Woolas Boolas

November 27, 2008 at 3:35 pm (asylum, Human rights, immigration, Max Dunbar, reaction, twat)

woolasMost of you will be familiar with George Orwell’s classic essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ in which the great man argued that political leaders twist words into their opposite meaning. Thus:

Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.

Phil Woolas is the kind of politician who is routinely described as ‘brave’ and ‘outspoken’. But as Orwell might point out, these words have different meanings in the language of the political class than they do in general usage.

For example, ‘outspoken’ in political language means ‘Someone prepared to talk ill-informed bullshit, in public, without embarrassment and often looking directly into reporter’s eyes.’ 

And ‘brave’ as applied to a politician doesn’t mean bravery as you and I would use the term: i.e. to describe someone who fought in Afghanistan, or someone who intervened against a mugger or bully. Bravery in political language is always used to describe a comfortably-off politician who will denounce the weak and vulnerable and those who can’t answer back.

This is Woolas on immigration:

Immigration minister Phil Woolas has attacked lawyers and charities working on behalf of asylum seekers, accusing them of undermining the law and ‘playing the system’. In an interview with the Guardian, Woolas described the legal professionals and NGO workers as ‘an industry’, and said most asylum seekers were not fleeing persecution but were economic migrants.

Are we really back to the old 1990s binary thinking of ‘asylum seekers’ versus ‘economic migrants’? Perhaps Woolas hasn’t considered that economic migrants are good for the market. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, so far economic migration has:

a) pushed up economic growth, allowing the Treasury to revise its projections of future performance upwards by a quarter of a percent,

b) reduced labour costs, thereby helping to keep a lid on the inflation rate,

c) had no appreciable impact on the employment prospects of British workers – migrant workers have, for the most part, been filling gaps in the UK labour market rather than displacing British workers because they’re doing the jobs that British workers either don’t want or don’t have the skills to do, and

d) had no negative impact on the public finances. In fact migrant workers are net contributors to both the British economy and to the public purse. They pay their taxes, like everyone else. They contribute to the local economy in the area they live, by spending some of their earnings in local shops and on renting accommodation – and, of course, to the profitability of their employer. And they take less out the system than UK workers, because they have fewer rights in terms of access to welfare benefits, social housing and some other public services and have much less need of those services because, in general, they have fewer dependants and also tend to younger and therefore less likely to require the services of the NHS than Britain’s ageing population.

As Unity (from whose site the report can be read) has it, we’re in a win-win situation.

Woolas denies an affinity with Enoch Powell, claiming that ‘Enoch Powell was trying to divide this country. I’m trying to heal this country by allowing us to have a mature debate on immigration.’ Well, no one’s against debating immigration – but I think that Enoch had his own ideas of what national unity would look like.

But Woolas does concede that there are some genuine asylum seekers:

He recounted how another asylum seeker visited his constituency office in Oldham: ‘One lady showed me the scars on her thighs from where the soldiers had raped her, so I know,’ said Woolas, ‘but I cannot take a decision on that lady’s behalf if I am fogged by cases that are misusing the law.’

Oh, but Phil, don’t be taken in – that woman could have scarred her own legs to take advantage of Britain’s bloated welfare system.

In one case, Woolas said, an asylum seeker had won the right to stay after going through six layers of appeal. ‘That person has no right to be in this country but I’m sure that there is an industry out there [with] a vested interest.’

Why would someone want to get into this country so badly that they would appeal six times? Hmmm…

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the appeals process was a vital safety net for asylum seekers who are ‘criminalised’ on arriving in Britain. ‘Having your asylum claim rejected does not make you an economic migrant. For some nationalities, such as Eritreans and Somalis, almost half of refused asylum seekers have their cases upheld on appeal. These are people who would be in danger of persecution such as murder, torture or rape if sent back to the repressive regimes they are fleeing.’

Come back, Liam Byrne: all is forgiven.


