by Richey Edwards
"Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union. Britain’s immigration system will change, but Labour will not scapegoat migrants nor blame them for economic failures".
2017 Labour Manifesto
A pretty decisive statement, but then the same section of the manifesto begins with the words "Labour accepts the referendum result". Labour MPs and party activists know that manifestos are worthless in the current climate and therefore subject to change. They are determined to ensure that Labour does not participate in an end to freedom of movement. Labour activist Ana Oppenheim wrote recently that party members were "shocked" when the party said it would not be altering its migration pledge going into Brexit talks with May. This says as much about her attitude to honouring the party manifesto as it does about Labour's attitude to migration.
Oppenheim suggests that plenty of party activists "struggled to accept" the manifesto pledge and to honour it would be an "unpleasant surprise". Therein lies the biggest problem with UK politics right now. Neither of our two main parties are honouring their manifestos and the contempt shown for them filters down to the grassroots. If snowflakes like Oppenheim don't like a party policy they are now under the impression they can stamp their feet and reverse it. Of course manifesto pledges have been selectively adhered to as long as Parliaments have stood, but the openly contemptuous betrayal currently being enacted has unravelled our democracy in an unprecedented way. If the Leave mandate can be overturned, reversed, revoked or just ignored, then nothing anyone says in politics from here on in means anything.
One of the arguments deployed by activists and their MPs is that to end freedom of movement is somehow a 'betrayal' of the working class. They say that migrants are working class, too. This is a dreadful cop-out and ignores several key factors. While no-one can blame the Polish plumbers and Slovak slaughtermen for wanting to better themselves by upping sticks to come and exploit the UK labour market, by comparison our own working classes do not have the same opportunities available to them. They do not have the same level of social mobility or language skills that mainland Europeans have, nor are the employment prospects in those countries anything to strive for. EU migrants continue to flock to Britain for a reason.
Since 2004 our own working classes have seen jobs dry up, wages stagnate and their communities suffer. In places like Lincolnshire resentment has grown towards the newcomers. The foreigners may well be workers too, but the key difference is they are now seen as having most of the jobs. Brits are surplus to requirements, so to speak. It's no wonder that Lincolnshire returned the biggest Leave votes in the country, followed by neighbouring counties similarly affected by EU migration. British people have been dumped on the employment scrapheap, no wonder the primary factor motivating the Leave vote in these areas was freedom of movement.
The biggest betrayal of the working class would be for Labour to entertain people like Oppenheim and reverse its pledge. Labour would do well to remember that the overwhelming majority of working class people who voted Leave in 2016 vote for their party, like generations of their families before them did.
Of course this support appears to have been taken for granted by many Labour MPs, in particular those who are currently actively working to overturn the referendum result while representing areas of high Leave support (Yvette Cooper, Jess Phillips and Tom Watson to name a few). Other MPs are also undermining their working class voters by advocating that migrants, regardless of status, should be given the right to vote. The "Let Us Vote" campaign is backed by Labour MPs including Clive Lewis, Dave Lammy and Lloyd Russell-Moyle. To these MPs - and the thousands of party activists who support open door migration - it's a no brainer. Such a move could unlock millions of votes and where would those votes go? They would undoubtedly go to a pro-migrant party ie. Labour.
More votes for Labour means more power for Labour to enact their aim of almost totally abolishing our borders. Who then floods in, but more people thankful for the invite and prepared to vote Labour in return. Who can forget Diane Abbott's infamous tweet in 2015, questioning the then party manifesto pledge...
Ana Oppenheim, the open borders advocate who refuses to accept Labour's last manifesto migration commitment, is also a supporter of "Let Us Vote". Her sentiment is shared by a Labour-supporting journalist called Andrea Carlo, who recently dismissed suggestions that mass migration undercuts the wages of British workers as a "tired argument". Both of them are themselves migrants. Both argue that migrants are working class too. Yet neither of them are working class and neither shares in the experience of what it is to be British and working class. Both are upwardly mobile, speak multiple languages and their voice can reach out to thousands.
It's a similar story for Labour MPs. While they dictate to the workers what's good for them, they themselves are increasingly being drawn from an establishment elite. They are career politicians (like Yvette Cooper), they are bankers (like Rachel Reeves) and they are solicitors (like Fiona Onasanya). The gulf between the working classes and their politicians has never been greater. And yet the power can still reside with the people. These disgraceful MPs were voted in, they can be voted out.
Labour has turned its back on British workers, therefore it is imperative that workers turn their backs on Labour. If they don't, they increase the likelihood of uncontrolled migration to continue indefinitely.