Why Sleaford means Labour should NOT ‘tack UKIP`

So, the Tories held Sleaford and North Hykeham in last night’s by-election, with UKIP in second place (in spite of not being able to spell the name of the place properly) and the LibDems pushing Labour into 4th place:

It’s North HYKEHAM, Mr Farridge!

Cue the hand-wringing and knee-jerk reaction from the Labour right, with Yvette Cooper on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme yesterday not long after polls in Sleaford opened, let alone the result was announced, speaking out against immigration – in spite of the conflict of that with her strongly pro-EU position.

In spite of previously attacking Corbyn on the supposed grounds that he wasn’t ‘pro-EU enough’ in the referendum campaign – a position which would have meant absolute support for free movement – the message from the Labour right is that Sleaford – and Richmond Park before it – shows Labour is under threat from UKIP and needs to swing toward the ‘concerns’ of anti-immigrant voters.

In other words, the weather-vane mode so beloved of the politically-bankrupt ‘triangulators’, rather than the ‘signpost’ of those who actually believe in something.

In fact, while I guarantee you won’t hear this in the news at all, the result in Sleaford shows the exact opposite. Far from meaning Labour should ‘tack UKIP’ to appeal to the anti-immigrant vote, it should do the opposite and accentuate its difference.

I can hear the screams of the Blairite/Progress/Labour First supporters (all 500 of them), but it’s true. Here’s why.

It’s not true

Simply put, the anti-immigrant position – at least as far as the EU is concerned – is based on lies. The UK is substantially better off because of EU immigrants. Here’s a list of 10 facts that would probably astonish the people of Lincolnshire were they to stop and think about them:


(sources here and here. ‘A8 countries’ are Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia)

The data are a few years old, but newer data would if anything reflect an even more extreme picture, as a result of further tightening of restrictions on immigrants claiming benefits etc.

Of course, you won’t hear the media – whether those owned by billionaire tax-exiles or the Tory-suborned BBC – telling you that EU immigrants cost the NHS £140 million but add a net £16 billion in tax revenues. But it’s true.

It’s not authentic

Labour attempting to mimic UKIP will not win votes. It will simply stink of fakery. The key appeal of Corbyn and of the Labour party under him is authenticity. He actually stands for something and abandoning that in the hope of a ‘pitch’ to something convenient but false will lose us votes, not gain them.

It’s not even authentic for the Labour triangulators. Bereft of any real vision, the one thing they are more or less universally genuine about is being pro-EU. So abandoning that to try to sound ‘tough on immigration’ won’t fool anyone and will lose them the one real thing about them – Yvette Cooper spouting on immigration to the BBC yesterday sounded grotesque, not convincing.


It won’t help

Labour were never going to win Sleaford. Just as Richmond Park is natural LibDem territory, Sleaford is Tory turf – even in the Labour landslide of 1997 it was a comfortable Tory win.

If Labour compromises on its core values to chase votes in seats it can’t win, it will be electoral suicide in the tighter pro-Labour areas where voters would see a party moving away from them, not toward, especially in the urban areas Labour relies on.

It’s not necessary

In spite of the frankly racist propaganda that has been force-fed to people for years by corrupt media and the ridiculous prevalence of Farage on TV panels, most people don’t hate immigrants, EU or otherwise.

What the media love to call valid or understandable ‘concerns about immigration’ are, in fact, concerns about the erosion of job security, falling incomes and unattainable housing that have nothing to do with immigrants and everything to do with the Tory worldview and policies that either don’t care about, or even deliberately foster, inequality.

Similarly with UKIP. Former leader Nigel Farage is a former investment banker who drinks a pint in public and loves champagne in private; who boasted about the hundreds of thousands of pounds he could milk from his position as an MEP and is, in reality, as far from being a ‘man of the people’ as I am from being pope.

New leader Paul ‘Meff’ Nuttall is an anti-equality, anti-NHS bigot who thinks he can appeal to the working class because of his scouse accent.

What Labour needs is something the Blairites love when it suits them – some ‘message discipline‘ – that speaks to what really concerns people. And it’s not Poles or Romanians.

Labour – if it can only make itself heard – is naturally, authentically strong on equality, job security, workers’ rights investing to grow and taking care of areas the Tories neglect. And under Corbyn, it’s strong on vision and a way to actually get somewhere better than where we’re at currently.

