I need to make an intervention here. Something needs to be said otherwise my head will explode, so here we go. Labour “moderate” MPs, for the umpteenth and final time:
The “Labour heartlands” do not trust Labour on immigration any more and never will again; stop being idiots and actually oppose something.
Look, I know that populist, nativist nonsense is on the ascendant, and is quite popular these days, and a lot of people who used to vote Labour now don’t because immigrants booga booga. That is why you need to actually oppose it and try and put across that it is dangerous, stupid and morally wrong to do things like having a list of companies that employ foreign workers, or use EU citizens currently here as pawns in our soon-to-be-hilarious failure of a “negotiation”, and try and make a good faith argument for what you actually believe – that immigration is good for the country or, at the very least, is not an automatic negative. That’s why we have parties, to argue different points of view. That’s why we have an opposition.
That policy, on lists of companies employing foreign workers, is something that is immediately obviously reckless and stupid if you think for more than two seconds about the implications for companies named on said lists; think about how organised the alt/far right are these days in being absolute shits to whatever classes of people they don’t like and then imagine they have access to a full listing of every company that employs foreigners. I’d give it two hours after publication before someone knocked up some site called Forg.nr or something similarly arseholish and Web 2.0 that allows you to search for nearby businesses employing migrants that have windows at a level you can throw bricks through, with a handy Google Map with lots of little national flags so you can direct your opprobrium as conveniently as possible; and that’s just my first, instinctive gut reaction to such an insane idea. It’d be like Deliveroo meets Kristallnacht.
I mean if it isn’t supposed to be a “list of shame”, as Amber Rudd insisted, what is it supposed to be? What is the point of publishing such a list if it’s not meant to make the sort of thicksicles that care about such things hunt through the list and take some sort of action against businesses that are on it, or at least think worse of the businesses that are on it? I could understand having the data – it’d be useful for the Government to have, but John Q Brexit down the street? Why the fuck should he have the right to know? It’s almost literally none of his business.
Seriously “moderates”, “Blairites”, whatever you’re called but you definitely include Chuka Umunna and Rachel “Like Enoch Powell but explicitly intellectually dishonest because at least he actually believed what he was saying” Reeves, if all you’re going to do in response to blatant xenophobia being espoused by our government on behalf of the thickest percentile of the population is spew handwringing apologetics about “being where the voters are”, in direct contradiction to what you previously said you believed repeatedly and at length, then what is the point of you and what is the point of an opposition putatively led by you? I know that the UK is currently angling to be the world’s premier Weimar Republic replica theme park, but if it’s alright with you I’d rather that the official opposition didn’t decide that it isn’t authentic enough and nod along with the nationalist bollocks on flagrant display because it might win back a few morons to the Labour fold? Please?
The question that never seems to be asked is whether Labour really should be where the voters are if the voters you’re thinking of are xenophobic nationalists, although we can only hazard a guess that the answer from Reeves et al is probably “yes”, although couched in some more apologetics about “legitimate concerns” or some such similar wank which is of the Apple Support insincere “I understand your frustration” mould. Once again, this is an example of the supreme cowardice of the “moderate” wing of the Labour Party, always so thoroughly unwilling to argue for a cause they believe in – even a cause they previously argued for bitterly – if the argument doesn’t give a big centrist wide-on to PNBs or their right wing cousins, the People With Very Real Concerns (i.e. xenophobes and racists). Duhh, making arguments for unpopular but right things is hard – better let Ukip win the argument so we can be in power to be better than them, even if by doing so we actually become the same and therefore no better. This is apparently called “being a moderate”, or as I like to call it “not having a fucking spine“.
Which brings me to my point I made above. Even if Labour does do this and decides to pivot to the right on immigration to capture the PWVRC vote, it will not work. The fact of the matter is that the PWVRCs, to a man, abandoned Labour because of its immigration policy, and the feeling of grievance that Labour didn’t care about their views on it because they blame it for all their ills. The Labour brand is, to such people, tainted now with the idea that Labour represents the abolishment of borders and the taking of jobs from British people to be done by foreigners for less money (neither are actually true, of course.) Why do these “moderates” think that such people are going to be swayed by a few sparse nationalist words, especially when so many of them have explicitly come out and said that it is being done for no other reason than as a nakedly political move to win back voters, and the people involved were both avowedly pro-EU and on the record as being in favour of freedom of movement, even if only in a reformed form (which they still wouldn’t be happy with)? Why do they think that Labour’s actual core vote (as I have argued repeatedly) of urban working and educated middle class people are not going to be repulsed by the same rhetoric? It’s both arrogant, in the sense that Labour feels entitled to these votes even if it does nothing to actually earn them, and patronising to the PWVRCs to assume that all it takes is a few platitudes about something Labour MPs transparently do not believe and they’ll come back like a dog having its name called. Or a whistle blown.
Of course, my sarcasm aside, the PWVRCs do have real concerns which they view through the prism of immigration; about public services, and a lack of employment opportunities, and a fundamentally unbalanced economy. The correct reaction to this is to put across the truth; that the issues with these things are not to do with Piotr coming over to be a plumber, but with structural problems that the Tories have either caused or made worse – the gutting of industry and abandonment of communities dependent upon it, welfare cuts which make life harder for those in poverty, repeated tax cuts on the better off feeding into a deficit that is used as an excuse to not fund services, companies ignoring the minimum wage due to lax enforcement, a minimum wage that is impossible to live on. Owen Jones, quite rightly, said he’d pointed this out some years ago; the issue is that Labour should have done this years ago too, and we are now dealing with the fallout a decade later. To an extent, it may be too late. However, that doesn’t mean that Labour shouldn’t try, or should just assume that it’s a lost cause. The stakes are far too high for our opposition to abandon the moral high ground; conversely, the stakes are high enough that the conversations need to be had and minds changed before it really is too late to stop this country finally sliding into the abyss. At least then, if they tried, they can at least take comfort that when this country finishes its descent into being an inward-looking xenophobic hellhole, it was despite their best efforts and not because it was the path of least resistance.