Tag Archives: immigration

Truth and Daring

Three for Monday:

One The story of the UKIP leader dumping his girlfriend for racist messages she sent about Meghan Markle bears all the bizarre hallmarks of the public conversation on UK racism. For instance: the appearance of racism is somehow worse than the crime. The fact that the leader of an openly racist party is dating a white supremacist should not be surprising; yet, he is forced to distance himself from her beacause while it’s OK to lead a party that has espouses racist policies, her comments that Markle would “taint” the Royal Family were too blatant. Furthermore, in being perceived as attacking the Royal Family, she also disrespected that most British of institutions, the Royal Family; and part of the UKIP brand is their version of patriotism. As always, racism is seen as a personal character flaw than a systemic issue. It’s easier to deal with the blatant racist than examine UKIP and its place in the political discourse as the balloon floater of racist ideas (that are then doubled down on by mainstream politicians).

Two MLK Day and the death of Cyrille Regis, the pioneering black footballer who endured racism to play the game he loved. It has been interesting to read the tributes to him; his courage was admirable. Being MLK day I did think about civil rights more generally and sports and protest. I think the public threshold for black people opposing racism is low – you can only speak out so much. Be persistent (in the mould of Kaepernick in the US for example) and it’s funny how the troublemaker tags start to get handed out.  It’s easy to forget that Martin Luther King was not that popular in his lifetime for his stances on Vietnam and capitalism, let alone race and in some ways he has since been sanitised in death. In the US, his memory is often invoked as a rebuke against anti-racist campaigners like Kaepernick, who have their protests policed and condemned for being confrontational by those who forget that in its time, the non-violent protests were (necessarily) difficult and confrontational and unpopular too. I realise I’m conflating two different eras, sports and countries here, but Rhian Brewster’s experiences of racism as a young player right now are a testament to the fact that while the naked hate of Cyrill’s era is thankfully a thing of the past, we still have a way to go towards eliminating racism in UK sport and society.

Three This thread on immigration policy, which shows the link between bad policies and rhetoric on immigration, and public perception and anxieties on the subject:

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Prince Harry, Meghan, and the Immigration rules

I wrote this for the Independent. Right now, I’m at 26,000 shares and at least 500 Twitter interactions. I’m not usually able to do a hot take, so this was an exhilarating experience (and clearly my most successful article ever in terms of engagement)

I haven’t read the comments.

Capture

Update: as of 1 January 2017, 61k shares. Whoa.

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Patients not passports

When the government talks about British values, think about deliberate cruelty of Universal Credit:

“Already the evidence from Citizens Advice is that UC is pushing people further into debt. The National Landlords Association has just reported that four out of five landlords are now reluctant to let to tenants in receipt of housing benefit or UC. Food banks are buckling under the strain. Child Poverty Action Group has estimated that if all the cuts made to UC since it was first mooted were reversed, up to 1 million children could be kept out of poverty. As it is, they calculate lone parent families will lose a huge £2,380 a year on average by 2020. “

Then consider the hostile environment.

Today the government introduced up front charging for foreign nationals using the NHS. They already pay a £200 surcharge on top of taxes. And they already pay for hospital treatment. Now, this extends to NHS community services and will have to be paid in full before treatment is given.

And who is likely to be targeted, in a country where we don’t routinely carry ID documents? Those with foreign names, accents and anyone who “looks foreign” – whether they are British or not.

Doctors are protesting because they quite rightly want to focus on providing care, not checking people’s immigration status. But Theresa May’s endless border continues to encroach on community life – and what started as a regime primarly targeted at non-EU migrants continues to suck ever more Europeans and Britons into its net.

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Seagulls, Monkeys and Brexit

Ok, so let’s get the little stuff out the way. Sarah Woollaston MP’s defection from Vote Leave to the Remain camp – mainly on two issues: the NHS lies being peddled by Leave about pumping millions into the service if we leave, and the anti-immigration rhetoric which she says is “indistinguishable from UKIP”.

I think it’s great that a politician can think again and change their mind. I applaud her honesty. I do wonder what party she thinks she joined up to, though, as those “Go Home” vans pushed out by the Tories in the coalition were indistinguishable from the National Front and even gave Farage pause at the time.

But onto the big stuff.

The funniest article I’ve read this year, about a seagull that fell into a vat of chicken curry (it survived, but the write-up is hilarious):

“Vets said they felt sorry for him but he made them feel hungry at the same time”

“When he came in you wanted to feel sorry and concerned but he was making everyone’s belly rumble,” Lucy said.

“It was the weirdest thing we have dealt with here.”

