Tag Archives: immigration

What Noughties Labour Left Behind

Ed Miliband sometimes sounds like he’s running against Tony Blair for the leadership rather than against David Cameron for the premiership; Miliband’s speeches should emphasise the persistent values at the heart of his party and the principles on which it was founded.

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One of the key defences used by both Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg is that obstacles such as the deficit have been left behind by the Labour Party and must be ‘cleaned up’ by the Government. Cameron used his first House of Commons speech as Prime Minister to emphasise this argument, and it has remained a frequent response to criticism from the opposition during Prime Minister’s Questions. However repetitive this argument might be, the coalition’s desire to emphasise the inherited failings of its predecessor is politically understandable. What is more curious is Labour leader Ed Miliband’s apparent enthusiasm for doing the same thing.

Upon assuming the role, a new party leader might be expected to give a speech or two in which, by criticising old policies or established members of the party, they attempt to create a sense of renewal and innovation. But Miliband has repeatedly introduced Labour’s record – and, in his view, its failings – into the discourse on numerous issues over the course of his leadership. There have been frequent admissions by the Labour leader regarding the mistakes he believes were made by his party’s government. According to Miliband, Labour was wrong on issues such as the economy, immigration and Iraq. Leaving aside what one may thinking about Labour’s previous approaches to these and any other issues, it seems reasonable to wonder why Miliband is so keen, insistent even, on reminding everybody about his party’s failures, real or perceived.

It has been suggested that Miliband’s recent remarks to the Fabian Society, which took a similarly apologetic approach, are part of an ‘attempt to distance himself from elements of the last government’s record considered toxic by many strategists.’ While it is important for Miliband to be honest and self-critical about his party’s shortcomings, there is something self-defeating about his constant referral back to New Labour’s record if his aim is to disassociate himself from it. These kinds of apologies can be useful in the first year or so of opposition as a way to rebrand, but after three years out of power, Labour needs to focus on establishing its new approach and produced a clear pitch to the electorate about its policies. Labour’s Policy Review should eventually shed more light on the tangible elements of the party’s approach, but Miliband should nevertheless emphasise the future rather than dwell on the past in the meantime.

Of course, Labour has already made policy suggestions on various issues, but these often focus on ‘learning lessons’ and accepting hard truths about Labour’s past efforts. For example, on immigration, Miliband told the Fabian Society that during the premierships of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown ‘high levels of migration were having huge effects on the lives of people in Britain – and too often those in power seemed not to accept this. The fact that they didn’t explains partly why people turned against us in the last general election.’ And on the economy: ‘One Nation Labour has learnt the lessons of the financial crisis. It begins from the truth that New Labour did not do enough to bring about structural change in our economy to make it work for the many, not just the few. It did not do enough to change the rules of the game that were holding our economy back.’ In these remarks, Miliband is trying to demonstrate the heightened self-awareness and self-improvement of ‘One Nation Labour’ in contrast to the old and often mistaken ‘New Labour’. Yet this ploy, along with the attempt to play down Labour’s record by giving it extra attention in speeches, treats the electorate with little respect. Voters remember New Labour, favourably or not, and they will not be convinced that there are no similarities at all between the brands ‘New’ and ‘One Nation’ any more than they will forget the successes and limitations of Blair and Brown.

Perhaps most disappointing, however, is that Miliband and his strategists seem to have assumed that the argument over New Labour’s record was lost along with the 2010 election. Indeed, Miliband’s tone contains none of the positivity exhibited by his predecessor in the last days of the 2010 campaign, during which antipathy towards the party was exceedingly high. Despite Labour’s damaged image at the end of thirteen years in power, Gordon Brown retained a sense of pride in his party’s accomplishments in this speech, without any of the obligatory qualifiers and ‘howevers’ that seem to accompany the current leader’s reminiscing monologues. Both the content and the delivery of Brown’s speech demonstrate that celebrating New Labour’s record is politically credible and potentially convincing. Even if Miliband feels morally or politically obliged to remind everybody of how poor he believes Labour’s performance has been in the past, he should also feel more confident about celebrating such political events as the minimum wage, the renovation of thousands of schools or the cancellation of developing world debt.

