Pandering to reaction

    It is rare for rational debate to figure prominently in the
    run-up to a general election, and this one is proving no different.
    Perhaps we should not be surprised to see the leaders of the two
    main political parties shamelessly attempting to outbid each other
    in a reactionary policy auction over crime and immigration. But we
    should be depressed and angered by it.

    Over the past few weeks, the farcical nature of all pre-election
    campaigning has descended to new depths. On immigration and asylum,
    the socialists (that’s Labour, in case you were wondering) propose
    ID cards, increased deportations, and a skills-based “points”
    system for all immigrants. Successful asylum applicants will also
    lose their right to stay in the UK indefinitely – instead being
    expected to return when their home country is deemed safe.
    Enlightened social policy it is not.

    In response Michael Howard’s Conservatives have lurched even
    further to the right. In an attempt to turn public concern and
    confusion into votes, Howard proposes annual immigration quotas and
    compulsory health checks for many immigrants.

    No doubt Howard is congratulating himself on a plan which
    simultaneously cracks down on immigrants from poor or developing
    countries while leaving those from the developed world largely
    unaffected.

    There is little more illumination to be found on crime. Labour
    promises ever more punitive strategies to tackle antisocial
    behaviour including “drink banning orders” and alcohol disorder
    zones. Antisocial families will receive “intensive rehabilitation”
    and parenting programmes, followed by eviction if they fail to
    improve.  Howard’s mantra is simple: “Build more prisons and fewer
    criminals will be free to commit crime. It’s common sense.”

    Yes, there is concern about immigration, antisocial behaviour
    and crime. And yes, politicians are there to reflect and act upon
    the wishes and needs of the general public. But what Blair and
    Howard fail to realise is that the general public is nowhere near
    as prejudiced and hysterical as the tabloids would have them
    believe. By pandering to an extreme minority – largely created and
    sustained by the right wing press – the mainstream parties simply
    lose the confidence of the majority, who see their ever-more
    extreme posturing for the dishonest rubbish that it is. Politics
    like this is patronising and dangerous, and we deserve better. 

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