Despite the many indicators that the United Kingdom is a desperate, futureless wasteland, it is in fact an elite island of the "brightest and best" where the cost of entry is earnings of at least £35,000 – kind of like a posh country club. That is what the Conservative party are saying as they announce plans to introduce a minimum earnings condition for migrants wishing to settle in this country. The new threshold will see migrants booted out of the country if they're not earning that amount after six years of getting here.
Exceptions will be made depending on economic need in "shortage occupations" or for those doing science PhDs or research, which is useful given that to earn £35,000 you would have to be around the level of a Senior Lecturer or a police Sergeant. A lot of useful jobs don't earn anything like that much – nurses for instance. Migrants are increasingly doing work others aren't doing in low-skilled, low-paid sectors – that's who will be targeted by this new requirement.
Immigration was a big issue at the last election, with all of the main centre-right parties deciding to follow UKIP down the rabbit hole of blaming all that has gone wrong here in the UK on the fiction of unchecked mass immigration. Of course most of the anti-migrant sentiment was based on scare stories about "outsiders" – a category that's always been open to whipping up fear whilst pretending that you're not a racist. By saying that you simply want to protect the economy, you can paint yourself as a pragmatic protectionist and avoid any tricky questions about having ultimately the same policy trajectory as a "rivers of blood" style racial purist.
Now though, with Labour entering a period of self reflection after they lost, you'd think they might want to touch base with all those BME voters it took for granted and provide some opposition?
Here is Labour's opposition to Theresa May's plans in full:
"People should only be allowed to settle in this country under these rules if they can pay their way, live by our rules and contribute value to our country. We need strict controls, properly enforced, and all of the mainstream parties should agree on that.
"However, there is still a massive gap between the Tory-led Government's rhetoric and reality. New rules will have no impact if they are not properly enforced."
That was Labour's Yvette Cooper in her role as Shadow Home Secretary. So apparently the problem with the Tory government's plans is that they might not be properly enforced. Something tells me that those subject to the Home Office's current Immigration Enforcement processes and the system of detention centres would probably have a different perspective.
These people can't vote, so why should electoral parties care? Well, unfortunately for Labour, it's not just those personally subject to the UK's brutality towards migrants whose stomachs will be churning at Labour's complicity in making the country less accessible and more intolerant.
From the 1980s, Labour more and more incorporated first and second generation migrants into its base of supporters. This was achieved by advancing a multicultural politics, especially in London through the then Greater London Council. However, it seems that once it had successfully incorporated the BME vote, it took less and less notice of that sector, especially in its recent acceleration towards the migrant-baiting end of British politics.
This is a repeat of Labour's alienation of a large proportion of the working class vote. Having either made them feel it's not worth voting Labour, or losing them to the Conservatives and UKIP (and this is not just because the British working class is all irredeemably racist), the party now risks the loss of its non-white voters, concerned about ever increasing levels of racism. The party has a problem taking its supporters for granted – "we couldn't possibly be worse than those bastard Tories", the self serving logic goes, "so these people will have to vote for us no matter how often we shit on them."
Policies such as only allowing migrants with a healthier than average salary to stay, piss off not only those who already have limited rights due to their non-EU migrant status. It's also of concern to those section of the BME population who are certainly here to stay, but are angered and frightened by mainstream politics' proliferation of the same hate that leads to everyday racism and hate crime.
Perhaps it is too late for Labour. Its role in fostering Islamophobia whilst in office and increasing support for tighter UK borders whilst trying to get back into government has left the BME population wanting, and for far too long. It would be surprising if BME people willing to wait around much longer, only to be offered more of the same intolerance that the Conservatives and UKIP carry off so much better.
Racism today has its winners and its losers, but Labour desperately trying to win through anti-immigrant racism that is actually driving its continued losing. That seems like just deserts if they are willing to employ hate as an electoral tactic.
More like this: