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Theresa May speech slammed as ‘fanning the flames of xenophobia’ by Corbyn

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Theresa May’s approach to Labour’s “middle ground” is nothing new

Theresa May’s speech to Tory Party Conference yesterday has been criticised as contributing to an increasing hatred of immigrants. Corbyn said:

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.

Meanwhile, Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd has had to deflect accusations of racism for her own conference speech, in which she said businesses should keep lists of foreign workers. She appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday to tell listeners, “Don’t call me a racist.”

Andy Burnham, Labour’s candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester in 2017, commented:

The tone of the Conservative conference has become increasingly xenophobic. Theresa May has presided over the return of the Nasty Party. Whether it’s doctors, migrants or Europe, the Tories are blaming anyone but themselves for their failure.

While much of the coverage of May’s speech has focused on her appeals to xenophobia to win disaffected Tories, Brexiteers and UKIPers back into one united Tory party, she has also pitched herself to the left of Cameron.

Newsnight yesterday saw George Freeman MP, who chairs Downing Street’s policy committee, say that Philip Hammond would soon announce a shift away from the ‘quantitative easing’ of the Osborne years, and a return to a more expansionary fiscal policy.

A theme running through both Freeman and May’s speeches was talk of “those with assets” having become rich under the Cameron ministry, but those without being left behind.

Whether Tory policy now changes radically as a result, we will have to see.

 

21 Comments

  1. Imran Khan says:

    No mention of the fact that she continually used the phrase ” working class” several times. When was the last time that a leading Labour figure did that?

    Ignoring the fact that the Tories are in tune with the country and that large sections of the former Labour vote in the old industrial areas north of Watford are now voting Tory and UKIP won’t get Corbyn into power.

    Also, the traditional allegiance of Asians to Labour is crumbling. I am about the only one in my vast circle of family and friends who now does so. All of the rest are Tories and this is an increasing trend.

    Repeating the old slogans and mantras simply won’t work any more. The Labour Party is turning in on itself and self destructing and if more of you went out and talked to ordinary people instead of staying within the left ghetto you inhabit you would realise this.

    1. Matty says:

      It seems that “Imran Khan” is Terry Fitzpatrick, a man who has a conviction for racially aggravated harassment. See http://socialistunity.com/lutfur-rahmans-says-tower-hamlets-has-no-place-for-hate/

      1. Imran Khan says:

        News to me.

      2. Imran Khan says:

        Oh I see! Just had a look at the link. Not very bright are you?

    2. R.B.Stewart says:

      Also, the traditional allegiance of the working class to Labour is crumbling. I am the only one in my vast circle of family and friends who now does so. All the rest are Tories and it is a growing tend. Billerickie Thickie.

  2. Robert Green says:

    May is making sure the Tory Kippers come back to the fold. What is Corbyn doing to ensure that Labour voters do the same because without them Labour will never get near to winning an election ever again.

    UKIP managed to build a coalition of petit bourgeois and workers against the EU with the petit bourgeois in the lead because Labour would not build one with workers in the van. What does Brexit mean? It means first of all that British capitalism is finished. Plunging productivity, stagnation, monopoly and financial bankruptcy meant that it could no longer cope with the demands of the ESM and domestic and petit capital at least needed to retreat and gain some state protection. British workers on the other hand have been in receipt of seriously sub-standard education and training for years that has left them incapable of competing with job tourists from the EU trained and educated at the expense of the tax payers and parents of poorer countries who are able to put up with slum living and zero hours contracts because they know that after a couple or five years they’ll be heading home and buying property. That option is not available for UK workers millions of whom now live in sink estates, go to sink schools and have absolutely zero prospect of getting a job.

    Corbyn should demand the triggering of Article 50 and an immediate moratorium on further free movement until education standards in the UK are dramatically raised and available to all and until open borders does not result in the misery of mass economic migration from poor to rich countries at the expense of the working class of both countries. At the same time he should be making sure that Brexit means Socialism in opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit means sub-Nazi shot hole.

    We need a regime of full employment, a People’s Bank, repeal of all anti-union legislation, socialisation of the property, cash mountains and mega profits of the corporations, monopolies and cartels, workers’ democracy to replace fat cat executives; federation to replace the Union and of course a New European Settlement based on socialist not neo-liberal and imperialist principles.

  3. David Pavett says:

    I hope that Left Futures will publish an analysis of May’s speech that does a bit more than look for the nastiest bits. It needs to be considered as a whole, especially the parts which could possibly counter Labour’s offer (for example when she says “later this year we will publish our plans to have not just consumers represented on company boards, but workers as well”). The theme concentrates on “the good that governments can do” and is clearly a step away (in rhetoric at least) from the people she refers to as the “libertarian right”. Let’s have a meaningful analysis of this and not just pot shots.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      Yes, May’s speach was an interesting mix. She’s positioning herself as what we’d call a Red Tory in Canada (meaning someone who is socially conservative but economically interventionist), although further to the right on immigration than most of ours ever were. In some ways this is the opposite of David Cameron.

