Racism against Eastern European migrants is just vile – we should be thankful for what they do, says Ipswich MP Ben Gummer
PUBLISHED: 08:47 08 July 2016 | UPDATED: 12:06 08 July 2016
Ipswich MP Ben Gummer launches an impassioned plea for everyone to recognise the importance of immigrants to our society – and explains why they should not be blamed for Britain’s problems.
If you go to Handford Road in the early hours, when most British people are still asleep, you will see minibuses filling with Eastern European migrants, going off to work gutting chickens in a job that the Job Centres fail to get British people to do.
Hold that thought when you consider the vile eruptions of racism since Nigel Farage’s ‘Independence Day’ two weeks ago. Employees at a depot in Thetford chanting “you’re going home” to Eastern European colleagues; a Polish centre in Hammersmith sprayed with ‘Go Home’ in the middle of the night; a notice – charmingly written in Polish – encouraging Poles to ‘go home’, picked up by a little 11-year-old Polish boy; notes left on cars telling ‘Polish vermin’ to leave the country; a European man berated on a Manchester tram by some thug who told him to “**** off home”.
What has happened to our country? Whatever side of the debate you were on, no-one can deny that we are now a nation terribly divided, with intolerance unleashed.
Some have said to me that it’s a limited problem, an issue that has “always been there” – as if there is something inevitable about this treatment of foreigners, and that in the release the hatred will go away. They could not be more wrong. It is right that people should be ashamed to express racist sentiments, even if it is what they believe in their hearts.
That is why politicians should be so very careful in how they use words: by using language carelessly, by stoking fear of migrants, they can seem to permit something that is rightly impermissible.
Do not imagine that this is a sentiment reserved for bovine thugs: it exists behind many polite doors and neat gardens in our own town. Time and again I heard “I’m not a racist but…”, beginning a sentence that revealed a fear of foreigners and a wish to see them gone.
Most carefully, people express concerns about school class sizes and GP waiting lists. These concerns might be legitimate but they are rightly levelled at us politicians, not at the migrants on whom these problems in public services are so often blamed.
After all, the average EU migrant is more likely to be in work, paying taxes, than us Brits, helping to build – both in money and in labour – the classrooms all of our children need. And those GP queues? They are more the result of British people getting older – not young fit Lithuanian men, who rarely need a doctor.
And the complainant? Very few of them actually have a child of school age. When I ask them for specific examples, their voices float away.
So when people express concern about public services, they rarely do so from a point of real personal experience or because they have made a detailed assessment of why the pressures exist.
They do so as a polite cover for a far more abstract fear – a worry about foreign people coming to the country and changing it in some way. The proof comes in the last sentence I so often hear: “You only hear foreign voices in the town centre – it’s not my own country any more”.
Those foreign voices? Well, there are fewer of them than people claim but when you do hear them, they are more likely than not, those chicken gutters back after their early morning shift, enjoying a stroll in space that they do not have in their cramped rented home.