Pandering to the Mail on immigration will never work

**UPDATED** - see bottom

This week has been a pretty strange one. Getting back into the swing of things with work is one thing - trying to get a grip of what's been happening in the news while I've been away is another. I missed almost all of the credit crunch stuff while I was away in the States - what little news I did see centred entirely around which candidate had won which debate (predictably, Palin looked like a complete and utter arse if you believed MSNBC's take, whereas she wiped the floor with Biden if you watched Fox). So I've been trying to work out what's going on and what the papers might say about it - being informed in part by screaming Evening Standard billboards about rising unemployment.

Great, I thought the other day, how long is it going to be before the tabloids start blaming immigrants? I even thought of starting a countdown to the first immigrant bashing article in the big 3 (or rather big 2 and a half - the Express hardly counts as a whole paper).

Little did I know that Labour would beat them to it.

Well done, Phil Woolas - you've managed to out Mail the Mail. Via Justin at Chicken Yoghurt, Jim Jay at the Daily Maybe has some good stuff to say about Woolas, like:
It feels more like desperation. To head off the BNP, by adopting their policies. To distract people from the causes of unemployment. To give people someone to blame who isn't the government. Except I'm not sure it will actually do any of these things.
I've mentioned before how it's stupid for the government to pander to this kind of anti-immigration sentiment, because the anti-immigration tabloids will always portray the government as being soft on immigration regardless of what the government actually does about immigration. Tom makes the same point in the comments on Justin's post:
The funny thing is that Labour is horrendously tough, uncaring and unpleasant on immigration, but the message isn’t getting across because the press know their power and can conjure up entirely imaginary worlds where no one is ever kicked out because of their human rights, particularly if they’re a violent criminal, etc., etc.
My favourite hobby horse when I bang on about the tabloids is that they're not there to report the news to us. They exist to tell the same few stories over and over again, regardless of what has actually happened - and if anything does happen that contradicts any of those stories it's either ignored, lied about or spun until it appears to fit.

One of those overarching stories is that we're being overrun by foriegners who take our jobs, scrounge off our benefits and are destroying this once great nation. A subsection of that story is that it's all the government's fault because Labour loves foreigners and hates the British people. No matter what the government does that suggests the second bit is rubbish, whether we're talking about dawn raids on failed asylum seekers, introducing limits on new potential sources of immigration (like Romania and Bulgaria) or introducing a new points system that will keep out more people with darker skin than white people - the paper must make it fit with their overarching story.

And so, I knew, it would inevitably be with Woolas's latest bit of fearmongering. It doesn't matter that he comes close to parroting MigrationWatch's preferred line - he's a dirty lefty who likes foreigners and hates the British so there must be something wrong with it, right? But what?

We find out on the same day that the Mail reports his comments in 'Minister calls for stricter immigration controls amid fears rising unemployment could lead to racial tension'. Since the paper can't spin what he actually said, given that it was pretty unequivocal, it decides to go with the technique of just implying it's a bunch of lies anyway, with - drumroll please:

'Labour challenged to show details over plans to curb migrants'

If this immigrant bashing is really Labour's strategy to win back the core working class vote that they fear has been deserting for the BNP, it's a very bad one. For the people who are tempted away, Labour are a namby-pamby soft on immigrants bunch of Britain hating socialists. Nothing the party does will convince them otherwise. The government could announce the introduction of registration, internment camps and forced repatriation tomorrow and they would still be portrayed as wishy-washy lefties by the press and the right - and people would still go on believing them.

I was turned off Labour many years ago - not because they are soft-on-immigrants-but
-hard-on-the-British lefties, but because they're all too ready to pander to the crowd that think they are - and I'm pretty sure I'm not on my own. Maybe, if the party focussed on winning us back they'd win back some of the others by actually making a principled stand, sticking to it and arguing forcefully for it.

And, for those the party doesn't win back from the BNP - what Flying Rodent said.


The Sun's take: Migrants limit branded 'stunt'

The Express's: Backlash against idea to limit immigrants

1 comment:

jungle said...

I've long been mystified by why the government insists on pandering to the tabloid anti-immigrant rage.

They seem to fail to realise that much of the anti-immigrant stuff has little to do with immigration (or immigration policy). The hostility to Poles, yes, but the much more intense and apocalyptic hostility to Muslims has sod all to do with current immigration - they make up a really pretty miniscule proportion of current immigrants.

Michael Howard showed he understood this when he gave his electioneering anti-immigration speech in a town (Burnley) which contained virtually no immigrants but a lot of Muslims.

Of course, it's possible that the explanation is that Cruddas and friends play this game equally and are quite aware it's really about racism.