Ed Miliband sometimes sounds like he’s running against Tony Blair for the leadership rather than against David Cameron for the premiership. To correct this, Miliband’s speeches should emphasise the persistent values at the heart of his party and the principles on which it was founded. Crucially, he should not be afraid ask David Cameron what the coalition is doing to maintain and build on the progress in healthcare and education left behind by the Labour government.

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Photo credit: Policy Network

Race For Life: Chasing Racism Out of British Media

It is time for the British media to stop chasing immigrants out of this country; there is no running away from the ultimate truth that when life for humans began, we were all the same race.

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Xenophobia media racism daily mail

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Every individual is born in to this world a certain race, an identifiable race that will be attached to them for life.

Race may be defined as a group of humans who share the same ethnicity. Racism is intolerance of a certain ethnic group in the form of prejudice and discrimination, typically a result of one’s belief that their race is superior to another. The ultimate product of extreme race-hate is genocide, an unforgettable occurrence that has marked tragic scars in history. Merely acknowledging the immoral and damaging nature of racism however simply is not enough. What truly demands recognition is the root of racism that is so prominently embedded within British soil.

More than half a century after immigration was introduced to the United Kingdom, the nation remains insecure about the matter. Such insecurity can be justifiably argued to be the result of the media. To put it frankly, it is no secret that some aspects of the British media induce the idea that our nation is threatened by foreigners; the Daily Mail being perhaps the boldest of perpetrators, frequently splashing racist headlines on the front page such as labelling British Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah a ‘plastic Brit’. Most unfortunately, it is one of the most popular newspapers in Britain with nearly two million daily readers.

Whilst the purpose of media in theory is to broadcast and publish current affairs to the populace, what it chooses to shine light on inevitably influences public opinion. Researchers on behalf of the University of Cardiff examined 974 newspaper articles from 2000-2008, found that of all stories concerning British Muslims, 36 percent were with regard to terrorism, 26 percent considered Islam to be “dangerous” or “backward”, and “references to radical Muslims outnumber[ed] references to moderate Muslims by 17 to one”.

Furthermore, writing for The Guardian in late July of this year, Joseph Harker published a highly enlightening article  that explores the story of the ‘second big prosecution where men in Derby have preyed on teenage girls’, whilst highlighting the correlation between the race of those involved in the crime with the amount of media attention the case received:

‘Of the eight predators, seven were white, not Asian. And the story made barely a ripple in the national media’

The correlation is profoundly enhanced when Harker proceeds to note how the infamous Rochdale “Asian sex gang” ‘made the front page of every national newspaper’, which undeniably contributed to furthering the negative stereotype of the Asian community.

An unarguable conclusion can thus be made here, and it is that the British media is negatively and detrimentally dictating the definition of a Muslim to the general public. This is utmost signified by the evidence in the recent findings that, ‘75 per cent of non-Muslims now believe Islam is negative for Britain, and 63 per cent don’t disagree that “Muslims are terrorists.”’

The Leveson Inquiry did accentuate the fact that it is time for the British media to undergo change, with the most prominent outcome being the necessitation of efficacious scrutiny.  Change as such however, revolved chiefly around the media’s responsibility to respect privacy and not exploit illegitimate evidence. Writing in July of this year, Dr Nafeez Ahmed produced an article explaining why the Leveson Inquiry must also investigate anti-Muslim bigotry, and how racism within the media can be eradicated.

He first suggests the further involvement of bodies such as the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and Equality and Human Rights Commission to participate in effectively regulating the media, for instance through ‘ensuring broader impartiality and fairness in media coverage’ and being able to ‘launch independent investigations and impose fines’.

