The blacks have got all the houses, the blacks have got all the houses…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…

An infant school teacher is in the playground supervising the kids at break time when she spots one of the kids for her class, a little boy named Johnny who lives on the local council estate, skipping around the playground and singing at the top of his voice:

"The blacks have got all the houses, the black have got all the houses…"

Horrifed at hearing this kind of thing from a five year-old boy, she calls immediately Johnny over and gives him a stern telling-off:

"Really, Johnny. I don’t know where you’ve heard such a thing but that is terribly rude. You really must not be singing things like that in this playground! If I hear you saying anything like that again, then you will be sent to see the head teacher and I will be having a word with your parents."

Half and hour later and back in the classroom, the kids are having an RE lesson. It’s getting on towards Christmas and this same teacher is talking her class through the story of the nativity and starting to think in terms of casting for the school’s annual nativity play.

"And so Jesus was born in a stable… Now class, can any tell me why Jesus was born in a stable?"

Johnny’s hand shoots straight up in the air, ‘Miss… Miss… I know. I know!"

The teacher looks surprised. It’s a bit unusual for Johnny to be showing such enthusiasm in class.

"Yes, Johnny… And remember to speak up so everyone in the class can here you. So tell us, why was Jesus born in a stable…"

"Because… the blacks have got all the houses, the blacks have got all the houses…"

Quite when that joke originated I couldn’t say for certain – its certainly over 30 years old as I recall it doing the round when I was a primary school, myself and was thought an old joke even then.

What makes it interesting today is that it nicely illustrates just how little the rhetoric of racial prejudice has changed over the years, as can easily be seen in the lead story from today’s Daily Express…

No place at School if you’re British

SCHOOLs which are officially full are still taking in even more pupils – if they are migrants.

Yes, it’s yet another tale of migrants allegedly ‘swamping’ our hard-pressed public services to ‘breaking point’.

As workers flood in from new EU member-states, the number of their children in schools has doubled in the last year.

The figure is officially around 11,000 but is likely to be much higher because many councils do not have a breakdown of where pupils come from.

11,000 new pupils sounds like a lot, doesn’t it, but lets put that figure into its proper context.

The school-age population of the UK (i.e. the number children from 4 to 16 years old) is somewhere around 10 million in total, which means that an ‘influx’ of 11,000 additional migrant children (mostly from EU accession countries) amounts to an increase in the school population of 0.1%.

By way of contrast, this 2004 report from the BBC indicates that in January 2003 the official figures from the DfES showed that there was a surplus in UK schools of some 700,000 places and while, no doubt, some of the those places have gone in the intervening three years due to school closures and amalgamation, it seems highly unlikely that the education system has managed to reduce overall capacity by anything like the extent necessary to give rise to the kind of ‘nationwide’ problem that Express purports to exist.

The migrants are being taken into schools where local children have already been turned away, and experts predict that the crisis will become worse when Romania and Bulgaria join the EU on January 1.

Up to 140,000 migrants are expected to arrive next year from those two countries alone.

Now we see clearly the motives of the Express; this is all part of their continuing campaign for restrictions on economic migration from the two new EU accession states, Bulgaria and Romania, who will join the EU from 1 January 2007.

The influx so far from Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Slovenia and Slovakia is creating a nationwide problem, but schools in East Anglia have been hardest hit because their high eastern European populations outstrip even those of London.

This is, indeed, true, as the most recent figures from the Home Office (pdf) clearly indicate…

14% of the total registered workers were based in London. However, as workers are based all over the UK the proportion applying to London fell from 25% in Q2 2004 to 9% in Q2 2006. As the proportion applying elsewhere has increased, the Anglia region has now overtaken London with 15% of the total registered workers.

As to why this should be the case, one has only to look at kind of job that migrant workers are filling why a considerable concentration of migrant labour has built in East Anglia over the last two years.

Accession workers are continuing to go where the work is, helping to fill the gaps in our labour market, particularly in administration, business and management, hospitality and catering, agriculture, manufacturing and food, fish and meat processing.

