No to racism, no to austerity

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‘Go Home’ migrants ad vans – which the government has had to abandon

by Paul Taylor

Yesterday’s Labour Assembly Against Austerity made clear why the fight against racism must be an essential part of the campaign against austerity.

The Tories are continually searching for new ways to exploit racism as a way to boost their poll ratings and confuse people about the failure of their austerity programme.

Some of these reactionary campaigns have been challenged and defeated such as  the racist ad vans and proposed immigration visa bonds. The latter came under fire from the Chinese and Indian governments, as well as business sectors wanting to attract investment from the dynamic parts of the world economy.

Also a number of recent reports have challenged some of the key myths the Tories and UKIP promote about immigration.

As reported in the Guardian, “a joint report by the Centre for Economic and Business Research and global recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash says that curbing immigration from other parts of the EU could cost the UK £60bn in lost GDP (2% in real terms) by 2050.”

Also a study by University College London has confirmed again that immigrants make a net contribution to public finances.

Plus a further study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and York University has reported that ‘medical tourism’ to Britain is a substantial source of NHS income, benefiting the economy by hundreds of millions of pounds – contrary to Tory claims that foreigners are a major drain on the NHS.

Islamophobia remains a central focus of the right’s agenda, as illustrated by the recent comments from the ‘liberal’ Ken Clarke who described the face veil as a ‘kind of bag’.

The Labour Assembly Against Austerity conference session, ‘No to scapegoating – immigrants and claimants not to blame’ saw an excellent discussion about why Labour must emphasise the contribution immigrants make to our society.

The workshop also discussed the disturbing consequences in Greece and France of the implementation of austerity by social democratic parties. The rise of Golden Dawn and the Front National underscores the potential for a revival of the far right in Britain if a Labour government maintains austerity after 2015.

Labour’s support rises when it campaigns on how it will improve living standards for the vast majority of people. However, it risks losing the support of former Liberal Democratic voters if it concedes to a reactionary agenda on immigration and religious and cultural expression.

As Diane Abbott explained in the final plenary yesterday, Labour does not win ‘by moving to the right on immigration… but by offering an alternative to austerity.’