What "Bacon Butty Ed" says about the UK's political climate on migration
November 29, 2014 3:39 AM   Subscribe

Claudia Roden, the great chef-historian of Jewish food, believes that the detachable bits of ham and bacon that go into so many Spanish stews may – for secret Jews and Muslims alike – have served as a convenient way to appease the inquisitors when they called. In Majorca, as she notes in her book The Food of Spain, the "new Christians" conspicuously cooked large quantities of bacon out of doors in order to deflect suspicion. But for Grand Inquisitor Torquemada and his fellow kitchen sleuths, any man who bridled at a bacon butty would have instantly revealed his tainted blood.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has consistently been mocked for being weird. Boyd Tonkin worries about the anti-semitic undertones of some of this criticism.

Miliband is of a Jewish background, coming from immigrant stock and has lost family in the Holocaust. Last year his father, the Labour politician and theorist Ralph Miliband, who had come to Britain as a refugee during WWII, was called out by the Daily Mail as "the man who hated Britain", while only this week another tabloid, The Daily Express, called British-born children of foreigners "hidden immigrants".

All of which is taking place in a political climate in which even Labour finds itself needing to go along with the UKIP dominated "debate" about immigration and pandering to bigots. Where UKIP feels comfortable to call out the BBC for political bias by holding a poll in front of a mosque, though that turned out to be Westminster Cathedral.

The problem with the whole debate on migration, apart from the increasing xenophobia of part of the press and the public, is that anything that could be done while the UK is part of the European Union would only have a marginal effect. This has further fueled the anti-EU sentiments amongst a large part of the Tory backbenchers and the rightwing tabloid press, with the call to leave the EU being stronger than ever.

If Britain did leave the EU, some 2.2 million Brits leaving in Europe would be left hanging, as the EU Law Analysis blog shows:
Usually, patriots and nationalists are concerned about the plight of their fellow citizens living abroad. One might think this would be particularly the case in the UK, given the large number of British citizens living abroad due to the current forces of globalisation – never mind the country’s colonialist past. Yet it seems more likely that British expatriates in the EU will be, in effect, the eggs that have to be broken to make the omelettes of those British politicians who feel uncomfortable living next to Romanians.
EU nationals living in Britain would not fare better:
Those advocating the exit of the UK from the EU as a solution to unwanted intra-EU immigration do not seem to have grasped the unpalatable nature of the alternatives even in the terms of their own anti-immigration agenda. Maintaining the benefits of free access to Europe for UK citizens will almost certainly involve accepting inward movement from the entire EU on terms which are similar to those existing today but accompanied by the loss of influence that an exit implies. Alternatively, the UK can choose an isolationist position and apply domestic immigration controls to EU citizens. The price will be the loss of innumerable business, educational and cultural opportunities as movement from Europe becomes more difficult, and likely increased difficulties for UK citizens who may no longer take for granted their own privileged access to Europe for work, education, holidays or retirement.
posted by MartinWisse (63 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Ugh. Can we have the anit-UKIP backlash now? Please?
posted by YAMWAK at 3:55 AM on November 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


This is one of the more alarming developments in my homeland. I see some ugly comments creeping into conversations with family members thanks to the Mail and Express. It's not even generational, this intolerance seems to be having a resurgence in youth as well.
Obama's speech the other day applies to the UK as well, everyone had immigrant roots. Mine come from Corsica originally. I'm an immigrant, my wife is an immigrant, but simply because I'm white and middle class, I'm the right immigrant. This stuff scares the hell out of me.
posted by arcticseal at 4:03 AM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


The latest fun thing I've seen floating around the internet: two maps of England and Wales showing where UKIP has the highest support and which areas have the highest concentration of actual immigrants (Sources: 1,2). The relationship is fairly predictable.
posted by eykal at 4:17 AM on November 29, 2014 [15 favorites]


This is the fucking reason why, it is fuck all to do with anti-semitism:

"Plenty of people of all backgrounds either groan in despair or chortle in delight as he stumbles from one unforced error to another: from overlooking the deficit in his conference speech to his rabbit-in-headlights panic when faced with the flimsiest of on-screen challenges from some under-informed second-tier celeb."

He is utterly fucking useless, completely unelectable - even Farage makes a better politician than him, which is saying something. And when he doesn't even mention the deficit in his speech, and then Ed Balls doesn't mention the non-don tax break, nor corporations using the Luxembourg (et al) tax-avoidance system, well, we know where Labour are at, and it isn't really much better than the tories.

Remember - Labour built hospitals on PFI and allowed the banks to buy the PFI when they were complete, so now, when you hear of hospitals in the UK closing wards and laying off nurses and going "into the red," it is because of the interest payments on the PFI which are going to the mega-rich banks. Thanks, Labour - and Milliband is part of that, part of the same old Liebour.

Further, under TTIP American healthcare corporations will be able to bid for healthcare services and could, if they won the contract for healthcare provision in a particular area, in the end, build their own hospital and make us use that instead of the NHS hospital. At which point we could still be paying PFI for a hospital that is now empty and unused, and paying again to the company running the new hospital. All that money, which, including interest makes the cost about 2-3 times (maybe more) what it actually cost to build and we end up with an empty, disused hospital. So thanks to all the politicians who are setting this up.

And if the government says the USA corporation can't bid for NHS services they can sue. And Labour is in favour of TTIP.

