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The new racism

July 1, 2016

From The New Reform Club: Reflections on the Revolution in the UK – Number 4. The first three can also be found at the link.

A fictionalized exchange on television between any Labour candidate for MP and an audience member during the 2015 general election …

Labour Candidate for Parliament: We hear your pain.

Audience Member: My neighbourhood is being transformed by mass migration. I don’t like many of these changes.

Labour Candidate for Parliament: I understand. New immigrants—frequently coming without skills that fit the modern U.K. economy—cause wage compression at the low end of the wage scale. We will make sure employers pay the minimum wage; we will ensure that your economic interests are protected.

Audience Member: No, that’s not my point (at least, that’s not my only point). I don’t like how our society is being changed by mass immigration. I don’t like polygamy. It is illegal, but no one gets prosecuted for it. I don’t like FGM. It too is illegal, but it is not actively prosecuted. I don’t like it when the immigrants’ customs are accommodated in these ways—I don’t want our criminal laws ignored by the immigrants or by the police and the prosecutors. It makes me feel unsafe—it makes me think the immigrants’ way of life is preferred over ours. The immigrants should be integrated into our communities, not the other way around.

Labour Candidate for Parliament: I understand. We will work to ensure that your wages are not compressed.

Audience Member: You’re not listening. That’s not what I said: I don’t like the direction your party’s immigration policies under Blair & Brown have taken our country. I don’t like where we are now as a result—not that Cameron has done anything to modify those policies.

Labour Candidate for Parliament: No, that’s not right. My job is not to ensure your vision of the good society. I live in the real world, in the EU which determines U.K. immigration policy, not in your antiquated vision of Little England and William Blake’s Jerusalem. My job is to protect your objectively rooted economic interests. I will do that by monitoring and controlling the behaviour of employers via the minimum wage, unions, and collective bargaining. But once that is done, then we must take all newcomers on an equal basis, particularly those claiming asylum. We should not pick and choose immigrants based on their likelihood to integrate into the extant political community. Picking and choosing immigrants based on their values (or language, or willingness to learn our language) is unfair to immigrants. Of course, as a result, society may evolve in a direction you don’t like. That could happen. But we are morally obliged (as we are obliged under international law) to take that risk. Your trying to block such a development in favour of your parochial Little England values is morally objectionable. Your values are no better than my values and no better than the immigrants’ values. Your language (English) should not be favoured over the immigrants’ languages. Our diversity must respect these differences. In fact, your trying to determine your society’s demographic future—through immigration controls—is (white van man) racism.

Simply put, you don’t have a right to decide what sort of society this will be: you don’t have a right to hold such an opinion. Sorry—that was over broad. I suppose you may hold any opinion you want; you can even voice it in private and public. What I mean is that I—as your member of Parliament—will not and should not value your opinion. This country, i.e., this country’s future, is not yours. You and your family just happen to live here.

Audience Member: My grandparents voted for Bevan & Gaitskell, and my parents voted for Frank Field & Tony Benn. You have lost my support, and I guess I want my country back.

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