Shadow cabinet ministers blame New Labour for fuelling Islamophobia

Shadow cabinet ministers blame New Labour for fuelling Islamophobia

Diane Abbott addresses the Stand Up To Racism event. Image: Stand Up To Racism/Twitter

Monday, September 24, 2018

Two members of Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet have blamed the previous Labour government for fuelling Islamophobia and helping to create the anti-immigrant “hostile environment”.

Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said the need for Labour under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to win support for “imperial” wars had fuelled ant-Muslim sentiment.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott also claimed “hostile environment-type” policies in the New Labour era had helped create the conditions for the Windrush scandal.

At a fringe event about crime and policing at the Labour conference in Liverpool, Mr Burgon said the rise in racism could not solely be explained by the economic crash.

He highlighted the surge in BNP cotes in the 2000s, saying: "The BNP did so well outside of the conditions of an economic crash - even though the inequality of free market capitalism was obviously there - partly because the state itself had created a hostile environment with its friends and allies in that discourse in the right-wing media.

"Why did they do that? They did that in order to garner public support, or at least public acquiescence, with the imperial adventures abroad.

"The Islamophobia of those years helped to garner public support, or lack of public opposition, to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere."


‘Windrush was not an accident’

Ms Abbott told the Stand Up to Racism event: "Windrush was not an accident. Windrush was not some inefficient officials.

"Windrush was the consequence of Theresa May's hostile environment and actually hostile environment-type policies before Theresa May became home secretary."

She highlighted the introduction of food vouchers because "the narrative was they were coming here to get benefits", and the use of immigration detention centres under the previous Labour government.

She said: "People would have to walk miles to be able to use food vouchers and get the food and supplies they needed.

"In the end, we had to withdraw them because it wasn't just a very cruel system it was an inefficient system, but that was something that might be regarded as a hostile environment measure."


'Immigrants do not drive down wages'

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott visiting Yarl's Wood detention centre in February

She also said that "a lot of Labour MPs" voted for Mrs May's legislation to further entrench the hostile environment regime.

Setting out her own immigration policy, she said: "As Home Secretary, I will close Yarl's Wood, close Brook House detention centre and review the entire immigration detention estate."

She added that Labour would also help keep immigrant families together: "We are not going to have a situation where family members can be deported, we will do away with the income requirements to bring in family members.

"How can it be that you can have a family life if you have got a certain amount of money, but not have family life if you are poor?"

Pledging to "unravel the hostile environment", she added: “Immigrants do not drive down wages, what drives down wages are the actions of employers, the absence of worker protections and the policies of this current government."

Labour would also scrap the controversial Tory target to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands.

She said: "We are going to reject arbitrary numerical targets for immigrants.”