Posted on October 01st 2013
No one should be in any doubt of the severity of the latest threat to a progressive and sound immigration system in the UK. The speeches from Theresa May and Chris Grayling at the Tory Party conference at the end of September signalled an all-out assault on the Human Rights Act and the European Charter on Human Rights.
In 2002, as chair of the Tories, Theresa May told the annual conference that they must shed the image of being the “nasty party” or face years in the wilderness. Well, eleven years later, she has come full circle and declared it’s gloves off time as the nastiness gets cranked up.
She has a certain style of policy announcement. First she gives an example, an atypical example, extreme and usually unique or thereabouts. Veracity of the example is often optional, if it serves the purpose she requires (remember the cat?). This time is was the two Abus – Qatada and Hamza. Extrapolating from these two headline grabbing cases, she takes a leap towards taking away human rights from the entire populace. As usual, she omitted to mention anything positive about the Human Rights Act at all, whatsoever, nothing. For her, human rights are a pain in the neck, there isn't anyone who's benefitted from leglislated protection of rights and these hard won laws should be undone by a small unelected clique as quickly as possible.
Then, she turned on Article 8 of the ECHR, returning to the substance of the previous year’s speech. She bemoaned the number of appeals against UKBA / Home Office decisions that have been won on Article 8 grounds. She ignored the fact that appeals won are chiefly as a result of poor decision making and declared that any future Tory Government would scrap the Human Rights Act and then try to take the UK’s signature off the ECHR. In her polemical rush to condemngain she ignored any positive side of Article 8.
These threats, while being made by a minister who is frustrated at having to share power with the Liberal Democrats, need to be taken seriously and opposed at every opportunity. Although the reactions of the other two mainstream Parties have yet to be heard, it should be expected that both the LibDems and Labour will oppose these measures, but neither have seen fit to pledge resistance to the proposals yet. But anyone looking to depend on the result of a General Election over such an important matter would be wrong-headed. The election, afterall, is likely to be primarily fought on the economy.
We need an immediate campaign as well as the more long term existing strategies on defending immigration and human rights. The Immigration Bill must become a target for civil society, people and organisations, faith groups, trade and student unions to mobilise around.
It just so happened that over the summer, JCWI, working alongside Lee Jas[per of the South London Immigration Monitor, put a lot of work into creating a new coalition of groups to do just that. A new organisation which will make sure that the xenophobia employed by Theresa May and others like her doesn’t go unchallenged. The Movement Against Xenophobia (MAX) has had a couple of initial meetings, we are still working at drawing together a coalition strong enough to stop the Immigration Bill. We also have an eye on the two coming elections: the European election in May next year and the general election a year later.
There will be an initial public meeting of MAX in the House of Commons on Wednesday 16 October (7pm - 9pm) There are regular planning meetings organised (next one is Wednesday 9 October, early evening) and we have a scratch website with notices, list of supporting organisations and individuals and the founding statement of MAX. We also have a facebook group you can join.
The conference speech yesterday was a wake-up call. MAX is a call to arms.