One of the new Ukip posters released for the party's European election campaign.
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Why I say Ukip posters are racist

The party's new campaign is designed to win votes by whipping up animosity against foreigners living and working and contributing to this country.

Far-right and nationalist parties have often sought power by blaming and scapegoating ethnic minorities and immigrants. We saw it in the 1930s with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, and the similar unsuccessful activities here of Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists. Similar campaigns waged in the post-war years by the National Front and the British National Party ended in abject failure.

But far-right parties have tended to do better in some other European countries. In the wake of the global economic upheavals of recent years, we have seen the rise of the overtly neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece, and nationalist and anti-immigrant parties led by charismatic leaders in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, and France, Marine Le Pen. Here in Britain, we also now have a nationalist anti-immigrant party with a charismatic leader. That party is Ukip. It is basing its campaign on an explicit anti-immigration appeal similar to its counterparts in the Netherlands, France, and elsewhere.

In a short tweet yesterday, I stated: "Hope Ukip racist posters encourage all decent British Commonwealth and EU citizens to ensure on register by May 6 and vote on May 22." In response, I have received several very abusive tweets and emails.  

It appears that I have hit a raw nerve. I stand by my view that this Ukip campaign is a racist, xenophobic campaign designed to win votes by whipping up animosity against foreigners living and working and contributing to this country. And it is worth noting that some of the abusive tweets and emails I received are directed not at EU migrants but at ethnic minorities overall and at Muslims in particular.  

I am proud to represent thousands of hardworking Ilford people, including first, second or third generation immigrants struggling hard to do their best for their families and society, faced with rising bills and falling real wages, job insecurity and a lack of affordable homes.  

I am proud of the contribution that migrants from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere in Europe have made and are making to Ilford, to London and to our country.  Our National Health Service has always depended on recruiting doctors and nurses from other countries. Many of our top business people, scientists and academics and Nobel prize winners are immigrants. 

We do need much stronger action against bad employers to stop immigrants being abused and exploited by stronger enforcement of the minimum wage, tougher measures by councils against "beds in sheds" and prosecution of "cash in hand" employers. But it is dangerous fallacious nonsense to say that British workers are facing a threat from 26 million unemployed Europeans.  The real threat to British workers' jobs and British society comes from the incompetent coalition government carrying out policies to cut taxes for wealthy millionaires while millions suffer a cost of living crisis; creating a house price bubble while failing to invest in housing, infrastructure and skills, and privatising our National Health Service.  

Two million EU citizens live in this country but two million British people live and work in other EU countries and receive benefits, health, education and other public services there. The prosperity of our country and the continuation of the single market depends on free movement of workers within the European Union.

The policies of the nationalist right, whether of Ukip here or Le Pen or Wilders, are a threat to the future harmony of our country and also to the future harmony and prosperity of the EU. That is why all British, Commonwealth or European citizens living in this country should make sure they are registered to vote, and vote to defeat the Ukip extremists on 22 May.  

Mike Gapes is Labour MP for Ilford South. This piece originally appeared on his website.

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Should London leave the UK?

Almost 60 per cent of Londoners voted to stay in the EU. Is it time for the city to say good by to Brexit Britain and go it alone?

Amid the shocked dismay of Brexit on Friday morning, there was some small, vindictive consolation to be had from the discomfort of Boris Johnson as he left his handsome home in EU-loving Islington to cat-calls from inflamed north London europhiles. They weren’t alone in their displeasure at the result. Soon, a petition calling for “Londependence” had gathered tens of thousands of names and Sadiq Khan, Johnson’s successor as London mayor, was being urged to declare the capital a separate city-state that would defiantly remain in the EU.

Well, he did have a mandate of a kind: almost 60 per cent of Londoners thought the UK would be Stronger In. It was the largest Remain margin in England – even larger than the hefty one of 14 per cent by which Khan defeated Tory eurosceptic Zac Goldsmith to become mayor in May – and not much smaller than Scotland’s. Khan’s response was to stress the importance of retaining access to the single market and to describe as “crucial” London having an input into the renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU, alongside Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It’s possible to take a dim view of all this. Why should London have a special say in the terms on which the UK withdraws from the EU when it ended up on the wrong side of the people’s will? Calling for London to formally uncouple from the rest of the UK, even as a joke to cheer gloomy Inners up, might be seen as vindicating small-town Outer resentment of the metropolis and its smug elites. In any case, it isn’t going to happen. No, really. There will be no sovereign Greater London nation with its own passport, flag and wraparound border with Home Counties England any time soon.

Imagine the practicalities. Currency wouldn’t be a problem, as the newborn city-state would convert to the euro in a trice, but there would be immediate secessionist agitation in the five London boroughs of 32 that wanted Out: Cheam would assert its historic links with Surrey; stallholders in Romford market would raise the flag of Essex County Council. Then there is the Queen to think about. Plainly, Buckingham Palace could no longer be the HQ of a foreign head of state, but given the monarch’s age would it be fair to turf her out?

Step away from the fun-filled fantasy though, and see that Brexit has underlined just how dependent the UK is on London’s economic power and the case for that power to be protected and even enhanced. Greater London contains 13 per cent of the UK’s population, yet generates 23 per cent of its economic output. Much of the tax raised in London is spent on the rest of the country – 20 per cent by some calculations – largely because it contains more business and higher earners. The capital has long subsidised the rest the UK, just as the EU has funded attempts to regenerate its poorer regions.

Like it or not, foreign capital and foreign labour have been integral to the burgeoning of the “world city” from which even the most europhobic corners of the island nation benefit in terms of public spending. If Leaver mentality outside the capital was partly about resentment of “rich London”, with its bankers and big businesses – handy targets for Nigel Farage – and fuelled by a fear of an alien internationalism London might symbolise, then it may prove to have been sadly self-defeating.

Ensuring that London maintains the economic resilience it has shown since the mid-Nineties must now be a priority for national government, (once it decides to reappear). Pessimists predict a loss of jobs, disinvestment and a decrease in cultural energy. Some have mooted a special post-Brexit deal for the capital that might suit the interests of EU member states too – London’s economy is, after all, larger than that of Denmark, not to mention larger than that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined – though what that might be and how that could happen remain obscure.

There is, though, no real barrier to greater devolution of powers to London other than the political will of central government. Allowing more decisions about how taxes raised in the capital are spent in the capital, both at mayoral and borough level, would strengthen the city in terms of managing its own growth, addressing its (often forgotten) poverty and enhancing the skills of its workforce.

Handing down control over the spending of property taxes, as set out in an influential 2013 report by the London Finance Commission set up by Mayor Johnson, would be a logical place to start. Mayor Khan’s manifesto pledged to campaign for strategic powers over further education and health service co-ordination, so that these can be better tailored to London’s needs. Since Brexit, he has underlined the value of London securing greater command of its own destiny.

This isn’t just a London thing, and neither should it be. Plans are already in place for other English cities and city regions to enjoy more autonomy under the auspices of directly elected “metro mayors”, notably for Greater Manchester and Liverpool and its environs. One of the lessons of Brexit for the UK is that many people have felt that decisions about their futures have been taken at too great a distance from them and with too little regard for what they want and how they feel.

That lesson holds for London too – 40 per cent is a large minority. Boris Johnson was an advocate of devolution to London when he was its mayor and secured some, thanks to the more progressive side of Tory localism. If he becomes prime minister, it would be good for London and for the country as a whole if he remembered that.  

Dave Hill writes the Guardian’s On London column. Find him on Twitter as @DaveHill.