Opinion Politics

Rachel Reeves: bigot herding at the Labour Party conference

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The former Shadow Cabinet Minister and supposed moderate, Rachel Reeves, has delivered a speech at a Labour Party conference fringe event in which she warned that “Britain could explode into rioting if immigration is not curbed”.

Lighting a tinderbox?

Referring to a post-Brexit deal on the free movement of people she warned that “we have to get this right because there are bubbling tensions in this country that I just think could explode”. She added that:

“Labour must listen to voters concerns. You had those riots in 2011. If riots started again in Leeds and bits of my constituency – it’s like a tinderbox”.

Reeves claimed that since the referendum there had been “three racist attacks” in her Leeds West constituency – one of which had left a Polish man in hospital.

Despite the vile inference that immigration is to blame for racist attacks on immigrants rather than racist thugs, Reeves stopped short of claiming that ‘like the Roman, I see the River Tiber foam with blood”, or hyperbolic predictions of immigrants holding “the whip hand”. But you can’t fail to see at what she is getting at, and to who her dog-whistle was blown for. In response to the predictable criticism and accusations that she has turned “Red-UKIP”, Reeves responded on social media with the predictable “it’s not racist to talk about immigration”.

But we’re not allowed to talk about immigration!

I absolutely agree that it is not racist to talk about immigration. That said, it is absolutely racist to talk about immigration in a way that is designed to pander to the base instincts of racists and to whip-up anti-immigrant sentiment in the hope it may win you a few votes back from UKIP.

It is racist to try and use immigration to take a sly swipe at your party leader because you know he is pro-immigration. It is racist to use the savage attacks on immigrants in your constituency as a reason to curb immigration. It is racist to blame the victims of racist attacks for being here rather than blaming the racist thugs who carried out the attack. It absolutely is racist to weaponise immigration for political expediency.

When politicians make such baseless and spurious claims, like Reeves, they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, giving confidence and credibility to racists.

Many on social media have jumped to her defence. “We are not allowed to talk about immigration” is the claim. Odd, as the people who say that rarely talk about anything else. What they really mean is that they think they should be able to say what they want about immigration without having the lies and distortions challenged.

We’re. Not. The. Party. Of. People. On. Benefits.

Reeves’ clumsy attempts at trying to lure back voters who may have deserted the Labour Party for UKIP, by pandering to their ill-informed prejudice about immigration rather than challenging untruths and championing the positive, is utterly shameful.

Such craven opportunism and macho posturing is nothing new for Reeves. Last year, when she wanted to pander to the people who think that everyone is claiming benefits and that its crippling the country, she gave an interview claiming that:

“We are not the party of people on benefits. We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work. Labour are a party of working people, formed for and by working people”.

Not one to let the truth get in the way of the bullshit peddled by the Sun and The Daily Mail, Reeves preferred to jump on the bandwagon to appease the ill-informed, and let those actually responsible for the state of the country off the hook.

In the run-up to the 2014 Rochester by-election, Reeves, the then Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, penned an article for The Daily Mail in which she said that the:

“Social Security system was not designed for the high levels of migration we are now seeing… We have to listen to the real concerns that people have about how immigration is being managed”.

She went on to add that Labour would extend the period for which EU migrants are prevented from claiming out-of-work benefits from three months to two years, which is intended to deter people from coming to the UK even if they had a job offer. The amount saved would be peanuts in comparison to money lost by the tax avoidance of big-business and wealthy individuals. Unfortunately, the people Reeves is trying to appeal to are more interested in the former.

Blatant electioneering 

Throughout the article, Reeves boasted about how she would be tougher on tackling the problems of immigration and “welfare tourism” than David Cameron.

Days later she gave an interview to The Sun on Sunday in which she said :

“It isn’t right that somebody who has worked hard all their lives and has contributed to the system is entitled to only the same as somebody who has just come to this country”.

In the same week she was interviewed by Andrew Neil on the BBC and stated that:

“The previous Labour government should not have opened the doors as quickly to immigrants from the EU”.

The articles were an obvious attempt to indulge voters who would potentially desert Labour for UKIP at the by-election. She chose the bigoted Daily Mail and Sun on Sunday as her platform and she used the terms migrant/migration instead of immigrant/immigration, attempting to avoid the negativity associated with the later.

Ten-a-penny gravy train riders

Politicians like Reeves rarely elaborate on what the ‘real concerns’ of people actually are. They cite unverifiable claims of doorstep conversations, constituent letters, and anecdotes. Enoch Powell was extremely adept at employing the same tactics in the 1960’s.

In Reeves own constituency of Leeds West, the UKIP vote rose from 2.9% in 2010 to 18.5% in 2015. A cynic may suggest that she is trying to maintain her own position and extremely lucrative meal-ticket, rather than responding to ‘real concerns’.

Politicians like Reeves are ten-a-penny. They are reactionary weather vanes with little in the way of opinion, conviction, or principle. They prefer to slavishly follow public opinion and prejudice rather than trying to shape or inform it. If it means pandering to or appeasing opinion that they would personally disagree with, it doesn’t matter, as the ends justify the means, regardless of whose life it impacts on.

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