Comment: Three main parties to blame for rise in immigrant-bashing
By Keith Taylor
No one was surprised to see the stats yesterday which showed that Ukip had vastly overstated the number of Romanians and Bulgarians that would come here to work after the final border restrictions were lifted in January. Indeed, between that and the resignation of Sanya-Jeet Thandi party over the party's direction toward "racist populism", Ukip are looking less credible by the minute.
The mainstream parties do now seem to be been doing their utmost to expose them for the charlatans they are. You’d think, from the way they are talking now, that Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have been fighting the Ukip lies all along. But the fact is that each of the three main parties has, until very recently, gone out of their way to appear as 'tough' on migration as Farage.
The Tories, as you might expect, have taken the hardest line, announcing measures to curb benefits to migrants. The Labour Party, still bearing the scars of the last general election, mounted a broadside against their own failure in government to curb immigration and jumped on the Tory bandwagon with proposals to restrict benefits for new arrivals from the EU. And the Lib Dems have swung away from their traditionally 'liberal' policy on immigration – instead they've backed the Government’s toxic immigration bill, abandoned support for an amnesty for illegal immigrants and laid out plans for a £1,000 bond for those visiting from "high-risk" countries.
What all three parties seemingly fail to grasp is the role they play in fanning the flames of migrant bashing and Ukip voting.
It’s taken far too long for any of the 'big three' to stand up to the tired old myth which says that migrants are a drain on our services. A myth which serves Ukip well as it conveniently distracts from the fact that this party, which claims to be anti-establishment, takes money from millionaire donors while lobbying for tax cuts for bankers. Perhaps more concerning is how this myth serves the mainstream parties, by allowing them to get away with chipping away at our public services while they are in power, and all the while shifting the blame from government policy onto the vulnerable – immigrants and service users.
Things are now changing. Lib Dems attacked Ukip in their latest election video, and Chukka Umunna spoke eloquently against Farage on Question Time last week. But, after months of failing to stand up for migrants, this is too little too late. The main parties have allowed Ukip to set the political scene, and failed to take a stand when it mattered.
But beyond all this lies an even worse, deep rooted failure of the political class in the fight against discrimination and fear of the 'other'. The failure of governments of all shades to address the most serious problems facing this country, from chronic housing shortages to culture of low pay.
Because these problems, despite what political parties and the media would have us believe, aren’t caused by migrants. The deep squeeze that many of us are feeling on our wages and vital services, is in fact the result of government policy. It is the failure of successive governments to build enough affordable housing, and the failure of bosses to pay living wages to their employees.
For a long time Greens have been rejecting the race to the bottom on immigration rhetoric, and it’s a shame that the other parties waited so long to make a stand. At this election we are offering voters a chance to back a party which has consistently held those at the top of society to account, rather than pointing the finger of blame, and aiming to divide, those at the bottom. Greens defend migrants whichever way the political wind is blowing. If that’s the kind of politics you’re interested in, then you can vote for us across the UK a week today.
Keith Taylor is the Green Party MEP for South East England
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