Saturday, 1 May 2010

The real 'bigot' scandal

Three days on from Gordon Brown’s ill-fated adventure into Rochdale, the fading Prime Minister’s remarks are still making the news. When people look back on the 2010 elections ‘Bigotgate’ is going to be one of the key highlights. But in all the media furore most folk seem to have missed the irony.

Just under two weeks before his faux par Gordo had this to say at the first leader’s debate:

I talked to a chef the other day who was training. I said in future, when we do it, there'll be no chefs allowed in from outside the European Union. Then I talked to some care assistants - no care assistants come in from outside the European Union.”

Think about what he’s saying here: “if you’re British and you want to be a chef- fine, if you’re from India and want to be a chef- sod off you’re not wanted”. The care assistant point is even more worrying. Talk to anyone who has a relative requiring care – be it because they’re elderly, disabled or suffering from mental health difficulties, and they’ll tell you the same thing – care assistants are too few and far between- and whilst dedicated to their profession most are overstretched and overworked. How ludicrous is it then to deny someone the right to work as a care assistant because of where they were born?

This isn’t about people coming and “sponging off our society” – this is about people who are qualified in professions like catering and care work, who want to contribute to British society but are being denied the ability to do so because of their race. That is bigotry.

Of course Gordon and chums will claim that it’s about providing jobs for British people. But how can this be the case when there are not enough care workers to go round? It’s certainly not like there are queues of care workers up and down the country who can’t get jobs because they’ve all been taken by people from outside the EU.

And with the EU point we hit another stunning flaw in Brown’s facade. If you are a skilled worker from Bulgaria you can come and work here- but if you have the same qualifications, and the same desire to work, but happen to be born two miles over the Bulgarian-Moldovan border you can’t. Labour loyalists will blame this situation on EU rules but can’t hide from the fact that racial arbitrariness is at its heart.

In the interests of balance it should be pointed out that the other big parties aren’t behaving much better. The Tory cap system is equally nonsensical and the Lib Dems –who actually have some very good immigration policies like the amnesty for illegal immigrants already here- are sadly trying to portray a similarly ‘tough line’ so that they don’t lose votes from a public that is bizarrely sceptical about immigration.

Why do I say ‘bizarrely’? Because Britain was built on immigration. Immigration from Ireland, Italy, the West Indies, China and Africa. Immigration that created buildings, transport infrastructure and business. Immigration that supports the economy, keeps the health service running and provides immeasurable benefit to people up and down this country every single day. Without immigration Britain would be nothing – but now it’s being treated like something negative.

Sometimes it seems that people–including politicians- are too quick to forget.

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