One of the new Ukip posters released for the party's European election campaign.
Show Hide image

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.

Getty
Show Hide image

How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

0800 7318496