Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: New-look xenophobia is just as easy to spot

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Smoke clouds engulf the islands yet again over immigration.

Take first the Tory candidate Nigel Hastilow, who agrees with Enoch Powell's foreboding about the chaos that would be unleashed by mass immigration from the Commonwealth. The periodic tensions and eruptions from Brixton to Bradford, have all involved young men born and bred in this country. Most terrorists on these isles have the same pedigree. They were made in Britain.

So too, remember, were Zadie Smith, Oona King, Formula One's Lewis Hamilton, X Factor winner Leona Lewis, Ayub Khan Din who wrote the brilliant Rafta Rafta, and Ian Wright.

Next stop, the nice new Tories. Cameron decouples immigration from race and avoids populism when expressing concern about too many migrants putting too much pressure on our services. One and a half cheers. No more migrants from outside the EU, says he, which to my ears sounds awfully like legalised discrimination against Africans, Iraqis, Arabs, Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis.

We know the laws of the land favour Australians, white South Africans and New Zealanders who, in 1968 were exempted from immigration restrictions. Today we have more American immigrants in this country than Jamaicans, refugees, most, poor things from the Bush regime. No deportation squad ever appears at their doors to drag them off. So please don't tell me we deal in fair and de-racialised terms with immigration.

The growing anti-immigration lobby also claims resistance to Eastern Europeans cannot be described as "racist" for they are whites. True. The attitudes are just xenophobic. Different word, same thing. They are treated as disrespectfully as Caribbeans and Asian immigrants were, and Jews before them. The BBC's Gavin Esler tells me about a joke on the Catherine Tate show, where she plays the chav. She insults people by saying something like: "All your friends are Polish". Poles and Lithuanians are the new blacks, no question.

Local authorities complain, some justifiably, about the strain on resources when there is an inflow. Those people though are also service providers – from street sweepers to care workers. Have the authorities done a cost benefits analysis? Goodness, there would be no traffic wardens in any area if the supply stopped from abroad. Central government should provide extra money when there is a demonstrable need in particular areas.

The whinging about them taking jobs is vile. Even the Mail on Sunday, jeer leader of anti-immigrant Britons, this weekend defended migrant workers picking vegetables seven days a week for £100. And Kelvin Mackenzie, ex editor of the xenophobic Sun defended migrants who do jobs shunned by "British Shirkers".

Lastly, the hysterical projections of an overwhelmed country. We do not know how many Ryanair migrants are leaving; nobody has monitored how much incomers cost the NHS and balanced it against their contribution to that service and social services; businesses have not revealed what percentage of their profits come from cheap, immigrant labour; Schools too must show us proper figures. Trevor Phillips' proposed research into housing policies which will examine whether there is preferential treatment for migrants is an excellent idea. What I see is the private rented sector benefiting hugely from overcharging Eastern Europeans who have to live a dozen to a house.

They say they want an honest debate, which is not possible unless we have these facts. The truth is that, driven by the fanatically anti-migrant Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch, they want only agreement that we must keep people out of this green and pleasant land. Sometimes I too wish they would stay away, the hopeful intrepid workers from elsewhere – we would soon feel their absence and perhaps then appreciate how essential they are to our fat and good lives.

Sir Paul must share the blame

Enough now, this trashing of Heather McCartney, for what exactly? Her detractors seem convinced she had her leg amputated for sympathy and used her remaining leg to trip and trap a widower pop star.

We are daily incited to hate her. The veggie McCartney family is indifferent to this agonized woman who did what millions of others would. She agreed to marry a famous squillionaire with a cute smile.

Remember he pursued and wooed her. Vacuous, he latched on to her causes just as he did with Linda. The boyish looking man was middle aged when he chose Heather and fathered a child. Now, the spoilt and selfish star allegedly seeks custody of their child. So she rages. Wouldn't you?

* I knew nothing about Amber Lone and Michael Judge until they contacted me last month and persuaded me to go watch their play, Romeo in the City, produced by the Theatre Centre in Shoreditch. It was one of those revelatory shows our metropolis throws up.

I perform a show on how life and art collided when as an ardent teenager in Uganda, I played Juliet to a black Romeo. This production places the same play within another conflicted area- in today's Britain. Romeo is a Somali and Juliet a Pakistani, sharing a locality yet separated. They are Muslims, but racially at war.

As they rehearse, the tragedy within the play bleeds out into the mean streets of the capital.

In the audience were some startlingly hostile, hoodie teenagers who were enraptured. The play now goes into schools and will for sure shake them up. These extraordinary theatre-in-education productions develop real social cohesion and awaken the sensibilities of hardened kids. What a pity the media totally ignores what they do.

Comments