Whilst an increase in regulation may physically disable media bodies from writing racist remarks, merely stifling the perpetrators won’t actually change their attitude. This is why further research by Dr Ahmed discovered there to be a general consensus on the ‘need to reform wider media culture in general’. Whilst the fact that there are only five weekly columnists from ethnic minorities within the British media justifies Dr Ahmed’s argument that ‘the biggest challenge of all is minority underrepresentation’ , the problem that demands confrontation is the ignorance of journalists and those behind the press; only with proper training and education does understanding arise. It is lack of understanding of other cultures that has created a nation insecure of immigrants. It is poor social integration measures that have limited people’s ability to overcome ethnic differences and realise that race is irrelevant.

It is time for the British media to stop chasing immigrants out of this country, because there is no running away from the ultimate truth that when life for humans began, we were all the same race.

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Photo Credit: malias

Australia’s Multiculturalism: Integrated or Racist?

Multiculturalism in Australia has flourished over the years and brought many positive contributions to its society. But the road to achieving an appreciation of multiculturalism is still a challenge.

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Australia Nationalism Flag Multiculturalism

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According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 26 per cent of the Australian population was born overseas and 20 per cent of Australians have at least one parent born overseas (please note these statistics are based on the number of people who provided this information). We have 400 or more languages spoken at home and over 100 religions are practised by Australians (these statistics were supplied to me by the ABS).  The top ten countries of birth for the overseas born population are the United Kingdom, New Zealand, China (not including Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Italy, Vietnam, Philippines, South Africa, Malaysia and Germany.

Migration

Early migrants originated mostly from England and Ireland and other European countries such as Germany. During the Gold Rush era in the 1850s, many migrants from around the world came seeking fortunes. The Chinese were among the first non-European migrants to arrive in Australia. Some Chinese migrants settled in Australia and formed societies, becoming a new community in Australia.  In 1901, the states of Australia voted to form the Federation of Australia. At that time, Australia was surging with nationalism, the Australian government aimed to preserve an Anglo-centric society and culture and thus the Federal Parliament passed the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 or known as the “White Australia Policy”. The act sought to “place certain restrictions on immigration and… for the removal… of prohibited immigrants”.  White Australia Policy officially ended in 1976 under the Goth Whitlam Government.

A large wave of migration surged after the Second World War when Europeans from countries such as Italy, Greece, Poland, Germany, Turkey, and the Netherlands migrated to Australia to start a new life. In 1949, many Chinese fled China when the Communist government took power.

Migratory shift turned to Asia in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Many Vietnamese left Vietnam after the war, while a large wave of Cambodians escaped Pol Pot’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime. When East Timor declared independence in 1975, Indonesian troops invaded East Timor and captured the capital city Dili. This prompted many East Timorese to flee. Migration from the Balkans rose during the Yugoslav Wars and Chinese migration surged again after the Tiananmen Square Incident and post 1997 when Hong Kong was transferred back to China. Other migrants came from The Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.

Recently, Australia has been receiving a new wave of migrants from areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Burma and countries from the Horn of Africa. These are our new and emerging communities, most of them escaped from war, famine and persecution.

Multiculturalism Today

Multiculturalism has made many significant changes in Australian society.  It has contributed to the local and national economy by contributing heavily to the restaurant and tourism industries, involvement in politics and government, and by sharing their culture, traditions and food with the Australian population. Many members from multicultural communities participate in community work and take leadership roles, promoting multiculturalism and facilitating cross-cultural understanding between their community and the wider community. Moreover, Australia has many community and not-for-profit organisations dedicated to supporting migrant communities.

Multiculturalism is strongly encouraged in Australia.  Each year, Canberra hosts the National Multicultural Festival. A national day called Harmony Day  celebrates Australian diversity, and an annual activity called Refugee Week  celebrates and recognises the positive impact refugees have made to Australian society. The government has developed initiatives such as the Australian Multicultural Council to encourage multicultural community members to participate in government policy consultation.

