The hidden hands that feed racism

By Daniel Margrain

Those who have been following the flamboyant political showman, Donald Trump, whose heavy-handed approach to demonstrators at his rallies and outrageously racist remarks many are familiar with, might be surprised to learn that similar comments, albeit hidden ostensibly under the cover of liberal respectability, have gone largely unnoticed within media circles. Nine years before the widespread condemnation of Trump’s remarks, Douglas Murray, Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society, echoed Trump when, in an admittedly less demagogic fashion, he argued for the banning of Muslim immigration into Europe.

Murray, who heads the avowedly neoconservative and CIA-funded organization that has links to the US and European far right, has also defended the use of torture by Western intelligence agencies. One might think that leading figures within the political and corporate media establishments – particularly on the liberal-left of the spectrum – would be keen to distance themselves from such a right-wing organization. On the contrary, both the hierarchy within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and political commentators not only cite the Henry Jackson Society when commenting on Islamic affairs, but actually embrace it as well.

The role call of pro-Syria bombing Blairites within the PLP who sit on the Political Council of the Henry Jackson Society include Margaret Beckett, Hazel Blears, Ben Bradshaw, Chris Bryant and Gisela Stuart, while the BBC regularly give air time to Murray on mainstream political discussion and debating programmes like Question Time, This Week, Today and Daily Politics. The organization also acts as a front for the security services via the Quilliam Foundation think tank whose role, in return for tax payers money, is to publicly denounce Muslim organisations and, with the collaboration of the neo-fascist, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson who heads Pegida UK and was formerly the head of the racist and fascist English Defence League), talk up the Jihadi threat. It’s extremely revealing that establishment figures within the hierarchy of the Labour Party who have in the recent past complained about the alleged infiltration of left wing elements within the party, are willing to align themselves with racists and fascists.

The racist outlook of Murray et al and the means to promote it within media circles are far from unique and rarely, if ever, challenged. Former UK diplomat, Craig Murray quoted the “darling of the Mail and the BBC”, Melanie Phillips’ incitement to religious hatred:

“Romney lost because, like Britain’s Conservative Party, the Republicans just don’t understand that America and the west are being consumed by a culture war. In their cowardice and moral confusion, they all attempt to appease the enemies within. And from without, the Islamic enemies of civilisation stand poised to occupy the void…With the re-election of Obama, America now threatens to lead the west into a terrifying darkness.”

To my knowledge, apart from Murray, not a single prominent commentator alluded to Phillips’ Islamophobia and racism.

Another example was the sympathetic treatment the BBC afforded to the ‘doyen of British fascism’, the BNPs Nick Griffin. In 2009, Griffin appeared on the BBC’s flagship political discussion programme, Question Time despite the fact that the Standards Board for England’s 2005 description of the BNP as Nazi was “within the normal and acceptable limits of political debate”. The European Parliament’s Committee on racism and xenophobia described the BNP as an “openly Nazi party”. When asked in 1993 if the party was racist, its then deputy leader Richard Edmonds, who has been convicted for racist violence, said“We are 100 percent racist, yes.”

Prior to his appearance on the programme, Griffin expressed delight with the decision of the BBC to have granted him a major political platform with which to air his party’s views. These views went unchallenged by the other guests on the show that included Labour’s Jack Straw, who had subsequently insisted that female Muslim constituents visiting his constituency office in Blackburn remove their veils and claimed that Pakistani men saw white girls as “easy meat”. At the time of Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, the BBC attracted an audience of almost 8 million viewers, three times its average. Following the publicity generated by Griffin’s appearance, the Daily Telegraph newspaper revealed the results of a UK Gov opinion poll which indicated that 22 percent of British people would “seriously consider” voting for the BNP and that 9,000 people applied to join them after the programme aired.

Many of the individuals who were directly responsible for overseeing Oxbridge-educated Griffin’s appearance – including BBC director-general, Mark Thompson – had themselves been educated at one of two of Britain’s elite educational establishments – Oxford and Cambridge. Griffin, who graduated in law, told the Guardian newspaper that he admired Thompson’s “personal courage” by inviting him. Nicholas Kroll, then director of the BBC Trust – an organization that supposedly represents the interests of the viewing public – was also educated at Oxford. At the time of writing, at least three of the 12 members of the government-appointed trustees, were educated at either Oxford or Cambridge, while the remainder have a background in either law, business or economics. Two years before the Question Time appearance, Griffin had generated a significant amount of publicity following the controversy surrounding Oxford universities decision to allow him a public platform to address students at the universities campus.