The wheels are coming off

If the UK is better off because of EU migrants, it will be worse off without them – and ironically places like Lincolnshire that will feel it first, because of a dependence on migrant agricultural workers that has local farmers in a frank panic about the prospects of being able to gather their harvests in next year and begging the government to do something.

The economic costs of Brexit will be largely focused in areas like Sleaford and North Hykeham – and in the industrial pro-leave areas like Middlesbrough and Sunderland, which receive billions in EU cash now and will certainly receive no more than a token gesture from a Tory government, if even that.

Those who are now voting Tory or UKIP because of their anti-immigrant rhetoric will start to change their tune when it hits them in their bank accounts and in their ability to get their fruit and veg picked and onto supermarket shelves.

Will that be enough to turn Sleaford and North Hykeham into a Labour seat? No, almost certainly not. But it can be enough in the marginal areas, which by definition are less entrenched in a particular viewpoint.

That is, as long as the Labour right help get the right message out – or at least indulge in a bit of self-defeating ‘STFU’.

Blairites or ‘Blur-rights’?

In fact, the big question arising from the Sleaford result is not whether Labour should ‘tack UKIP’ to chase anti-immigrant voters – it’s whether the Labour right is happy to spout a self-defeating message that will lead to a Labour defeat in the next General Election if it will allow them to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn and ‘take back control’ of a Labour party that, largely, considers them irrelevant at best.

Based on Ms Cooper’s BBCDP performance yesterday, the way her husband, Ed Balls, has used his Strictly profile to talk down Labour’s credibility and the performance of various Progress gloominaries, the answer to that appears to be a Big Fat ‘Yes‘.

Which means that Labour’s challenge post-Sleaford has nothing to with tacking toward UKIP and everything to do with getting its authentic message out.

And the signs are that this can only be achieved if the right-wingers who are blocking and blurring the message – whether MPs or party functionaries – are silenced or removed.

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  1. You overlook the fact there is huge confusion about what the word ‘immigrant’ actually means.

    Free movement of EU citizens within the EU is fine, as you say. It has worked for over 40 years. This works to the benefit of all member states, and its citizens, as the flow of people is roughly balanced between countries, and people are free to go where their skills are needed. I think this is what your blog entry is about but it is only part of the story.

    It is unlimited immigration from outside the EU by people with incompatible cultures that rightly scares people. When politicians and journalists discuss this they never make it clear which group of immigrants they actually mean.

    Nor is it that simple. By misnaming illegal immigrants from outside the EU as ‘refugees’, with the implication it would be inhumane to turn them away, people feel they are being bullied into accepting immigrants they have no room for and who they know have incompatible cultures with western democracies. Only a fool would not be frightened by that.

    Also, once non-EU immigrants enter an EU country across the channel, are they included in the ‘free movement’ of people within the EU as an EU citizen would be and so have access to the UK? For most people, there is no clarity. My understanding is that they do not have access to the UK because the UK is not part of the Schengen agreement. Hence, we’ve had the ‘Jungle’ and, before that, ‘Sangat’ illegal immigrant camps at Calais. This unfortunately carries the real prospect of the ‘Le Touqet’ agreement with the French being withdrawn after next year’s French election which would allow the people in these camps (or wherever they have been dispersed) to cross the channel without UK consent.

    There is no knowing what our corrupt and out-of-touch politicians might agree to that could tip the balance against the UK people’s wishes.

    It is this fear of chaos, a lack of information and vagueness and the potential loopholes that threaten our ability to make our own decisions about the demographic make up of our own country that frightens people. People have not suddenly become ‘racist’. The rise of UKIP etc is a response to a new problem that no-one is addressing and which didn’t exist in the early decades of the EU. Sadly, mainstream media has blamed the EU for all the failings of our national government (as well as the EU’s own shortcomings with regards non-EU immigration) and Brexit was the inevitable result.

    The future break-up of the EU (arguably one of the greatest achievements of human civilization) now looks inevitable. The whole business is tragic.

    1. Nothing about Brexit has any impact on non-EU migration, though – even though some people are dense enough to have thought it did. UKIP even tried to campaign for Brexit on the basis it would make room for MORE non-EU migration.

      1. We need to expand more on what we mean by ‘dense’ and the Brexiteers’ apparent wish for more non-EU migration. I’ll take the latter point first.

        Based on what Nigel Farage was saying during the Brexit campaign, the non-EU immigrants he favours are specifically Canadians, Australians and the like, ie people of European descent whose first language is English. He also named India and China. India unites people speaking scores of tribal languages by using English as a national lingua franca. More people are learning English in China than in any other country with 20 million new users being added each year (Graddol, D., British Council, 2006). It’s the ‘go to’ destination for TEFL teachers.