Despite these initiatives, multiculturalism is not always welcomed. A recent report completed by the University of Western Sydney surveyed 12,512 people from around Australia and revealed that almost half of them have negative views towards Muslims. This negativity was also directed at Asians (23.8%), Indigenous Australians (27.9%), Africans (27%) and Jewish people (23.3%) (results from the article can be read here,  and details of the survey through here). Racial tensions have led to instances of violence, such as the attacks on Indian international students and the infamous 2005 Cronulla Riots. Approximately 5000 Australians, mostly of Anglo and Celtic background, gathered to fight for Australian pride and “reclaim their beaches” after two Middle Eastern youths assaulted a Cronulla life guard. People with a Middle-Eastern background or appearance were also targeted.

Multiculturalism has made Australian society more vibrant, unique and has enabled us to learn and appreciate different cultures, languages, and beliefs, while becoming friends with people from different backgrounds. However, we are still a long way from achieving social harmony because there are still cultural barriers and discrimination that exist between mainstream Australian society and multicultural communities. Misunderstanding and ignorance are still prevalent in our society because we do not attempt to learn and understand different cultures in an open-minded and objective manner.

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Photo Credit: Johnny Jet

Security & Multicultural Integration In The UK: A Conflation Of Agendas

The UK’s approach to multiculturalism has contributed to homegrown Islamist terrorism in the UK. Do you agree?
{Department of War Studies, King’s College London}

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Mohammed Siddique Khan

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This essay forms part of our series on multiculturalism.

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There is a terrorist threat in the United Kingdom (UK) that comes not just from foreign nationals, but also from its own citizens.[1]  In an attempt to understand and counter this threat there has been a conflation of the integration and counterterrorism agendas, this has resulted in multiculturalism being identified as the barrier to both.[2]  The assertion that multiculturalism has contributed to homegrown terrorism in the UK is incomplete and simplifies the complex process of radicalisation and how that might translate into violent action.  Multiculturalism may create an environment that is favorable to the development of risk factors associated with radicalisation, namely a crisis in identity leading to the adoption of extremist ideology; but this does not fully consider relevant social drivers.  Also, it cannot be empirically shown that holding radical views will necessarily lead to committing or supporting acts of terrorism.

Multiculturalism means that ethnic minority groups require unique treatment and support from the state in order to fully exercise their citizenship.[3]  In the case of the UK, the policies which shaped multiculturalism came out of the 1960s when there was a realisation that many immigrants who had initially come to Britain for work did not plan on returning to their countries of origin.[4]  These policies were further developed in the wake of the 1981 riots, focusing on the needs of specific ethnic groups and moving towards a more racially equitable society.[5]  In recent years there has been significant criticism of multiculturalism in the UK, some have argued that it has decreased cross cultural dialogue and that it has driven communities to live separate lives from one another.[6]  These recent criticisms have also taken the form of security concerns, as articulated by Prime Minister David Cameron, who has argued that a lack of national identity in the UK has opened the door to extremism for young Muslims.[7]

The revised Prevent Strategy, the UK’s community based approach to stopping extremism, is critical of multiculturalism, placing an emphasis on integration, democratic participation, and greater dialogue between communities as essential in fighting extremism.[8]  This assessment makes a significant assumption that the key to fighting terrorism is a strong, common identity.  There is evidence to suggest that an identity crisis can serve as a cognitive opening for individuals to embrace extremist ideology. Many young Muslims in Europe, who are second or third generation, may feel alienated from their parents traditional values but also do not feel welcome in Western societies because of perceived discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantage. [9]  The move towards extremism by young British Muslims is a rejection not only of perceived British or Western culture and values, but a rejection of previously held community values represented by their parents and traditional religious institutions.[10]  The concept of the ummah, or global Muslim community, promoted by Islamists, offers an alternative identity to both the world of their parents and Western society.[11]  The key point, missed by critics of multiculturalism, is that the global ummah is a foreign concept and external force to the communities comprised of ethnic minorities, which multiculturalism supports.  While there are mosques in the UK that have been connected with terrorism,[12] there are also examples of minority ethnic communities showing resilience against extremist views and violence, showing the capacity for self-policing.  The 7/7 bombers were expelled from mosques,[13] and reformed Islamist, Ed Husain, reflects on similar experiences when he was trying to propagate extremist views as a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, in the ethnically Bangladeshi, East London Mosque.[14]  Extreme elements that may exist within a mosque often times have little to do with the officially hierarchy, they are outside elements who are operating under the radar of mosque administration.[15]  It would seem then that the problem is not with the existence of distinct ethnic communities under multiculturalism, but with the capacity of leadership within those communities to confront extremist elements.