      While I doubt that this turn will result in the Tories being significantly more economically progressive than before, it could impact Labour in various ways. Either it could undercut the Labour Party or it could create a climate in which more interventionist ideas are acceptable and Labour’s proposals (if any are ever made) wouldn’t seem so unrealistic. On the other hand, the line she seems to be taking on immigration is downright scary and must be vehemently opposed. Even if you aren’t a fan of free movement, things like restricting foreign students and doctors are inhumane and, in the latter case, also potentially disasterous.

      1. Verity says:

        Not quite sure whether you are suggesting it is inhumane for the (relatively) wealthy British health service to be obliged to invest in the doctor training necessary to fulfil its obligations to its own the citizens without encouraging immigration from Nigeria to starve its desperate health services of the needed skills. Or perhaps this is the freedom for the individual devoid of social consequences and socialist obligations.

        1. Imran Khan says:

          Verity. I am sure you have a point it’s just that I’m not sure what it is.

          1. Verity says:

            There is need for national governments to make significant and proportionate contributions for asylum seeking. There is a necessity to ensure those requiring safety and refuge gain access at times of serious distress. Such a policy can only be sustained and won against opposition in the UK if migration policy is set against a programme of socialist planning. Radical liberals do a disservice when they disguise asylum seeking behind generalised demands for uncontrolled and planned migration.

        2. C MacMackin says:

          I am under the impression (perhaps wrong–it was gleened largely from social media) that doctors already here would have to leave. I’d consider any such deportation to be inhumane. I also don’t trust the Tories to actually invest properly to train British doctors and thus worry that this could further exacerbate the crisis in the NHS. Restricting foreign students is a bad policy (although, granted, probably not one which could be called inhumane) as these students tend to be a good source of money for universities with international fees. It would also be very bad for science if international grad students are not allowed in. Granted, it sounds like the big universities will have exceptions made on these counts, but it still is not a good policy.

      2. David Pavett says:

        C MacMackin, I think that Verity has a point, if I have understood it correctly. In principle there is nothing wrong, in fact everything right, about expecting people who have received a vast investment of social resources to accept some obligation to society rather than just looking for maximising their personal wealth. Also, it surprises me how many people point to the benefits to the NHS of immigrant doctors without recognising the disbenefits to the countries from which they are drawn. It has always struck me that some kind of left double-think is involved in this.

        1. C MacMackin says:

          In principle there is nothing wrong, in fact everything right, about expecting people who have received a vast investment of social resources to accept some obligation to society rather than just looking for maximising their personal wealth.

          I agree with this sentiment, of course, but I’m not entirely clear how my posts went against it. My comments about May’s various policies being inhumane were based on the (mis?)understanding that they may involve immigrants currently settled in Britain having to leave. I admit that I haven’t been following the conference closely, in part because I’m busy with the start of term, but my impression was that there is at least a veiled threat of this.

          Also, it surprises me how many people point to the benefits to the NHS of immigrant doctors without recognising the disbenefits to the countries from which they are drawn.

          Fair point. I have met student doctors at my university who’s entire approach seems to be finding the country where they can be paid the most and I have found it quite distasteful. Even more distasteful was the lack of comitment some of these people (especially international students) had to the ideals of the NHS. However, I also admit that I find the idea of the UK making foreign doctors stay in the countries where they were trained somewhat distasteful. This stems more from the instinct which I think is engrained in my generation which tends to see immigration as a way to acheive social justice for people from deprived countries than it does from logic. (I know that this is a result of the individualised society we’ve grown up in and that international development of said countries, rather than mass emmigration, is the solution we should be seeking, but it doesn’t change my gut feelings).

          1. Verity says:

            It would not be possible for the British government to ensure people have to remain in the counties in which they were trained. There is no world government. Individuals would presumably be free to continue to exploit the policies of national governments to their advantage. Britain’s responsibility is to ensure its resources are invested to meet its needs and not to disguise its failure to so under the umbrella of a liberal migration policy.

    2. C MacMackin says:

      David, I found a decent first reaction to the conference here: http://classonline.org.uk/blog/item/five-conclusions-from-the-conservative-party-conference

      Obviously more work could do with being done on this, though.

      1. David Pavett says:

        Thanks for that. Yes, a sensible opener to a much needed discussion.

        I attended a momentum meeting last night at which May’s speech was described as “fascist”/”fascistic”. It was clear that the person using this language hadn’t taken the trouble to read it. I found myself thinking “You need a few months if living under a totalitarian dictatorship to bring your rhetoric into closer alignment with reality”.

        When I pointed out that there were aspects of the speech such as workers on company boards and closing in on tax avoidance that encroached on Labour’s turf the reply was “You surely don’t believe that she means that”. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that for such people whatever a Conservative leader says is by definition “fascistic”. That’s why they don’t even need to read the speeches they condemn. This substitution of hackery for political analysis is a significant obstacle to clear thinking on the left. The above Newsdesk article bothered me for that reason – even though, admittedly, it is not as extreme as to claim that May is a fascist!

