Past, present and future

Three news pieces caught my eye this week and raised my hopes that the counter narrative on migration and race is getting stronger, reinforced by factual research.

One. A long read but a good one –  The Institute of Race Relations paper which looks at past and present political and media discourse to determine that:

“The rhetoric on migrants shows how politicians and the media have created, and embedded, racism in British politics.”

It makes for sobering reading because it shows how the main political parties and the media have reinforced each other’s messaging and perception of the public mood to develop a “politics of grievance”:

“The electorate is also seen as ‘entitled’ to be racist, politicians are simply giving them a voice, and the myth of the lack of debate on immigration and asylum is wheeled out. “

I think the main reason that politicians do this is because they see the very real grievances of those who struggle with lack of school places or housing and pressure on health services and they know that this is the result of policy failures of successive governments.  Just this week the Local Government Association reported that there are hundreds of thousands of houses waiting to be built that have been approved at local level but held up by central government.  Unfortunately, a person (stranger) down your street is easier to see than  a faceless official in Whitehall and that’s where the blame falls.

Two. Formidable Labour MP Diane Abbott has warned that Labour has to do more to change the discourse on immigration. Keith Vaz said the same last week. I just doubt that this will happen. Ed’s heart might well be “in the right place” as Abbott kindly suggests, but actions matter. Language matters. And Labour is scrabbling at the bottom of the barrel that the Tories have rolled out, hobbled by opinion polls that suggest that the public  is very hostile to migration at a time of high youth unemployment – even though figures show that the two issues are not linked. The papers say this is proof that immigration must be tackled by politicians; it shows me that they’ve done a fine job so far…misleading everyone.

Three. This is a good time to mention that new research from the impartial Migration Observatory shows that the press uses overwhelmingly negative words when discussing immigration. The most common word is “illegal”. The most common adjective for asylum seekers is “failed”.

Which brings me back to the first article, which concludes:

“It is surely time to reinvent and organise an effective wider anti racist resistance movement bringing the many campaigns together. The Tories’ racist ‘Go Home’ campaign on ‘illegal’ migrants may have become the last straw.”

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