Confessions of a Political Animal

November 20, 2008

Now that’s what I call an obssession

griffinWhat was your reaction when you heard that the BNP’s membership list had been published on the internet?

a) A sudden desire to see whether any fascists lived on your road? b) A certain gleefulness that such a vile party had come a cropper in this way? c) A little salivation at the prospect of BNP members losing their jobs? d) A mild concern over the data protection issues involved? e) Or maybe you thought ‘Aha, here’s a chance to have a bash at someone who used to be Mayor of London’?

If your answered mainly ‘e’, then you are Andrew Gilligan, and I claim my £5. The Animal’s favourite scribe has dedicated his Evening Standard column to pushing the centre-right’s usual line regarding the hard right: “oh look, aren’t they small and insignificant, if we generally downplay them and pander a bit to the prejudices of their supporters, they’ll go away.”

Gilligan headlines his article “Now we know what little threat the BNP poses” and bases his assumptions on the fact that the membership list shows a relatively small number of members in London generally, with unsurprisingly, very low numbers in the inner boroughs. But surely this was news to no-one – it was always assumed that the party’s membership was somewhere in the vicinity (more…)

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October 20, 2008

Two audiences: two messages

Back to the future with Dominic Grieve - on transport and immigration

Back to the future with Dominic Grieve - on transport and immigration

I blame Phil Woolas. In making his factually-limited and politically dangerous statement about curbing immigration during a recession, the immigration minister seemed to be going out of his way to legitimise as large a number of right-wing myths (‘coming over here, stealing our jobs’) as possible. Apart from the logistical idiocy of curbing economic immigration at a time when the Chancellor has rediscovered Keynes and is looking to bring forward a number of major infrastructure projects (as un-exclusively predicted by The Animal), Woolas has effectively given the government’s stamp of legitimacy to the inflammatory principle that foreign workers ‘take’ British jobs and that immigration is ‘out of control’. Beyond the succor that such a shift in the terms of public debate give to the extreme right, from a Labour point of view there should also be concern that Woolas’ statement has effectively allowed the Conservatives to claim that they were right all along and that it is somehow practical or desirable to set a limit on inward migration to the UK.

Inevitably, Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve (you know, he was brought in after that other guy went off in some sort of huff…) has sought to make hay today from the apparent government u-turn. In an article in today’s Evening Standard Grieve says

bit by bit, the Government is increasingly talking about immigration in terms that mirror what the Conservative Party has been saying with consistency for years. 

The worrying thing is that, in a way, he’s right. Of course, Grieve’s conclusion is (and I hope for the sake of race relations in this country that he is right) that the government won’t follow through on its tough words and that only the Conservatives can be trusted to ‘manage’ the migration system. But to be fair to Grieve, whilst his words are tough and the dog-whistle message to the knuckle draggers is certainly in there, he (more…)

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