We need to stand up to the far-right and hard-right political parties and their peddling hate and division in the United States, Europe and here in Britain, writes DIANE ABBOTT MP
ACROSS many of the world’s most developed countries, we are seeing a deeply worrying rise in the politics of hate, with right-wing politicians scapegoating migrants, refugees and others for the problems different countries face.
The most obvious example of this, of course, is US President Donald Trump, with his pledge to build a wall to keep out migrants and his odious travel ban that has become known globally as a Muslim ban.
Both these policies have led to widespread international outrage but despite this, and legal challenges, he has shown he is not for turning on them.
When it comes to the much publicised changes to the travel ban this week, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry was quite right when she aid: “Despite some cosmetic changes, this remains a retrograde step for the United States [and] by abdicating its responsibilities under international law, the administration continues to send a terrible message to the rest of the world on the refugee crisis.”
But there are also examples closer to home. In Europe, far right and hard right parties have gained notable electoral successes in numerous countries, and perhaps just as importantly had a noticeable impact on the discourse more mainstream political parties and various governments have taken on issues relating to asylum and immigration.
The political bidding war that has then taken place in many countries to prove who is toughest on immigration has then actually led to legitimising, and in some countries further building support for, these hard right and far right parties.
This has undoubtedly been the case in France, where the rise of the National Front (FN) over a number of years has both seen examples of anti-migrant and Islamophobic rhetoric becoming all too common across much of the political spectrum, and the FN still maintains and builds support.
In the Netherlands, all eyes are on how well Geert Wilders and his so-called “Party for Freedom” will do in the upcoming parliamentary election. While polls suggest they will probably not now lead the vote, they would still get about 25 seats, more than double the 12 they currently hold.
His platform — like that of Trump — centres around attacking migrants and Muslims, including through closing mosques, banning the Koran and shutting down immigration from predominantly Muslim countries.
Here in Britain, in a situation of growing economic insecurity and the prolonged squeeze on wages and living standards, the government has engaged in an anti-foreigner distraction with it increasingly feeling as if Theresa May’s government is stealing Ukip’s clothes on issues of asylum and immigration.
Indeed, this week’s parliamentary vote not to honour the Dubs amendment was the latest in a line of shameful decisions by this government with regards to the refugee crisis, with the Tories so desperate to be seen to be tough on immigration and to pander to anti-refugee rhetoric from the likes of Ukip that they are prepared to ignore our obligations to refugees under international law, including some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
And when it comes to the rights of EU nationals living and working here in Britain, the government’s approach using EU citizens as bargaining tools is an indication of how they are willing to appease anti-immigration sentiment even at the expense of the economy.
We should also remember that scapegoating has a real impact on people’s lives, as shown by the rise in hate crime after the vote to leave the EU in June last year, when the official Leave campaign and Ukip had relentlessly attacked immigrants during the campaign.
When expressing grave concern about this, the Equality and Human Rights Commission was right to say politicians need to be careful about the language they use in debate around issues such as immigration.
More widely, we need to be clear that the only way to defeat hard-right parties and their ideas of hate and division is to both stand up to those peddling anti-foreigner myths and offer a clear and radical alternative to the failed economic strategy of the Tories that is deepening poverty and inequality.
For all these reasons, it is welcome that the March Against Racism will take place in London on Saturday March 18, which coincides with UN Anti-Racism Day and other anti-racist demonstrations across Europe.
A good attendance will send a powerful message that the scapegoating of refugees and migrants must end.
As the publicity for the March Against Racism puts it, “in a situation where migrants, Muslim women and anyone considered to be ‘foreign’ are being attacked on a daily basis and refugees are being abandoned by Britain and Europe to destitution, drowning and exploitation, there has never been a more important time in recent history to stand up to racism.”
• Diane Abbott is shadow home secretary and MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. The March Against Racism on March 18 assembles in London at 12pm at Portland Place, at 11am at Holland Street in Glasgow and at 11am at Grange gardens in Cardiff. More information and demonstration details at standuptoracism.org.uk.