And the monkey that caused a national power blackout in Kenya:

The monkey lost its purchase on the roof of the plant, and it tumbled down to land atop a transformer. What happened next played out like a catastrophic game of transformer dominoes: With a monkey on its back, the first transformer shut off its electrical flow, causing other transformers at the station to trip as well. KenGen said in its statement that “a loss of more than 180 megawatts” at the power station “triggered a national power blackout.”

 

 

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Disability and Other “Lifestyle” Choices

My latest article for Media Diversified’s Politics column, White Men Dancing.

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Flounce to the Right

The dramatic media “Why I’m leaving..” article has really had form in the last year or so. First they were all leaving London, then it was the Labour party. Last time I checked, we all survived.

A change, then, to have it coming from somewhere other than the Guardian – this time, Tim Montgomerie in the Times: “Enough. I’m Quitting the Conservative Party” (behind a paywall).

Clearly, there are internal politics in the Tories at play. But I find his objections interesting.

First of all, he says that it’s Thatcher who got him to join the parties, not because she was right but because she was strong. She did what she said she would – on the EU rebate, the Falklands etc.

Yay…?

Anyway, Tim’s point is that Cameron hasn’t done what he said he would – on the deficit, on the debt, on immigration, and the EU deal is a farce.

I agree. Sort of.

Firstly, I think it’s interesting that he’s not so concerned with whether any of Thatcher’s or Cameron’s positions were right so much that they just did what they said they would. We’ll come back to that later.

I’m not one to come riding to Cameron’s defence but Thatcher’s world was different. The Falklands was a storm in a tea cup compared to the threat of Daesh and the like; a time when warfare was straightforward and you could see your enemy. As much as it’s part of the British nation myth, the Falklands is basically a rock off the coast of South America with less than 3,000 people on it. And some sheep. So, yay for colonialism, mostly. He credits her with ending union militancy and boosting Britain’s internal narrative of decline. OK, fine.

All realistic goals in so far as there were clear steps to achieving them, whether you agree with them or not. The things he faults Cameron for, though, are not.Like…

Reducing immigration – a stupid pledge that politicians keep making because they can’t tell the truth – that we live in the 21st Century and you can’t have the free movement of capital and not people; and Europe needs immigrants to support their ageing populations. That’s before we get onto the figures; that falling emigration affects the statistics as well. A ridiculous target (tens of thousands) was given and duly missed, because it had no foundations in reality. What they have been doing (Theresa May) is mainstreaming racism and passing legislation that punishes migrants and is tearing families – yes, British families too – apart. I assume that someone is enjoying that.

He points out that the Treasury is still borrowing £75million a year and debt is up, so Osborne has failed on his own targets too. Perhaps if the Tories had spent less time pinning a global financial crisis on Labour and hacking away at everything with a machete in the name of austerity (which the OECD and others said was not the way to growth) this wouldn’t be the case. But again, to my mind the Tories have been getting on with what they wanted to do – namely, cutting the State to the bare bones, privatising what’s left, flogging what they can to their mates in the city, and cutting welfare. It appears that ideologues have been having a field day. The fact that is isn’t working (great employment figures masking underemployment, greater inequality etc) is a failure of the ideology. Montgomerie doesn’t think Cameron is doing enough. They’ve done plenty. It’s just not the right thing.

And the EU. Thatcher got a rebate, Cameron got….well, we don’t know yet, there’s a peculiar charade underway. Suffice to say that no deal he could ever get would satisfy sceptics and those who want to stay in will want to stay in deal or not. As for the rump of people in the middle, let’s not pretend the EU debate has any roots in reality or common sense. It’s an emotional discussion and people will vote with their hearts. Because it makes sense to stay in. But like immigration and failed ideology, that’s not something people want to hear.

So maybe telling the truth and doing the right thing does matter, after all.

 

 

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Look!

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has a whole tumblr dedicated to him looking at things.

David Cameron has his own (definitely more benign) tumblr dedicated to him looking at fish while on holiday.

Something that’s not so benign (though from a media perspective, somewhat clever I suppose) is David Cameron’s habit of pointing at things and making policy announcements. Lots and lots of them.

What’s missing is details on exactly how he’s going to get this all done. Case in point: This weekend he (rightly) slammed institutional racism in the UK, warning “educational institutions, the police, the military and the courts they were the focus of a new effort to tackle social inequality fuelled by “ingrained, institutional and insidious” racism.” So far, so good. And you could say that the details will come.

