Caroline Flint, the Minister for Europe, has given a warning to trade unions that they are in danger of giving encouragement to the BNP by campaigning against companies that use foreign workers to undercut local pay and conditons.
Ms Flint said: “After the debate in recent weeks about foreign workers and EU law, the danger is that it will be misused at every opportunity by those who don’t share our progressive values. And no amount of campaigning by anti-fascist groups, however important, will undo the damage if we unintentionally boost the BNP’s campaign in Labour heartlands by feeding a climate of intolerance.”
Now I’m not saying that Flint doesn’t have a point of sorts – in the current climate it is very easy to make immigrants a scapegoat for our woes so it is important that when discussing these issues we are careful about the kind of language we use in order to avoid giving succour to the extremists. However, from what I have seen the unions have been careful to make clear that they have no problem with migrant workers per se, they just want their members to have a chance to apply for these jobs and don’t want locally negotiated pay and conditions to be undermined.
Anyway, I would take Flint’s concerns about people unwittingly causing resentment against immigrants more seriously if she was to condemn those who unashamedly promote such sentiments. Unfortunately to see a Labour Minister actively condemning the excesses of the tabloids would be an exceptional event indeed.
Furthermore, when we have a Prime Minister promising “British jobs for British workers” or an Immigration Minister who is happy to draw a connection between immigration and unemployment and accept tabloid scare stories at face value, or join in the mindless bashing of asylum seekers she might want to ask her colleagues in government to get their own house in order.