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Miliband plays the race card

The euro is heading for collapse, major banks were downgraded overnight, the global economy is plunging into depression and Ed Miliband chooses this very moment to play the reactionary race card.

Pandering to prejudice, the right-wing press and voters looking for scapegoats for social problems is what Labour leader Miliband is doing today, however much he dresses it up as a “policy rethink”.

In his Guardian interview, Miliband claims that workers from countries like Poland have driven down wages while denying British citizens jobs. Of course, he produces no evidence whatsoever to substantiate this.

Britain was one of three countries that allowed workers from new European Union member states to enter the country without restrictions after May 2004. But research in 2008 concluded: “Despite anecdotal evidence, we found little hard evidence that the inflow of accession migrants contributed to a fall in wages or a rise in claimant unemployment in the UK between 2004 and 2006.”

But Miliband is basing his new hard-line on the very same “anecdotal evidence”, including the amazing statement that people “in every kitchen” up and down the country are discussing what to do about immigration. 

And no doubt Miliband was inspired by recent findings from the right-wing Policy Exchange think-tank that a harder line on immigration would help Labour win back swing voters, as well as the views of Jon Cruddas, his new policy adviser.

By referring to sectors of the economy “where there is a problem”, Miliband immediately drags the issue of the numbers of migrant workers into the limelight. But having raised the hopes of racists that the numbers could be reduced somehow, Miliband only proposes that new vacancies should be notified to Jobcentre Plus!

Saying he will review immigrants access to benefits – all the statistics show EU workers claim less than the average UK citizen – and routes to local social housing is something you would expect from the right of the Tory Party. In his rush to reject New Labour’s relative open door policy, Miliband has found himself in the company of UKIP and other nationalist outfits.

His late Marxist father Ralph (a refugee from Nazi persecution) will no doubt be turning in his grave to hear son Ed argue that immigration should be seen as a “class issue” because “evidence” showed lower-paid workers and the unskilled suffer from cheap East European labour.

A genuine class-based approach would be to insist that there is a divide and rule strategy to hand and that workers have to find ways to stick together against a common enemy or face joint immiseration.

Instead, Miliband said he was entering the debate on immigration in the context of his call for a more “responsible capitalism”. He wants the employers to pay better wages and treat everyone more fairly and end the “nasty, brutish and short-term” nature of the labour market.

That’s really going to happen!

Corporate-driven globalisation, which New Labour governments endorsed 100%, benefited big business and the banks at the expense of working conditions and wages. Now that the global economy is in its worst-ever crisis, many people regard the system of capitalism as the problem and not the solution.

At this point, Miliband steps in to deflect people’s attention away from the incompetent ruling elites, the bloated bankers and the corporations whose obsession with profit has produced a catastrophe.

The present Labour leader, like those before him, is just what the system needs at this point. Instead of confronting those responsible for low wages, unemployment, poor housing and run-down services, let’s just fight amongst ourselves for the scraps. Miliband confirms that there is no point in Labour, none whatsoever.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
22 June 2012

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