But what’s also missing is some joined up thinking. Today, alongside figures that showed a 23% pay gap for Black graduates, measures came into force requiring private landlords to check the immigration status of their potential tenants. Predictably, industry experts (as immigration experts have been saying since this idea was first mooted) have warned that these measures will discriminate against those with foreign names, the young and less well-off.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said its members faced a difficult choice: they could “take a restrictive view with prospective tenants, potentially causing difficulties for the 12 million UK citizens without a passport” or “target certain individuals to conduct the checks, opening themselves up to accusations of racism”.

Incidentally, this is in a rental market where there is already a problem for ethnic minorities, who are routinely discriminated against.

The Guardian reports: “Dr David Smith, policy director at the RLA, said: “The government argues that its ‘right to rent’ plans form part of a package to make the UK a more hostile environment for illegal immigrants. The evidence shows that it is creating a more hostile environment for good landlords and legitimate tenants.”

These are policies that Cameron has actually implemented.

Enough looking. We should be joining the dots.

 

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The Weight of Evidence

I took to the time to read Cameron’s memorandum on the proposed Syria air strikes after the Guardian published it in full.

I don’t have a pat answer.

Pushing memories of 2003 in Iraq to one side, the stated objectives of the strike, as outlined in this document are (commentary in italics my own):

  • Protect the UK from terrorism (in an as-yet-undefined-way that the War on Terror thus far has not)
  • Generate negotiations on a political settlement (by dropping bombs?)
  • Thus delivering a government that can credibly represent the Syrian people (see above)
  • degrade and defeat Daesh (ISIL) (OK, maybe..but it’s worth noting that bombing Iraq didn’t get rid of Saddam’s cronies – in fact many of them are in Daesh and given the regional instability/weak states there is a strong likelihood that they’ll just move to Libya or something. Hey, didn’t we bomb Libya…?)
  • continue our “leading role in humanitarian support” and stem migration flows (by restricting legal migration routes even further and then….bombing people? Fish. barrel.Rock. hard place. )*
  • support stabilisation in Iraq and plan for post-conflict Syria (details yet to be provided but again…bombing will hasten this how again?)
  • work with allies to combat extremism in the Middle East and elsewhere (OK, I guess that’s true. It’s just…we haven’t really made any dents in that master plan yet and I don’t see how UK adding to the bombing, which I might add is already underway by other countries, will in any way make a tangible difference – for the better. The worse is the bit that really worries me)

Having read the document in full (these points are expanded on) I’m just not sure bombing is a good idea and that the post-bomb plans have been developed.

Tonight they debate. Tonight they vote.

The media coverage has been predictably anti-Corbyn as they contrive to make this Corbyn’s bombing rather than Cameron’s. He was dictatorial to consider making Labour MPs vote by the Whip and is apparently weak to have allowed them a free vote. There has been more reporting of politics as a game (which Labour is losing) rather than the real issues at stake in this momentous decision. I suspect the vote will be for the bombing. And I suspect that Labour will be punished for it, if there is any punishment coming from an unwilling public, rather than the Tories.

Tomorrow, instead of a sober analysis of what this all means, I expect, from the right wing press, a  focus on Labour divisions; and from the Guardian I expect more hysterical articles about “moderates” flouncing out of the party “Why I’m leaving Labour” and how they felt pressured by constituents (who will be rebranded as deranged Corbynistas) to vote against the war and how this is not the new, gentler politics blah blah.

Wrestling with an issue is not weakness. I respect MPs of all political persuasions who have weighed up the issue and voted with their conscience. It’s a shame that the press is keen to leap on any uncertainty as weakness and any wavering as an indictment of either Cameron or Corbyn’s leadership. It’s bigger than politics; it’s bigger than them.

People (innocent and otherwise) are going to die.

*and major side eye for this alleged “leading humanitarian role” we supposedly have going on in the humanitarian refugee crisis. In word and in deed, we aren’t doing nearly enough.

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Kitty Litter aka Theresa May and Immigration

I wrote about Theresa May’s immigration speech and the Immigration Bill for Migrant Voice. In full below:

Theresa_MayAt least, I thought, she’s gathered all the lies and hyperbole in one place. Theresa May’s shocking immigration speech at the Tory Party Conference left a sinking feeling in my stomach. There’s nothing she said that I hadn’t heard before, but to have it said from the platform where David Cameron would later laud Britain’s diversity and denounce racial discrimination was disappointing.

Her speech flattened a lot of nuance and repeated some well-worn untruths about immigration that may feel right to some but are actually wrong. It seemed to boil down to: what have migrants given us? Nothing! What do we need to do about immigration? Stop it! And refugees are ok but while we’re at it we should stop them too.

