The bouncy conversation is aimed mainly at the disaffected Labour supporter. The BNP’s would-be constituency is being catered for, however; enter stage right home secretary David Blunkett. Indeed, the government’s asylum policies, and the xenophobic press, are increasing public susceptibility to the far right.
Polls show that more than 30 per cent of the electorate see asylum seekers as its number-one issue. It is an alarming statistic, which bears out novelist Hari Kunzru’s comment when he refused the Daily Mail-sponsored John Llewellyn Rhys literary prize that ‘one of the ugliest developments of British political life has been the emergence of the asylum seeker as the bogeyman’.
It is government policy that has created this situation. The Home Office has set off a grotesque vicious spiral in which it introduces ever more repressive legislation in a bid to satisfy an insatiable appetite to punish the scapegoat. At this year’s Labour Party conference the prime minister effectively blamed asylum seekers for the racism that pursues them; his solution to this racism is cutting asylum seeker numbers and limiting their recourse to legal protection.
Like a school head who rather than openly standing up to the bully subtly gives in to his pressure, Blair has helped to create a political culture in which asylum seekers are seen as a problem, as guilty until proven innocent, as a threat – not a promise of new possibilities. Even where numbers of asylum seekers are minuscule, the BNP has exploited this culture.
Most politicians are frightened to turn the tables and start welcoming asylum seekers, to insist they may work and have decent living conditions and the opportunity to integrate themselves into British society right from the moment they arrive in this country.
Their refusal to challenge the media’s attacks on asylum seekers meshes with and misdirects the alienation and insecurity that lies behind the support for the far right. The failure to debunk the asylum myths is related to a failure to address head-on real issues about council and public services, and to political representatives’ absenting themselves from local duties and simply advancing their careers in the town hall or Westminster.
The focus on the ‘asylum-seeker problem’ diverts attention from material issues of democracy and political equality and accountability. The popular demonisation of asylum seekers is a result of people’s sense of powerlessness; it is a desperate lashing out at something that can be blamed in the absence of any lever over the real causes of deprivation.
The very idea of the ‘big con’, as it is increasingly becoming known, is symptomatic of the extent to which decades of centralising government, erosion of Labour Party democracy and cutting of public services have destroyed whatever channels of communication used to connect government with the people. Even the regional organisers of the big con know that the notes being dutifully taken at its events will go nowhere beyond the Labour Party website.
Genuine democracy is about power working its way up through institutions in which people have a real say at every level, and in which many little conversations cumulatively build control over local decisions. It involves a sharing of power, direct democracy and a proportional electoral system – both locally and nationally. Debates and differences ought to translate into power, not evaporate in endless consultations.
Like balloons the morning after the party, the air in the inflatable conversation will slowly fizzle away, leaving something mis-shapen and forgotten. Elsewhere, people really are talking, in ways linked directly to organising. Trade unions are initiating educational sessions on the asylum issue in workplaces. Anti-racist activists are building local coalitions to show that there are positive alternatives that can be supported electorally and campaigned for in the community. Others are organising nationally, giving a high profile to the growing movement against racism.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency
Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy
Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences