Friday, 31 October 2008

Conservatives accused of stoking the fires of hatred and xenophobia against Migrant Workers

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[1] and we should not tolerate racism in any walk of life or society[2].

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.



  1. Not for the first time Cllr Crofts you have chosen to misrepresent clear factual evidence and demonstrate your ignorance of the facts. I challenge you to publish this comment and allow readers to see for themselves an example of your lack of knowledge.

    Far from your disgraceful and baseless claim that the Conservatives are stoking hatred or xenophobia, the party has simply restated information on this subject released by the Government - however my understanding it the figure released is for all migration, not just that from EU member states.

    The fact is the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) issued information on 16th March 2007 that clearly stated:

    "About 33 per cent of the household growth up to 2026 is attributable to net migration into England." You can read it for yourself: New projections of households for England and the regions to 2029. The Conservative assertion about one third of new homes being required to cope with migration is accurate.

    I now call upon you to retract your comments and apologise for your shameful, misleading and inaccurate attempt to smear the Conservatives.

    I also challenge your sources - the council officer and the member of NNDC - to put a name to their comments publicly and withdraw the comments you have cited.

  2. The Conservative leaflet I referred to stated quite clearly "up to a third (of homes) is estimated to be for migrant workers from Eastern Europe".

    Even by you own admission this is wrong and widely inaccurate as you admit that the 30% certainly includes those from all EU countries, not just Eastern Europe. But you are even more wrong than this. The net migration figure includes people moving in (migrating) into England from everywhere - including internal migration from other parts of the UK. This is the danger of using national dat of this kind, with fully understanding what it is refering to.

    By no stretch of even the wildest imagination would one thid of homes in England or Northa Northamtonshire be for "migrant workers from Eastern Europe", as claimed in the leaflet - as you, Peter Bone MP and the Conservative Party know only too well.

    The migration data you refer to also gives three projections for such overall migration into England: (effectively high, medium and no migration, based on different assumptions). The leaflet, of course, does not refer to these assumptions and the different estimates, but only quotes the highest estimate; the leaflet also refers specifically to "North Northamptonshire", when we are talking estimates for the whole of England. This all adds up to a deliberate and gross distortion and misuse of the data.

    Irrespective of the data however, I would also serious question why this “30%” figure is being quoted at all. There is little doubt that it is being used to garner votes and to stir up hostility to the developments in North Northamptonshire - based on prejudice and distortion. Its effects will also be to generate even more hostility towards migrant workers. Is this what you want? You know that feeling is running high on this issue, that prejudice is rife - it is therefore vital to be responsible and accurate in presenting information. This, the Conservative Party is failing to do!! Shame on you for playing the race/xenophobia card in this way!

  3. Regardless of the things pointed out by Paul - the conservatives are wrong to deduce that a third of the new houses will be for migrant workers at the expense of "British" workers... the DCLG has said that growth of housing is effectively 33% bigger because of incoming migrants, so if these migrants were taken out of the equation, that additional 33% would not be there in the first place. Thus "British" people are unaffected. And to be honest, of the proposed 52000 'homes' (of which exactly how many will be affordable for average working class people?!) how exactly do you think you will convince non-paranoid non-daily mail readers that 17610 of them will house Eastern European immigrants? What you have here is essentially the conservative party whipping up xenophobia (which is abhorrent in itself) on a nonsensical issue - now who was is that said that Socialists are "intellectually bankrupt". Wipe the foam from your mouth and sort yourselves out.

  4. I fail to see how Tony Sharp can, with a straight face, accuse Cllr Crofts of misrepresentation. By his own admission the figure was inaccurate - how can he then go on and claim that it's an official Government figure?

    Cllr Sharp must be well aware that there is a serious undercurrent of mistrust of migrants from Eastern Europe already in the minds of many in Wellingborough - in my experience this is far more widespread than fear or mistrust of other racial groups - and he cannot be so naive as to believe that this inaccurate statement will do anything than exacerbate this situation.

    I notice that on his own 'blog he has chosen to turn off comments for his post on this particular subject - a move he claims was necessitated by comments from BNP supporters, when the truth is far more likely to be that he fears a quite reasonable backlash from right-thinking members of the community.