David Cameron may think that the negative debate on immigration is new (or at least he says that, despite having a hand in the notorious Tory slogan "are you thinking what we're thinking?") but dog whistle politics on race is nothing new.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Sadly at this election we have a choice of three flavours of reactionary immigration policies, all working from the same set of assumptions. Immigration, they say, is a problem.
All these nurses and street sweepers and farm workers and plumbers who are coming over here and providing services we've been unable to provide for ourselves are, apparently, people to regarded with suspicion and monitored like hawks.
Even the Lib Dems have proposed extraordinarily illiberal measures to monitor where people are allowed to live and restrict people to specific regions - a policing measure we have not had in this country since feudalism.
All these parties lump immigration in with crime, as if somehow coming from a different place is in some way anti-social in itself. Many of the individual candidates for these parties are not out and out racists themselves but they are all happy to use the fear of immigration to further their own personal political careers.
In this country we detain children for the crime of coming from a different country. Will we hear the leaders denounce this disgusting situation? No, they'll talk of caps, of bad immigration, of how tough their record is.
In this country we deport people to countries where their lives are at risk. Many of these people end up dead, tortured, raped or jailed - all with the complicity of the UK state. You'll not hear the leaders express one note of concern about this.
When you go into the polling booth on Thursday week I'd like to ask one favour of you. Before you place your cross in one of those boxes think about which of the candidates before you has been willing to play along with the right-wing press on their vile immigration rhetoric and which of them has spoken out.
Immigration is not the only issue at this election, but the very nature of the debate has meant that those arguing for more liberal immigration controls have been crowded out by the suffocating consensus at the 'top' of politics that treats migrants as a problem to be managed rather than welcome guests who benefit our country.