Published on openDemocracy, by John Grayson, Sept 6, 2013.
For decades racists have yelled “Go Home” at minority ethnic and Black people. Now the government is doing it in a reviled and provocative advertising campaign aimed, ostensibly, at ‘illegal immigrants’. John Grayson reflects on a nasty piece of work.
(See also We all belong to Glasgow – Refugees Are Welcome Here) … //
… Decent working people: … //
… New Labour’s contribution:
- Philip Gould, policy adviser and pollster for Tony Blair, in 1999 produced a paper entitled Hard-working families: a new narrative for the government. Gould spelled out “how the swirling fragments of public opinion were finally taking shape.” (The Unfinished Revolution: how New Labour changed British politics forever, Abacus, 2011).
- Gould’s analysis still dominates political thinking in the Labour Party and beyond — the idea that electoral political narratives should be driven by ‘the politics of grievance’ where working people, particularly the ‘white working class’ instinctively blame ‘the immigrant’ for their economic and social exploitation and marginalisation.
- Here he goes: –A call for fairness has become a cry of grievance, resentment and anger, expressing the view that my life is bad because others are unfairly benefitting. Clearly this is fertile ground not just for the right but for the far right … every voice should be heard: we should listen to opinions that we may not like … The politics of grievance can be harsh … a start was made (by New Labour) in dealing. with immigration.”
A racist electorate?
- In fact in 1997 only 3 per cent of the electorate put asylum in their three top political concerns. Up to 2000 it was never higher than 10 per cent. But, crucially, argues Malcolm Dean: “As the numbers of asylum applications began to rise … so did tabloid interest. This in turn fed more public concern … In early 2003 the Sun launched its ‘Stop asylum madness’ campaign which by 1 March 2003 had collected one million signatures.”
- The Mail, Express, Telegraph and the Sun competed with lurid headlines in 2002. According to Dean, in 2003 the Daily Express ran “22 front page splashes in one 31 day period about asylum seekers”.
- Phillip Gould constructed “the politics of patriotism” which in 2002 he identified as “emerging in a new form, more about grievance than pride”. A policy note he wrote for Blair in April 2002 was unambiguously headed:
- “Concern about asylum seekers has extended into immigration, crime, and civic disintegration. Britain is becoming a soft touch.”
- Gary Younge, reporting on the re-emergence of immigration as an electoral issue in the general election of 2005, reminds us that David Blunkett “conflated immigration and race when responding to the riots in Bradford with calls for citizenship classes and language lessons as though those involved were foreign.” Here’s what Blunkett said shortly before the reports into the disturbances was released. “We have norms of acceptability. And those who come into our home — for that is what it is — should accept those norms just as we would have to do if we went elsewhere.”
- Lately Daniel Trilling — in Bloody Nasty People: the rise of Britain’s far right (Verso, 2012) — noted how Blunkett, as Labour’s Home Secretary overseeing the first wave of asylum dispersal after 2000, retrieved Thatcherite racist language. In a radio interview in April 2002 just before local elections in which the BNP fielded candidates in former riot areas, Blunkett accused asylum seekers’ children of ‘swamping’ British schools.
- Labour, threatened by a media frenzy and perhaps inspired by the growing success of Le Pen in France, decided to go for ‘triangulation’ to occupy the space opened up by the BNP.
- In February 2003, Tony Blair on BBC Newsnight dramatically announced his abandonment of policies under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, and an immediate cut in asylum claimants by 50 per cent over the next eight months. Britain would make it “extremely difficult for people fleeing from persecution to reach the shores of the UK,” he said.
- Together press and politicians concocted a moral panic. Dean cites a 2003 survey that suggested people believed the UK received 23 per cent of the world’s refugees. The true proportion was just under 2 per cent … //
… Gypsies you can’t come in: … //
… The ‘new migrant flood: … //
… Challenging the language: … //
… Common sense:
- Labour’s Chris Bryant’s attempt to present his party’s immigration policies as somehow new succeeded only in stirring up the racist ‘British jobs for British workers’ elements in the trades unions and the media. Bryant’s and Ed Miliband’s call for “language tests for care workers” fed into campaigns on translation costs in local government and the NHS, and language issues in multicultural schools.
- In the world of immigration and asylum the language of what Imogen Tyler calls ‘abjection’ is on the rise: the term ‘illegal immigrant’ is the description of choice according to new report from Migration Observatory. (PDF)
- Tyler argues for resistance through ‘counter mapping’, contesting terms and language and pushing alternative ways of seeing social issues and marginalised groups. (One small hurrah: The latest Associated Press style guide rejects the term ‘illegal’ immigrant or the use of ‘illegal’ to describe a person.)
- That racist rhetoric provokes racist action is a self-evident. Speech is action. Here’s coroner Karon Monaghan writing about the culture of security company G4S in her report following the Inquest into that company’s unlawful killing of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan detainee. Monaghan noted,
- “a pervasive racism within G4S … It seems unlikely that endemic racism would not impact at all on service provision. The possibility that such racism might find reflection in race-based antipathy towards detainees and deportees, and that in turn might manifest itself in inappropriate treatment of them.”
We must challenge a political class who parade in the media their own constructed political polling data and official ‘spin’ on government statistics as somehow ‘true’ representations of ‘the people’ or ‘public opinion’.
- How? By setting the facts straight for a start. The Guardian’s Hugh Muir notes that in the 2011 census returns, “Only 1.6 per cent of the population said they could not speak English well and only 0.3 per cent of the total population don’t speak English at all.”
- David Stuckler challenged assertions that data from the British Social Attitudes Survey suggested that young Britons born after 1979 rejected liberal and egalitarian views of the world. Stuckler demonstrated that, on the contrary, the data shows that young people’s support for increased spending on welfare rose 3.5 per cent from 2010 to 2011. He points to the number of mainstream newspaper articles using the word ‘scrounger’ rose from 173 in 2009 to 572 in 2011 with corresponding millions of hits on ‘Google’.
- Stuckler warns that “the repeated (but inaccurate) portrayal of young people being against social spending also perhaps ‘risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy’.”
- In the campaign against security company G4S and their outsourcing of asylum-seeker housing, activists and tenants alike contested and critiqued the company’s own term ‘asylum markets’. Asylum housing is, on the contrary, publicly funded social housing for refugees, or, as Barnsley council described it on their website “humanitarian housing for those fleeing persecution” … //
… (full text with many hyper-links).
TRAPPED in a Web of DEBT and a Derivatives TIME BOMB, 28.00 min, with Ellen Brown [PRIME INTEREST 75], Uploaded by CapitalWatch, August 17, 2013;
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