Saturday 22 November 2014

Ed Miliband's White Van

One thing guaranteed to annoy voters is when politicians engage in pointless point scoring.

Calum Higgins, Labour's great hope for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, was wheeled out by Labour's spin doctors to front one such attack on Plaid this week.

Leanne Wood had said that Plaid Cymru would not prop up a minority Tory government after the next election.

Perhaps they might, said Calum. They haven't ruled it out, huffed Calum (or whoever was writing the script). They are totally discredited, puffed Calum. And much more of the same as he ranted for several paragraphs about nationalists.

In the middle of this, Calum did what Labour has been careful to avoid doing - he mentioned Ukip. Specifically, he suggested that Plaid Cymru needed to worry about Ukip.

A few days after Calum had conveyed the thoughts of Labour HQ to the Western Mail, Labour slumped to third place in the Rochester by election and saw its vote halved. Until the 2010 general election the seat had been held for Labour by Bob Marshall Andrews (on slightly different boundaries).

In his victory speech, Mark Reckless made it clear that he and Ukip would now be going after the Labour vote.

Back home, Calum will remember that in May of this year Labour came third in the poll for the European elections in Carmarthenshire, with Plaid in first place and Ukip in second.

Labour has been incredibly slow to wake up to Ukip, probably because it believed that this was just a turf war between two parties on the right and that Labour would benefit as a result. So Labour's response has been to keep quiet while joining in the arms war of proposals to crack down on foreigners.

Let's employ loads more border guards. Let's charge foreigners who want to come to Britain. Let's find ever dafter ways of targeting one-legged Bulgarians and Polish plumbers, even though all the evidence shows that European migrants contribute more in taxes and take out less in benefits than holders of UK passports.

There is a long history of this in Britain. A hundred years ago popular newspapers were reporting that Russians had been seen in central London with snow on their boots. There were anti-German pogroms in the First World War, with attacks on people who were suspected, often wrongly, of being German.

In one of the poshest parts of London German Street was renamed Jermyn Street. A change of spelling made everything all right.

In the 1950s and 1960s landlords would advertise rooms for rent, but "No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs". Last night a woman wearing a Ukip rosette in Rochester was interviewed for the main BBC evening news bulletin. "I am a Dutch Canadian", she proudly told viewers, before going on to warn of the dangers of immigration.

Two weeks ago I met a couple who had moved to Wales from a prosperous cathedral city in England. Mr J was originally from the Valleys, but decades of living in England had left him with only a faint trace of an accent. Judging from her accent, Mrs J was originally from London. They had moved to west Wales because they no longer felt comfortable in the city they had lived in for many years and had been subjected to abuse.

The area they had lived in had many Asian Muslim residents, Mrs J said, but they were friendly and had not been a problem.

Nasty, anonymous notes had been posted through their letter box, and Mr J had been openly abused by a white woman on the street who had yelled into his face, "You f***ing Welsh, coming here and taking our jobs".

"He's 83, he's not taking anybody's job", Mrs J said.

All of which brings us to Emily Thornberry, the now disgraced Labour MP who tweeted a "disrespectful" picture of a house festooned with England flags and the words "Image from #Rochester".

Ed Miliband was incandescent with rage, and Labour bigwigs queued up to apologise for the outrage. The owner of the flags was just being patriotic, they said, and he appeared, shaven headed, before the cameras with lots of Sun stickers plastered on his white van.

For all we know, this patriotic Rochester resident is into contemporary dance and going to Polish evening classes, but the flags, the shaven head and the Sun stickers would suggest otherwise.

We don't actually know what Emily Thornberry thought about all of this either because she posted the picture without comment, although we can probably assume that she was pointing out the rise of nasty, xenophobic right-wing nationalism in England.

But the official Labour line is that this is no such thing. It is just patriotism, and anyone who says otherwise is "disrespecting" the voters. So wrap yourselves in the Union Jack or Cross of St George and bellow Land of Hope and Glory. That's fine.
Celebrating a 'No' victory in Glasgow

But for Calum and the Labour establishment, the sort of people who vote for the progressive, left of centre Plaid Cymru and the SNP are rabid nationalists of the worst kind, to which anything, even Ukip, would be preferable.