Back on topic - Labour have dropped dramatically in the polls, the tories will win the next election unless he goes, as most people simply cannot stomach him. He is too tainted by the past, Labour needs to look at itself and decide what it wants to be, and what it can actually offer people, other than what they are offering now.
posted by marienbad at 4:17 AM on November 29, 2014 [16 favorites]


Yeah, as an American-born immigrant who moved here seventeen years ago to marry my British spouse, this makes my skin crawl. But of course, as I am often assured, they don't mean me. I'm different. I've assimilated. No, I'm fucking not. I'm still a migrant. I love it here, I got here all legal and above-board, and if, in the unlikely event (see: different, assimilated, etc.) I had to leave, I would be lost. Where I'm from is a foreign country to me now, this is my home, and I have no reason to believe most migrants don't feel the same, if they've decided to make it permanent.

UKIP can't flame out fast enough. They are tapping into something really ugly, and it's stinking up the joint.
posted by skybluepink at 4:17 AM on November 29, 2014 [29 favorites]


Those maps are pretty interesting, eykal - makes it look at least a bit like an anti-urban movement. Any chance of another one comparing UKIP support to Countryside Alliance support?
posted by melisande at 4:45 AM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think the attacks on Miliband are anything to do with anti-semitism either, but it's clearly not because he's "useless" ... Cameron has failed on every major policy objective he has set out, makes massive gaffes all the time, is pretty poor at presentation, and yet somehow doesn't receive the same treatment from the press.

when he doesn't even mention the deficit in his speech

This is weak stuff. He gave a lengthy speech without notes and forgot a small section. It's a minor mistake that the Tories have used as a cudgel since they don't have any positive results from their deficit-reduction strategy to mention. In fact they've made things worse despite a savage program of cuts.

so now, when you hear of hospitals in the UK closing wards and laying off nurses and going "into the red," it is because of the interest payments on the PFI which are going to the mega-rich banks

It's primarily because the Coalition has made large cuts (sorry, "efficiency savings") to the NHS budget and engaged on a ludicrous "reform" program that everyone sensible knew perfectly well would make things worse. That's not to say PFI wasn't a stupid idea - like most policies that emerged from the Major years it was, and Labour were foolish to continue with it in 1997.

And Labour is in favour of TTIP.

Yes, all the main parties are. However Labour are supporting a Bill to exempt the NHS from TTIP, and have made a pledge to immediately repeal the Health and Social Care Act upon taking office.

Labour have dropped dramatically in the polls, the tories will win the next election unless he goes

Labour have consistently been slightly ahead of the Conservatives in the polls, aside from a few blips. Miliband's personal approval polling is terrible, certainly, but that might have something to do with the years of consistent smears and attacks on him in the media. The Tories are very unlikely to outright win the next election.

He is too tainted by the past, Labour needs to look at itself and decide what it wants to be

Ed was elected as leader precisely because he was seen as less associated with the previous Labour administration than any of the other likely candidates. He only became an MP in 2005. His surprise victory over David Miliband was a clear rejection of that sort of Blairite continuity, and a moderate shift to the left.

I'm not writing this as a Labour supporter by the way - I've never actually voted for them - but the way Miliband has been treated is ludicrous.
posted by sobarel at 5:13 AM on November 29, 2014 [38 favorites]


eykal - There was a long piece from LRB about Farage fighting a bye election in Margate on the blue not long ago. In that piece quite a few of the constituents interviewed were originally from London but moved away, they said, because there were too many immigrants there.

The maps suggest the UKIP voters are hypocrites. Maybe the truth is far worse - that they are sincere.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:19 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


the way Miliband has been treated is ludicrous

This treatment dates from Miliband's successful torpedoing of attempts to send troops to Syria. I'm no fan of Miliband but he saved a lot of lives by that action.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:25 AM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Of course, there's no contradiction between thinking he's dorky and awkward and maybe also not up to being Prime Minister, and that his dorkiness and awkwardness and inadequacies have been massively, massively exaggerated by partisan media – and perhaps worse than merely partisan if Boyd Tonkin's right. Just for example, the photos: if you take 40 shots in quick succession of anyone doing anything involving movement, it's easy to find one or two where they look like an idiot, if that's what you're after. Meanwhile Miliband is perfectly capable of looking entirely fabulous when a publication wants him to.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:49 AM on November 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


And there's nothing more toxic in modern politics than wanting to save lives instead of ending them.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:50 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah. The arguments over Milliband's "credibility" are entirely press-baron driven. There's an orchestrated press campaign against him gearing up now in anticipation of the election, just as there was against Kinnock and Smith in decades gone past. It's precisely because he's not a Blairite (or Cameron clone) that he's attracting this kind of scrutiny.

I mean, I'm not even a fan nor really a UK Labour supporter, but it's blindingly obvious what's happening.
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:59 AM on November 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


But of course, as I am often assured, they don't mean me. I'm different.

I've lived in Europe twice and visited a bunch of times, and at this point I have come to enjoy that moment in a conversation when someone is complaining about foreigners and immigrants and then they look over and say "Oh, you know I don't mean you, you're different," as if it is better to be racist instead of just xenophobic. Don't get me wrong, I have loved my time there and hope to live there again at some point, but it's such a predictable conversation and the depth of those feelings are clearly seen in increased support for anti-immigrant politicians over the last couple of decades.

Eat pig, or die – socially, if not physically.

