From targeting slave masters to blaming the slaves; the nasty party is back

The nasty party is back and it’s turning up the volume

David Cameron PM


They say a week is a long time in politics. Two months is clearly a lifetime, but it was just two months ago that home secretary Theresa May said of the newly enacted Modern Slavery Act “it says to victims, you are not alone – we are here to help you.”

Now that’s scrapped. On Thursday, in his speech on immigration, the prime minister’s message couldn’t have been more different.

David Cameron promised to tackle immigration abuses that damage the UK labour market and pledged to punish undocumented workers with a series of measures to be set out in a new Immigration Bill in the Queens Speech.

To call these measures dangerous is an understatement. They vilify the exploited – many victims of modern slavery – and, even worse, will strengthen the hand of unscrupulous employers. The steps promised by David Cameron this week not only risk forcing undocumented workers into exploitative employment relationships – supposedly outlawed by Theresa May in the Modern Slavery Act – but will give abusive employers more weapons to theaten employees.

Modern slavery is the exploitation of people for their labour through deceptive or coercive means. It thrives on vulnerability, the ultimate triumph of power over powerlessness.

In the last parliament, the government rushed the Modern Slavery Act into law urging the importance of tackling this abhorrent crime. I and many others supported the Act, but raised concerns that it did not go far enough in preventing severe labour exploitation or protecting those who fall victim to such exploitation.

Despite serious reservations about the approach, all parties agreed on the ultimate goal to protect victims from abuses, to punish the traffickers who profit from exploitation and to make the UK a ‘world leader’ in the fight against ‘modern slavery’.

Hearing the prime minister yesterday makes the Modern Slavery Act seem like a distant memory, long since forgotten by this government. David Cameron laments the gangmasters who lure workers to the UK promising decent work and exacting exploitation, proposing a ‘labour market enforcement agency’ to crack down on ‘exploitation’.

In that he’s right, but the action will not target the slave masters who were prioritised just a couple of months ago; this time he’s blaming the victims who will pay for the abuses they have suffered on British soil. Their wages will be confiscated and then we’ll deport them. The nasty party is back and it’s turning up the volume.

All respected organisations working to address labour exploitation, including Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) on whose Board I sit, have condemned labour market deregulation measures that shift the balance of power from the worker to employers, and allow employers to exploit workers unchecked.

The previous coalition government’s bonfire of regulations and red tape achieved just that – abuse thrived with fewer labour inspections and less protection for workers. So concerned was the government’s own Migration Advisory Committee that it advised ‘the counter-balance to a flexible labour market is to ensure that employers comply with the minimum protections for workers and that these are enforced’ without which, it said, migrants would be exploited.

This is not just a question of human rights, although many of our international obligations will be contravened should this Bill become law; but it also cuts to the core of the ‘productivity puzzle’ outlined by the Bank of England. Cameron has not only forgotten his modern slavery commitments, he has also failed to learn the lesson of the last five years – a sustainable economic recovery will not be achieved by propping up bad business with weak outputs.

This Bill will make it simpler for poor business models to thrive, models which depend upon cheap and exploitable labour, in the understanding that in Cameron’s Britain exploitation pays.

The truth is undocumented workers are not stealing jobs from British workers; they are instead propping up failing business models across the UK. This week Cameron’s message to would-be exploiters was clear: Britain is open for business.

Paul Blomfield is Labour MP for Sheffield Central

33 Responses to “From targeting slave masters to blaming the slaves; the nasty party is back”

  1. JoeDM

    Uncontrolled immigration and illegal immigration are the main causes of longoing low pay for British workers, queues at our hospitals and the continuing rise in house prices.

  2. damon

    The MP has his opinion, and it’s just as valid as anyone else’s. But not particularly special.
    I probably disagree with it, but it’s one of those things that aren’t really worth arguing about.
    People have their views and that’s it.

  3. Selohesra

    What a load of old guff

  4. AlanGiles

    Perhaps instead of the junior school playground taunts of “the nasty party” you should fix yourself up with a new leader (Andy Burnham?) and concentrate on the future instead of obsessing on the fact you lost two weeks ago.

  5. stevep

    I`m fairly new to Left Foot Forward. I decided to contribute my views because I felt that the Left, especially the Labour party needed an urgent, radical debate about it`s position in today`s Britain. I am left scratching my head and feeling puzzled as to why so many obvious non-Labour supporters, indeed, Right-wing activists, feel the need to contribute to an obviously left-wing forum. It is to infiltrate or disrupt the debate or just mischief? Would not right-wingers feel more at home contributing to debates within the Sun or Daily Mail forums?
    With the greatest of respect, I`m not getting at you personally but it would interest me greatly if you would reply and perhaps explain your position.

  6. AlanGiles

    Hello Steve. Firstly I would like to explain I am not right wing. I now support the Greens. I supported Labour from the time of Harold Wilson in the 60s until Blair turned New Labour into Blue Labour. I always felt Miliband would not succeed because he kept too many of the old guard in post, far too many Blairites who would have been unwilling to let him carry out his plans, had he been capable of formulating them.

    I feel expressions like “the nasty party” just sound trite and childish as does the constant going on about “fairness” without bothering to explain what is meant by that word, and talk about “toffs” when you have Tristram Julian Hunt and Keith Vaz, and Lady Jowell and Margaret Hodge trying to sound more like the Queen than she does.

    In my opinion Andy Burnham would be the best man to take the party forward and I hope Labour is not hoodwinked into believing that a return to Blairism would work in 2020. Labour learned nothing from the Conservatives, many of whom, right up until her death, thought that a return of Thatcherism was all the country needed. Life is just not that simple.

    It might be that by 2020 the country is as sick of the Tories as they were in 1997 – Labour would have regardless of leader then, so it is doubly unfortuante that the shifty warmonger Blair was the man who did it, since he turned the party into a paler blue Conservative party – why go for imitations when you can have the real thing?

  7. blarg1987

    Labour needs to go back to its core roots and principles, but also challenge the media more.

    When the Conservatives and media made a field day out of “Labour being held to ransom by the unions” I did nit see anyone reply with better to be a party that represents millions of people through elected members e.g. unions then a party based on policies by its donor.s

    Labour needs to point out the double standards of those who call it left wing or socialist by highlighting those same people benefited form those policies etc.

    It will annoy an awful lot of people to begin with however it will discourage those people from throwing stones in glass houses and maybe make people realise the good that such policies do have on society.

    But I do also agree with what AlanGiles says New Labour still does and should have retired the old guard of Blairism to the back benches after the 2010 election.

  8. stevep

    Thank you for your reply. I too have voted for Labour and the Green Party over the years. I think the Green party manifesto is much undervalued. I also feel the same way as you about New Labour and the 1997 election. I feel more of us should support and vote for a more radical alternative to the current right-wing miasmic ideology.

  9. stevep

    Yes I totally agree with you. The printed media has been largely very hostile to left-wing beliefs, but then it would be, wouldn`t it. I feel redress and the higher ground can be reclaimed by utilising the internet much more to bypass the mainstream media, which in any case, is dying a slow death. We just need to do it flexibly and quickly.

  10. blarg1987

    That is true, but have to step away from slogans like the nasty party and use LFF to ask politicians uncomfortable questions for example will the proposed reform of unions be extended to include PLC’s whereby remuneration packages can get voted through on very small turnouts etc

  11. Closedshop

    The party itself became the struggle and focus, the workers and the electoral base became second to that.

    Look at the non-stop nonsense in English Labour about Blairities and old Labour types.

    They are fighting over who gets to wring their hands in agony and solidarity against Tory cuts.

    Becoming the natural party of power and keeping the Tories out doesn’t even occur as a goal, all about opposing the Tories and showing solidarity but decades go buy where they do f all.

    A bunch of self centered wasters.

  12. Closedshop

    The nasty party is childish. We all can see what they are like ffs.

    Labour alway take the easy option out, that they are the party of the people and that the people will get sick of the Tories and their evil ways.

    Its led to the Labour party being also rans for most of 90 years.

    The party will now spend its energy fighting between Blairism and old Labour and boll0x to the electorate or their voter base.

    Too many in Labour act like clergy, holders of the sacred truth and those in the pews will follow.

  13. damon

    I can’t speak for others here, but your reply seems to be part of a wider problem imo.
    A lot of people on the left seem to want to wall themselves off from criticism these days, and only talk with people who agree with them already. You can see such developments taking place most noticeably at universities where there is a trend for declaring campuses ”safe spaces” where the nasty outside world must be kept at bay, so that none of the most delicate of students are distressed by anything that they don’t like the look of or makes them feel uncomfortable.