Linking multiculturalism to terrorism also looks to ideology as being an important factor contributing to moves towards violent extremism.  Critics of multiculturalism argue that even non-violent extremism can create an atmosphere that supports terrorism and can popularise ideas that terrorists use.[16]  However, to be radical is to reject the status quo of society; this does not always mean violence.[17]  It would be incorrect to think of the radicalisation process as a neat, linear progression from an identity crisis, leading to the adoption of extremist ideology, leading directly to participation in acts of terrorism. In fact, a major debate is whether groups that promote non-violent radical ideas are one stop on a conveyor belt towards terrorism or whether they serve as a firewall or safety-valve, preventing moves towards violence.[18]  Associating homegrown terrorism with multiculturalism misses this critical link, the connection between radicalisation and terrorism.  In comparing these two distinct groups, non-violent radicals and terrorist, there is evidence that both aspire to some of the same ideological points, the concept of kuffar (non-believers), the goals of a Caliphate and Sharia law, exposure to and promotion of similar texts and thinkers, and a belief that violent jihad can be justified.[19]  Ideological differences in these groups are related to context in which religious points are understood.[20]  Perceived discrimination, which could create a cognitive opening for extremist views to take hold,[21] could be a factor in a divided, multicultural society.  However, non-violent radicals and terrorists also experience the same levels of perceived discrimination.[22]  Even if multiculturalism creates an environment which supports the adoption of extremist ideology it still cannot be shown that ideology will necessarily translate into action.

A focus simply on identity and ideology also ignores the social factors that have been shown to play a role in for individuals pursuing terrorism.  The 7/7 bombers were all seemingly well integrated members of British society.  Mohammed Sidique Kahn, the group’s leader, grew up in a religiously lenient household and married a non-Muslim woman.[23]  All of the group’s members experienced alienation and an identity crisis; however their move towards violence did not occur until after they came together.[24]  Groups are helpful in ensuring prospective terrorists that their choice is the correct one.[25]  Supporting acts of terrorism carries significant risk; before someone takes part in such action social relationships are very important.[26]  Social networks present the opportunity for ideas to be translated into action.[27]  Many radicalised individuals watch extremist videos depicting graphic and violent content, but the difference between terrorists is that they often watch those videos in groups ‘creating a culture of violence.’[28]  Other social factors such as personal experiences, friendship, and group dynamics also play a role in influencing an individual to pursue acts of terrorism.[29]  Older men, who speak Arabic and may claim to have links to the global jihad, may be influential over younger, second or third generation Muslims, who have limited knowledge of Islam.[30]  Factors, including an emotional pull, thrill seeking, status and an internal code of honour, and peer pressure might be responsible for the non-violent to violent link.[31]  Furthermore, even if an individual is socialised to commit acts of violence, there is no guarantee that violence means terrorism.[32]

Multiculturalism is a controversial policy in the center of public debate.  Policy makers should have rigorous discussions about what is best for the UK moving forward concerning issues of integration and social cohesion.  There may be many valuable reasons for the pursuit of a stronger British national identity and the reform or elimination of multiculturalism as policy; however what must be avoided is a conflation of the two distinct agendas of integration and counterterrorism.  It cannot be empirically shown that there is a link between multiculturalism and homegrown terrorism.  There are many factors that may contribute to radicalisation, some influenced by multiculturalism; identity and ideology, and some not: social factors.  Even if some factors can be shown to influence radicalisation, radicalisation does not mean violence, and violence does not mean terrorism.

