05 October 2016
Leading Tory MPs have taken a strong line against migrant workers at this year’s Conservative Party conference, a direction of policy that has not only been criticised for xenophobic undertones and illogicity, but is all the more astounding in light of a new report implicating the language of Tory politicians in racist attacks.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd was met with a vigorous backlash after her speech from the platform yesterday, in which she announced a raft of new policies designed to reduce migration, including additional checks for people who apply for a license to be a taxi driver, and higher barriers to international students wishing to take up places at UK universities. Businesses may also be forced to publish how many non-British workers they employ in an attempt to “name and shame” them.
Rudd stated that such legislation would be put in place to “ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labour market, not taking jobs British people could do”.
Her statement was roundly criticised by business groups, which stated that the British economy relies on migrant labour, as well as by politicians from across the spectrum (including her own party) who saw the speech as political point scoring and an attempt to redirect blame for the struggles British workers are facing on migrants when they have actually been created by the Conservative Party itself.
Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, said: “The underlying message of Amber Rudd’s ‘controlling migration fund’ is that migrants are to blame for the problems our country faces. This falsehood must be challenged head on.
“The truth is that the ‘pressures’ she spoke of are not caused by migration, but by the Government’s cuts and failure to invest in vital public services such as the NHS.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed, stating: “Conservative Party leaders have sunk to a new low this week as they fan the flames of xenophobia and hatred in our communities and try to blame foreigners for their own failures.
“Drawing up lists of foreign workers won’t stop unscrupulous employers undercutting wages in Britain. Shutting the door to international students won’t pay young people’s tuition fee debts, and ditching doctors from abroad won’t cut NHS waiting lists.
“The Conservatives will instead foster division and discrimination in our workplaces and communities. Once again, they are making false promises on immigration they can’t deliver. Instead of turning people against each other, ministers should take action now to deal with the real impact of migration.
“They should stop the abuse of migrant labour to undercut pay and conditions, which would reduce numbers. They should support communities with high levels of migration and they should set out a positive agenda for fair migration.”
Even a Tory MP – Neil Carmichael – described Rudd’s speech as “divisive” and said her ideas had “no place in in 21st Century Britain”.
But Rudd was not the only Tory announcing harsh new rules for migrant workers. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox accused some migrants of only “consuming” wealth from the UK rather than contributing to it – a claim that is flatly contradicted by recent research from the London School of Economics showing immigration has had no negative impact on UK jobs, wages or public services; while Theresa May said people were out of work or on low wages due to “low-skilled immigration” despite the wealth of evidence that job losses, poor incomes and insecure work have been encouraged by the government’s own decision to cut workers’ rights and erect barriers to access to justice for those who have been wronged at the workplace. For more on this and how this regressive tide can be reversed, please see our Manifesto for Labour Law, which has now been adopted by the Labour Party.
The Tories’ rhetoric is all the more startling in light of a new report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), which warned of a dangerous rise in racism and xenophobia in the UK, partly fueled by the language politicians use. The report named leading members of the Tory party, including David Cameron.
“It is no coincidence that racist violence is on the rise in the UK at the same time as we see worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers, online and even among politicians,” said ECRI chair Christian Ahlund.
“The Brexit referendum seems to have led to a further rise in ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment, making it even more important that the British authorities take the steps outlined in our report as a matter of priority.”