We were wrong, we are sorry, Senior Labour MP pens open letter to Ukip voters. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian We were wrong, we are sorry, Senior Labour MP pens open letter to Ukip voters. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Sadiq Khan wrote an open letter to Ukip supporters, apologising for the party’s previous views on immigration concerns and urging them to “keep an open mind”. Richard Allday writes

Sadiq Khan is Shadow Justice Secretary, Shadow Minister for London, and Labour MP for Tooting. Yesterday, he wrote a begging letter to Ukip voters, published in that traditional labour movement paper, the Express.

Yet again, faced with the choice between defending the interests of the class that supports it at the polls, or the vested interests of capital, the Labour right proves its reliability by pandering to the racists. Sadiq Khan’s kneejerk response to the anti-immigrant dog whistle politics of Ukip and the Tory backwoodsmen is to respond to the whistle and run panting to his master.

Selective memory

The fact that he reminds us that he is the son of immigrants does not mitigate his offence, it further aggravates it. Even from the self-serving perspective of this chaser of privilege, this is self-defeating.

Someone should remind Khan of a few historical facts, so here goes. In every instance of anti-immigrant hysteria in the history of this country, the rich and powerful have been on the side of reaction – whether Churchill fulminating against Jewish refugees from fascism, Powell and his fellow racists against the “Windrush” generation, the disgusting treatment of the Ugandan refugees from Idi Amin, the racism directed at immigrants from the Indian sub-continent, or now our brothers and sisters from the East European nations.

In each case there has been a split in the labour movement, between the right (including most of the ‘leadership’ of the Labour Party) accommodating to the racists, and the left (inside and out of the Labour Party) standing alongside the immigrant community.

In each case, the respect earned by anti-racist activists has translated into electoral support for the parties of the left. There is a reason why Labour gets disproportionate support from the Bengali, Jewish and AfroCaribbean communities. It is because there is a visceral distrust of the Tories, based on historical experience.

So Khan’s pandering to prejudice is not only ineffectual, but counter-productive.

Selective analysis

It is also counter-factual. For your information, Mr Khan, immigration is NOT responsible for low wages. Bastard bosses are. Or perhaps you would like to tell your mum and dad that they were responsible for the appalling housing conditions in the East End? For the sweatshops in Bethnal Green? For the fatal accidents on construction sites? It is disgusting to see Labour politicians blaming the victims for their plight, but I cannot claim that you set a precedent; you are just following a well-trodden path.

Selective hearing

For your information, Mr Khan, I was born and bred in Boston, Lincolnshire. I went to mass alongside the Kryscnizkis and the Lombardis. Apparently, some members of my father’s family would not attend his wedding because he was marrying a Roman Catholic. So I do not pretend that prejudice does not exist; but you do not end it by capitulating to it. And if you really listened to disenchanted voters, you might learn that they didn’t stop voting Labour and start voting Ukip. They just stopped voting Labour.

The voters of Tower Hamlets have just re-elected Lutfur Rahman; the MP for Bradford is George Galloway. Why did you never think to say to their voters that you would listen to them?

I am branch secretary of a road haulage branch in the east of England. We have gained over 100 members in the last 15 months. A very high proportion of them are Eastern European. They are actively fighting against low wages – and discrimination – with the enthusiastic support of the rest of our branch activists. They will be delighted to know you are so clear about the cause of low wages in our industry.

We will be campaigning together in the next general election to get the Tories (and their Ukip fellow-travellers) kicked out. We will be producing leaflets in English and Polish. I am sure your comments will aid us immensely in persuading them that the best chance of removing the current ragbag government is to vote Labour.

Thanks for your inspirational support. Not.

Richard Allday

Richard Allday is a member of Unite the Union’s National Executive, a branch secretary and shop steward in road haulage.  A member of Counterfire, his comrades know him better as 'the angry trucker'.