        1. John Penney says:

          Yep, it was ever the tendancy of the Left to “over-egg the rhetoric” when equating bourgeois democratic Tory governments with the Third Reich ! So much easier than applying an analysis. I well remember , as a very young Trot, being assured by a grizzly old Stockport engineering CP member in the early Thatcher years that she had “done more to undermine workers rights in her first year in office than Hitler had done in his first five !” . I didn’t have the nerve then to riposte with a cynical ” yep – apart from the concentration camps and the total smashing of the trades unions”.

          The tragedy of Corbyn and most of the Left is that by not clearly counterposing the need for a radical democratic Left interventionist government using comprehensive economic planning to control and regulate both long term capital flows, economic sectoral adjustment, regional development, and labour supply requirements, to the current free for all that is neoliberalism, we are simply giving away the “unlimited labour supply” argument to the entirely bogus, impossible within a neoliberal economic model, “we will limit migrant labour” rhetoric of the Tories, the Radical right AND the unscrupulous Labour Right. ( particularly ironic in the case of the Blairites, for whom unlimited labour supply to keep wages low and undermine trade union power was the carefully concealed second key “strategy leg” , alongside letting the banking system run amok and creaming off a bit of the tax revenue to fund the NHS).

          The cost to a Corbynite Labour Party in ignoring the need to offer radical comprehensive interventionist economic planning, and hence a (not necessarily in the short to medium term reduced labour migration numbers at all) “controlled”, planned labour supply strategy aimed at maximising benefits to the voting worker citizens who actually elect governments, will probably be to lose Labour seats right across the North East and Midlands.

          “Absolutely everybody in the world is welcome to come and work and settle here on any timescale whatsoever , set entirely by the labour supply wants of Business” is not an economic strategy, certainly not an approach from the socialist tradition – it is just liberal posturing.

          It is all very well to put out the liberal rhetoric ,and hence feel good about “opposing racism” – but to do so effectively requires that the often perfectly legitimate worries and concerns of millions of potential Labour voters on unlimited labour supply need to be addressed with a coherent Left policy platform.

  4. Bazza says:

    Yes Fake Champion of the working class/working people May pretends to rail against the powerful few then supports big business Frackers against local communities – failing at the first hurdle and the term cynical hyprocrite for May comes to mind!
    How easily the Masque of Pandora slips from this political lightweight!
    Oh and Theresa all these UK companies getting rid of local staff and outsourcing work to other countries for a cheaper source of labour to enhance profits (the latest one being an oil company in Leeds) will Theresa stand up to these seekers of maximum profit?
    Or is this the reason d’être of the Tory Party?
    I doubt it very much.
    As Oscar Wilde said “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.'”
    But I do remember an excellent article from New Left Review a while back that argued for a global minimum wage (should now be a global living wage) which I think we should all support.
    Funny but I think the Tories are seriously worried about a potential Corbyn-led Labour Government.
    They are pretending to be centrists (talking moderate and acting hard right) and hence their concessions – scrapping benefit tests on the severely disabled (after Corbyn-led Labour said all such tests would be scrapped) deciding that they will not aim to eliminate the deficit by 2020 (after a Corbyn-led shift to make Labour anti-austerity) and now some state intervention (but way not enough) by the Tories nicking some of Labour-led Corbyn’s approach.
    For those who can see, these are good signs for a Corbyn-led Labour.
    But a key question is:
    CAN the CONservatives CONtinue to CON the COMMUNITY?
    I would argue now is the time for those in Labour who can see these positive signs to unite behind JC’s bold approach.
    Solidarity!

    1. David Pavett says:

      Bazza, what specifically are you recommending that we “unite behind” in “JC’s bold approach”? And does this uniting behind mean suspending our critical faculties?

  5. Bazza says:

    See my posts 16 and 17 in ‘Corbyn Rebooted’ piece.
    Just reading a great piece ‘Softening up the State’ by Maclolm Bull in the New Left Review and he quotes Polanyi when arguing “Capital could never be secure unless all forces that might set aside the rules of the market ‘were eliminated from the political scene.’ (The great transformation, 2001).
    Hence Thatchersism and the severe weakening of trade unions.
    Hence Right Wing Blair and its Neo-Liberalim with a few crumbs which were no threat to the primacy of the market and it could be argued tax credits though welcome for the working poor were also a subsidy to big business poverty wages to help maximise profits.
    The mobilisation around Jeremy Corbyn does to an extent threaten the Neo-Liberal status quo – Right wing Labour may occasionally get elected to govern but never to have power.
    It does seem to an extent that the Tories are trying to wear some of Corbyn’s policies to offer a more middle of the road and non-threatening approach to Neo-Liberalism whilst attempting to neutralise the Left’s arguments.
    But perhaps when they are taking on our arguments (although in a much weaker version) we are winning the arguments and they are losing.
    Jeremy said in his Conference speech that he wants members to build on his ten policy statements so from the grassroots upwards let’s get on with it.
    Perhaps we are winning but some can’t see the wood because of the trees?
    Solidarity!

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