Despite the links the establishment has to fascism, the notion that fascist sympathies are rooted within the high echelons of the former has not been widely recognized within public discourse, even though last July, the British royal family were shown giving Nazi salutes as part of a home movie. The problem for the elites is not that these links exist, rather the concern is the possibility that the media will shine a light on these relationships.

As Craig Murray put it:

“It says a huge amount about the confidence of the royal family, that they feel able to respond to their Nazi home movie with nothing other than outrage that anybody should see it…. The royal family is of course only the tip of the iceberg of whitewashed fascist support.”

Fascist ideology is the bedrock on which our political and media culture is deeply embedded. The reality is right-wing establishment think-tanks like the Henry Jackson Society and MigrationWatch UK use racist based arguments around the issue of immigration as as their justification for arguing either for, on the one hand, British withdrawal from the EU or, on the other, for the implementation of greater neoliberal reforms as a precondition for maintaining the countries continued membership within it. This, in turn, provides the intellectual echo chamber for the racist UKIP and BNP as well as the ultra right-wing factions within both of the main political parties.

What this illustrates is the contradictory nature immigration plays as part of the function of the liberal democratic state within capitalism which transcends party political lines. Both the official ‘left’ and ‘right’ are prepared to use false and contradictory arguments around the issue of immigration in order to whip up divisions within society for naked opportunistic short-term electoral gain. Under the New Labour government of Tony Blair, for example, Gordon Brown opened up the UK labour market to potentially millions of workers from the Accession 8 (A8) countries that comprised the former Soviet Bloc as the basis for restoring Britain’s economic status against a backdrop of sustained industrial decline.

Brown did this as the means of addressing Britain’s demographic problems in terms of its ageing population as well as to fill existing skills gaps. However, by the time he had taken over the reigns of power from Blair, he began using the racist language of division by emphasizing the need to secure “British jobs for British workers”. This was after oil refinery workers in 2009 protested against their replacement by foreign workers that he – Brown – encouraged. Short-term electoral interests encourage politician’s to play the race card which does not necessarily correspond with those of their paymasters in the boardrooms of the corporations whose primary concern is to secure the most plentiful, skilled and cheap workers possible.

In pure economic terms, immigrants make a positive contribution, not least because the state has been spared the considerable expense of educating and training them. Political leaders know this and that is precisely why the shrill talk deployed at elections is invariably at odds with the policies they actually implement when in office. That, in turn, is why it is so easy for the bigots within racist parties like UKIP and the BNP to expose the hypocrisy of the mainstream parties while also providing organisations like the Henry Jackson Society and MigrationWatch UK the ammunition they need as their cover for pursuing a racist agenda of their own.

Too readily, those at the top are quick to exploit voters’ concerns about the supposed threat that immigration poses in terms of undermining ‘social cohesion’. But they do this so as to engender a sense of division to make it easier for them to rule over everybody. When tensions arise from time to time, it’s those at the bottom who are routinely condemned for their prejudice and bigotry in the media, whereas the more significant racism which emanates from the policies of those at the top who foment it, goes virtually unnoticed.

It’s not my intention to absolve working class racists of their actions, but rather to point out that the more significant forms of racism is formed in the corporate and media boardrooms, think-tanks and elite political sphere indicative of ruling class power. Although this racism is given political expression in the form of scare stories almost daily in the gutter press of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express that perpetuate them, it’s not restricted to these tabloids. The Chair of MigrationWatch UK, Sir Andrew Green, for example, is regularly granted a media platform in order to push an anti-immigrant agenda, albeit a subtle one.

Similarly the likes of Douglas Murray and Toby Young who newspaper proprietors and TV executives consistently employ to espouse their right-wing views, do a great deal to distill the more overt expressions of racist scare stories so as to appeal to the realms of their middle and upper middle class viewers and readers. It’s deemed irrelevant by corporate executives that the ‘journalists’ they employ proffer spurious and deliberately misleading information, simply that they give their demographic what they think that want to hear and read to increase their customer base and so boost their profits in order to satisfy the demands placed on them by their advertisers.

