Tag Archives: Tory

Update on Outraged Question Time Tory

She’s now a member of the Labour Party and for once, the Labour Party has managed to get some decent press out of something.

“No sane, logical or moral person within the UK in 2016, would ever want the conditions of inequality growing at such a pace as to break the back of society, with disastrous consequences for those with limited opportunities. The malice and contempt shown by this government in their attempts to undermine and oppress societies poorest and most vulnerable citizens is inexcusable.

“But if someone has a passion to show the country a new political direction with the commitment to social justice and high standards that Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues represent, then now is the time to create some momentum to bring about change.” – Michelle Dorrell

On another note, while Labour is focused on the EU campaign and everyone is (more or less) happy with Corbyn’s stance – by which I mean the vocal, furious right-wing disrupters are momentarily distracted – it’s a nice, quiet period in which Labour seems to actually be getting on with its job in Opposition instead of burning its own house down.

 

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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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Who Won?

I was appalled, but not surprised, by Harriet Harman’s decision, as interim Labour leader, not to oppose the Budget measures on the welfare cap. 

Even though they will continue the work of reversing Labour’s strides of reducing child poverty. (Not that we’ll know, given that the government is simply going to change the way it classifies poverty, to make this obfuscation more convenient)

Even though they are the Opposition.

She’s right, the Opposition aren’t there to reflexively oppose everything. But, these welfare reforms are supposed to be the antithesis of everything Labour stands for.

Right?

*crickets*

It brings me to something that has occupied my mind since the election. Who won? On the face of it, given that we have the first Tory-majority government for about 17 years – the Conservatives? Their majority is slim.

Certainly not Labour, though the election was theirs to lose.

And judging from the Budget: not workers, unions, the poor, the disabled, the young (snapshot: higher minimum wage for only over-25’s, while simultaneously housing benefit, university grants have been cut)….I need to take a moment for the young people of Britain. It’s staggering, and indeed frightening, that we’ve collectively agreed that shafting the future of the nation is acceptable. In today’s Times Camila Batmangeligh of Kids Company talks about how young people are being refused specialist care due to budget cuts. Whatever you think of the current scandal at Kids Company – her charity is not alone in speaking out about the dangerous cuts being made to the welfare state and social fabric.

The old did quite well. More flexible pensions among all sorts of other sweeteners – oh, and the price of the free TV licence for over-75s being shunted onto the BBC from the DWP. But…I refuse to submit to the seductive generational battle being set up between old and young.

As we slash and burn everything to “balance the books” – on the backs of the aforementioned groups, shaking down the most vulnerable for small change to meet the projected £12 billion of cuts,.corporations are sitting pretty on about £93billion of corporate welfare.

Who won?

The elites – corporate, political and otherwise well-heeled wealthy types.

And Labour, in the throes of a moribund leadership contest, can’t muster the wherewithal to consider that this is still a battle worth fighting. They’re “listening”, apparently. People voted for diverse reasons, but I’d bet my hat that a minority really voted for a ringing endorsement of the Tory plans. If they had, the majority would have been more substantial. In actual fact, the only party with a ringing endorsement was the SNP. Nationalistic yes; but also progressive, anti-austerity and principled. They are currently the only left-wing party in the UK.

Labour is conceding dangerous ground. Having already allowed the Right to misdiagnose the cause of the financial crisis, it is now allowing the flawed “solution” to hold the day.

What frightens me is that this is not just an ideological game, played with cool hands and wry smiles (Hat tip to George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith); this is about people’s lives. This is about the future of the nation. The changes being made now will reverberate for generations. And the false “consensus” has doomed an entire generation of young people, especially those without the family networks and wealth to insulate them from the worst effects of austerity – to a bleak future.

Labour lost the election. And the future is theirs (and ours) to lose too.

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A Clown Car of Lies

I’m sure I’ve referenced this before. In one of my favourite shows, The League (about a group of friends and their fantasy American football team), the most acerbic characters, Ruxin, accuses his friends of rigging the draft and trying to dupe him. They have, but they know the only thing they can do is deny, deny, deny.

“Fine,” he says, “pile into your clown car of lies because you are all going down!”

I haven’t written about the election aftermath because I’ve been so gutted, disappointed, dismayed, alarmed….and speechless. Since the exit poll. I’ve read so many articles (from Chuka Umunna’s breathless “This is why we lost” before Cameron had even visited the Queen I think), so much research (more and more ethnic minorities breaking for the Tories. Turkeys, Christmas, IMO – and I’m sticking to that – though that doesn’t necessarily mean Labour were/are offering…well…anything worth voting for either really) and so many anguished/hysterical/bitter posts from lefties. Oh yeah, and some smug tweets from righties, though I think they’re entitled to that.

I won’t add to much of what’s already been said except to say that the battle over the Human Rights Act is one of many major battles that we have to win in the next five years. And there will be a lot of lies thrown around. An entire clown car worth of lies that aren’t really worth the paper they’re printed on but really distress me because the stakes are so high.

