As the 2019 Labour conference draws to a close, it is being branded one of the most radical yet. Some truly exciting and progressive motions have passed, igniting a glimmer of hope that has long lay dormant in British politics. It has, of course, ruffled the feathers of outraged Right-Wingers; a marker of success, if you ask me.
The Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, understandably had a great deal to say on the failure of Conservative immigration policy. Demonstrating their consistent backtracking, she highlighted the many scandals that have unfolded before the eyes of the public: Windrush and the Tories’ empty promises to end the ‘hostile environment’, their failed commitment to treat the EU 3 million fairly, and their recent U-turn on international student visa allowances.
Voicing her anger towards the Conservatives’ consistent endorsement of a hateful agenda, Diane noted:
“Tories weaponise immigration, they weaponise anti-foreigner sentiment, and they use coded and un-coded racism to distract from their attacks on the livelihoods and living standards of ordinary working people, whatever their colour.”
Policy announcements were in abundance and signal a great deal of determination and advancement within the Labour party. Labour has proved it is dedicated to ensuring a just, humane approach to migrants across the spectrum – from workers to asylum seekers.
Acknowledging the vast benefits of immigration, Labour pledges to expunge the Conservatives’ reactionary migration targets. The Shadow Home Secretary emphasised how proposed immigration policy under the Tories inevitably excludes all underpaid workers and insists on defining them as ‘unskilled’. Labour is categorically against an immigration system based on the income and skill of migrants.
Labour for Free Movement activists were overjoyed to find that the Labour national conference voted unanimously to back their motion. What would be the most transformative immigration policy to date, the motion supports:
- Dismantling all ‘hostile environment’ measures – which includes restrictions on migrants’ access to the NHS and welfare support
- The closure of all detention centres across the UK
- Ending ‘no recourse to public funds’
- Maintaining and expanding freedom of movement
And perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of the motion is its commitment to including foreign nationals in general election votes. This would extend the right to vote to all those with residency rights in the UK in contrast to the current procedure which allows only British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens to cast their vote in general elections.
Such amendments to the voting system could have a profound effect if implemented before a potential second referendum. Three million EU nationals live in the UK would drastically sway a majority ‘Remain’ result.
Such proposals will influence what is incorporated into Labour policy and may (hopefully) feature within Labour’s next manifesto. The Labour party is not bound by policy passed at its annual conference however it has certainly played a significant role in the past.
As of yet, an election has not been announced. However, Labour’s pledges allow its members to breathe a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that its stance on immigration policy is more progressive than ever – moving ever further from the nationalistic cries of Far-Right politicians such as Farage.
It’s time for the Labour party to expel any pandering to neoliberal values, securing its revived status as a socialist party for the people, not the powerful.