And that, I submit, is hardly the foundation on which to build a civilized, multi-cultural and inclusive society. Donald Trump may be an oaf and a racist, but is he really much different to the elite that rule us?


17 thoughts on “The hidden hands that feed racism

  1. Daniel : I appreciate your humanistic article here but remember Gordon Brown had absoutley no idea that opening up the country to Immigration from the A8 countries 2 – 3 years before other European nations would result in approximatley a million people from those countries arriving over the 3 years following 2004 …indeed Christian Dustman as it is well known estimated that ‘ maybe ‘ 13 ,000 or 14, 000 would arrive . ..and whatever my personal feelings about the mass immigration that the UK has sustained since 1997 ( mixed – like most people tbh ) …… there is little evidence that it has brought very much of an overall positive fiscal contribution to the nation as measured as nominative GDP . Believe me me it would give me great pleasure if I could stand op and say that it has done but the most agreed upon ( that is unchallenged ) analysis by Robert Rowthorn at UCL ( Nov 2014 updated Nov 2015) states that all ( EU and NON EU) Immigration brings an overall addition to GDP of possibly around £1.18 Billion net annually OR conversley possibly a net fiscal negative of the same amount or most likeley a figure somewhere between the two . Beyond that it is impossible to say . Basically this considerable expansion of our population over the last 17 years has had an almost neutral fiscal effect and I think it is a little disengenous to pretend otherwise at this point .Also lets be clear a heck of a lot of people on the right and various shades of Tory are as mad keen on unending Mass Immigration as people on the left and centre . Metropoltian Liberalism after all knows not not party boundaries . And finally to be honest accusing Migration Watch of pursuing a ‘ racist ‘ agenda might fit in with what the Guardian has told us to think about them over the years but they contain several people of ‘ Migrant ‘ background amongst their number and as far as I can see are pretty straight most of the time on the relevant issues . Something which I can’t say ( sadly ) but would like to about The Migration Lab at Oxford …..


  2. I can understand anyone liking Sir Andrew Green ( he’s a bit staryeyed ) and thus Migrationwatch might appear to be a bit bogeyish yes … but I think the stats in the paragraphs above are pretty difficult to take issue with ….of course large scale immigration if it continues at the present rate might well cause a rupture( eventually ) in the kind of capitalist settlement of the post war era …..but the problem is that even though I might want some kind of more urgently socialist change I’m not 100% convinced that this is the way that brings that about to anyones greater advantage


      1. can you give concrete examples please Daniel …. not playing Devils Advocate but I’ve heard that accusation may times but have never actually managed to work out how and where they gerrymander the facts …and all the stats I’ve given above are not derived from Migrationwatch anyway


      2. I’ve read The New Statesman article you’ve provided the link to and it seems highly technical and all about ‘ variables ‘ , ‘ correlations ‘ and so on : OK so those elements may have some bearing on the issues but to an extent are the arguables of statistical analysis ..I’m sure there could well be (probably are ) people who might equally take issue with The NS’s analysis …..but even then the kind of topics in question ( here = jobs displacement ) are not what I would refer to as the meat and potatoes of the issue anyway . That might matter to an extent but the real impact of very large scale Immigration is surely long term and social not short term and economic . It can be argued that continuing large scale immigration driven population expansion is just what our country needs : but the argument has to be made … not assumed given


    1. In a nutshell, there is no causal relationship between unemployment and rates of immigration. For example, during the wind rush period of the 1950s/’60s, Britain boomed amid high levels of immigration. Conversely during the depression era, there was mass unemployment and immigration was virtually non-existent.


      1. sure sure you’re very probably right but like I say I don’t really regard that as being a particular issue in the immigration debate’s kind of a side one if that


  3. “… the real impact of very large scale Immigration is surely long term and social not short term and economic . It can be argued that continuing large scale immigration driven population expansion is just what our country needs : but the argument has to be made … not assumed.”