Agriculture and food, fish and meat processing are, of course, a major part of the economy of the region. They are, in addition, labour intensive industries in which there is a high demand for unskilled and semi-skilled labour relative to, for example, the service sector, which requires more of a skilled workforce.

In simple terms you have a considerable demand in that region for agricultural labour, one that a number of the last tranche of EU accession countries are well placed to fill; Poland in particular has a sizable agricultural sector and therefore a workforce capable of meeting that demand – which is what’s actually been happening.

What should be obvious from this data is that the Daily Expresses alleged ‘nationwide problem’ is not quite so ‘nationwide’ as they would like us all to believe. The reality is that some areas are experiencing short-term localised pressure on services due to an influx of migrant labour into their particular area brought about by the demand of their local economy.

The problem is essential one of bureacracy; the time-lag that exists between migrant workers arriving in a particular area and placing demands on the system and those workers showing up on the official statistics and, therefore, being factored in the calculations for Council’s revenue support grants.

This whole furore regarding the impact of migrant workers on local services kicked off in August in the wake of a letter from Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, the head of the Local Government Association, to Home Secretary, John Reid, which claimed that in some areas, Council Tax may have to rise by up to 6% in order to accomodate the increase demands on local services generated by migrant workers.

In a letter to Mr Reid, the Local Government Association (LGA) said dozens of councils were being let down by the current system which failed to compile accurate statistics on migration and left local authorities short of the necessary funding to provide services for those migrants. "There are a number of local authorities for whom the current system of measuring the number of migrants in specific council areas is failing to ensure adequate funding to keep council services to local people maintained," the LGA said.

"Working migrants have become an invisible population whose children need school places, who need to be housed appropriately and in some cases need social services," it said. "Official statistics have failed to reflect this."

As many as 25 councils, including Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester, feel they are being forced to provide services to migrants whose existence has not been recognised in funding allocations.

The Guardian – 8 August 2006

And therein lies the nub of the issue, which is not about Britian being ‘swamped’ by migrant Labour but about local councils complaining at the delay in them receiving their share of the economic benefits derived from it.

Anyone who has even a very basic understanding of Local Authority finance and, in particular, the various timings that apply to the setting of local authority budgets will see the LGA’s comments for what they really are; no more than the opening salvo in their negotiations with the Treasury for next year’s budget allocations, in which talk of a 6% increase in Council Tax rates is no more than a bit of blatant politicking that aims to rack up the pressure on the Treasury to increase next year’s grant allocations – all the more so far the reference to migrant workers needing to be ‘housed appropriately‘ when, in reality, Local Authorities are under no legal obligation whatsoever to provide accomodation to migrant workers except in the most extreme cases of hardship…

…and of 477,000 registered migrant workers entering the UK in the last two and half years less than 6,000 have made applications for income support and/or Jobseekers Allowance of which less than 800 were permitted to proceed for further consideration.

East Anglian schools have allowed extra pupils to join since the start of the academic year despite being officially full.

This is, in fact, nothing unusual at all, except in terms of the scale at which is currently taking place in some areas.

Local Authorities have a legal duty to provide a school place to each and every schoolage child in their area, irrespective of whether they have the capacity on paper to accomodate children moving to their area following the start of the new school year. Whether a particular family has moved to Boston, Lincs (the example used by the Express, below) from Kettering or Katowice is immaterial, the Local Authority must still provide any schoolage children in the family with a school place, even if that means a particular school taking them one even though the school is already full.

Head teachers have suspended rules governing how many children they are allowed to take.

Haven High Technology College in Boston, Lincs, is supposed to admit only 135 new pupils into its Year Seven classes – a figure set by the local education authority.

But because of high immigration into the area, last month the school had to suspend its limits.

Headmaster Adrian Reed said: "We were full in every year group yet, within the first few days of term, 30 families arrived at the door.

"All the schools were full, not only us, but it didn’t alter the fact that these children needed to be in a school."

And all these 30 families just happened to have 11 year old children seeking entry in Year Seven? I doubt that very much…

Unless evidence is provided to the contrary, I would suggest here that the Express is using the figures it quotes selectively (again) to create the impression that the ‘problem’ such as it is, is actually greater than it is in actuality.

