Racism is a weapon of mass distraction from austerity

Last week's Conservative Party Conference signalled the hostile policies that the Tories are willing to engage in as part of 'hard Brexit'.

Policies to print lists of foreign workers, target international students and migrant doctors and taxi drivers will not stop the slump in the pound. However, they will damage our work force, funding for our universities and our NHS. They were resoundingly condemned across the political spectrum, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accusing the Tories of 'fanning the flames of xenophobia'. Anti-racist campaigners and business leaders united in slamming the policies.

Today's announcement by Theresa May calling for passport checks against pregnant women in hospitals to crack down on so-called 'maternity tourism' shows the Nasty downward spiral that this government is engaged in. Which has been criticised as 'dangerous' by the royal college of midwives The Conservatives show they are willing to engage in the politics of reaction and distraction to cover up reality: austerity is not working.

The post-Brexit hostile climate has seen a rise in racist attacks, with a Polish man stabbed for speaking in Polish, a pregnant Muslim woman attacked in Milton Keynes that she miscarried and a woman in North London having her Hijab ripped off. But it does not end there: Homophobic hate crimes are up 147%. Hate crimes in general have risen in the three months since Brexit and have led to attacks motivated against people based on religion, as well as disabled and transgender people  A climate of racism and hostility on immigration once unfettered, contributes to an overall climate of hatred against other communities. Three years ago Childline reported that racist bullying had soared by 69%. It cited immigration and Islamophobia as key factors. Post Brexit, these issues are now not just impacting in the classroom but nationally.

It is essential that we debunk the myths around immigration. Not only does whipping up hostility against migrants contribute to a hostile climate that is exploited by the far right, it leads to policies that restrict migrant workers who make a valuable contribution and this will make us worse off. A globalised world needs an international work force. Universities need the academic contribution and fee revenue of international students. The NHS would be unsustainable without the contribution of migrant workers.

Labour is effectively challenging Tory reaction, which has become the furniture of austerity. Whilst Theresa May's tenure as Home Secretary was shamefully stained by cuts to search and rescue operations as people drown in the Mediterannean, her first days as Prime Minister have seen Jamaican people, here for generations, snatched and deported.

In stark contrast, Jeremy Corbyn's first public engagement after becoming Labour leader was to the massive 80,000 strong 'Refugees Welcome Here' demonstration that Stand Up To Racism was central to. His first international visit was to the Calais refugee camp. Last week, after a raft of reactionary policies that signalled the Tories being more the nasty party than ever before. Labour appointed the most diverse shadow cabinet in history, including Diane Abbott MP, the daughter of an NHS nurse from the Caribbean, as Shadow Home Secretary.

Labour is making its opposition to racism clear. With the sharp rise in racism in Britain, and the presence of the far right in countries across Europe, the need to oppose racism could not be more urgent – whilst uniting against austerity and for a progressive Labour Government led by Jeremy Corbyn. Join us for a vital discussion on October 22.

Denis Fernando will be speaking alongside Don Flynn of the Migrant Rights Network at a session on ‘Stop the Scapegoating – Migrants are not to blame’ at the ‘Winning With Jeremy – Labour’s Alternative to Tory Austerity’ conference hosted by the Labour Assembly Against Austerity on Saturday October 22. Other speakers at the event include Shadow ministers John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, Jon Trickett, Richard Burgon and Catherine West. More information and tickets available here.


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