    Political short-termism will be the death of humanity and I have been clear about that for some time now. The problem, as I’ve outlined, is not with immigrants or immigration but as you say, it’s social, But you cannot divorce the social from the economic. Economic booms create employment opportunities and social demands that ebb and flow over time and are therefore, by definition, not static.


  4. true again Daniel but between 1994 and 2002 when gross immigration moved steadily upwards from 240,000 to 500,000 for the first time in Britain there wasn’t an economic boom …….the post 2008 ‘ boom ‘ as we have come to have to call it seems to me to be largeley based on importing and creating millions of low paid jobs which impress the ‘ keep things as they are ‘ bodies like the IMF and the World Bank( and upholds our credit rating of course ! ) …..I think Polly Toynbee wrote an article saying that mass Immigration allows Britain ‘ to fake progress not make progress ‘ …. Immigration at a high level can bring conservative and reactionary elements into play as well as liberating ones….I think you would have to agree though that in the great scheme of things this is still all pretty new for us ( and other countries like Sweden and Germany even more so ) ……we are as David Goodhart says ‘ in the middle of a large scale social experiment ‘ and the real test of the success or failure of large scale immigration will only be readable 20 or more years down the line from this point in time .


    1. Another thoughtful post. I’m not quite the doom merchant that Goodhart is. I take the view that successive governments need to manage the situation better by taking a long-term approach which involves proper planning on the social side. A country like the United States, has in the past, benefited greatly from immigration and we can do so too. But as you seem to be implying, we need a drastic shift away from the neoliberal consensus toward demand-led strategies in order that immigration growth and the economic benefits thus accrued get filtered down the socioeconomic pyramid.
      I accept that currently we are at the point at which the law of diminishing returns has taken hold and as such we appear to have reached somewhat of a tipping point in terms of the potential economic benefits. But that’s not the fault of immigrants or immigration, rather it’s the fault of misguided and short-term economic strategies by successive governments. Potential problems arise because governments in the post-industrial era have an apparent inability to coalesce the demand that growing immigration puts on social infrastructure including housing, schools etc, with the lack of any political will to address the deficit described by investing in infrastructure to the required level needed.
      Greater rates of immigrant employment that fill in existing skills gaps results in increased tax revenues. But we need to break from supply led strategies to ensure that more of us benefit from this greater level of economic activity. This can be achieved by building more houses and schools so as to satisfy the greater demand for them that greater economic growth wrought by increases in immigration implies.The misconception among many is that immigration per se is bad for society when that prognosis is clearly untrue.


      1. I’m with you on the broad underlying thrust here Daniel …. but some of the infrastructure investment is already underway …there is a ( little talked about ) schools expansion programme budgeted at a whopping £85 Billion – no less – that is already about a quarter of the way through being carried out ……( and amazingly it’s not being done under a PFI type financing scheme ) . Housing is a tougher nut though , Zac Goldmsith and Sir Richard Rogers have the right idea when they call for the government to force out Brownfield sites from being piled up and held onto but land owners who fear sending house prices south by building too many houses too fast ( if that happens it happens ) ….. and I really just cannot see the kind of social housing programme that we saw in the 20’s and the sixties ever happening again …. land , raw materials and labour costs just are out of the orbit of that kind of government largesse nowadays . But un thought out demands on local councils (like here in both South and North Herts and many other parts of the country ) that we suddenly’ must ‘ create new houses for 9,000 families ( 35,00 people ) in 12 years time are just bonkers and govt knows they are . So why do they keep emitting these edicts .. it’s now obvious that Nick Cleggs promise of 5 new Garden Cities back in 2011 was a bluff to calm people down . Maybe Germany’s completeley different approach to Migration ( pre the refugee crisis ) has more going for it than ours ?.. 80 % of regular Immigration into Germany is temporary ( 2- 5 years – no elongated over staying ) Housing is 100 % a private concern ….even benefit claiming Migrants must make provision out of income , savings and benefits for housing costs . … and other European Union members can claim full benefits ( at the same level as German nationals ) for 6 Months : after which part time work is essential to even to continue to recieve benefits at a reduced level . These measuures continue to build into the system a degree of fellow citizen favouritism of course , something that most other EU countries still have at play . It’s just us that have nearly totally abandoned them .And finally although I have no problems at all with other people coming to live and work here , because so many of them come from countries where pay is at such a low level it’s quite understandable that remittances back home are so high ..but that in turn obviously leaves the situation that money made here leaves the country rather than gets invested and spent here .