But the struggle over the HRA is like the election in a microcosm for me. There’s a lot that lefties have to accept, like,

1. It’s not obvious. You’d think that the Tories damaging plans for Human Rights and pretty much *everything else* (I know they won on economic competence but there are £12bn of cuts coming that haven’t even been spelled out and oh yeah, they want to pass a LAW banning themselves from raising income tax so – that’s not gimmicky or insane AT ALL.) Hostage to fortune much? Anyway, my point is, this is obvious to the left but apparently not so much for the rest of the country who will believe the tabloid tub thumping over human rights being for all the bad people (and actually, yeah, because that’s the point – it’s for all of us, even the awful people). This is the same country that looked at Tory scaremongering about Scotland, Europe, immigration and a deficit that has GROWN under the Tories but which is being blamed on Labour (it’s only a global financial crisis when Cameron sees the “warning lights flashing on the dashboard”) and thought… let’s have more of that. So, yeah, human rights needing protection is not obvious to everyone.

2. The narrative on human rights is contested and that doesn’t help with problem number 1. It’s like the deficit. You misdiagnose the problem (who has been a bigger welfare recipient than the banks? Seriously!) and the solutions (so let’s clobber the poor because they’re scroungers) will be wrong too.

3. Right Wing media and Labour failing to mobilise. You can’t blame everything on media conspiracies. To do so implies the public are stupid sheep. They resisted the Daily Mail’s negative “plastic Brits” narratives about naturalised British citizens competing for Britain at the Olympics, for example. But crucially, Labour won’t (can’t?) mobilise to defend HRA, a positive Act that it introduced. As with so many things, Labour is so busy trying to chase UKIP and playing within the Tory frames of reference that it doesn’t know where to step because it hasn’t got its own compass. What does it stand for? No one knows, and soon no one will care unless the party finds its heart.

But civil society is rallying. There is a great campaign by a coalition of organisations to save the Human Rights Act. And the government has backed off for now. We just have to keep the pressure on because no one else is going to. And this is probably where them much-needed rebuilding of solidarity takes place.

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Scottish scare stories

Funny. Labour is on the ropes, apparently, forced at every turn to deny that it would join in coalition with the SNP. It’s mischievous political reporting in my opinion, but the messaging used by the Tories in their briefings betrays an unease with the UK. Or, rather, with Scotland. The message appears to be, “Don’t ally with those people who want to tear this country apart”. So, when it’s not immigrants or the poor who are the outsiders of the day, it’s the Scots, whose democratic choices are seen as some sort of subversive plot to undermine the country. The SNP has more of a mandate than UKIP, who are deferred to as the self-appointed voice of England. Little England. A miserly, miserable, nostalgic England of moral pygmies. But hey.

The real, sobering fact shouldn’t be the prospect of a left-wing coalition, but that so many Scots feel ambivalent at best, hostile at worst, towards the UK. That so many feel that they would have nothing to lose and all to gain through independence. And is it any wonder, when the prospect of a coalition with a party that’s not in England stirs up this undercurrent of hostility, this sense that the Scots are outsiders here to rip up “our” UK? Why not build a country which offers a fair deal and a positive vision to all of its constituent parts?

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all eyes on Clacton

There’s not much that hasn’t been said about Douglas Carswell MP’s defection to UKIP and the pending by-election (and the original UKIP candidate who has to stand aside), but it occurs to me that for all his boasting of an “earthquake”, Farage is playing it very safe. He’s obviously relying on some defections and his standing in a seat with a good shot at winning to get UKIP some representation in parliament. Like another supposed big hitter, Boris Johnson, who has declared he’ll stand in the Tory safe seat of Uxbridge.

The funny thing is, both of these men get disproportionate, and very favourable press attention, because they are characters, they entertain. And they’re allowed to dissemble and skim along on the surface, rarely challenged by the third estate.

With this though, it’s clearer than ever that the election coverage will be UKIP (and to an extent Boris) – focused, with a side order of immigration scaremongering, especially with the news that net immigration is up 39%, and primarily due to EU migration, as non-EU migration can barely be squeezed further.

This is going to be a very nasty fight, especially as David Cameron feels squeezed between the crazy wing of his party and UKIP. Labour, of course, will follow the debate and sit squarely within the paradigm set by the right.

ARGH.

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Taking Names and Busting Chops

Sayeeda Warsi is on fire. After resigning over the government’s (lack of a) stance on Gaza, she has shown that she is most definitely not going quietly. Her resignation got a lot of coverage, but was soon eclipsed by the Boris show (will he be both MP and Mayor? So much ankle for the press to nibble on).

However, she has spoken frankly to the Independent on Sunday about the Tory party’s shortcoming with regards to ethnic minorities and other issues, ensuring no doubt that this will lead news coverage on Monday morning. There’s a lot in there. Like:

“I don’t hold the fact that someone went to public school against them. I don’t hold the fact that they haven’t had the breadth of experience that some of us who didn’t go to public school have had. I don’t hold against them that they haven’t had to fight as hard to get the jobs that we have had to fight as hard to get. I hope that if I can be so understanding about their background, they can be understanding to those of us that haven’t had those opportunities.”

Every party has its problems, but on this issue, I can’t help thinking that this isn’t surprising given the party she chose to join. She’s right to point this out, but – surprised, much?!

 

 

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