  1. Voltaire's Priest said,

    I “loved” his geezer-down-the-pub slagging off of the NGOs and legal advocates who work with asylum seekers. Took me right back to beer-fuelled rows with anti-immigrant relatives when I was a teenager.

    I guess therefore it’s in their honour that Woolas wins the Richard Littlejohn award for services to “British People Like Us”…

  2. maxdunbar said,

    hahaha – it’s the nineties all over again

  3. stopdeportationofguy said,

  4. Euripides Trousers said,

    Phil Woolas is sponsored by the GMB union despite his attacks on migrant workers, many of whom are GMB members.

    I hope that this situation changes in the near future. Any GMB members reading this blog might want to consider this issue and the proximity of the deadline for 2009 Congress resolutions.

  5. maxdunbar said,

    And the hypocrisy just gets worse. Sickening.

  6. Blissex said,

    The policies of both Labour and Tories are driven by poll results. What Woolas is doing is expressing his desire to be reelected by pandering to the prejudices of what he thinks is the majority consensus. The problem is not politicians, who are just opportunistic, it is “f*ck you! I am fully vested” voters who are enthusiastic ab out ASBOs and sending back the victims etc.

  7. Alan Laurence said,

    Woolas has overstepped the mark – by several strides.
    However, his position isnt to be explained by electoral math. In his constituency his line is propably a looser.
    There is a problem with immigration: people dont like it. I do – it seems most dont. Anyone got an effective strategy beyond eg local anti-deportation campaigns?

  8. maxdunbar said,

    Thing is in my experience people may dislike immigration in general – but if they know one he’s okay.

    In my local a couple of months ago, a guy came in and started harassing these Muslim guys who were having a pint. He was shouting ‘get back to your own country, Abdul,’ and all sorts.

    Everyone in the pub got up and defended the Muslim guys and the harrasser ended up being kicked out.

    I’ve also met employers in my area who make representations to the Home Office against deportations of migrant employees.

    This in a white working class area with a lot of social problems.

    We still have to win the economic argument but the fact is, when immigrants come into an area, people get on with them.

  9. Alan Laurence said,

    That is not always true. Ive worked in heavily conflicted neighbourhoods where there seemed to be no carry over between liking one black guy and hating the rest and the very idea of immigration.
    The economic argument – as outlined by PWC might be a handy tool in some circumstanced but:
    a. Ive no idea how it holds up in post crunch uk
    b. it doesnt play well in areas where there are three generations of unemployment
    c. doesnt it rather beg the question: what would you say if the economic conditions change?
    d. it maintains a divsion between ‘us and them’

  10. maxdunbar said,

    Good points Alan, we need to take into account the recession et al. I would be interested to see Phillip Legrain’s take on immigration and the credit crunch.

    Our experiences are obviously very different but I can tell you that there are three generations of unemployment here in Salford as well. But people see that these migrants want to work and do work.

    Points three and four are insightful and I had not considered it from these angles at all. I would accept migrants fleeing persecution no matter the economic conditions. If migrants made no contribution whatsoever to the economy then the wailing tabloid morons might have a point. But they do and they don’t.

    Point four is bang on. We need to hammer home the message that, as Greg Palast said, ‘it’s not where you’re from that counts – it’s where you’re going.’

  11. Alan Laurence said,

    Ive worked in Salford. Im sure a poll in Salford would show that people think there is a problem with immigration.

    It cant be right to assume there is not a problem of working class racism – there is even though it is not (yet) politically mobilised.

    I struggle with the idea that immigrants – other than asylum seekers – have to be economically productive before we give them the green card. It seems a hostage to fortune…

  12. maxdunbar said,

    I’m only speaking from my experience in Salford. Naturally there is working class racism, but I don’t think it is as prevalent as people think. The BNP class composition showed professionals as well as manual workers.

    The whole thing about migrants not being able to work is the nub of the matter. If they were allowed to work problems would be halved.

    Mind, they can’t win: either they are working (and taking our jobs) or not working (and screwing the benefit system).

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