Phil Woolas – front man for Labour Party racism

Newly-appointed immigration minister Phil Woolas is the current front man for a very nasty racist British Labour government that is facing a downturn in the economy and turning on the traditional scapegoat in times of domestic difficulty – the foreigner. In Phil Woolas it has found its man. Susan Davidson reports.

He is MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth which has a high Pakistani and Kashmiri population. He says, ‘It’s had a race riot, it’s had a huge British National Party (BNP) presence and it’s a marginal seat. It’s a complete crucible but we’ve never had a BNP councillor – I hope I’ve had something to do with that by getting in and getting dirty’.

Woolas gets very dirty indeed by playing the BNP at its own game. ‘We need a tougher immigration policy and we need to stop seeing it as a dilemma. It’s not. It’s easy. I’m going to do my best to help the British back to work. Britain has to get working again. The easiest thing for an employer to do is to employ an immigrant. We need to help them to change that.’

Woolas poses as the straight talker who is going to get things sorted out. ‘It’s been too easy to get into this country in the past and it’s going to get harder,’ he says, while at the same time he also wants to ‘be nice to people who do come and settle here’. But Woolas’ record is one of racist swagger and British supremacy and he specialises in provocative sound bites that hit the headlines of the tabloid papers and get him interviewed in the broadsheets. He has attacked the organisations that defend asylum seekers and attacked the European Convention on Human Rights. This is the man who called Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor of London, ‘naïve’ because he proposed considering an amnesty for immigrants who have worked and lived in London without full legal permission for some years.

Altogether Woolas is a useful bully appointed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown because he is ‘outspoken’ and because of his claim that dealing with immigration is his ‘lifelong purpose’ since his support for the Anti Nazi League in 1976.

Recently, however, there was a sudden cancellation of Woolas’ appearance on the BBC Question Time. Woolas had just made a pledge to follow Tory policy and put a limit on immigration into Britain and also stated that the population of Britain must not rise from the current 61 million to 70 million. It seems that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith pulled Woolas from Question Time, uncertain about letting this ‘shock jock’ off the leash in front of a BBC audience.

He was replaced by Roy Hattersley, retired former Deputy Labour Party Leader and Shadow Home Secretary. Hattersley had an active role in implementing racist immigration law throughout his time in parliament and, like Woolas today, rationalised immigration controls saying ‘Without integration, limitation is inexcusable, without limitation, integration is impossible’.

Today Phil Woolas takes on the role of the brave vanguard who will ‘bloody well’ talk about immigration but in truth he is but the latest in a long line of Labour Party representatives, pushing this line of ‘stopping the BNP’ by beating it at its own game. David Blunkett banged this drum in 2004; then last year it was Margaret Hodge, Children’s Minister and MP for Dagenham in Essex, who said that the ‘white working class’ would turn to voting for the BNP if Labour ignored their concerns about immigration. This year Hazel Blears is saying the same.

The Labour Party has always been racist and imperialist, and in government it has passed legislation and driven through policies to try to ensure immigration is a tap that can be turned on and off as capitalism demands. With capitalism in crisis, Woolas is the front man for the latest offensive against immigrant workers and asylum seekers.

FRFI 206 December 2008 / January 2009


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