Economics and politics - comment and analysis
12. September 2017 I Will Denayer I Countries and Regions, Europe, General, General Politics

Racism and xenophobia now govern the UK. Tony Blair’s intervention

This is an update to the article ‘UKIP ideology now governs the UK’ from yesterday (see here).

Is there any politician left who is not willing to sell his or her mother in order to get to or remain in power? There really is no ordinary decency left, no respect for the truth whatsoever.

Last Saturday, Tony Blair made an intervention in the Brexit debate. Blair is now also calling for “tough” new immigration rules. The difference between Blair and Corbyn is that Blair proposes such measures as a way to appease the racists, making it – perhaps –  possible to organise some Little England without having to leave the EU (see here).

Existing rules do already permit the removal of EU citizens if they do not find work after three months in Britain, but have not been enforced. Some liberals seemingly found this out just a couple of weeks ago and have not stopped repeating it, as if there is anything humane, social, just or productive about it.

The rules governing migration are relatively simple. There is the right to free movement in the EU. A citizen from an EU member state has the right to live in another member state, on the condition that she or he is a student, is in employment, is self-employed or has sufficient means supplemented by comprehensive health insurance. This is only half the story. The Treaty of Lisbon gives member states the right to expel foreign nationals if they make “disproportionate use” of the social services of the country where they reside. Every country determines for itself what constitutes “disproportionate use.”

In Belgium – incredibly, this is the example used by the liberals – signing up for three months of unemployment benefits is considered disproportionate use. This is not about “benefit tourism.” It has nothing to do with it. EU citizens can work and live in Belgium. The trouble starts when they lose their jobs and make use of the social services to which they have contributed by paying into the system. It is pure and simple discrimination. Belgium went as far as to expel an Italian who had been born in Belgium. He had been living there all his life. He is married to a Belgian and has (Belgian) children. There was never any problem, until, by now in his fifties, the construction worker lost his work. Three months later, the Belgian state expelled him from the territory.

Who cares about humane, social, just or productive measures? It is the votes that count, the appeasement of the racists. All else can go to hell. Blair suggests restricting access to free healthcare for unemployed EU citizens and allowing universities and businesses to discriminate in favour of British citizens.

Blair acknowledged that his intervention appeared as a major reversal after he imposed no restrictions on immigration when eight countries from Eastern Europe joined the EU in 2004 – the UK then had the opportunity to restrict immigration for citizens of these new member states, but voted against it. As Blair said, “back then the economy was strong, the workers (were) needed.” Now, however, this approach is “no longer appropriate” (see here).

With Blair’s social accomplishments in mind – the horror he imposed upon the “chavs” and the “scroungers” in the name of activation and restructuring the welfare state – and his accomplishment of taking his country to war in Iraq (he famously wrote to George Bush “I’ll be with you, whatever” regarding Iraq, starting a human catastrophe which is still ongoing), it comes as no surprise that Blair regards immigrants not as potential citizens and people who make a contribution to the country – which they undoubtedly do (see here) – but as Gastarbeiter, human cattle to let into the country when the economy needs them, to be disposed as soon as the economy sputters or falters, as it did, because of many complex reasons, of which New Labour’s own stupid, asocial and counterproductive policies are one important piece of the puzzle. That, in the meantime, these immigrants make a positive contribution to the country and, hence, that kicking them out or chasing them away will have negative consequences, is of no concern to Blair.

Blair went on to rant about the “pressure on services”, “downward pressure on wages”, the “cultural integration” of migrants which is supposedly failing and the need for “control” (?) that “cannot be ignored.” I dealt with most of it in my previous article (see here), which provides all the links to the scientific literature that anyone needs. I forget to mention that migrants raised school results in London (see here). Of course, Blair knows all of this too. But who cares?

Under Blair’s plans EU nationals without permission to stay would be barred from renting a home, opening a bank account or accessing welfare benefits. Like non-EU migrants, they could also face higher tuition fees at British universities. Blair did not let the opportunity go to refer to Macron’s plan of backing a directive that would crack down on using migrants to undercut the wages of domestic workers (see here).

Unite union boss, Len McCluskey, said Blair had missed the point because the only way to stop the abuse of migrant workers by “greedy bosses”, which brings about undercutting of wages and conditions, was to properly regulate the jobs market after Brexit.

This is great, Mr. McCluskey. And why not right now? In the meantime, it seems that your own union has let EU academics down (see the contributions of Lucia Padrella).

McCluskey was of course right by saying that:

“He (Blair) doesn’t address the idea (of regulating the jobs market) because what Tony Blair and the New Labour government were a part of, and certainly what the Conservatives have continued, is creating this race to the bottom culture within our society rather than a rate for the job society” (see here).

Lofty, social, constructive, inclusive, just and emancipatory ideals about the inherent dignity of women and men, the notion that the value of human life does not depend on the income someone is capable of making have now become the stuff of history books for the chapters dealing with what social democrats stood for at one time. Not only has social democracy capitulated to neoliberal disciplinary hegemony, it has fully accepted, if not in theory then certainly in practice, Hayek’s frontal attack on social justice. It has fully accepted Hayek’s construct of ‘negative justice.’

After decades of neoliberal economic policies, implemented by both Tories and New Labour, which saw an ever increasing group of people getting into trouble – their living standards decreased, their incomes stagnated, their quality of life deteriorated while the punitive social services made their lives even harder, so that many ended up using food banks (see, for example, here) – the political class had to do something. Scapegoats had to be found. The problem is that their strategy worked too well. The scapegoating started to constitute a threat to the main political class. It was therefore time to give in to the racist cabal on the streets, all in the name of democracy. The idea of, for example, somehow restoring the bargaining power of workers is as alien to these people as it was to Pinochet. They are the problem, not immigrants.

And last night, the Great Repeal Act was voted in the House (see here). May now has everything she needs to bypass parliament. The country is now in the hands of May, Cox, Johnson and Davis, without further substantial oversight (see here). In the name of “regaining” sovereignty, the Britons are now in a position to wave a warm goodbye to democracy. Human rights will be next. Next will be stable hours, holiday pay, sick pay and pensions.

It is that difficult to understand that your own government hides the truth from you when it refuses to make public its own studies on the impact of the Brexit?  Is it that difficult to understand that while you rant and yell about immigrants, your sovereignty and your precious Britishness, your political class is turning you into serfs?