“The tortured pathway of trying to head off Tory dog whistles by seeking to accommodate them is a well-trodden one. Who doesn’t remember Ed Milliband’s dreadful ‘I’m voting Labour, Controls on immigration’ tea mug?”
By Bryn Griffiths
Suella Braverman, the new Home Secretary, claimed in the House of Commons on 31st October 2022 that we are facing a migrant “invasion” on our southern coast. The language was appalling but is the Labour front bench going to stand up to her?
Unfortunately, Labour’s recent comments are not a good omen. On 4th October 2022, The Independent carried an article headlined “Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves calls for deportations to be ramped up”. With a damning headline like that, the healthy sceptics amongst us, this author included, will want to view exactly what Reeves said for themselves. Sky News tweeted the interview in full with a covering tweet, every bit as bad as The Independent headline. They said:
I suggest you watch the interview for yourself by clicking on the link above and consider its content. But before you do, if you’re an anti-racist and Labour, prepare yourself for shame and disappointment.
The tortured pathway of trying to head off Tory dog whistles by seeking to accommodate them is a well-trodden one. Who doesn’t remember Ed Milliband’s dreadful “I’m voting Labour, Controls on immigration” tea mug?
Surely it is not the role of a Labour Shadow Minister, to call for the ramping up of deportations by suggesting there is a ‘lack’ of them and that it is a Tory failure?
The Reeves statement caused some concern in her Leeds West constituency when party members and voters wrote a letter to her to express their concern that “the impression given by this interview is Labour does not oppose the Tories’ inhumane, illegal and racist policies towards refugees and migrants, but just opposes how incompetent the delivery is.”
Diane Abbott took to Twitter to write: “My colleague Rachel Reeves should not be calling for more deportations. That way lies the Windrush scandal.” Abbott’s tweet rests on the understanding that it was calls for speeding up immigration claims that created the kind of hostile environment which resulted in such poor decisions during the Windrush scandal.
So, what should Labour’s approach to immigration be? Well I think a great starting point would be our Leader’s sixth pledge to the Labour party’s membership where he said that Labour should defend migrants’ rights and we need “an immigration system based on compassion and dignity”.
Starmer’s pledge to deliver an immigration system based on “compassion and dignity” would have to place human rights and international law at the heart of its policy. For that reason a Labour Government must commit to uphold the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Finally, it would be really helpful if Rachel Reeves and all Labour’s media spokespeople were reacquainted with the policy agreed at the 2019 Labour Party Conference. We the members have spoken and we want the leadership team to listen.
If you share my concerns, please take the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy model resolution below to your next branch, affiliated organisation, trade union, constituency or General Committee meeting.
- Bryn Griffiths is a member of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) and Chair of Colchester Labour Party, writing in a personal capacity.
- This article was originally published by Labour Hub on November 2nd, 2022.
- You can view the CLPD model resolution on below:
Campaign for Labour Party Democracy model resolution
This CLP views with concern the comments made by Rachel Reeves on Sky News (4 October 2002) after which:
- The Independent headlined her interview “Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves calls for deportations to be ramped up”.
- Sky News tweeted “Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves MP says that illegal immigration has been on the increase whilst Conservatives have been in government and calls the lack of deportations “12 years of Tory failure”.
Reeves was also asked if she welcomed Braverman’s plans to introduce legislation to make it easier to deport people. She said: “Well, the problem is the Government are not deporting people today even when their claims have failed.’
It is not the role of a Labour Shadow Minister, to call for the ramping up of deportations by suggesting there is a ‘lack of deportations’ and that it is a Tory failure. This CLP is concerned that a call for speeding up immigration claims runs the risk of creating the kind of hostile environment that resulted in poor decisions and the Windrush scandal. Labour should promote an immigration system based on compassion and dignity which places human rights and international law at the heart of its policy. Labour must defend the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.
This CLP agrees to write to Keir Starmer, as the Leader of the Party, Rachel Reeves and the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party to ask that all Labour spokespeople be reminded of the motion text which the 2019 Labour Conference passed on immigration. We ask that the above parties in particular note that the policy clearly opposes any Tory immigration legislation to curb rights.