  5. I think it’s about priorities. I don’t accept that the ambitious house building programmes in the 20s and 60’s you describe can’t be revived. As you almost certainly know, in the immediate years following WW2 we built 300,000 affordable homes per year for the poorest to raise families in circumstances where our debt to GDP ratio was running at about 180%. But of course at that time we didn’t have to think about renewing a trident programme that runs into about £170 billion or bailing out bankers by way of QE. It’s true that people who come to work here send money back to their countries of origin but its disingenuous to claim that none gets invested and spent here. It’s a bit of a false argument that one. As I said previously the labour market ebbs and flows, and we need people to come here to fill the gaps undertaking roles that people here are not prepared to work at, for whatever reason that may be. It’s an argument of stunning intellectual paucity predicated on a totally false narrative to suggest – as many people do – that the problems people face are anything other than to do with the ultra-rich who control the state structures and convince gullible and mainly poor people that the economy is a thing of fixed size. The reality is immigration is a massive driver of economic growth. However, like I say, I do accept that with the short-termism approach taken by successive governments has meant that the positives end up feeding back on themselves (law of diminishing returns). But this should not detract from the principle that immigration is a positive. If this were not the case then the United States would be the poorest country in the world and Germany the second poorest. That is plainly untrue. Immigration is not the cause of poverty, quite the reverse. It is only the benefit of millions of energetic new migrants that has prevented deflation in the UK these last few years. No, the underlying problems stem from the fact that since the mid 1970s UK governments have deliberately and systematically pursued policies which prioritised the speculative financial industries of London and damaged large scale manufacturing. The apotheosis of this policy was the massive transfer of money from everybody in the land to the bankers in 2008 by Gordon Brown.There are two major results of this forty year policy. The first is that the deliberately engineered manufacturing decline has caused social and economic devastation in the UK outside South East England. The second has been an astonishing accumulation of wealth in a tiny number of hands as income inequality levels have risen to the highest disparity in all of human history..


  6. Daniel you may say you think there’s no reason that the kind of house building of the 20’s and 60’s is not gong to be revived but with a government ( and conceivably many future governments into the near future ) bent on not going back to a large deficit the chance of it happening for a very long time is frankly zero . Don’t forget we had the cost of running the British Empire too back in the 20’s . The work issue is complex as immigration has itself breeds the need for more immigration as extra service provision is required by the larger population . I did’nt say ‘ NO ‘ money is spent or invested by immigrants here : I was just drawing attention to the fact that a big chunk takes the form of remittances to countries of origin . The thing about the kind of immigration that wev’e had for 17 years or more is that it’s an engine of a certain type of economic growth . The kind that as I intimated in my last posting that looks great on paper because it simply bumps up our overall GDP . This is not a criticism of people wanting to better their lives whether they’re from say from Angola , Spain or Bolivia :it’s just a fairly naked observation of the fact that most immigration to this country is for fairly (or very ) low paid work ( which also of course does attract more generous in work credits than either Germany or France are able to offer ) ..and that leads into areas dear ( I can garner ) to your heart ( and mine ) , the transference of wealth to large business and individuals.:hence Asda’s shop floor workers and warehouse staff receive more in Tax Credits each year than the company pay’s in corporation tax ! Madness or what . ? I’m broadly with your entire view of what has gone wrong with economics in the last 30 – 40 years but I do think ( pace Goodhart and Collier ) that inward migration on the scale we’ve been needs possibly at least a temporary slowing down (for a number of years ) while we take stock of the size of the impending baby boom and re think integration and assimilation. and then to be handled in a different way in the future . The multi cultural ideology of the 80’s that viewed Ethnic minorities as not requiring basic education in British and / or European History ( as apparently it was not supposed to be of interest to them ! ) was a big mistake ……hopefully that will be addressed ( I have it on trust that it will be ) ……a broad shared sense of how we got to where we are is neccessary if we are not become a sadly more and more segregated nation ….and is also neccessary for mass political engagement too


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