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.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.