Sue Jones asks why Labour’s Front Bench isn’t opposing this xenophobic Immigration Bill.
The Bill proposes: Removing the right of appeal from many immigration decisions. Currently half of all appeals against ordinary immigration decisions succeed, simply because Home Office decision-making is of such poor quality. The Government seeks to cover this up by making it impossible to appeal. And Labour is not opposing this.
Making it easier to deport people. Almost a third of deportation decisions now are stopped by successful appeals. The Bill would remove those appeals and allow the Government to remove whomever it pleases – family members, people victimised at work or who face genuine danger. And Labour is not opposing this.
Requiring landlords to check the immigration status of all new tenants and the people they live with. Discrimination is already out of control in the private rented sector – the BBC found agents and landlords refusing black tenants last year and this year a landlord of over a thousand homes has said he will evict all benefit claimants. Although probably unworkable, these proposals will lead to increases in rents, and homelessness. And Labour is not opposing this.
New mechanisms for charging in the NHS so anyone going to A&E will have to prove their eligibility. Shadow health spokesman Lord Hunt says he is not sure this will work. Contrast NHS founder Aneurin Bevan, who understood clearly sixty years ago that “What began as an attempt to keep the Health Service for ourselves would end by being a nuisance to everybody”. He also challenged the Tories on the “nasty taste” of their rhetoric back then, denouncing their racism as another attack on socialised medicine in a way that today’s Shadow Cabinet has signally failed to do.
While the Bill is clearly a piece of electioneering, the Tories also use migration to have a go at everyone. Migrants, we are told, can only come to steal jobs because British workers are too lazy to take them. So we need more controls on migration and a more punitive benefits system. Labour has capitulated on this too, linking an otherwise good policy on enforcement against bad and criminal employers to a spurious ‘need to tackle migration’.
The Shadow Cabinet also supports making new claimants for jobseekers allowance prove they have been in the UK for three months. But the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary says it might be good to extend that to two years. Labour will nosedive electorally if it falls in behind the racists and Europhobes. Instead we must expose their bankrupt politics and articulate a vision based on solidarity, as already practised by many working in public and voluntary services, local campaigns and community and migrant organisations.