    There’s a campaign against it actually – did you hear about it?
    This one:

    One way out of that criticism by the left would be to declare the people behind that ”right wing” or contrarians. Which many have.
    The thing about this blog is, they keep writing all these above the line pieces, and many of them are daft and I’ll thought out. But they make a point of not engaging with the people who leave comments.
    That’s why it probably sounds like a lot of churlish people just slagging off the main posts. If the left want to thrive they have to open up to criticism imo.

  14. Nigel Passmore

    Could you put that again, but in english ? Thank you .

  15. Nigel Passmore

    What Is ?

  16. Jacko

    By the same logic, why does a left wing site bother publishing obvious articles critical of a right wing government? Entirely predictable, and preaching to the converted. What’s the point? Do the owners really think lots of people visit this site and change their political views? Of course not.

    The only reason for the existence of this site is as a springboard to launch the political careers of its contributors. Every single one of the staff at LFF has joined for that specific purpose. It’s nothing to do with debating the direction of the Labour Party. That will be debated in private, and frankly, I doubt whether the staff really care what that direction is, unless it helps further their careers. When you think about it, what is the likely career path of the editor of a Left wing website? It’s career suicide if you ever decide you want to cross into the private sector. Who would employ you? No-one. So you’re stuck in the Left support industry.

  17. Cole

    Oh do grow up. Your last para is just malicious and unevidenced tripe.

  18. Cole

    Gee, it’s all so simple isn’t it? Blame everything that’s wrong on immigrants.

  19. Robert

    Why not mostly labour blamed the sick the disabled and the unemployed so why not immigrants.

  20. Robert

    They are all the same, I think would be the message in layman’s terms.

  21. blarg1987

    Why is it career suicide unless you are saying that employers do discriminate on personal beliefs in which case could you give names and evidence so they can be prosecuted.

    Companies would employ left wing people, and some are very successful, an obvious one being Warren Buffet.

  22. Hastings

    Nah. First of all, there is no uncontrolled immigration, so please stop the hyperbole. It’s the politicians who refuse to legislate who are to blame for low wages. It’s simple. The Conservatives will continue to allow zero-hours contracts, for instance, when it would be so easy to make them illegal. There is no housing because neither of the main parties has adopted a clear housing policy They prefer to let the housing market prop up the economy, but we all know what happened last time. If people are working, they are contributing to the welfare system, including the NHS. The Conservatives are running the NHS into the ground, so people will eventually cry out for it to be privatised and then they’ll just hand it over to their buddies or even Conservative politicians who have stakes in health care companies. In other countries, this would be called corruption, but nobody seems to make the connection in the UK.

  23. Hastings

    What? Talk about disinformation and propaganda. That’s absolute rubbish. It’s the Conservatives who cut benefits to the disabled. It is newspapers like the Sun and Mail, Tory papers, who talk about ‘lazy’ people.

  24. madasafish

    Article start: Labour MP calls Tories nasty..

    Article end: “The truth is undocumented workers are not stealing jobs from British workers;”

    Proof : nil.

    And we are expected to believe this ?

  25. sparky

    Yes, but high immigration makes a bad housing policy even worse. Immigrants competing with others chasing low wage jobs makes a poor labour market even worse.

  26. CausticWally

    Not necessarily. If the newcomers have more campaigning zeal and get up and go about them when it comes to confronting these injustices than the natives then a healthy input from migrants might be just what is needed.

  27. niharonline

    it’s really awesome news and it’s good. we also providing latest political updates and telangan political news

  28. Robert

    I’m a disability activist who has been on TV many times, and when you speak about the Tories then tell me, how is it since labour have been out of power my benefits have gone up, not much but enough.

    labour held down pensions and welfare or have you forgotten the 75p pay rise on welfare.

    Labour used the work shy scrounger rhetoric and attacked the disabled not the Tories, yes the Tories have carried on but it was labour that brought in UNUM provident and ATOS not the Tories.

  29. Robert

    So labour did not do ATOS the WCA and Unum provident, sorry it was labour.

  30. John Smith

    Now you can see why Labour lost Ge2015

  31. ant

    What utter horseshit. Did the last three weeks just pass you by?

  32. mrdavidjohnson

    You have proven yourself o be a complete idiot

  33. CortexUK

    What a stupid article. You’re an MP? Scary.

    Add this to Polly’s “final solution” for the poor and you have yourself a brace of screeching hysterical crap.

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