Ah yes, identity soup. These days it's usually primarily an anti-muslim thing, rather than antisemitic, but works for both.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:03 AM on November 29, 2014 [12 favorites]


As in the US, the deficit is perhaps the least important issue in the current economic climate.
posted by idb at 6:15 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't disagree that there is an orchestrated press campaign against him, though I do wonder why the BBC joins in
posted by devon at 6:15 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was racially abused yesterday in the UK for being an EU immigrant. I've had flak before but that was from drunks shouting indiscriminately at people. This time it was a mid-50s something little lady with nice hair, sensible shoes, a jolly yellow rain jacket and a posh English accent.
posted by kariebookish at 6:49 AM on November 29, 2014


The maps suggest the UKIP voters are hypocrites. Maybe the truth is far worse - that they are sincere.

All it suggests is that UKIP voters are old. The UKIP map of supporters is pretty much the same as that proportion of people over 65. The areas in question are retirement magnets because they're relatively cheap and nice. And because they're economically weaker areas they tend (there are exceptions) not to attract outside migrants who are younger and need jobs.

From my experience, a good number of the retireds who move to these areas actually come from cities and places more diverse than the ones they're moving to. Whether part of their moving is about getting away from "foreigners", I don't know. But the suggestion that they have no experience of migrants is wrong.
posted by Thing at 6:57 AM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, this "hidden immigrant" thing is bizarre. Miliband is the child of immigrants. All of Clegg's three children are children of an immigrant. Two of Farage's children are children of an immigrant. The last Conservative leader Michael Howard was the child of immigrants. Politician's must be privately rolling their eyes at just how insane an idea this is. Maybe they now wish they had stood up to the newspapers* earlier.


*Ha! More like comics for grownups.
posted by Thing at 7:08 AM on November 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Antisemitism in British politics is real, and applied across party lines. I forget who remarked that Anne Widdecombe's statement that Michael Howard had "something of the night about him" would have rendered its meaning more accurately as "something of the Jew about him", but I cannot help but feel that's true.

I think it is reasonable to claim that Miliband's image has been mismanaged. He is able and principled, but he is not slick. He should have been presented as a man with policy solutions, as a functional politician.

Perhaps, in part, the dysfunctional nature of the Brown era has discouraged the party from this line, but I think there is a more fundamental obstacle to my suggestion, which is the failure of the Labour Party to come up with anything resembling a coherent progressive policy platform. The mainstream left is gradually reconnecting with progressive radicalism, but this is not yet reflected in the parliamentary Labour Party. If Labour wins the next election it won't be because it deserves to. It has failed to reconnect with its base. It has also signally failed to offer a home to the many politically astute and engaged young people who could have formed a powerful force for activism. It is notable that membership of the Green Party has increased by over 50% in 2014.

British politics, overall, has become meaner and more cowardly than at any time in the postwar era. Fundamentally, Labour has much more to lose from this than its opponents. Not all Tories are mean and cowardly, but the Tory Party is the historical home of such people. UKIP threatens the Tories by offering those people a new home but, given the possibility of a Tory-UKIP coalition, that should give no comfort to anyone on the left.

At this point, all we can do is pray for a Labour victory, or (possibly preferably) a Labour coalition with other broadly progressive parties. Because a Tory or Tory-UKIP government is fucking unthinkable, to anyone with the pragmatic best interests of the country and the economy at heart, given the current state of the British political debate.
posted by howfar at 7:11 AM on November 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also, this "hidden immigrant" thing is bizarre.
I'm not sure how bizarre it is. It's a new way of putting the old BNP/racist line that you can't be both non-white and British. There's been a resurgence of this line of thinking since the whole "domestic terror" hysteria, and particularly after the murder of Lee Rigby. Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were frequently referred to as "immigrants," even though they were both born in London. But, yeah it is bizarre that such frank racism now has a mainstream voice and face, but the racism behind the phrases is depressingly familiar.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:23 AM on November 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


On the one hand it's fully possible to critize Ed Miliband without being anti semiotic or even knowing he's Jewish. On the other hand The Daily Mail
posted by Artw at 7:28 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


But of course, as I am often assured, they don't mean me. I'm different.

My favourite part of these interactions was the part where after finding out I was from Canada they first tell me all about their relatives who had immigrated to Canada and then go on to bash immigrants. So not only were they insulting me they were insulting their own family.

Of course nothing topped the South African woman in the line at Somerfields who told me all about how 'those people' were ruining the country just like they had in South Africa. It was mind bending for an immigrant to listen to an immigrant descended from immigrants complaining about the indigenous majority in their home country and fearing immigrants in her new country. Racism is a very strange thing.
posted by srboisvert at 7:33 AM on November 29, 2014 [17 favorites]


Yes. There was a priceless incidence of this in the New Statesman comments section a couple of weeks ago:
I moved to Spain ten years ago because I could not deal with the Open Doors that Blair opened to Immigration, I now would have a comfortable life here in Spain were it not for the often disruptive Spanish deliberately acting as if they cannot speak English when it has been taught in schools here since the 1940s, I have worked hard all my life to spend a retirement here and sometimes look back at the UK and wonder what has happened, if we are not careful we will let the (German born) Ed Miliband in through the back door, this will be a disaster for the country, I am glad I got out when I could, we need a real Tory government not the almost-Socialist shambles that is Cameron in bed with the Lib Dems, wake up!
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:41 AM on November 29, 2014 [25 favorites]


My favourite part of these interactions was the part where after finding out I was from Canada they first tell me all about their relatives who had immigrated to Canada and then go on to bash immigrants. So not only were they insulting me they were insulting their own family.

