Speech to the Unite Against Fascism National Conference

Suzanne Evans, the UKIP spokesperson, was asked recently why UKIP had so little support in London. Perhaps it was because, she said, Londoners are educated, cultural and young. Well maybe that’s true. Or maybe it’s because we just don’t agree with them.

 

We’ve heard some pretty stupid excuses for being late, but Farage’s excuse that he was late for a meeting in Wales, that it was because of immigration, must be amongst the worst.

We simply don’t agree that gay people are responsible for the floods – its climate change.

We don’t recognise their world. There is no such place as “Bongo – bongo land”.

Unlike Nigel Farage, we would not feel uncomfortable if a Romanian family moved in next door.

London has always been a multicultural, international city. We like it that way. And we need our politicians to reflect our city – I’m so pleased to hear that Kate Osamor has today been selected as the Labour candidate to represent the multicultural seat of Edmonton.

We are made of wave after wave of migrants. Look at my kids. You’d say – Oh they’re English. And so they are. They are a quarter Huguenot (remember them?), a quarter East End/Essex white, a quarter Irish , and a quarter Jewish. Yes folks, they are English.

I’m married to the great grandson of one of Diane Abbott’s predecessors, who was the Liberal MP for Hackney in the 20s. Leonard Franklin’s Jewish family had been in the UK for generations. His cousin was Herbert Samuel, who appears in a few Israeli history books I suspect. I pointed this out to a LibDem councillor from Hackney who was slagging me off on twitter. He claimed that my criticism of the Israeli Defence Force’s actions in Gaza was anti-Semitic.

It is not anti-Semitic to be critical of IDF or unforgiving of the fact that the siege is continuing to cause the deaths of children who are now dying of cold. But the rise in anti-Semitism is real and should alarm us all, just as the rise in Islamophobia should alarm us all.

We should all be concerned that Hebrew classes have long waiting lists these days, as an understanding of Hebrew is an important preparation for moving to Israel.

People should feel secure and wanted at home. It is wrong of Netanyahu to take political advantage of the Paris attacks and tell Jews that Israel is their home. Sure they can move there if they want, but Paris is their home. England is their home. London is their home. Jews must be protected by their neighbours just as the 5 shoppers at the Jewish Deli in Paris were protected by Lassana Bathily (who was originally from Mali) who hid them in the walk-in freezer and saved their lives.

London is the sum of its parts. We need our immigrant populations. We don’t feel uncomfortable if a Romanian family moves in next door. We are our immigrant populations and we must stand together.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a profound dissatisfaction about politics amongst many people – a belief that we don’t have the answers to their problems.

I met a man when out campaigning today who was angry that he couldn’t get a transfer out of his house and was upset by all the rubbish in his road. “You lot are doing nothing for me” he said, “I’m voting UKIP”. But we cannot blame the lack of housing or the NHS waiting lists on immigration. Who is it that is building the housing? Who is working in the NHS? We have to address these issues and not blame others.

As Herbert Samuel said when speaking against the 1905 Aliens Act, “You have no right to reject men who are doing no harm, merely because they are poor”. He was right in 1905 and 110 years later, it’s right now.


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