By Colin Foster
"Fairness. Progress. Community. Tolerance. Decency. Respect." Tony Blair's speech to Labour Party conference on 30 September was full of warm words which he hoped would calm Labour's discontent. He even used the word socialism once.
And then the filthy cynicism of it all spilled out. After claiming blandly that "Britain should always be open to refugees", Blair continued by hailing it as a triumph that "we have cut asylum applications by a half".
"But we must go further", he continued. Make Britain of the detention centres, the apply-immediately-or-have-no-hope rules, the baying racist press, and the pauperisation of refugees, into an even meaner, more walled-off country!
"Cut back the ludicrously complicated appeal process, derail the gravy train of legal aid and remove those who fail in their claims without further judicial interference".
That's one in the eye for those meddling lawyers and judges! Let hard-faced deportation officials do their work without bother about legal rights or appeals!
Back in the 19th century Britain gave space to political refugees from all over Europe, from Marx to Mazzini. Not until the anti-Jewish Aliens Act of 1904 did the doors start closing decisively. The USA remained open until 1921.
Tory, Liberal, Republican, Democratic governments, unashamedly capitalist and right-wing, still felt obliged to some norms of civilised conduct.
Those open countries gained by openness, became richer culturally and even economically.
Blair's barbed wire against asylum-seekers not only hurts thousands fleeing inhuman conditions, but also makes Britain a meaner and sourer place for those who live in it. It encouraged the Tories to go one worse and propose numerical quotas on asylum-seekers, above which no-one however hard-pressed will be allowed in.
It gives the open racists of the BNP the starting point from which they can argue that they are the only people bold enough to act decisively against what all established politicians admit is the "problem" of "too many foreigners".
Fight for a world which opens its borders to people, not only to capital!