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[1]            HM Government (2011), p. 1

[2]            Meer & Modood (2009), p. 481

[3]            Ibid., p. 479

[4]            Brighton (2007), pp. 5-6

[5]            Thomas (2009), p. 285

[6]            Cantel (2001), p. 9

[7]            ‘State multiculturalism has failed, says David Cameron’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12371994, 9 March 2012

[8]            HM Government (2011), p. 27

[9]            Helmus (2009), p. 81

[10]            Neumann & Rogers (2007), p. 16

[11]            Daalgard-Nielsen (2010), p. 800

[12]            ‘Profile: Abu Hamza’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11701269, 16 March 2012

[13]            Kirby (2007), p. 418

[14]            Husain (2007), p. 115

[15]            HM Government (2006), p. 31

[16]            ‘New Prevent strategy launched’, http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/media-centre/news/prevent-strategy, 16 March 2012

[17]            Bartlett & Miller (2012), p. 2

[18]            Vidino (2010), p. 7

[19]            Bartlett & Miller (2012), pp. 10-12

[20]            Ibid., p. 10.

[21]            Wiktorowicz (no date), pp. 7-8

[22]            Bartlett & Miller (2012), p. 8

[23]            Kirby (2007), p. 417

[24]            Ibid., p. 423

[25]            Helmus (2009), p. 96

[26]            Wiktorowicz (no date), p. 5

[27]            della Porta & Diani (2006), p. 119

[28]            Bartlett & Miller (2012), p. 14.

[29]            European Commission’s Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation (2008), p. 9

[30]            Sageman (2008), p. 79

[31]            Bartlett & Miller (2012), p. 13

[32]            European Commission’s Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation (2008), p. 5

 

Bibliography

Bartlett, Jamie & Miller, Carl (2012), ‘The Edge of Violence: Towards Telling the Difference Between Violent and Non-Violent Radicalization’, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 1-21

Brighton, Shane (2007), ‘British Muslims, multiculturalism and UK foreign policy: “integration” and “cohesion” in and beyond the state’, International Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 1, pp. 1-17

Cantel, Ted (2001), Community Cohesion: A Report of the Independent Review Team, (London: Home Office), http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/communities/pdf/independentreviewteam.pdf, 9 March 2012

Daalgard-Nielsen, Anja (2010), ‘Violent Radicalisation in Europe: What We Know and What We Do Not Know’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Vol. 33, No. 9, pp. 797-814

della Porta, Donatella & Diani, Mario (2006), Social Movements: An Introduction, 2nd ed., (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing)

European Commission’s Expert Group on Violent Radicalisation (2008), Radicalisation Processes Leading to Acts of Terrorism, (Brussels & Luxembourg: European Commission), http://www.ec-ener.eu/views/local/uploads/documents/expert_group_report_violent_radicalisation_final_july_2008.pdf, 19 March 2012

Helmus, Todd (2009), ‘Why and How Some People Become Terrorists’, in Paul K. Davis and Kim Cragin, eds., Social Science for Counterterrorism: Putting the Pieces Together, (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation), pp. 71-111, http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG849/, 19 March 2012

HM Government (2011), Prevent Strategy, (London: Home Office), http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/counter-terrorism/prevent/prevent-strategy/prevent-strategy-review?view=Binary, 9 March 2012

HM Government (2006), Report of the Official Account of the Bombings in London on 7th July 2005, (London: Home Office), http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc0506/hc10/1087/1087.pdf, 17 March 2012

Husain, Ed (2007), The Islamist, (London: Penguin Books)

Kirby, Aidan (2007), ‘The London Bombers as “Self Starters”: A Case Study in Indigenous Radicalization and the Emergence of Autonomous Cliques’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, Vol. 30, No. 5, pp. 415-428.