One time someone told me that I was probably especially offended by Illegal immigrants since I had "gone through all the proper steps" to get here. Well, yes, after going through all the hazards of *doing some paperwork* of course I look down on those who repeatedly risk border crossings to do some agricultural work.
posted by Artw at 7:46 AM on November 29, 2014 [16 favorites]


I feear that one percent of people in Britain/Europe will understand the article and the complex history of coded antisemitism - the rest will just go with the "always with the antisemitism claims" meme that is so popular these days.
posted by rosswald at 7:48 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


If Milliband's a politician of principle, those principles are hard to discern. Labour have already pledged to match the overall spending plans of the Tories in the next parliament, which would completely destroy the post-war welfare state - the reduction in the size of the state planned for 2018/9 is much more than reversing Labour’s increase: in fact... to decrease its size to “probably to the lowest share of GDP since 1938”
The pathetic me-tooism on immigration, welfare and TTIP (with the exception of the NHS exemption) mean that you could barely get a fag paper between Labour and the Tories on many of the headline policies.
The infamous 2011 interview on public sector strikes neatly encapsulates his problem. He does receive a very unsympathetic press, but he also fails completely to declare and defend his principles. Rather, he is perpetually reacting to events, generally in a lukewarm and cack-handed fashion.
It may be possible to find some anti-semitic tint to some of the criticism, and it is definitely easy to see a systematic political bias in his press coverage, but the unavoidable fact remains that he has neither the bravery nor adroitness required to take control of the political agenda.
posted by Jakey at 7:53 AM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's good to see that the exhortation of "wake up!" can safely be said to be a universal marker of the swivel-eyed lunatic in the English-speaking word.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:16 AM on November 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


> ... the unavoidable fact remains that he has neither the bravery nor adroitness required to take control of the political agenda.

You're probably going to get a coward of some stripe. The article seems to be about how deeply your going to debase your humanity on the way to picking which one.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:35 AM on November 29, 2014


I had to look up bacon butty and was then shocked to find out it was missing a tomato.
posted by Brian B. at 8:40 AM on November 29, 2014


Bacon is a very different thing in the UK.
posted by Artw at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


My (English immigrant) father used to complain about all the "bloody foreigners" in Canada, when I pointed out that he WAS a "bloody foreigner" himself (usually through the subtle use of "dad, hello?"), his comment was "I'm not foreign, I'm English". So yeah...sad.
posted by biscotti at 9:04 AM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


And when he doesn't even mention the deficit in his speech

No one should give a shit about the UK deficit right now except to maybe make it bigger.
posted by PMdixon at 9:15 AM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


UK and immigration--Racist, Yes. Racist No. I spend substantial time in Birmingham UK and live in Ireland. To pass the problem of immigration off as racism is only a small part of the issues of immigration in the UK. Quite simply there are too many people, in too small of a space(s) trying to hard to maintain their own cultural/ethnic/racial identity. Mix that with significant income inequality, a Country where many citizens of good will value their historical and cultural identity as British and it is inevitable there will be conflict along racial/ethnic lines. This is not to excuse or rationalize the behavior of the far rightists and isolationists but I have way too many very liberal and professional friends/acquaintances in the UK to write the struggle over immigration as racism and xenophobia. Too many people--Too much assertion of conflicting cultural/ethnic/religious rights--too little housing--too many competing agendas--too little vertical (and horizontal) mobility and too difficult to get from one place to another.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:17 AM on November 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


UKIP are just the latest flavour of Little Englander right-wing incoherence to flourish briefly in the absence of a strong mainstream Tory party. They are a Renfieldesque reflection of what has gone before (BNP, National Front) when this has been the case - get a better set of MPs and a less godawful leader of the Conservatives and UKIP will wither on the vine. They have the ear of the right-wing Press for precisely as long as it will take that to occur.

Ed Milliband is a bad leader for Labour for no other reason than because he is an ineffectual political animal. More like a political plant. He has missed so many chances to eviscerate the Tories since he ... unexpectedly became leader (which might have been the only typically political and Machiavellian thing he's ever actually done) that he has just made himself look weak. And the Murdoch press, sensing apparent weakness, have availed themselves. I think he is intelligent, personally principled and not the man for the job.

As for the EU, I think for many people the issue is that they are not altogether being xenophobic or racist but are uncomfortable with the way we have apparently slipped into a federal European structure benefiting France and Germany from the idea of a Common Market (what was actually voted on when we joined in the first place - a freeing of trade restrictions). It's the idea of not being in control, of being at the mercy of a vast bureaucracy that does not apparently have our best interests at heart. I don't doubt that this is at the heart of UKIP's current popularity.

On preview, rmhsinc has the right of it.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2014


Ah yes, identity soup. These days it's usually primarily an anti-muslim thing, rather than antisemitic, but works for both.

It worked for both in the days of the Inquisition— Jews were forced to convert or go into exile in 1492, moriscos (who had already nominally converted to catholicism) were expelled in the early 1600s.

Since moriscos were mostly farmers and Spaniards of that time prided themselves in not working, you can see that it went spectacularly well.

