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Labour should attack predator employers, not immigrants

Recently Ed Miliband and Yvette Cooper made statements regarding immigration that have been spun as a “toughening” stance on the issue. However Labour needs to present a distinct left critique on the current status quo on immigration and not play into the hands of the right. Labour should focus on attacking the predator companies that have exploited both immigrant and domestic labour and played the two off against each other.

Immigration is largely an invented threat, but that makes it all the more of an issue. All polling shows that the public want less immigration, but that same polling suggests that these attitudes are based on totally false perceptions (as Mehdi Hasan pointed out). Immigration has no negative affect on services or jobs yet the perception that it does persist.

However this makes it even harder for Labour to deal with. No matter how hard Labour in government pursued the “tough” line on immigration it made little difference because ultimately the problem of immigration did not exist anyway. Furthermore it simply played into the hands of the right wing anti immigrant agenda.

Immigration becomes more of an issue when one considers the free movement of labour that has been instituted across the EU that has allowed employers to widen their pool of workers. This current settlement has certainly been too far in the favour of employers in securing lower wages for their workers.

The right has two seemingly contradictory positions on immigration. On the one hand it of course attacks it, saying that we must stop it immediately and demonises immigrants. On the other hand it welcomes in immigrants as widening and freeing up the labour market and exploits the most vulnerable in the workplace.

Despite seeming contradictory, these two positions are in fact complementary. On the one hand immigrants are welcomed in to expand the labour market in favour of employers, and on the other hand they are deprived of even more rights and demonised to keep them exploitable. The left needs to critique both sides of this double edged sword which is used to attack workers of all origin.

Labour needs to level its fire not on immigrants but on the predator employers that are using the EU’s free movement of labour to drive down wages of both migrant and non migrant workers.

Labour needs to argue for more service entitlements and more rights for immigrants, especially in the workplace, in order to stop employers from exploiting them to set workers against each other in a race to the bottom for wages. Demonising and attacking immigrants further only makes them more exploitable to employers, which harms everyone’s wages.

But this should be part of a wider strategy of refocusing popular anger. The idea that Labour and the left generally can hope to win political ground by attacking the disadvantaged, wherever they be from, is laughable. Its a game that plays straight into the hands of the right. Not only should we be concentrating fire on the employers that exploit migrant workers to the detriment of everyone’s wages, we should more generally be arguing that it was bankers and the rich that caused this crisis and not immigrants.

One Comment

  1. Jayne Linney says:

    At last a voice of reason on this topic Thanks & Spot On

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