It’s been a while and I feel like having a long, and most probably incoherent rant. So please forgive me if I am a little rusty on the edges.
Division and despair based on fear, or solidarity and hope based on inspiration? I know what I would chose any day of the week.
However when I knock on doors to ask my constituents to tell me if I could help with any issues they might have, one of the uncomfortable conversations is around the narrative of “immigrants stealing our jobs”. And I am increasingly hearing this more often from first and second generation immigrants. The perception is that all an “immigrant” has to do is to have babies and they will jump the queue for housing, for benefits, or even for free preferential treatment on the NHS.
I try to explain, that the real issue here is our system which in the main is based on greed, and the exploitation of the hard working low earners. That the playing field is not level. That successive governments have not built enough council housing, or enacted planning policies which promotes any kind of genuinely affordable housing nowhere near sufficient numbers, especially in more affluent parts of our major cities (and I do use the word ‘affluent’ advisedly). That until recently and more so now, we have encouraged housing associations to dominate the social housing sector for new ‘affordable’ homes, where they are now being forced to impose market rents and increasingly transforming their structures as private for profit landlords. That lack of regulation of the banks and the housing market has stoked the culture of greed where some prefer to confuse this with “aspiration” and have pretended nothing is wrong. The same ongoing broken housing policies which promotes boom and bust, leaves victims trapped in negative equity and debt in its wake, and makes the obscenely rich even richer while trapping low earners in perpetual poverty. Well, the chickens are coming home to roost.
Coming back to immigration, giving in to the ‘stronger boarders and razor wire’ argument is to fall victim to the politics of fear propagated by the extreme right.
There is an alternative. We need to keep hope alive.
Labour needs to do more to challenge this narrative from the extreme right. Immigration has always benefited our great nation. It is because of immigration that we continue to have a healthcare system which is the envy of the world, and would seriously be missed if we fell ill when stuck abroad for instance. It is because of immigration that the infrastructure of our nation is built on strong foundations. It is because of immigration that we have a wonderfully diverse community and rich cultures all contributing to our society in many different and wonderful ways. We need to invest in the future generation by building more. More homes, more schools, we need to manufacture more goods and compete on quality and innovation in the global market; we need to invest in more technology and science industries. We need to rebalance the playing field where exploitation of the low earner has no room in our century. We need to rebalance the tax system where the likes of Google and Starbucks cannot get away with paying just 3% tax on a voluntary basis when SMEs are chased and investigated relentlessly by the taxman. We need to bust the lies repeated over and over, that tax payers subsidise council tenants, we need to learn from the likes of Germany, where home ownership is not an obsession, where renting and rent regulation is not a dirty concept, where banks have devolved lending based on local relationships instead of centralising this relationship and securing lending on property, thus perpetuating the vicious race to the bottom.
We all live on the same planet, we share its beauty and its resources. The consequences of destroying hope through a distilled austerity agenda by this Tory Government will leave a vacuum in which only division can thrive. Those who are engaged in promoting fear against hope to further their political ideologies are sewing the seeds of hate and division. And that is the beginnings of a nation of extremes!
That is why I chose hope, any day of the week. I calibrate my thought process by it almost on a daily basis and use it to inspire me. It is what this great nation has been built on; collaboration, cooperation, tolerance, empathy; and I know of no stronger foundation than one which is based on hope and solidarity.