This is old history for us, though. The main reason why this kind of xenophobia is marginal in Spain despite the crisis (we've kept a steady ~25% of unemployment for the past years) is that everyone remembers when great-grandpa had to migrate to Latin America or grandpa to Germany, where the kid is right now trying to find a job, too.
posted by sukeban at 9:24 AM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


As for the EU, I think for many people the issue is that they are not altogether being xenophobic or racist but are uncomfortable with the way we have apparently slipped into a federal European structure benefiting France and Germany from the idea of a Common Market (what was actually voted on when we joined in the first place - a freeing of trade restrictions)

That latter claim is historically inaccurate, in my view.

The first words of the Treaty of Rome (PDF), drawn up 1957, are, "DETERMINED to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe"

The EEC was always a developing political union. The reason that we have found ourselves marginalised is that we have marginalised ourselves, just as De Gaulle predicted we would, when the French vetoed our entry (for the second time) in 1967.
At a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, attended by more than 1,000 diplomats, civil servants and ministers as well as journalists, General de Gaulle accused Britain of a "deep-seated hostility" towards European construction.
He said London showed a "lack of interest" in the Common Market and would require a "radical transformation" before joining the EEC.
But even having said that, for the individual ordinary Briton, the EU has been a far greater practical boon than some bogeyman notion of wicked Franco-German federalism, as promulgated by our press, can outweigh.

Your point about xenophobia does reflect a truth, but I don't think it's the one you think it is. The wealthy right hates the EU not because of xenophobia, but because it hates protections for workers and consumers.
posted by howfar at 9:45 AM on November 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


The Guardian podcast following the Rochester and Strood byelection is pretty harsh on Milliband, and has some pretty interesting analysis of Ukip.
posted by Nevin at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Howfar, I don't disagree at all - the loud objections coming from employers can only mean they're looking at extra costs. I despair of those children of capitalism who object to enacting anything that might conceivably smack of finance lost to the greater good.

I was thinking more of the rank and file who feel dragooned into a system they haven't chosen - and it's a failure of EU communication, or publicity, or maybe because of a degree of arrogance, that people don't know whether and how they benefit. No-one is making the case for what the EU ever did for us. The referendum issue is the one UKIP will be pushing and the one that the main parties will be trying to dodge because it's possible that the general populace will vote for leaving, which would marginalize the UK even further.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 10:03 AM on November 29, 2014


This is a weird article.

"It may well be that few – or even none – of the mainstream media enemies responsible for the monstering of Miliband have done so out of anti-Semitic motives ... "
"Much of the hate campaign evidently stems from straightforward, above-board political bias."


but...

"But beyond the business-as-usual media vilification that in Britain almost always tries to delegitimise a Labour leader prior to a general election, there is something almost demented about the scale and fury of Miliband-bashing. It has an edge not only of dislike or contempt but panic and hysteria. Why?"

Neil Kinnock and Michael Foot both got it just as bad from what I remember. Only Tony Blair was immune to it.
posted by memebake at 10:15 AM on November 29, 2014


I was thinking more of the rank and file who feel dragooned into a system they haven't chosen - and it's a failure of EU communication, or publicity, or maybe because of a degree of arrogance, that people don't know whether and how they benefit.

I think there is a failure of communication, but, in my view, it is one which goes back to de Gaulle's point about British hostility. Our press is overwhelmingly anti-European, and our politicians have rarely wanted to be seen as "good Europeans", either for largely pragmatic reasons (e.g. Major or Cameron) or ideological reasons (like Thatcher or Benn). The "EU" is, after all, not an outside force, but rather something that we are a part of. British general long-term reluctance to engage positively with the EU has left us worse off practically, and with an odd sense of unfocused grievance toward "them". It's unfortunate, but, I think, historically more deeply rooted in British politics and thought that in the EU itself.
posted by howfar at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2014


howfar--not that it makes any practical difference but I am a strong supporter of the UK actively participating in the EU--but I am not sure how the "long-term reluctance to engage positively with the EU has left us (UK) worse off practically". Worse off than ???. Also, there clearly is a subtle (and at times not so subtle) resistance to identification with Europe. But at the same time I tend to see the UK, in spite of the increased anti-immigrant sentiment, one of the more welcoming European countries of immigrants. Any clarification or elaboration
posted by rmhsinc at 10:27 AM on November 29, 2014


it's fully possible to critize Ed Miliband without being anti semiotic

Don't be saussure of yourself.
posted by sneebler at 10:39 AM on November 29, 2014 [34 favorites]


Also, the immigration issue is more, umm... complicated than we'd imagined.
posted by sneebler at 10:41 AM on November 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


"No one should give a shit about the UK deficit right now except to maybe make it bigger."
posted by PMdixon

Are you fucking serious? Not when more and more of the tax burden is falling on the working man. What needs to be done is that all the tax loopholes and avoidance scams used by the rich/corporations should be closed and a decent and fair tax system created. As it is, it is the regressive taxes that hit the poorer harder - fuel duty, alcohol/cigarette duty, road tax, VAT are used. I mean, VAT at 20 fucking percent? What a fucking con, If we could get these rich people and the corps to pay (even just at the actual tax rate, rather than like 0% and get a fucking multi-million pound rebate like some of the corps do) we wouldn't even have a deficit.
posted by marienbad at 10:47 AM on November 29, 2014


Well, exactly. Lets stop talking about the deficit and start talking about fair taxation. Labour trots out this pointless worthless Mansion Tax when a complete overhaul of property taxes is needed. UKIP talk shit about the EU and immigration, yet how much time is taken to talk about Luxembourg destroying our tax base with their pro-avoidance schemes?
posted by Thing at 10:52 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


The deficit isn't really directly related to the tax burden on working people. That's a link conjured up by the government for political convenience.