The Independent newspaper, among others, made a handy fact check of a few of the big untruths; like for instance that immigration forces wages down and people out of work in lower-paid jobs (not true) and that Britain doesn’t in fact need “tens of thousands” of migrants (look at the birth rate, guys).  I won’t waste time rebutting all of those here; these arguments are well rehearsed. The truth is that if you are pro-immigration then that speech was repellent and if you’re staunchly against, then it was bang on the money. After my dismay dissipated though, I was left asking, why? Why stir this toxic pot?

Some say it was internal Tory politics, Mrs May positioning herself to the hard right of the party to jockey for the leadership and appeal to the base. Maybe. I do think it was tactical, but to coin Boris Johnson’s words, it was a dead cat on the table. Shock and awe. (or shock and horror, if you’re a migrant like me). As Boris explained, if you’re in an argument where the facts are against you and you want to distract people from some inconvenient truths, you do something over the top so that people end up focusing on what you did (“Jeez, mate, there’s a dead cat on the table!”) rather than what you don’t want them to concentrate on.

A dead cat on the table. A flashy speech on an emotional issue is a useful distraction from things like the cuts to tax credits which will leave the working poor even worse off and which even the Sun came out to criticise in the run-up to the conference. The reason why tax credits are needed to subsidise the low wages paid by corporations are never mentioned  by Theresa May, nor how these cuts will actually make people’s lives harder –but migrants are. This also keeps the focus off policies which are making an unequal Britain even more so and dismantling national treasures like the BBC and NHS. The migrant is, as always, the scapegoat.

Something else the speech did was to set the stage for some exceptionally bad policy making that’s coming up this week: The Immigration Bill. Only a year after the last Immigration Bill, and, uncomfortably for Mrs May, just over a month since immigration figures were shown to reach a record high – which, as immigration is always framed as a problem – means that Theresa May isn’t doing very well at her job. All things considered, she needed to talk up the “immigration problem” so that the Immigration Bill can be presented as a solution. Even though, among a raft of other measures aimed at making the UK a hostile environment for migrants, there are the landlord checks, which experts say will increase discrimination in the private rental market for anyone who looks or sounds foreign, or who has a foreign name. It will contribute the racial discrimination that David Cameron rightly denounced in his speech.

I was disappointed by Theresa May’s speech and shocked by her tone. But I was not surprised by her cynical move. In 2011, in a speech aimed at undermining the Human Rights Act, she claimed that a man had avoided deportation because of his pet cat. This was untrue, as legal blogger Adam Wagner explained in the Guardian, but anecdotes that reinforce prejudice can be politically useful, as we saw last week. And when it comes to cats, Theresa May has form.

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Swarms and Marauders

It’s summer and just like every summer since the Tories were in power (first in the coalition and now with a slim majority) it’s immigration time.

To be fair, the situation at the migrant camps in Calais has been high on the media agenda (and to be clear, this is a humanitarian crisis, despite the British media’s preoccupation with holidaymakers and truckers being disturbed by desperate people inconveniencing their respective holidays and commutes).

Nevertheless, the Tory Party is adept at seizing the agenda over the summer, which is traditionally the silly season and a time which Labour has consistently been MIA in recent years. One year, most of the shadow cabinet just went on holiday (not a bad thing in itself but there was  no one taking the airwaves to respond to anything really); this summer it’s the moribund and never ending leadership contest* that has Labour distracted by its own navel.

First it was Cameron and his “swarms” comment; now Phillip Hammond has characterised the people in Calais as “marauding migrants” out to destroy the British way of life. Although he sees that the standard of living is low in many African countries, he appears to be labouring under the illusion that Europe has to absorb “millions” of African migrants. So…let’s do this again:

  1. Newsflash: Migrants and refugees are people. Giles Fraser did a moving and all too necessary report from St Michael’s Church in the refugee camp in Calais.
  2. Europe takes nowhere near as many refugees and migrants as developing nations. Millions? That’s a figure for Kenya. Or Lebanon. Or Turkey. Not Europe.
  3. If the standard of living in Africa is low….it’s worth considering why. (hint: Empire, Western multinational tax dodgers, corrupt regimes propped up by Europe and other nations…)
  4. Empire. Worth a look, mate.
  5. Syria. So…that’s still a thing.
  6. Empire. Seriously, dude. Check it out.

*with the exception of Corbyn. Watching increasingly hysterical media types from left and right, as well as politicians and Labour grandees scream that the man is unelectable and dangerous and/or stupid has become my summer past time. If he’s so ridiculous, why the noise, guys?

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