Meer, Nasar & Modood, Tariq (2009), ‘The Multicultural State We’re In: Muslims, “Multiculture” and the “Civic Re-balancing” of British Multiculturalism’, Political Studies, Vol. 57, pp. 473-497

Neumann, Peter & Rogers, Brooke (2007), Recruitment and Mobilisation for the Islamist Militant Movement in Europe, (London: International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation), http://icsr.info/publications/papers/1234516791ICSREUResearchReport_Proof1.pdf, 19 March 2012

Sageman, Marc (2008), Leaderless JihadTerror Networks in the Twenty-First Century, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press)

Thomas, Paul (2009), ‘Between Two Stools? The Governments “Preventing Violent Extremism” Agenda’, Political Quarterly, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 282-291

Vidino, Lorenzo (2010), Countering Radicalization in America: Lessons from Europe, (Washington: United States Institute of Peace), http://www.usip.org/files/resources/SR262%20-%20Countering_Radicalization_in_America.pdf, 18 March 2012

Wiktorowicz, Quintan (no date), Joining the Cause: al-Muhajiroun and Radical Islam (Rhodes College research paper), http://insct.syr.edu/uploadedFiles/insct/uploadedfiles/PDFs/Wiktorowicz.Joining%20the%20Cause.pdf, 19 March 2012

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The Return of Blue Labour

Ed Miliband’s most recent speeches on immigration and Englishness may well be an attempt to rejuvenate something borrowed, old and Blue but certainly not ‘New’-Blue Labour.

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Ed Miliband

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[dropcap]L[/dropcap]abour has not been shy in commencing numerous self-renewals. In fact the Labour leadership contest was perceived to be one great cathartic exercise to promote fresh ideas and reject certain aspects of the past. It was for this reason Blue Labour was captivating when it began its intellectual rise and seeped into popular mainstream debate. Here was a political project as backward looking as it was forward. To quote one of its architects and lead thinkers, Maurice Glassman, it was re-engaging with the party’s history when Labour’s renewal lied dormant.

Blue Labour was re-launched and popularised by the publication of The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox in 2011 with a foreword from the Labour leader. It was primarily concerned with community not commodity. In this respect it was not too dissimilar to the Big Society and Red Toryism which aimed to detoxify a political brand and suffered similar intellectual booms followed by busts. Commentators and academics were willing to engage with it because it offered a critique of Labour on markets and globalisation and attempted to appeal to voters lost at the 2010 election. According to Glassman, the opposition to traditional Labour values in politics always see “the benefits but not the distress, the efficiencies but not the disruption, the choice but not the coercion of markets whereas Labour has always understood both”. Blue Labour lamented New Labour for being recklessly naïve and aloof about finance capital, but too draconian and managerial when it came to the State.

Aside from presenting Ed Miliband with an exceptional opportunity to appeal to centre-right voters without committing himself to excessive public sector reform agenda, Labour intellectuals believed ‘Blue’ could be the new ‘New’ when it came to achieving cross-class support. However, Blue Labour offered an implausible construction regarding the identity and values of the working classes. Equally, it claimed to appeal to concerns that transcended working and middle class boundaries including austerity, immigration, identity, housing, and ‘a something for nothing’ welfare culture.

It suffered a catastrophic and potentially fatal PR disaster – Lord Glassman. Comments made between April and July last year by Glassman suggested that Britain should freeze immigration and broker a common good with English Defence League supporters. Labour quickly distanced itself from Lord Glassman and the Blue Labour project subdued.

Blue Labour’s restitution can be linked to its key mantra of supporting ‘Faith, Flag and family.’ Another of its architects, Jonathan Rutherford claimed Blue Labour was interested in “a new kind of patriotism, in the value of family and community”. Ed Miliband gave a speech amidst the Diamond Jubilee hype to criticise the parties historic approach to ‘Englishness’ and vowed to do more and talk more about it. He also demonised those on incapacity benefits in a speech on responsibility in June last year in pursuit of the support of the honest family (whatever that means).  More recently, in a speech to IPPR he recognised Labour’s detachment with voter’s immigration concerns. He disregarded studies that found Eastern European migration from 2004 had no impacts on native unemployment or wages or those that found that the new migrants made a substantial and disproportionately positive contribution to the public finances. Instead he chose to acknowledge the political reality of public perception (that hard working families are destabilised by migrant work and New Labour was in-part, responsible). His response was positively Glassman – a re-evaluation of the nature of our economic model. It appears the Blue Labour project (and its perceived political merits) are not easily forgotten.