A Year Seven admission figure of 135 pupils suggests that in total the school population of Haven High Technology College will be around 675-700 pupils, assuming that each ‘year’ has roughly the same number of pupils, although at the time of the school’s last Ofsted inspection (2001) Haven High had a total of 501 pupils – this figure may have increased since then – and the school was described by Ofsted as follows…

The Haven High School is a mixed 11 – 16 secondary school situated in the town of Boston in Lincolnshire, which serves an urban area of multiple socio-economic disadvantage. The percentage of pupils entitled to free school meals is above average and the level of social deprivation is recognised as being one of the highest in the county. Although designated a comprehensive school, higher-attaining pupils at the age of 11 are drawn off by two grammar schools and a few others are attracted to comprehensive schools serving more rural areas outside the town. Because of this the school has one of the county’s lowest attainment profiles on entry. Almost half of pupils have special educational needs. This is well above the national average. With just over 500 pupils the school is smaller than most other secondary schools. There are very few pupils of ethnic minority origin, seven only, and four pupils with English as an additional language.

You get the general picture – five years ago, this was the local ‘sink’ school that picked up most of the less able and disadvantaged kids in the area, while the ‘brightest and the best’ were siphoned off into nearby grammar schools, and the difference certainly shows; Boston Grammar School, which is one of the two grammars drawing off the brighter kids from the area, entered 96 kids for GCSE’s this year of whom 97% got 5 GCSEs at grades A*-C (94% including both English and Maths), while the last figures available for High Haven show that 32% of its kids got 5 GCSEs at grades A* to C, but only 20% achieved 5 GCSEs at that level with both Maths and English included.

On the other side of the equation, we’re told that 30 migrant families sought entry for their kids to the school at the start of the school year, but not how many children those families were seeking to place at the school. That could as low as 30 – 1 child per family – it could be more; the report doesn’t say and I would suspect quite deliberately so, so as to, again, magnify the appearance of the problem and create the illusion of the school being ‘swamped’ by migrants.

30 families on top of a school intake of 135 kids sounds a hell of lot…

30 kids on top of a school population of anything from 675-700, maybe more, doesn’t sound quite so unreasonable as you’re looking at one, maybe two, extra per class across the whole school – and you’ll notice that no information is given on class sizes at High Haven against which one could make a valid assessment as to whether it was really unreasonable to expect the school to take these extra kids on.

Again, the School’s 2001 Ofsted report, although now five years old, add some interest context to use by the Express to illustrate its contention that local services are being swamped by migrants.

First, the report shows the school to have quite a high turnover of pupils entering and leaving the school other than at the usual time of first admission (i.e at the start of Year Seven or at end of Year Eleven). In 2001, 55 pupils left the school completing a full five years schooling, while 42 pupils came into the school outside of its usual annual intake.

It would seem, therefore, than an influx of new pupils after the start of the school years is not that unusual for this particular school.

Data on class sizes also makes for interesting reading – the average class size for teaching in 2001 was 25.3 pupils for key stage 3, falling to 21.4 pupils at key stage 4 with an overall teacher to pupil ratio of 17.1 pupils for teacher.

Unless the school has expanded its intake considerable in the last five years without a parallel increase in teaching staff then it would seem that and additional 30+ kids from migrant families would not unduly over-burden the school in terms of its class sizes and pupil-teacher ratio.

Things may well have changed considerable in five years, of course, but on the basis of its last Ofsted report, High Haven does not seem incapable of accomodating additional pupils from migrant families provided the financial resources allocated to it are adjusted to take account of the increase in the number of pupils admitted to the school.

Of course, the views of the school are only part of the story, and often the least interesting part, which is why the Express now turn to parents living in the local area for something a little juicier by way of complaining.

Children whose parents had originally appealed in vain against the decision not to let them into Haven High were eventually offered a place. But those who did not appeal were given no second chance.

And that’s the fault of these migrant families? I’m sorry, but if you take a place elsewhere and don’t appeal the decision not to give you child a place at your first choice of school, then tough. It”s your problem and nothing whatsoever to do with people moving into your area, whereever it is they’ve come from.