It's unfortunate, but, I think, historically more deeply rooted in British politics and thought that in the EU itself.

There are guyropes in British history and philosophy for this feeling of independence and insularity, but I think that when the last breath is breathed by the generations that lived through any substantive remnant of the British empire (no offence to any of you) the antipathy will largely collapse. That's really the main prop for this school of thought. I've talked to some of the few young people who continue that strain of conservative thinking, but even they seem to be different in nature to the older conservative lot - declining rather than rejecting the reality of Europe.
posted by forgetful snow at 10:54 AM on November 29, 2014


I am not sure how the "long-term reluctance to engage positively with the EU has left us (UK) worse off practically". Worse off than ???

Worse off than we would have been were we to engage more effectively. A good example of this is the British rebate. This was a big PR coup for Thatcher in 80s, but it real terms makes little economic difference. But it has also hampered our ability to negotiate to get a CAP that does not substantially benefit the French desire for agricultural protectionism over an economically more effective approach. So we take the small anti-EU gain of a few billion a year at the expense of the big win of EU policy that would actually better suit the UK's needs.
posted by howfar at 11:12 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


But at the same time I tend to see the UK, in spite of the increased anti-immigrant sentiment, one of the more welcoming European countries of immigrants.

I wholly agree with this, by the way. But part of the problem with the face that the English (specifically) present both to ourselves and to the world is our tendency to talk like bigots and act like liberals. So we don't get credit for our good actions. Again, I think you could compare this to how our government works in Europe. The UK has a generally excellent record of compliance with directives (massively better than France's, who are historically worse than pretty much everyone except Greece), but we grumble and whinge about doing it. So we don't get the benefit of actually ignoring directives that don't suit us, but we don't get the diplomatic credit or the negotiation benefits it would bring.
posted by howfar at 11:18 AM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


England: talk like bigots and act like liberals.

Well, at least we're a good kind of hypocrite!
posted by Thing at 11:41 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


This post should really have been constructed as two, or possibly even three separate posts rather than mashing them all together in a way which slants the conversation.

I am personally strongly in favour of EU membership (I also think it needs wide-ranging reform), as well as wider and easier (but also better regulated and managed) immigration for those coming from both within and outside the EU.

But I also understand that just because someone is worried about immigration and wants less and more restrictive immigration and/or they are worried about the EU and want to the UK to leave, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are ethnically/culturally prejudiced. I also recognize that they do have valid concerns.

Also, of course one can be in favour of the EU and immigration *and* anti-semitic...
(and I don't buy the alarmist argument at all that criticism of Miliband is evidence of surging anti-semitism. He could well be the 2nd Jewish Prime Minister in British history (Disraeli was a Christian convert from Judaism, Miliband is secular and atheist. They are both ethnically Jewish). And btw in in the Labour Party leadership contest which elected Ed Miliband, it was a choice between him and his brother, David Miliband, who, yes, is also Jewish...)
posted by Bwithh at 12:16 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


"In today's climate of twitchy populism, a daily newspaper (the Express) can even seize on a MigrationWatch report, as it did yesterday, to brand every child of incomers – like Miliband himself – as a "hidden migrant""

So the Express article was idiotic and horrible, but as many quickly pointed out, the "hidden migrant" definition they used includes the UKIP leader Nigel Farage's own kids (his wife is German). And also of course, it includes many people in the Conservative party, including senior figures such as Michael Howard and Michael Portillo.

So Tonkin's implication that the Express article was particularly pointed at Miliband is strange.
posted by Bwithh at 12:24 PM on November 29, 2014


I think the problem of Miliband is that he is left-wing in principle but right-wing in policy. Kind like an American Democrat but he is doing it in a country that expect more from the left than just a few hat-tips on social issues.
posted by srboisvert at 1:19 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Five questions for anyone who says "it's not racist to talk about immigration":
why... has it "long been recognised in studies of attitudes to immigration that the areas with the lowest immigrant numbers are often those that express the greatest concern about immigration"?

...why do people think that far more immigrants live in the UK than actually do?

...why was 70 per cent of the public telling Gallup as long ago as 1978 that Britain was "being swamped" by people with different cultures, even though net migration at the time was negative – more people were leaving the UK than were arriving – and had been so for more than a decade?
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:12 PM on November 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


Has anyone noticed how UKIP have not once mentioned bringing back the death penalty, national service or the cane in schools? Which suggests that either (a) unlike the BNP and the Tories of a mere few decades ago, UKIP are, to a man, too modern and progressive to even countenance such barbaric ideas, or (b) there is a list of issues/topics which all UKIP candidates and spokespeople have drilled into them, in no uncertain terms, that they are absolutely not to mention in any circumstances, and those three are on that list. Which makes one wonder what else is on that list.
posted by acb at 2:29 PM on November 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


What "Bacon Butty Ed" says about the UK's political climate on migration

Has anyone actually mentioned that this isn't actually a 'UK' wide issue ?

For the benefit of some mefites - this like someone from the south claiming that racism or gun control is a 'North American' Issue.

Scotland and the Scots are generally pretty happy with immigrants, with the Scottish Government actually encouraging people to come here.

Does that sound petty ? Well, people seem to be so in denial about racism in England that its purported to be everywhere, it's all over the British isles ! look - over there too !

That is simply not something that is happening - and people well know the opinion polls in Scotland show massive support for the SNP, who are decidedly pro-immigration and pro-eu.