        For Brexiteers, there is less threat from these two emerging superpowers (notwithstanding their hideous human and animal rights abuses) than from European cultures with whom we have much in common such as human rights and environmental protection etc (which are bad news for big business). The shortcomings of India and China were never discussed by Farage – they were simply presented as an economic opportunity because both countries are keen to join the globalized economy. Both India and China support English as a global lingua franca and immigration from them would be controllable (Farage et al are first and foremost capitalists). By favouring these countries he was able to claim he is not ‘anti-migrant’. Personally, I would boycott India and China until they sorted out their human rights abuses, dog boiling activities etc – but I’m not a Brexiteer.

        Conversely, the immigrants Farage demonized (eg the famous poster) are the millions of illegal immigrants consisting mostly of fit, young, military age males whose ideology commands them to wipe out Western democracies and replace it with their own barbaric system. Can anyone spot a threat to our way of life here?

        This is where Mr Farage hit a nerve.

        As far as being ‘dense’ is concerned, human beings have always needed strong leaders who understand the issues facing society. If Mr farage and his kind are the only leaders with their fingers on the pulse of public opinion, are people really ‘dense’ to vote for them? Or are the people simply clutching at straws in a desperate life and death situation that no-one else cares about?

        How about blaming Socialists for having their heads in the sand?

      2. I thought you were worried about Muslims turning Britain into a sharia state – suddenly India, with millions of Muslims, is fine? You’re moving the goalposts.What does their home countries learning English have to do with anything?

      3. 🙂 Hello again. Not sure what goalposts you’ve spotted so will try to clarify.

        In your earlier comment, you mentioned the fact that certain Brexiteers wanted more non-EU immigration and I attempted to explain how they view it. The millions of muslims in India would not turn up in the UK, as you suggest, because a one to one trade deal between the UK and India would have terms regarding the selective movement of people (Farage has said he favours an Australian points system). In contrast, in the EU, all EU citizens can go where they like within the EU (the fact that this free movement of people has been shown to work to our advantage doesn’t stop the Brexiteers complaining about it).

        The English language is relevant to the Brexiteers’ wish to trade with non-EU countries. Farage has mentioned it. The EU has 24 official working languages and has, as a consequence, an enormous translation budget. Brexiteers hate this expense. The countries Farage favours as economic trade partners are ones that already embrace the English language either as a first language, like the Australians etc, and emerging economies like India and China who have huge, and growing, numbers of people already speaking it as a second language. Farage likes this even though there are few, if any, workers rights in the emerging economies (bigger profits for capitalists like himself). He is deceiving his followers on this point like the true Tory he is.

        The immigration the Brexiteers sensibly dislike (I would say ‘fear’) is the mass illegal variety by people who have no intention of assimilating into the countries that take them in – let alone learn their languages. For this, they (the Brexiteers) are wrongly called ‘racists’ etc.

        You correctly state that I am worried about shariah law over-taking UK law in the future and so making the UK a shariah state. All the evidence points to it already happening. Shariah creep is the biggest issue the Western world is facing and only the so-called ‘far Right’ has even noticed we have a problem. Mr Farage and his like have a rosy future in politics until politicians of other colours wake up to the extreme, and imminent, danger we are facing from the mass, uncontrolled, illegal immigration into the EU by (mostly young male) followers of islam.

        There are different forms of immigration and we need to be clear which we mean.

  2. Hi Andy

    I’ve followed your blog for a while because of your coverage of the NHS where you have made some very astute observations. You continue that thoughtful and well researched approach here and make some very valid points. However you spoiled it for me by your very last sentence. By encouraging your readers to silence or remove those who don’t share your political views, you are falling into the same trap you accuse your opponents of. Don’t stoop to that level of behaviour. Your argument will only be ‘won’ by convincing others of its integrity. And if that means changing world views then that is what is necessary however long and tricky the process.

    Best wishes

    Mike Davidge
    Suite 2, Adam House, 7-10 Adam Street, London WC2N 6AA
    T: 020 7520 9088 M: 07786 510300
    E: miked@nhselect.org.uk

    1. Fair point, Mike. We’re in a ‘no holds barred’ war at the moment with people who don’t hesitate to twist the narrative and talk down the party they belong to, so sometimes it’s necessary to be equally blunt with the truth. I appreciate the input, though and will bear it in mind for future articles.

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