Bring down the bosses’ barriers

WHENEVER the issue of immigration arises, the Labour Party never fails to reveal its own national chauvinism. Jacques Santer last week promised that the commission would use legal powers to achieve a frontier-free EU. In response the shadow home secretary Jack Straw sided fully with John Major in calling for the government to veto any attempt by the commission to force Britain to relinquish border controls.

Attempting to beat the Tories at their own game is of course nothing new for Labour. Only last Wednesday Blair claimed the mantle of one nation Tory-ism, saying: “One nation politics no longer fits the Tories. It is draped rightly and properly round our shoulders. A divided country is not a strong country and this country is divided.”

The leadership’s attempts to be more nationalistic than the Tories are particularly nauseating. Echoing the xenophobic tabloid press, Straw warned that British loss of control of its immigration policy would harm race relations and stated: “Our position has always been that the issue of border controls and immigration policies must be for the UK government alone to determine and not for European institutions.”

He cited the ‘uniqueness’ of Britain as a reason for opting out of the abolition of border controls: “We are an island; we have a different history.” As part of his hard-man act, Straw strongly criticised Labour MEPs and the Socialist Group in the European parliament. They have expressed opposition to the government’s insistence on maintaining national passport controls and, even more disastrously for the Labour Party leadership, continue to support free movement across borders, not just for EU citizens but also for legally resident immigrants.

No wonder that Straw has decided to crack down on his unruly and dissident MEPs, who must be a bit of an embarrassment to the ‘rightist’ new Labourites. As the Independent on Sunday aptly put it, “The truth is that Mr Straw and Mr Blair are terrified of being thought soft on immigration...As a consequence, people will not vote Labour” (February 19).

Immigration controls and a so-called Fortress Europe have nothing to do with the myth of overcrowding: they are designed to criminalise migrant workers, who are used as cheap labour. Discrimination and the threat of deportation keep wages low and divide the working class through undermining the possibility of trade union organisation. We are for the abolition of all immigration controls.

Frank Vincent