Back then, to Milliband - who is just simply useless.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:10 PM on November 29, 2014


Has anyone noticed how UKIP have not once mentioned bringing back the death penalty, national service or the cane in schools?.

You haven't been listening to UKIP supporters. One was on the wireless over the Rochester by-election expressing her delight that this precise mix was just what the country needs and that she could at last vote for a party that supported it. UKIP HQ hasn't mentioned such things not because of philosophical antipathy, but because it is political suicide to do so. A strong showing in the general election, and their people will want their raw meat. (I think such internal tensions between the marginally sane and the barking will crack the party wide open if it gets within a sniff of actual power, but, eh, one still waits for the same dynamic to pay off with the GOP)

What I would like to see from a UK party is thus:

Commitment to the EU and its basic principle of binding Europe together in the cause of peace, freedom and effective democracy.

Commitment to reforming the EU on accountability, political and fiscal structures, and the social contract.

Commitment to fighting the Five Giant Evils as the primary focus of policy.

The business of business, of having an economy that can support the above, of having an infrastructure of supply that does not comprehensively shaft everything by screwing the environment, is enabled by and flows from these. It should not override them, because that ends in complacency, corruption and castration. Politics is the art of the possible, and it should embody the arc of the possible in its thinking.

My greatest frustration in politics is the reluctance of people to recognise the power they hold and the responsibility they have to use it. I'm a child of 70s Britain, where power was used irresponsibly across the political spectrum, and when the balkanisation of society and politics seems to me have picked up pace. While it might be possible for, say, the Tories to resist financial and taxation reform at corporate level 'because it will drive away business from the UK', those arguments do not hold when an economic bloc the size and complexity of the EU acts with some sort of unity. We can say to anyone in the world that if you want us, you play by our rules, and we can set those rules to support our principles and the greater good - as a first step to solving the greater problems. We cannot do this if we lack political unity, and the only people who can build political unity are the people working together.

These days, that has to be at the scale of the EU. It's a huge task - I think there's only one party with elected representatives across national boundaries, and that's Sinn Fein whose existence isn't really a result of pan-European unity.

I have never seen a better definition of a workable, acceptable political motor than enlightened self-interest. Any group that articulates this will get my support. UKIP has that wonderful trick of presenting self-harm as self-interest (the lot of the people will not actually be served by creating a state with greater feudalist tendencies), and you'll look long and hard for anyone not pandering to select groups under some populist false flag.

I got a sense of political awakening in Scotland over the independence debate - and I don't think I was the only one, given the actual panic that infested Westminster. Here's hoping for contagion.
posted by Devonian at 5:07 PM on November 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


As an immigrant to the UK* from Australia I often get Brits telling me Australia 'has it right about immigrants' expecting me to agree (which I don't) and often they even talk about moving there because 'England is too full of immigrants and too multicultural now'. Depending on how bolshie I feel as to how strongly I point out what a stupid statement that is.
I think part of the 'Britain is swamped with immigrants' thing (and only a part of it, mind you) is the British assumption that everything is wrong, Britain is 'broken Britain' and everywhere else is better than the UK. The Brits, as a gross generalisation, are not great travellers (outside of areas like the south of Spain, where they stick to areas where they are surrounded by other Brits, everyone speaks English, and they can eat the food they are used to at home). For example, the statement above about moving to Australia because they don't like the level of multiculturalism in the UK shows a gross ignorance of their supposed white, anti-immigrant paradise of Australia. Their views are based on tabloid media.


*though currently living Germany as my husband is serving here with the British Army
posted by Megami at 12:26 AM on November 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


As much of a Tory-Lite Blair clone as his brother was, he would've had Cameron and Farage's heads on his wall by now.

Both sides of the pond have ineffectual "left-wing" leadership who are too timid to go after powerful monied interests, these are my surprised tears.
posted by fullerine at 2:46 AM on November 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


Scotland and the Scots are generally pretty happy with immigrants

I don't want to start a fight, but I can't let this one slide.

There is a big difference between "less likely to want to reduce immigration than those in England and Wales" (which a February poll by the Oxford University Migration Observatory suggested is the case) and "generally happy":

- 58% of people in Scotland wanted to see immigration reduced a little or a lot, compared with 75% in England and Wales.

- 10% wanted to see immigration increased, compared with 8% in England and Wales. Not looking so good for the SNP's plans, then.

- "The observatory's finding are in line with a recent British Social Attitudes Survey which suggested that 78% of people in England thought the number of immigrants to Britain should be reduced and gave a figure for Scotland of 69%."

Beyond that, the anecdotal experiences of immigrants living in Scotland - and I see others in this thread, and now me - would cast doubt on "generally happy". I get something of a pass in the eyes of many locals, being pasty white myself (with my English/Manx/German/Irish/Jewish ancestry), but one of my former colleagues, who was from Benin, had plenty to say on the quiet about what his daughter had to put up with at school. Even my "hidden immigrant" son has encountered some unpleasantness at school for being "not Scottish", when he was born at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. That Express article makes my blood boil.

Like Megami, I'm in the awkward position of coming from a country perceived as only a shade less illiberal than apartheid South Africa (thanks, John Howard and Tony Abbott, for all your hard work on that front), and having to shrug off or argue against various UK media or popular perceptions of the place... all while seeing the same attitudes infest politics here.

