This issue has come to the fore again as potential Labour leaders, and others in the party, pick over the remains and wonder what went wrong (or what didn’t go right enough to keep the Tories out). There seems to be a general consensus that low paid working people did not feel that Labour represented them. They felt wronged because under a Labour government, even if they were doing alright, other people (immigrants mostly) were doing better. Or doing just as well but with less effort.
I was certainly aware of this issue in the run up to the election. The indigenous parents of children I look after and some of my colleagues voiced concerns about immigrants jumping the queue to get a council house or jumping the waiting list to get into a ‘good’ school. It is quite difficult to counter these opinions without the facts in front of you. And it is even harder for recent immigrants themselves, most of whom understandably do not have a great command of English, to defend themselves against accusations of favouritism. The incidents of injustice against the indigenous population are all anecdotal – hardly surprising as the groups of people who feel the injustice don’t tend to read newspapers with facts and analysis in them.
What is needed is education and information. Children, especially those in racially and culturally mixed schools and nurseries, are naturally tolerant and accepting. I think most adults are too, but it is important that we are all really well-informed about how services are distributed, how waiting lists are compiled and allocations for housing and school places arrived at so we can sensitively challenge misconceptions which lead to prejudice and resentment. It is also vital that people are reminded about the many ways in which immigration has enhanced this country and made it a more interesting, stimulating place to be.