Local parents are furious. They say that not only are schools being overstretched but their children were turned down for places in the last academic year for lack of places.

And would still have been turned down for places even without these migrant families moving into the area, so really this is a zero-sum situation as those kids who didn’t get a place at their first choice of school wouldn’t have got a place at that school anyway, as without these additional migrant families coming into the system, the school would not have reopened admissions.

In fact, what this seems to imply is that parents who did appeal the decision not to allocate their child a place at a particular school may have actually benefitted from the influx of migrant families as the Express states that, "Children whose parents had originally appealed in vain against the decision not to let them into Haven High were eventually offered a place" – in other word, having reopened admissions to take children from migrant families, the school and/or LEA also reconsidered a number of appeals that had previously been turned down and gave those kids a place at the school after all – no doubt to appease the locals and keep a lid on tensions within the local community.

In which case it would appear that the parents doing all the complaining are the one’s who couldn’t be bothered to fight their child’s corner. Like I said, tough – I’ve got sympathy for that at all.

One parent said: "It’s so unfair. My son has had to accept a school that was his second choice.

"Now it turns out that the school he wanted to go to is opening its gates to pupils from eastern Europe – even though we were told it was full.

"There’s not much sense of justice. It’s a real worry, because I have a second son who will be choosing his secondary school in a couple of years’ time, and we don’t know whether he will be able to get in or not."

And while one can certainly see that the situation that’s emerged this year would cause some concerns as to the potential future impact on school admissions, any such fears can only be based on the assumption that nothing will be done address the additional demands placed on local schools. This is a ‘problem’ that could, and should, disappear as government statistics catch up with actual patterns of migration and the financial
resources allocated to schools are adjusted accordingly.

In short, by the time this parent’s second son is due to go to secondary school, there may well not be a problem at all.

In the same area, St Peter and St Paul Catholic High School has taken on an extra 65 children and is overflowing in each of its year groups, but has been given no extra money.


Which is a point that the Express have consistantly failed to address or even acknowledge this whole article, that the undeylying cause of current pressures on public services stems from the bureaucratic time-lag in population shifts in local areas filtering through into the official statistics upon which government grants to local authorieties are based – the simple fact is that a sudden influx of people into a local area for any reason and from anywhere will give rise to exactly the same short-term pressures on local services, if adequate provision for the sudden growth in local population is not made in advance.

The same issues would crop up if a major company were to suddenly relocate its business into the area and bring a large proportion of its existing workforce with it, as sometimes used to happen back in the days when Britain ahd a significant manufacturing sector. This is not an issue that is in any way unique to migration arising out of the accession of several new countries to the EU, its one that would arise from any sudden shift in population in a particular local area.

When eight eastern Euro-pean countries joined the EU on January 1, 2004, the Government underestimated how many workers would sign up to work in Britain.

As many as 600,000 are believed to have come here to find work.

Not all have stayed but, while at first the majority were young and single, an increasing number of families are now settling up and down the country, leading to pressures on local education resources.

Again, the actual Home Office data places these statement into their proper context, with the most recent accession migration report indicating that:

There were some 447,000 applicants for the Home Office’s Worker Registration Scheme between April 2004 and June 2006.

97% of migrant workers were working full-time and 98% of all applications for a National Insurance number were for employment purpose.

83% of registered migrant workers are aged between 18 and 34 years.

93% of registered migrant workers had no dependents living with them in the UK on registration and only 3% had registered dependents under the age of 17.

And as far as the overall economic impact of migrant labour is concerned, current estimates suggest that migrant labour makes up around 8% of the total workforce and yet contributes 10% of the UK’s GDP, while taking very little, themselves, out the system:

The numbers applying for tax-funded income-related benefits and housing support remain low. For example, only 5,943 applications for Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance were processed between May 2004 and June 2006, and of these applications only 768 were allowed to proceed for further consideration.

Home Office Accession Monitoring Report, April 2004 – June 2006

It’s also worth pointing out that one of the more interesting (and ironic) statistics to emerge from this latest raft of Home Office data is summarised here…

In many cases, Accession nationals are supporting the provision of public services in communities across the UK. Between July 2004 and June 2006, almost 6,500 Accession nationals registered as bus, lorry and coach drivers and 12,700 as care workers. There were 1,500 teachers, researchers and classroom assistants; 600 dental practitioners (including hygienists and dental nurses); and over 2,000 GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and medical specialists.

It seems that as much as migrant workers are giving rise to localised pressures on certain public services, in some cases they’re also the one propping up those services and enabling them to function in the first place.

How many kids, for example, would not be getting their first choice of school were it not for the 1,500 teachers, researchers and classroom assistants who’ve come to the UK from EU Accession countries – the Express doesn’t say, but then that’s because such information does not find in with their xenophobic agenda.

Recently the headmaster of a junior school in Wrexham complained that not enough money was available for the school to deal with its ever-increasing number of Polish children.

Similar complaints from school chiefs are being heard up and down the country.

And, of course, that’s fair comment – one cannot reasonable expect schools to take in additional pupils, and particular those requiring additional tuition to bring their language skills up to speed, without providing additional resources to those schools that are taking on kids from migrant families…

…but that’s not an argument against economic migration in itself.

What current economic data shows is that financial benefits of EU Accession to the UK Economy are considerable greater than its economic costs – there are, of course, social costs in terms of impact on local labour markets and wage levels, etc. but, for the purposes of this piece that’s a separate debate.

The real problem here is that bureaucracy, as ever, is creating a financial bottleneck that, at least temporarily, serves to prevent public services from benefiting from the overall economic impact of migrant labour – i.e. the taxes that migrant workers pay into the Exchequer.

Heavily centralised bureaucracies are simply insensitive to rapid changes in local conditions, this being a systemic problem in the manner in which local government and other public services are planned for and financed across the whole of UK.

To illustrate the point, some years ago while working for the NHS in community development, I happened to be meeting with a colleague who headed up the local Drug Action Team, and on that particular day, by complete coincidence, the Home Office announced that statistics for the previous year, obtained from from the Police, showed a significant rise in the street availability and use of heroin – and, of course, this was to lead to the obligatory consideration of measure to address this issue including the promise of additional resources for policing and for HM Customs and Excise.

Why this sticks in my mind is that both my own reaction, as well as that of my then colleague – and what he didn’t know about how the local drugs ‘scene’ was playing out wasn’t worth knowing – was that to us this was old news that was at least a year to eighteen months out of date.

What we both knew very well was that the drugs ‘trade’ is pretty much as pure and unadulterated a form of capitalism as one will anywhere on the planet. In the abence of taxation and statutory regulation to ‘distort’ the market one can tell instantly both how extensive the current supply of particular drug is, and therefore both its availabilty and the extent to which its being used, simply from its current street price and how that moves over time.

About eighteen months before the Home Office announced that heroin use was on the increase, the street price of a bag of brown heroin (the kind that people smoke) dropped suddenly from around £30 a bag to £10 a bag – some dealers were even selling £5 baggies. That immediately tells you two things; first there’s a glut  of heroin on the local ‘market’ that has driven the street price down and, second, that the number of heroin users in the area is going to increase significantly over the coming months are more and more people can afford it.

The time for intervention to get on top of the problem was there are then, and not eighteen months later when the Home Office finally around to spotting what we’d known for over a year in its official statistics.

The same basic issues apply to the issue of migrant workers and public services – local councils will know pretty quickly when the demand on local services from migrant workers begins to increase, because they’re at the sharp end of trying to provide those services. The problem they face is that they lack the financial resources and, as importantly, the financial independence from central government necessary to respond adequately to those needs.

Only when the demand on services that local authorities are facing now finally filters through the official statistics, which could take a year or more, are they a position to evidence their need for additional resources to central government – its the system itself that renders local government incapable of responding to rapdi changes in local demographics and population.

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, warned that poor levels of English among immigrant children could hinder the progress of existing pupils.

