By Rosalind Robson
For some months now the Tories and Labour have been trying to win votes by competing to see who can be the most “hardline” against asylum seekeers. More recently the Tories have added gypsies and travellers to their list of “undesirables”.
Michael Howard has probably beaten Tony Blair with his nasty populist election campaign. Now he is “out on the stump” spewing out his message — “It’s not racist to want to control immigration”; and “Let’s clamp down on illegal traveller sites.”
The Tories maybe be in the lead in the race-hate auction but Labour isn’t far behind. One of Labour's election pledges is to “protect your country’s borders”. From precisely what do we need “protecting”? From “aliens”? From people coming to take our jobs? From people coming to rape our women?
Well, this is the kind of foul racism that the Daily Mail has printing for the last few years. The wording of New Labour’s pledge does buy into these ideas.
The politicians pay scarce attention to the facts. That refugee and immigrants, if they are allowed to work, contribute more to the country’s economy than they take out. That gypsies and travellers are being evicted from land they own. That councils who say they evict because gypsies fail to meet planning regulations when developing their sites have done nothing to help develop sites and have failed to provide enough new sites themselves.
And Michael Howard? He’s the man that ended councils’ legal obligation to set up sites for travellers!
Blair and Howard are using scapegoats to win votes. They do this because they have no answers for dealing with crumbling public services, visible inequalities and rising crime.
Their vile and filthy prejudice seeps into society. Their racist views lead directly to racist discrimination and verbal and physical abuse against much wider groups of people including long-established black and Asian communities. Racist attacks of all kinds, including on Jewish people, are on the increase.
The left and the trade unions must step up our visible support for people facing these racist attacks. There are many local anti-deportation campaigns now in existence. Schools students are begining to organise such campaigns. There is a travellers action group, calling for help in resisting evictions. All need more support.
Overall, as socialists, we have another job too. We need to speak out for refugee rights, for travellers’ rights, against racism in the media and from the politicians. We need to put forward a message about how to reorganise society so that the majority, the working class has a real democratic voice. On that basis we can build tolerance and respect.
That is the main message the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty will be trying to get across in this election campaign. We will be joined by our comrades in the Socialist Green Unity Coalition.
Our efforts must continue after the election. We must organise in the trade unions to strengthen the campaign against racism.