Phil Woolas…the new Richard Littlejohn

Not content with his previous they come over here and take our jobs rhetoric about immigrants, Phil Woolas has now turned on asylum seekers and those who act on their behalf.

In an interview with the Guardian, Woolas described the legal professionals and NGO workers as “an industry”, and said most asylum seekers were not fleeing persecution but were economic migrants.

“The system is played by migration lawyers and NGOs to the nth degree,” Woolas said. “By giving false hope and by undermining the legal system, [they] actually cause more harm than they do good.”

Of course what this means is that the said parties use all possible legal avenues in order to serve the interests of the people they represent, something which I would say for lawyers in particular is exactly what they are paid to do.

Woolas cites as an example

…an asylum seeker had won the right to stay after going through six layers of appeal. “That person has no right to be in this country but I’m sure that there is an industry out there [with] a vested interest.”

This is of course total garbage – if they went through the legal process and were granted the right to stay in this country then they manifestly do have the right to be here. As for and “industry” with “vested interests”, that’s the typical lazy language of the right wing tabloids and therefore exactly what one expects from a “New” Labour minister. Anyone who is involved in the immigration system, none more so than government ministers, has an interest in the system. Woolas’s assumption of bad faith on the part of those working on behalf of asylum seekers is just childish and an insult to the people who do lots of hard (and far from lucrative) work on behalf of extremely vulnerable people.

He then describes the primary purpose of government immigration policy as

to reassure the public that the government was in control of immigration. “The public recognise that we don’t know the exact numbers. They see the asylum backlog and what they fear is that we don’t have any control over the system,” he said.

This just demonstrates how the government’s agenda on immigration has become warped by the scaremongering of the tabloids. The primary purpose is to reassure the public – this is more important than ensuring we have a system which is fair and efficient and treats people who want to come to this country decently and with dignity, whether they come here fleeing persecution or merely to build a better life for themselves.

Woolas rejects the notion that his comments on immigration may lead to comparisons with Enoch Powell

“Enoch Powell was trying to divide this country. I’m trying to heal this country by allowing us to have a mature debate on immigration,” he said.

Well you hardly have a “mature” debate by resorting to lazy tabloid cliches and putting “tough” talk above fair and humane treatment of asylum seekers. As for the comparison with Enoch Powell, well much as we may deplore Powell’s views on immigration he was a substantial and significant politic figure who posessed a great intellect. Woolas isn’t the new Enoch Powell, he is the new Richard Littlejohn.

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