hostile to particular sections of society.

Far from being a clean break from Labour’s past, Jeremy Corbyn has continued Labour’s long-standing position of being hostile to foreigners and other minorities. This goes back as far as I can remember — at least two decades.

Jeremy Corbyn failed to convincingly campaign in favour of remaining in the EU. Since the result, his reluctance to do anything to soften the Brexit blow has shown that he is not a friend of the minorities who have been made to feel uncomfortable in this country.

Since the days of Tony Blair, Labour has placed hostile, racist rhetoric at the centre of its policy-making and its campaigns. They have consistently failed to make a case for Britain being a society that is inclusive to those that chose to call this country their home.

Instead, Labour has constantly pandered to what they call “legitimate concerns”. Those “legitimate concerns” are actually thinly-veiled xenophobia.

Tony Blair’s Home Secretaries made hostility to foreigners one of their main priorities. Jack Straw sought to introduce detention without trial for foreign nationals, a policy that was followed through by David Blunkett.

Charles Clarke then introduced a points based immigration system. (Even last year, he and Alan Johnson co-wrote a column in the Guardian saying: “We don’t need to leave the EU to control immigration”. This is a bit like saying you don’t need to take your trousers off to shit your pants.)

John Reid went a step further still, and called for a limit on the number of immigrants entering the UK.

Things did not improve under Gordon Brown, of course. Gordon Brown talked about “British jobs for British workers”.

Then under Ed Miliband they actually sold mugs calling for “Controls on immigration”.

Labour is not a party that will protect the vulnerable. In fact, it has consistently turned some of our minorities into scapegoats.

In doing so, over the course of 20 years, they created the hostile atmosphere that led people to vote for Brexit. It’s not a coincidence that many traditional Labour areas are now the strongest anti-EU areas.

Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitism problem adds a new, even more unsavoury dimension to this picture.

I have been left agog in particular at the way so many people on the left are so blase about (or complicit with) Labour’s antisemitism problem. Too many people don’t recognise it, or seek to downplay its significance.

If you don’t think it’s a problem, and you have 45 minutes to spare, take a look at the substantial body of evidence.

Some can be explained away, perhaps, but as an overall pattern of behaviour, as someone much smarter than me put it, [Jeremy Corbyn] must be the unluckiest anti-racist in the world.

Of course, the Conservatives have their own issues around racism and Islamophobia. Labour campaigners would not — and should not — ever let them off the hook for it. That makes it all the more sad that so many of them turn a blind eye to the problems within their own party.

Sadly, I see little hope for people on the left to begin taking this seriously. The bottom line is, if you think it’s desirable to control the economy, you ultimately think it’s desirable to control human beings. That’s why I’m a liberal.

Original header photo by paulnew [CC BY 2.0]

1 comment

  1. The way of the economy is that someone, or a small group of someones, invariably does control it. If government does not attempt to be (part of the) control (I’ve never seen a government actually succeed at full control, simply because the world is too big for that), it invariably gets controlled by one or a small number of large companies, and/or one or a small number of oligarchs. Which is one of the inherent problems of capitalism, and not one for which any significant British party has come up with a plausible answer.

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