The Labour MP Kevin McNamara has tabled a motion in the House of Commons complaining about recent articles in the Daily Express on Roma coming to Britain.
As the Daily Express continues its campaign against potential Roma immigration from the European Union accession states – on Monday the front page headline was ‘Gypsy crisis’ – opposition is growing.
Last week, journalists on the newspaper voiced their disapproval at their own editors and management and called for support from the Press Complaints’ Commission (PCC). Now a group of MPs are backing a motion urging the government to clearly distance itself from the Daily Express and to take measures to address prejudice against Roma. And Kevin McNamara MP has questioned whether the Express editor, Peter Hill, should be one of the sixteen members of the PCC.
In a statement issued by Kevin McNamara MP yesterday, he said: ‘The reporting in the Daily Express on Roma supposedly arriving in hordes plays upon deep-rooted prejudices against Roma/Gypsies. If journalists have had undue pressure placed upon them to write what they consider to be racist stories then this is a very serious charge and if true the editor of the Daily Express, Peter Hill, should seriously consider whether he is fit to sit on the Press Complaints’ Commission, a body that ostensibly exists to self-regulate the media and maintain high standards of reporting.’
The reporting on EU enlargement and immigration in the tabloid press has also been called a ‘rancid hate campaign’ by Minister for Europe, Denis MacShane. Speaking in the House of Commons on 27 January, he said: ‘we welcome the fact that our new friends and partners – the citizens of Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, the Baltic states and the others – will be able to come here. I hope that the Conservative Party will not now start using the language of hate that we have seen in some of the tabloid papers recently.’
On 20 January 2004, the Express began its campaign against Roma migration from eastern Europe, claiming on its front page that ‘1.6 million gipsies’ are ‘ready to flood in’. The newspaper predicted a ‘great invasion’ in which Gypsies would head to Britain ‘to leech on us’. The government responded by announcing that it would tighten up the rules governing when citizens of other EU countries can access benefits in the UK. According to current plans, all citizens of the ten EU accession states will have the right to settle and work in the UK from 1 May 2004, although tabloid newspapers have been calling for these freedoms to be withdrawn.
The early day motion tabled by Kevin McNamara states: ‘that this House notes that recent news stories featured in the Daily Express concerning large numbers of Roma arriving in the UK from EU accession countries have been described by the Minister of State for Europe as a “rancid hate campaign”; further notes that members of the National Union of Journalists at the Express have called upon the Press Complaints Commission to assist them in resisting the instructions of their editors and management to write such articles that they believe to be in breach of the NUJ code of conduct; deplores attempts to incite racial hatred against one of the poorest and most marginalised communities in Europe; urges the Government to make clear its abhorrence and take measures to address this deep-seated prejudice.’
The motion is supported by Andrew George MP, John McDonnell MP, Ann Clwyd MP, Paul Stinchcombe MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Kelvin Hopkins MP.