Unfortunately, my home country is ultimately to blame for one of the causes of that infestation in both countries, and the sooner he's gone the better. Some days I find myself consciously anticipating the deliciousness of Metafilter's Rupert Murdoch obituary thread.
posted by rory at 3:16 AM on November 30, 2014 [4 favorites]




Back on topic - Labour have dropped dramatically in the polls, the tories will win the next election unless he goes, as most people simply cannot stomach him.


The evidence seems to be suggesting that the Tories will win the next election by a small majority. However, the SNP will get a considerable number of seats, and have ruled out a coalition with the Conservatives, which could lead to electorally interesting times.

This treatment dates from Miliband's successful torpedoing of attempts to send troops to Syria. I'm no fan of Miliband but he saved a lot of lives by that action.


That's not quite accurate. The motion was on limited air strikes in retaliation for use of chemical weapons. Milliband argued successfully that

a)it couldn't be evidenced that the regime had actually used said weapons
b)The nature of the strikes were not clearly defined.

Ground troops were never going to be involved.

To pass the problem of immigration off as racism is only a small part of the issues of immigration in the UK. Quite simply there are too many people, in too small of a space(s) trying to hard to maintain their own cultural/ethnic/racial identity.


Focusing on immigration is missing the point. The main problems facing the country currently are due to massive cuts to services and the failure of wages to grow even as the economy stutters slowly into life. Talking about immigration really isn't going to solve these problems: its an easy issue to focus on rather than engage with real problems.


Are you fucking serious? Not when more and more of the tax burden is falling on the working man. What needs to be done is that all the tax loopholes and avoidance scams used by the rich/corporations should be closed and a decent and fair tax system created. As it is, it is the regressive taxes that hit the poorer harder - fuel duty, alcohol/cigarette duty, road tax, VAT are used. I mean, VAT at 20 fucking percent? What a fucking con, If we could get these rich people and the corps to pay (even just at the actual tax rate, rather than like 0% and get a fucking multi-million pound rebate like some of the corps do) we wouldn't even have a deficit.

The deficit, as I understand it, is the difference between UK spending and tax revenue. It hurts in that

a)if it gets large enough, theoretically we might have to pay more for future debt (there's no evidence this is going to happen). Theoretically this could lead to a confidence crisis in the UK's ability to repay it's debt. But everyone wants to believe that nations can repay their debt, so if we clap our hands the financial fairies should protect us.
b)It will obviously increase the debt we have, and thus increase interest repayments the govt has to repay.

So it's something to be concerned about, but not exactly the be all and end all. If we had no deficit right now, we would still have debt, and our cost of borrowing is low enough that it's unlikely to get any better. As far as I'm aware, having a deficit of 0 doesn't actually help growth, or wage increases, or anything manifestly useful to people's lives.

Of course Labour have committed to the same spending plan as the Tories. And they started academies, and PFI, and immigrant bashing. It is Labour's fault that we treat asylum seekers as shamefully as we currently do, and Labour who eroded our civil liberties while in power. I remember, during the debate that the only remotely sensible things said about immigration was by the liberal democrats who were even "gasp" proposing an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Labour's response? A vicious assault on the lib dems precisely on this issue.

I don't know who Labour is trying to impress to be honest. Milliband seems to have made noises about mvoing to the left but all the proposals have been so pathetic. The most recent proposal by Tristram Hunt, that private schools might lose their tax breaks? Really? That's the best they can come up with?

The whole energy thing, where Labour will impose a freeze on prices? It's such a halfway house measure which really doesn't please anyone. That's all they seem able to offer.

I am not sure that Labour would have been much better on Welfare than the Tories have been to be honest. They've made a couple of noises about it, but the idea of welfare as a safety net? Gone. It's something you earn now, something that hard working people can be on for a little while before being kicked until they take a non-paying job at poundland. And, again, it's Labour who started this.

There's no doubt that UKIP are much, much worse, but I can sort of see why people end up with that pack of shambles when Labour are giving such pitiful opposition.

I mean, after the Conservatives humiliatingly lose a bi-election after promising to throw the kitchen sink at it, and Cameron turning up five times, Labour managed to make the story about a stupid tweet someone made. Now I know that part of that was due to a hostile media, but if they had managed to stay on message they could have at least attempted to communicate how bloody humiliating this was for the Conservatives.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:41 AM on December 1, 2014


Of course nothing topped the South African woman in the line at Somerfields who told me all about how 'those people' were ruining the country just like they had in South Africa. It was mind bending for an immigrant to listen to an immigrant descended from immigrants complaining about the indigenous majority in their home country and fearing immigrants in her new country.

I swear, sometimes I think that many of my fellow SA expats have had the self-awareness part of their brains removed at birth.

As a long-term immigrant in the UK, I have a dog in this fight, but I'm also keenly aware that I'm fairly low down on the "go home" list for now (I'm in the "anti-immigration rhetoric is largely crypto-racism" camp.)

It's going to be an interesting six months ...
posted by psolo at 7:37 AM on December 1, 2014


At this point, all we can do is pray for a Labour victory, or (possibly preferably) a Labour coalition with other broadly progressive parties.

And it turns out Alex Salmond is hoping for the latter.

'[H]e said he believed the SNP and "progressive allies" could emerge as a "powerful force" at the UK Parliament.'

Salmond is not always personally admirable, but he is, in my view, the most talented British politician of his generation. The smart money just emphatically went on another hung Parliament.
posted by howfar at 4:31 AM on December 7, 2014


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