Don't try this at home


Anonymous said...

Plaid does not know what it is =Progressive Left or Rabid Right LW wants it to go left direction whilst some in the party too focused on the language have right wing xenophobic outlooks and we hear rubbish such as mouthed by UKPI re " who do they think they are telling us how to run our country " 'their children have to learn Welsh "or describing them as 'white immigrants' - Cniefwr you know we hear such stupid reactions which are racialist as mouthed by UKPI

Anonymous said...

But we can see where it is all leading, can't we.

Anyone who is a net tax contributor is welcome to stay in England, irrespective of nationality. Anyone who isn't please make arrangements to leave.

I guess we taxpayers in Wales rather agree.

Times are indeed a'changing.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post .... one thing though I'm a bit doubtful of the no Irish story. No doubt there was anti-irish sentiment but would anyone be daft enough to put up a sign? That would invite a brick through the window.

BTW the only photograph of such a sign was actually a mock-up produced for a John Lydon album cover

Anonymous said...

The no Irish stuff is an urban myth I'm glad to say and you are incorrect about Jermyn Street - named after Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans apparently.

Redhead said...

Cneifiwr said...

Anon@18.06 - I stand corrected. I remember hearing this story in connection with the wave of anti-German hysteria which broke out after the sinking of the Lusitania when, it was, said, there were even cases of people stoning dachshunds.

I am sure I remember hearing about the "No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs" signs as a child, and there are plenty of references to the practice. It is also the title of Lord Taylor of Warwick's autobiography.

What is beyond doubt is that there was plenty of discrimination directed at the Irish, Jamaicans and others.

Alun Lenny said...

I recall seeing a sign in a pub near Fishguard in the 1980s which proclaimed: "No hippies, gypsies or potato pickers." Even if one accepts the stereotypical appearance of the first two categories during that era, one wonders how you'd recognise a potato picker?

Redhead said...

No blacks, no Irish, No Dogs was a common sight in boarding houses in Brixton during the first wave of (assisted passage) immigration from the West Indies. West Indian migrants had been "housed" in a disused underground station near the London suburb.

As a result, West Indians clubbed together to buy houses because they could not rent - in Brixton. So, they ended up (through hard work) owning the very houses people refused to rent to them!

Anonymous said...

Having lived and worked in the the East End of London for nealy a third of my working life I was very surprised to read the comments about about No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs being an urban myth. Having been active in the Anti Nazi League back in the 1970s I remember the phrase was widely used to make it clear that the racism experienced by Bengali people in places such as Brick Lane was nothing new and part of the experience that many ethnic groups had faced when they arrived in the UK over time and was something to be challenged. A quick look at google threw up a number of items about the phrase.

Mary Higgins recalled "no blacks, no dogs, no Irish signs when she reached London in 1960. She trained as a nurse ...

Another post states , "When my mum first came to Britain from Jamaica in the 60s, overt racism was just a normal part of her day-to-day experience. She never tires of telling me about the famous "No blacks, no Irish, no dogs" signs that landlords put up on property.

Five minutes quickly found quotes from people from that era who remember the phrase being used.

Can those who claim it is an urban myth please provide evidence to support their assertion or is this revisionist attempt to rewrite history?

Cneifiwr said...

Thank you Anon@8.22 - I've trawled through some internet sites, and it looks as though there is a concerted attempt going on to portray this as a liberal conspiracy theory - the discrimination and overt racism which so many people can remember never happened. I wonder who stands to gain from this rewriting of history?

towy71 said...

When I first came to Wales in the early 70s there were pubs and caf├ęs in Carmarthen that had the "No blacks, Irish, gypsies, hippies or dogs" but that was fine they mostly had shit food and bad beer anyway ;-)

Cneifiwr said...

Welsh Not British - I think there was a link missing from your post.

Welsh not British said...

Here's Calum Higgins lying on leaflets he distributed to residents back in August.

Anonymous said...

Welsh not British I am sure Calum Higgins will take insults from you as a complement.