It is perhaps unwise for Ed Miliband to continue down this tract. One frequent criticism of Blue Labour was that it was too nostalgic, an accusation quickly repudiated by its supporters. A significant amount of its thinking was entrenched within the early history of the Labour party and how the politics of then is fitting for the politics of today. I agree that Blue Labour has no nostalgia for post war old Labour or New Labour. However the presence of nostalgia altogether is undeniable. It flirts romantically with the parties past, constructing politics of virtue and utopian English socialism. It wrongly criticises the doers of post 1945, idolising forgotten heroes and thinkers. I always believe there is a place for history in contemporary politics but Blue Labour remains a construct confused. ‘Small c-conservatism’ mixed with socialism. Against a managerial state but proud to campaign to keep the forests in state ownership. Establishing a particularly English tradition based upon a German model of high levels of democratic interference in the economy. Blue Labour has been useful in getting Labour talking but that is where its utility ends. Blue Labour is more about a ‘politics of anti’ – an intellectual distaste with a great number of issues with little or no competent alternative programmes and Ed Miliband should be wary of trying to re-introduce its romanticism.

The Implications Of Immigration Reform United States v. Arizona

While immigration reform may be less salient an issue than the economy in this election year, the relationship between the executive and the legislature over the course of President Obama’s first term is set to be a recurring feature of debate

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American passport

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[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a provision of an Arizona state law that requires the police to check the immigration status of individuals they stop for offences of any kind.  Simultaneously, however, the court struck down provisions that would, amongst other things, authorise the arrest of immigrants without a warrant for crimes that could lead to deportation. Explaining the decision to strike down elements of the law, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that ‘Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.’ Despite this watering down of Arizona’s law, the court’s decision has nonetheless been met with various criticisms.

On the one hand, conservatives such as Justice Antonin Scalia have gone so far as to argue that all provisions should have been upheld by the court. On the other hand, the Mexican government has articulated concerns that the remaining provision alone could threaten the civil rights of its citizens. Meanwhile, in the context of the US presidential election, the ruling has provided Republican hopeful Mitt Romney with an opportunity to both criticise President Obama’s lack of action on the issue of immigration and defend the right of states to take matters into their own hands.

Romney has responded to the Supreme Court ruling by suggesting that it is the result of states being forced to act because of dithering at a federal level. Romney has argued that because President Obama ‘didn’t act, state and local governments have had to act, the courts have got involved and it’s a muddle.’ As highlighted by commentators, this analysis suggests significant disagreement with the Supreme Court given that the court opinion explicitly prioritises federal law over state law. Moreover, Romney has  advocated state legislation on the issue whilst simultaneously criticising the President for failing to pursue national solutions, stating ‘I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to states, not less’, adding in a statement that ‘I believe that each state has the duty – and the right – to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities.’ The statement, which also maintains the need for a ‘national immigration strategy’, thus reveals an attempt to emphasise both a reverence for small government and the importance of federal involvement.

President Obama’s reaction to the decision shifts emphasis away from state legislation and towards federal solutions, focusing on the importance of progress on the issue in Congress. In a statement, Obama responded to the court decision by saying, ‘What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem.’ This statement follows a speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) last week in which the President said that, ‘In the face of a Congress that refuses to do anything on immigration, I’ve said that I’ll take action wherever I can,’ in reference to an executive order to stop the deportation of young people enacted in mid-June. The President’s remarks can be viewed as a part of his wider effort to motivate Congress into action on the economy, recently centred around a five-point ‘To-Do List’ for the legislature to work on before the summer recess. More broadly, however, there is also an attempt here to draw attention to obstructionism in Congress as an explanation for what Obama’s critics label as his own inaction.

While immigration may be less salient an issue than the economy in this election year, the relationship between the executive and the legislature over the course of President Obama’s first term is set to be a recurring feature of debates until the polls close in November. The ruling in United States v. Arizona has undoubtedly drawn attention to the interlinked relationships between the separated powers, and has served as another point of political contention between President Obama and Mitt Romney.