Thursday, November 20, 2008

Phil Woolas, New Labour's odious new Immigration Minister bases his borderline racist views on a constant reiteration of the term "community". Woolas was previously "Minister for Communities" during which time he fuelled tabloid headlines by making unsupported remarks about inbreeding causing birth defects in the Pakistani community and calling for the sacking of a Muslim teaching assistant who wanted to wear the Niqab. (This is what New Labour means by "promoting community cohesion")

A quote from Woolas in a recent Guardian article ("You can't come in" Guardian 2, 18/11/08) shows how easy it is for politicians to (mis)use the term community for deeply xenophobic purposes: " A large part of the reason why we had riots and we were targeted by the hard right was because we hadn't talked about it (immigration) enough and we didn't reflect what people in communities were saying and thinking and worrying about. The body politic was cut off from the communities". By "the communities" it is quite clear that he means his white constituents rather than his black ones - though the way he uses the term allows him to avoid saying this. Woolas' pronouncements on race are actually no different from those of Enoch Powell in that they both accept without question that large numbers of white people are being entirely right and sensible to feel threatened by newly arriving refugees and migrants.

Surely a responsible politician (especially one in the position of Immigration Minister) should try to lead opinion rather than just reflecting and reinforcing the dirty and dangerous views of the red top newspapers. The job of an immigration minister is not just to "reflect what people in communities are saying and thinking and worrying about". This is exactly what pandering to racism means!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The End of New Labour

Jon Cruddas is right that "collective political action and the power of citizenship have been traded in for the ownership society, in which all were assured a small piece of the capitalist dream" (Guardian Nov 1st 2008). This process has taken place just as firmly under New Labour as it did under its original sponsor Margaret Thatcher.

After the recent credit crash this property-owning "stakeholder" democracy is looking incresasingly threadbare. It is important to ask how New Labour managed to take so many followers (who once knew better) down this now bankrupt route. It was not just that collective political action was given up for private "ownership" - an illusory stake in the dream. It was also the case that New Labour was able to use an ultimately empty notion of "community" to substitute for and mask its move away from solidarity, mutuality and collectivity. As Cruddas says the real question is "who will pay for this recession - capital or labour?"