Race to the bottom

Race to the bottom

Fortnightly Bulletin

Written by: IRR News Team

IRR News 28 March – 11 April 2023

In the context of the forthcoming May local elections, this week’s Calendar of Racism & Resistance lays out in graphic detail the Dutch auction between the Conservatives and Labour on issues of law and order and asylum rights. From the ‘economic migrants’ who must be punished for arriving on ‘small boats’, to the ‘British Pakistani grooming gangs’ who are not detected because of ‘political correctness’ (Sunak says ethnicity data will be handed over to police to assist with investigations), all caution has been thrown to the wind.

This week in response to external and internal criticism of the Labour Party advert (which claimed Rishi Sunak does not support jailing child sexual abusers), the Labour leadership has dug in, with justifications ranging from it’s just a part of the ‘cut and thrust nature of politics’ (Lucy Powell), to those who say it’s racist are wrong (Emily Thornberry), and we shouldn’t be ‘squeamish’ because ‘being blunt’ about crime is necessary (Sir Keir Starmer). But it’s not to be of a nervous disposition to point out that mainstream politicians competing as to who can be toughest on economic migrants, or child abusers and those who carry knives or guns, are playing with fire when they ignore the racialised connotations of their words.

The Conservatives, too, when it comes to asylum seekers, see their opponents as ‘squeamish’, though they prefer to use blunt words and phrases like ‘woke’, ‘snowflakes’, ‘bleeding heart liberals’ or ‘left-wing do-gooders’. The reception and detention policies advocated by immigration minister Robert Jenrick, who has promised to house asylum seekers in the most basic accommodation possible – disused army and air force bases, cruise ships or barges – is of course grist to the far-right mill. The pitch from Britain First’s Paul Golding in the Kent local elections is ‘Britain First – Housing for Locals’.

We also show, in this week’s Calendar, that such unapologetic racism is pan-European, with the added dimension that the far Right is, in some countries, driving the agenda from positions of power. The far Right is in government in Italy and the ruling coalition in Sweden is dependent on the support of the far-right Sweden Democrats. With centre-right parties lacking an absolute majority in Finland and Austria, there is now a possibility that conservatives will form coalition governments with the Finns Party and the Freedom Party. Trouble ahead too in Greece, where the National Party – Greeks (the successor to Golden Dawn) is causing havoc in the run up to May local elections. In the past two weeks, the Conservative prime minister of Greece has accused the opposition of favouring ‘open borders’ and pledged to nearly double the length of an existing wall across the country’s entire land border with Turkey. And in Italy, deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini has opposed legislation to improve prison conditions for pregnant women and young mothers on the grounds that the centre-left opposition wants to ‘free Roma pickpockets who use children and pregnancy to avoid prison and continue to commit crimes’.

Where electoral politics are concerned, whether in the UK or mainland Europe, we now face, without doubt, a new race to the bottom.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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