In a Conservative Party leaflet, issued during a recent bye-election in Rushden, Northamptonshire, the claim was made that, of the 52,000 new homes to be build in North Northamptonshire over the next few years, “up to a third is estimated to be for migrant workers from Eastern Europe”. This figure has also been widely canvassed by the Conservative Member of Parliament for Wellingborough, Peter Bone.
The claim is without any factual or evidential basis and is disputed by both a senior council officer in a north Northamptonshire Council and by the North Northamptonshire Development Company.
In confidential e-mails to me from these two independent sources they clearly state “… some are making false assumptions”, “I have not heard of this before… there are certainly no targets or estimates regarding the occupiers of affordable or indeed market homes…NNDC is not aware of and does not believe there is any substance to (this)”.
A possible explanation for the 30% figure is that there has been deliberate or unwitting confusion with the 30% target for affordable housing, which will go overwhelmingly to local people. However, one of the sources also indicted that this could be either a misunderstanding or “someone has been mischievous”.
Whatever the explanation for this utterly false, bogus and untrue “30% migrant worker” figure, its reproduction by the Conservative Party in an election leaflet, and canvassed widely by a Conservative MP, will no doubt have the effect of further stoking up hostility to migrant workers, in a context in which they are already being vilified, attacked and misrepresented. This is a deliberate “playing” of an anti-migrant worker “card” to gain votes, plays on people’s fears and prejudices and is presented as an argument against new housing developments in the area (there may be legitimate arguments against development, some of which I share, but this should not be one of them). This 30% figure is now becoming widely accepted locally, despite it being totally untrue and without any evidence whatsoever to substantiate it.
In such a context I would expect the Conservative Party to act more responsibly and resist the temptation of inflaming hostility and racism against European Union migrant workers, especially as there are millions of UK residents also living and working in the EU who could also come under similar threat and vilification in the future, especially in the context of growing economic insecurity across Europe.
I know there will also be many Conservatives who will also be dismayed by this anti-migrant worker stance their party is taking – particularly those with family members, friends or work colleagues whose origins are from Europe. Migrant workers from the EU, and other immigrants to the UK, have a long and distinguished history of contributing to our economy and society and there are many who have leading positions in, or who are members of, all political parties – including the Conservative Party.
David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, has made it clear on many occasions that racism is completely unacceptable and we should not tolerate racism in any walk of life or society.
I call upon David Cameron and the Conservative Party to investigate these cases of misleading and inaccurate anti-migrant worker statements and take action to eliminate racism from the Conservative Party.