"The Government should be making sure local authorities have sufficient extra funds to cope with this," he said.

"Our schools should not have to cater for more children than they can reasonably cope with.

"They should receive extra funding to employ extra teachers in order to make sure their English is up to speed with their contemporaries."

Again, that’s a perfectly reasonable stance in the circumstances, although if I were Nick I’d be a touch more careful about throwing out the old canard about migrant kids hindering the progress of local children. Going back to the Ofsted report on High Haven Technology College, one of the more interesting statistics for that school was that more than half its pupils in 2001 were considered by the school to have ‘special educational needs’ – although only 18 were formally ‘statemented’ by the LEA.

Sure, you would expect that many migrant children will need additional assistance to bring their command of the English Language up to speed, but then you also have to consider that one of the upshots of ‘parental choice’ in school admissions is that where there is spare capacity in schools, much of it is to be found in the worst performing schools in areas with the highest levels of poverty and social deprivation, highest rates of children on free school meals and the highest levels of children requiring additional educational support; and these are areas with the kind of low-cost housing that migrants will typically move into on arrival in the UK.

Consequently, the assertion that migrant children might hinder the progress of existing pupils is, to say the least, a bit questionable – who’s to say that once their command of English improves it won’t transpire that its not ‘own’ kids, members of the great British social underclass, who don;t end up being the one’s doing most of the hindering.

Mark Simmonds, Tory MP for Boston and Skegness, accused the Government of "losing control" of immigration with "no idea who is here or where they are".

He warned that funding for local services did not "reflect the number of people who are living in the area".

 And as a Tory MP, he would say that, wouldn’t he…?

Although, interestingly, Simmonds’ entry of the parliamentary register of member’s interests includes a reference to a  donation to his ‘fighting fund’ from the Boston Potato Company and, indeed, the Electoral Commission’s register of donations to political parties shows that this company did make a donation of £1,500 to Boston & Skegness Conservative & Unionist Party on  2 June 2005 – one would guess that this covered local campaign costs incurred by Mr Simmonds during the preceeding general election campaign.

What makes this rather more interesting is that it would appear that this same Boston Potato Company is a significant employer of migrant labour – at least that’s the impression one gets from an article which appeared in the Guardian’s corrections and clarifications column in January this year and which looks at the seemingly growing Portugese community in the town, which now has an estimated population of 5,000 individuals:

Most Bostonians, of course, are decent people. Their town is not an aberration; it is just old-fashioned and poor, with virtually no experience of immigration. At the last census, in 2001, there were 55,750 people living in Boston, among whom the largest non-white community was the Chinese, totalling 161 people. The town, in other words, is a reminder of what most of Britain used to be like. As it was for the Jamaicans in London 50 years ago, so it is for the Portuguese in Boston today, but with better policing…

There is, of course, a good reason that thousands of Portuguese people have come to Boston: work, specifically gang labour, which is always plentiful. Mostly, this involves picking, grading, packing and preparing the nation’s supermarket food, the kind of honest but uninteresting work that only attracts those who really need it…

Marco Moreira, 24, is from Porto. He began working for the Boston Potato Company three years ago, along with his parents, as part of De Mello’s gang. Like many Portuguese, he has now moved on to a permanent contract, driving a forklift truck for £5.50 an hour. He works from 6am to 2pm each day, shifting endless piles of Vivaldi potatoes – "the potato for all seasons", but better known as a Sainsbury’s premium white…

So it would seem that if, as Mr Simmonds suggests, the government has ‘no idea who is here or where they are’, at least one of his campaign funders is a position to help out a bit, as it seems to know very well where a fair few of the local Portugese migrants can be found.

To be entirely fair to the Boston Potato Company I will make a point of noting that the Guardisn does describe the company as being an ‘enlightened employer’ and own that ‘provides free English lessons at Boston college for all employees’ – and frankly you can’t say fairer than that…

All of which bring us to the final sentence in the article…

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: "Any child regardless of background is entitled to an education."

And that’s all the DfES had to say for itself?

I guess it might well be, especially if the tack taken by the Express was to try and draw the DfES into commenting on specific cases or situations, which it certainly wouldn’t do.

