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


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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Nigel Passmore

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

  5. Nigel Passmore

    What Is ?

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