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Sadiq Khan: an exercise in self-serving selectivity

Sadiq Khan Black Vote pledge Voice coverSadiq Khan is Shadow Justice Secretary, Shadow Minister for London, and Labour MP for Tooting. Last week, he wrote a begging letter to UKIP voters, published in that traditional labour movement paper, the Express.

Yet again, faced with the choice between defending the interests of the class that supports it at the polls, or the vested interests of capital, the Labour right proves its reliability by pandering to the racists. Sadiq Khan’s knee-jerk response to the anti-immigrant dog whistle politics of UKIP and the Tory backwoodsmen is to respond to the whistle and run panting to his master.

Selective memory

The fact that he reminds us that he is the son of immigrants does not mitigate his offence, it further aggravates it. Even from the self-serving perspective of this chaser of privilege, this is self-defeating.

Someone should remind Khan of a few historical facts, so here goes. In every instance of anti-immigrant hysteria in the history of this country, the rich and powerful have been on the side of reaction – whether Churchill fulminating against Jewish refugees from fascism, Powell and his fellow racists against the “Windrush” generation, the disgusting treatment of the Ugandan refugees from Idi Amin, the racism directed at immigrants from the Indian sub-continent, or now our brothers and sisters from the East European nations.

In each case there has been a split in the labour movement, between the right (including most of the ‘leadership’ of the Labour Party) accommodating to the racists, and the left (inside and out of the Labour Party) standing alongside the immigrant community.

In each case, the respect earned by anti-racist activists has translated into electoral support for the parties of the left. There is a reason why Labour gets disproportionate support from the Bengali, Jewish and AfroCaribbean communities. It is because there is a visceral distrust of the Tories, based on historical experience.

So Khan’s pandering to prejudice is not only ineffectual, but counter-productive.

Selective analysis

It is also counter-factual. For your information, Mr Khan, immigration is NOT responsible for low wages. Bastard bosses are. Or perhaps you would like to tell your mum and dad that they were responsible for the appalling housing conditions in the East End? For the sweatshops in Bethnal Green? For the fatal accidents on construction sites? It is disgusting to see Labour politicians blaming the victims for their plight, but I cannot claim that you set a precedent; you are just following a well-trodden path.

Selective hearing

For your information, Mr Khan, I was born and bred in Boston, Lincolnshire. I went to mass alongside the Kryscnizkis and the Lombardis. Apparently, some members of my father’s family would not attend his wedding because he was marrying a Roman Catholic. So I do not pretend that prejudice does not exist; but you do not end it by capitulating to it. And if you really listened to disenchanted voters, you might learn that they didn’t stop voting Labour and start voting UKIP. They just stopped voting Labour.

The voters of Tower Hamlets have just re-elected Lutfur Rahman; the MP for Bradford is George Galloway. Why did you never think to say to their voters that you would listen to them?

I am branch secretary of a road haulage branch in the east of England. We have gained over 100 members in the last 15 months. A very high proportion of them are Eastern European. They are actively fighting against low wages – and discrimination – with the enthusiastic support of the rest of our branch activists. They will be delighted to know you are so clear about the cause of low wages in our industry.

We will be campaigning together in the next general election to get the Tories (and their UKIP fellow-travellers) kicked out. We will be producing leaflets in English and Polish. I am sure your comments will aid us immensely in persuading them that the best chance of removing the current ragbag government is to vote Labour.

Thanks for your inspirational support. Not.

Richard Allday is a member of the national executive council of Unite the Union. This article first appeared at Counterfire. The full text of the letter from Sadiq Khan was:

I know you are fed up with politics as usual. I get that you are angry at the political parties. I understand you feel that successive Governments have done too little to help you.

Too many people have struggled for far too long. Too little of the benefits of growth have gone to working people and too much to the very wealthiest.

Wages have barely increased whilst the cost of everything – from housing to energy and food – has rocketed.

And in too many places immigration has driven down local wages.

I understand why people think that politicians do little to help them.

The expenses scandal and sleaze has broken trust.

There aren’t enough politicians brave enough to stand up to vested interests – the banks, businesses paying below a decent wage or bad landlords.

And politicians seem to speak a different language.

But the Labour Party has changed. We know we made mistakes. We’re determined to put them right.

Take immigration. In the past, we were too quick to dismiss concerns about immigration, or even worse – accused people of prejudice.

We all remember Gillian Duffy. We were wrong. We are sorry.

So what are we offering now? Learning the English language will be a priority.

We will change the rules on child benefit – so that it’s no longer paid to children outside of this country.

We will crack down on businesses that pay below the minimum wage and ensure local wages are not undercut.

And companies that employ people from outside the EU will be forced to offer apprenticeships to local young people.

But it’s not just immigration. We will close the gap between what you earn and what you spend.

We will stop hard working people from being ripped off in our economy.

We will make renting more affordable and scrap extortionate letting agency fees.

On our watch, the minimum wage will be raised and we will promote a higher living wage for all. Energy prices will be frozen.

It is always easier to lose someone’s trust than to win it back.

But over the next year we will do everything to prove that we are on your side.

We will work to improve your local community and stand up alongside you against the vested interests that make life harder. All we ask is that you keep an open-mind.

4 Comments

  1. PoundInYourPocket says:

    If it was as quoted above, then this was an appauling speech. Amplifying and bolstering the scareongerring pedalled by UKIP. I take issue with this phrase that I keep hearing, normally from either UKIP or BNP, but now it seems from Labour:
    “And in too many places immigration has driven down local wages.”
    This was a particularly nasty and inflamatory statement as it lumps all kinds of different people under the heading “immigrant”. Is he talking about EU8/EU15/EU27-immigrants, non-EU immigrants, relatives of British Citizens, asylum seekers, refugees etc. Or just anyone with a foreign look about them ? Assuming he meant EU8 immigrants with permission to work in the UK, I’d like evidence before this kind of racially inflamatory statement it’s peddled around as a truth. Given that most of the jobs EU8-immigrants do are on the legal minimum wage, I doubt it to be factual. Where there are cases of employers getting around the minimum wage that’s another issue that effects all, not just “immigrants”. This speech was utterly disgraceful and empowers those racists that continually use this falsehood to justify their views. For Labour to pander to racists just to get themselves elected is a new low. Machieveli would be proud.

    1. Robert says:

      But the working class have little choice really we can vote labour and get a semi Progress party of the middle class, or we can vote Farge UKIP and get some action and it’s worked labour and the Tories are reacting.

      farage has a pint looks like a lad you’d meet in a pub look at Miliband playing pool with a pint he sipped it, thinking oh god is this beer where is my white wine, they set up an easy shot for him in pool he missed . he then shows us he’s not Jewish by eating a bacon butty and was nearly sick, but they do not get it be your self for god sake be proud to be Jewish be proud of a labour party of the working class, no not the hard working or working people, The Working Class.

      be proud of the welfare state not ashamed of it.

      Sadly it looks like the people who vote UKIP are the people that once voted labour the working class, the choice of Tories or Tory Lite is just not good enough.

    2. Dave Roberts says:

      Try paragraphs, spelling and putting forward a coherent argument. You do have a point, several in fact, but they become lost in the quasi Marxist rhetoric.

  2. Dave Roberts says:

    What happened was that he started off as the black militant and was then reminded that his anti white rhetoric could cost votes, so he changed tune as the SWP have noted. Or is Counterfire not SWP?

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