Whether this is a fair reflection of the DfES’s thinking on this issue may be another matter entirely, the use of the term ‘spokesman for the Department of Education’ appears to imply that the Express may have spoken to someone in its press office who, as a civil servant, would certainly not comment on the record on the political aspects of this story.

As closing statements go, therefore, this one seems rather redundant, unless the Express are trying to create the impression that the DfES are simply unconcerned by this whole business, when the reality is that our unidentified ‘spokesman’ is simply not in a position to comment due to longstanding rules of civil service neutrality.

This is one of those situations where, if you genuinely want an ‘opinion’, you actually have to ask a politician – not that that would improve matters that much, these days as when it comes to politicians, and particularly ministers, opinions are treated rather like Kryptonite and are avoided at all costs.

And that, as a Labour Party member, I find extremely frustrating.

When one look at the real impact of migrant labour one finds that things are very different to the picture being painted by the xenophobic rhetoric of the right-wing tabloid press and yet, even when confronted directly by that rhetoric, as Hazel Blears was on last week’s Question Time, the response of government ministers amounts to little more than craven populism – Blears made a point of butting in to reassure a couple of obvious pig ignorant bigots that the government would, of course, be taking their concerns and those of people like them into account, even though all they were actually doing was parroting the kind of crap that the Express, the Mail and others have peddling for months in lieu of factual journalism.

Have we really become, as a political party so desperate to cling to power at any and all costs, that our own parliamentary representatives are now entirely incapable of taking a principled stand against racism and xenophobia when all the facts, the evidence and the statistical data are actually on ‘our’ side – assuming that our side is still the one that opposes racism, bigotry and prejudice in all its many and varied forms?

Sadly, too often these days one comes across statements from ministers in our own government which cause one to question whether the commitment to that principle really is what it used to be – and it’s really not much fun having to question something as fundamental as that on top of all the other principles and values that the party leadership seem to ‘left behind’ in their dogged pursuit of political power.

Why. for example, is the effort to expose Tory hypocrisy on this issue?

Mark Simmonds, the Tory MP quoted by the Express as castigating the government for losign control of immigration appears entirely happy to complain about the impact of migrant workers on his constituency while pocketing donations to his campaign funds from one of the main local employers of migrant labour.

How many other Tories are currently doing exactly the same thing – taking money, indirectly, from the very people who they claim should not be here in the first place?

Do we know? Do we even care?

And if we do, is it really too much to ask that Labour MPs and particularly Labour Ministers should have the courage to stand up to the right wing press, for once, and simple tell them the truth…

…that they are completely and utterly wrong.


5 thoughts on “The blacks have got all the houses, the blacks have got all the houses…

  1. Top post. I sometimes think it’s not even worth the bother of taking the Express to task – it’s become such a laughing stock in such a short time that for them to splash on their xenophobic, borderline racist crap day after day (when Diana doesn’t take centre-stage, at least) just undermines the cause of those for who it is their main ideology.

  2. Great post mate, as . said above. Sometimes I think taking the Express to task is like taking candy from a baby. Or making fun of Melanie Phillips. Too easy.

  3. I am sick of the Pole bashing in the press. We are getting a lot of Polish migrant labour in Kent for the apple picking season – work that many local people deem below their station.

    The Polish pay an agency in Poland

  4. So the rest of you think we should help the world. Britain is full to the brim with EU migrants. They have taken our places for GP surgeries, and now our Catholic schools are turning away British children in favour of our Polish and other EU next door neighbours. Time for radical action. Labour Government must stop the influx until the birth rate calms down. We pay tax and have to pay for a private nursery education, but these immigrants get treated with free places for their offspring and leave our communities without a school to go to. London Borough of Richmond has a big problem with admissions to primary schools for 2007/8. My child has lost out to these immigrants from the EU and we pay council tax and cannot even get her into one school and turned away from many others. It has got out of hand. Charity begins at home not POLAND, MOLDOVA, CZECH REP, LITHUANIA, SLOVAKIA, ROMAINIA, and the world by all accounts.

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