Economic crisis? Well, let's chuck out the immigrants! This is the ingenious and original plan from Labour's Phil Woolas, Minister against Immigration.
According to our Phil "Clearly if people are being made unemployed, then the question of immigration becomes extremely thorny... It's been too easy to get into this country in the past and it's going to get harder." Clearly?
Clearly if there is a global economic crisis people are going to blame immigrants rather than the institutions who created those chaotic financial systems? Only if you encourage them Phil. Otherwise people might think someone sorting potatoes has not had much to do with the global economic meltdown.
A government spokesman followed up these comments by bragging about how hard it is going to be to get into this country "Crucially, the points system means only the migrants with the skills Britain needs can come - and no more. Had the points-based system been in place last year, there would have been 12% fewer people coming in to work through the equivalent work permit route." Which is something we're being encouraged to think would be a good thing I suppose.
However, the Immigration Advisory Service thinks that this is about blaming immigrants. They also believe that it makes no economic sense;
“The Government has closed off all avenues for lower-skilled workers coming from outside the EEA – and this already is creating a crisis of a shortage of labour to do some of the jobs that resident Britons are not prepared or cannot afford to do because they would lose benefits and could not resume them quickly after doing a short-term piece of work. Only Bulgarians and Romanians are allowed to work in agriculture and the consequent shortages could lead to a situation where, once again, fruit and vegetables are left to rot in the fields.According to The Times "Employers should, [Woolas] believes, put British people first, or they will risk fuelling racism," which is one of those sentences that you need to read several times just to make sure your eyes weren't playing tricks on you.
“So far, we can applaud the trades unions for being more concerned about the plight of migrant workers not being exploited by unscrupulous employers and not about migrants taking their members’ jobs. We must hope that this attitude will prevail through the difficult times ahead.”
Even Labour Home has pieces with comments like this "it's about bloody time people started calling a spade a bloody spade". Charming. If this is anti-racism what would their racism look like I wonder?
Darrell is quite right when he says "there is no way the recent rise in unemployment is attributable to immigration." It's an old myth and one that only the most backward still believe - so why is this Labour minister trying to revive it? It doesn't feel like policies to take the "centre ground", which is what we're told politics is all about these days.
It feels more like desperation. To head off the BNP, by adopting their policies. To distract people from the causes of unemployment. To give people someone to blame who isn't the government. Except I'm not sure it will actually do any of these things.
But whilst the Tories and the BNP are full of glee that Labour seems to be conceding the argument on immigration it's up to the rest of us to ensure that we don't let migrants become the scapegoats for a crisis they didn't cause.