Reckless’ deportation comments shows how Ukip drags debate to the far-right
The problem with trying to out-nasty Ukip is that Nigel Farage's party can always go that little bit nastier.
Within hours of Labour announcing draconian plans to strip EU migrants of benefits yesterday, Ukip's Rochester candidate announced they would simply deport them instead.
Speaking at an election hustings last night, Mark Reckless suggested that in future Polish plumbers living in Rochester would only be allowed to stay for a "fixed period" before having to leave.
"I think in the near term we'd have to have a transitional period, and I think we should probably allow people who are currently here to have a work permit at least for a fixed period," he said.
"Where would you stop, Mark?" Labour's candidate Naushabah Khan asked him, apparently stunned.
"My family are migrants, are we going to say they need to go back as well?"
This was obviously intended as a rhetorical question, but the logical answer to Khan's question is 'yes'. If we accept it's okay to deport Polish plumbers and their families then why wouldn't we go even further? If Ukip are able to take eastern European children out of their schools, then why wouldn't they also deport the grandchildren of Asian immigrants who settled here decades ago as well?
This is the logical conclusion of the anti-immigrant politics being pursued by Ukip and increasingly the mainstream parties as well. If we all accept that immigrants are the problem then the obvious solution is to physically rid ourselves of that problem. If it's okay for human beings to be treated as pests, then it's okay for our politicians to act like pest controllers.
It is precisely this kind of far-right politics the Labour party is meant to stand against. That they have instead tried to cash-in on this growing anti-immigrant sentiment is all the more depressing.
It is also counter-productive. Over the past two years David Cameron has shifted his party to the right on Europe and immigration in a desperate attempt to "shoot Ukip's fox."
But rather than shoot the fox, Cameron has fattened it up. When David Cameron first announced plans to hold an EU referendum almost two years ago, Ukip were polling in single figures. Now they're securing almost one in every five votes across the country.
Last night's National Opinion Poll (YouGov) LAB – 33% (+1) CON – 31% (-2) UKIP – 18% (+3) LDEM – 7% (-1) GRN – 5% (-1)
— Britain Elects (@britainelects) November 16, 2014
Like a battered half-blind boxer who believes that all they really need is one more round in the ring, the Tory party have now decided that their real problem is simply not going anti-immigrant enough.
The campaign in Rochester shows quite how deranged a strategy this is. Recently Tory candidate Kelly Holhurst released a leaflet claiming that she had given the prime minister a big talking to over immigration.
In a leaflet titled "Kelly Talks" she wrote: "I wanted to bring the prime minister to this constituency to show him that uncontrolled immigration has hurt this area. I told him we need action, not just talk."
In a separate leaflet she added that local people "don't feel safe walking down the high street of our town" due to "uncontrolled immigration".
The Tories' Rochester leaflet claims Kelly Tolhurst gave a grumpy looking David Cameron a talking to over immigration pic.twitter.com/RylPelbVdS
— Adam Bienkov (@AdamBienkov) November 19, 2014
Far from winning new support for the Tories, this strategy of talking up anti-immigrant fears and resentment will simply push even more voters into the arms of Ukip. If anti-immigrant politics is what's on sale, then most voters will simply buy the leading brand.
Ukip today distanced themselves from Reckless's comments saying that it is not official party policy to deport already settled migrants. However, the direction British politics is heading is is clear.
By lurching to the right, David Cameron has done more to legitimise and promote Ukip than anything Nigel Farage himself has ever managed. That Labour are now rushing to do exactly the same, shows just what a mess we are now in.