Of the main political parties in English politics Labour are very much the odd one out and this goes some way to explaining that crass, tasteless pledge 4 mug, and, more importantly their anti-immigration policy which is basically just UKIP with the honesty stripped away.
Parties come into being for a reason; Conservatives to protect the interests of land owners and business, and the status-quo, the Greens born out of an environmental pressure group, UKIP to address the concerns of those who have a strong ‘fear of the other’. All three of the above have ‘the reason for being’ very much in current focus and this leads to consistent policy that sticks close to their ‘principles and values’.
The Labour Party is an orphan. Formed in the 1890s to give political muscle to millions of industrial workers in the mills, coal mines and factories of predominantly northern England, the Labour Party’s reason for being is long gone.
Of these four parties The Labour Party are unique in having dead roots; instead their ‘principles and values’ take on a very elastic character with the primary purpose of getting enough votes to catapult careerists into Westminster. I concede obviously that not all Labour MPs and PPCs are careerists but I would be surprised if Labour did not have the lions share.
It would be unthinkable for The Greens to suddenly back fossil fuel or condone mass killing of whales just to chase votes. Also, it would be unthinkable for the Conservatives to reduce the deficit by selling the Royal Family to a freak show or abolishing home ownership, just to get votes. Even, much maligned UKIP would never contemplate chasing votes if the price was sacrifice of core values.
Not so The Labour Party it seems. With Labour it is all about ‘votes’ almost at any price, modern day political spivs. Got worries about migrants, no problem, we’ll fix it better than UKIP, trust us Gov. The same on welfare; cracking down on welfare is popular with voters and The Popular Party (aka Labour) is not going to miss that trick. The same on housing; the housing situation cries out for radical solutions that will run afoul of Middle England, so no votes there.
Latest mantra of Labour activists holds that it is good to talk about immigration. And so it is, but how about some facts before racing UKIP to the bottom.
Immigration concerns are largely a metaphor for real concerns on housing, schools, health services and transport. Scapegoating immigrants is the oldest trick in the book.
Pledge 4 on immigration is titled Controls on Immigration. I like words, they have so much power. Whoever said ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ was onto something. Controls, eh; well we tend to ‘control’ bad things; we control Ebola outbreaks, we control floods, we control famine. Strangely, we don’t control happiness, or joy or laughter. One hardworking councillor makes no secret of her intake of Angel Delight being out of control; I can identify with that.
So, Labour thinks immigration is bad and must be controlled. Do I hear protests, ‘too much immigration needs controlling, not immigration per se’. But how much is too much; economic immigrants are people who seek better economic prospects, if they don’t find it they move of their own accord; immigration finds its own level (contemporary Germany economy illustrates this perfectly). It certainly should not be the state that controls but rather the ebb and flow of economic opportunity.
Yet, more protests from Labour apologists, they (immigrants) come here to milk our generous benefit system. Laughable, first ‘our generous benefit system’ is not that generous, second, a trifling matter, almost embarrassed to mention it, there is virtually no evidence to support it. But who needs evidence, it’s the votes stupid.
Another activist suggested, in a tweet with the velocity of one my old math teacher’s blackboard rubbers, that if I disagreed with pledge 4, I must be in favour of wage exploitation and a total piece of shit (to be fair she didn’t say the last bit). Come again; there is no connection; wage exploitation is a separate issue and a very wrong one. Pledge 4 should have read ‘We will crack down on wage exploitation’
Writing in LabourList Maya Goodfellow puts it far better than I could
“The other plank in Labour’s immigration pledge is that they would introduce a new law to prevent employers undercutting wages by exploiting immigration. In theory this is a sound policy. But I can’t fathom why this is part of a pledge on immigration (a pledge that shouldn’t exist at all). Instead of indulging in the Ukip-esque game of dividing low-paid workers on the basis of where they were born, what Labour should have done is create an anti-exploitation pledge, to stop employers underpaying migrants and those workers who were born in the UK. This would have helped to put an end to the ‘othering’ of migrants by uniting exploited workers under a common cause and rightly directing the blame towards corrupt employers.”
The full piece can be found here http://labourlist.org/2015/03/i-hate-labours-immigration-mug-but-i-hate-their-immigration-pledge-even-more/
In the opening paragraph I wrote ‘basically just UKIP with the honesty stripped away’. Well, UKIP make no bones about wanting to control immigration but to their credit they openly admit it is not possible without leaving the EU, BREXIT.
It is not the handful of nurses from Botswana coming over here to work in our NHS that rankles; rather it is the tens of thousands of citizens from other EU countries legitimately coming to work in our booming low wage economy, an economy they also built. These workers are here as a consequence of one of the founding pillars of the EU, Freedom of Movement; that is not going to change period.
An article in the New Statesmen puts it well. An extract…
“Worse still, the only way that Labour can actually achieve its headline policy – of “controlling” immigration – is to leave the European Union, with all the possible consequences for the British and European economy that would have.
Frankly, Labour has two choices. It can make a brave argument for the benefits of an open economy and the value of migration – as Alex Salmond did in his recent interview with our editor, Jason Cowley – or it can continue to go down the UKIP path of promising ever greater barriers on migration, and even more punitive measures for the people who make it past those barriers.
The trouble with going down UKIP’s path is, eventually, you have to have UKIP’s solution, because if immigration really is as bad as Ed Miliband says it is, the only way is BREXIT. “
The full article can be found here
So why didn’t Labour make that brave argument for the benefits of an open economy. My guess it is to do with Labours orphan status and lack of a compass. Like water or lightning, chasing votes follows a path of least resistance with no principals or values with which to hold it in check. Making the ‘brave argument’ was just too hard.
A party that has lost its ‘compass’ is dangerous and can’t be trusted. It is capable of anything that gives short term advantage if the circumstances are right.
Society changes, cultures change, and we could see a groundswell in future decades against LGBT rights. I would certainly not rely on Labour to protect the hard won rights of that group. There may be votes in not doing so.
So what can Little Orphan Labour do; I suggest it finds a new cause to anchor and give purpose.
There’s a gap in the market for a party that can (to list a few)
- Play a full positive role in Europe making the argument for integration
- Reform education from top to bottom, eliminating private education
- Promoting a high-tech economy
- Reform our constitution. A trimmed down Royal Family. Strong civil liberty safeguards
- A tax system that rewards enterprise and reflects our place in a modern global economy, and which discourages non-productive assets and elitism.
Oh, and change the name. ‘Labour’ is so last century.