It is a mistake for Corbyn to suggest dropping the principle of free movement, argues Chris Nineham
It was good to hear Jeremy Corbyn calling for an income cap for the very rich this morning and great that this captured media headlines. It is this kind of combative stance that can start to get across the idea that Labour means to break from the pro-market consensus.
But dealing with inequality means breaking from the dominant views on immigration. Backing off from the principle of free movement over Brexit is a mistake. The way to tackle low pay is to raise the minimum wage and make it stick by penalising all employers who don't deliver, scrap Tory anti-union legislation so that low paid workers are in a better position to organise and campaign, and invest in key industries and services people need. Measures like these will be part of Labour's programme under Corbyn.
The problem is talk about limiting or managing immigration diverts attention from these kind of things. It isn't going to stop employers forcing down wages, and any implication that migrant workers are to blame causes confusion and potentially division when what is needed is for the low paid to get organised. Plus it will strengthen right-wing narratives, which won't help Labour electorally whatever the Labour right may think.
Bending policy to perceptions of public opinion over matters of principle is never a good idea. It is particularly inadvisable when there is such widespread cynicism about politicians. People can be convinced of the need to stick together and defend migrants' rights if the arguments are put clearly. Corbyn is absolutely right to say that after the referendum vote we need to fight for a Brexit that benefits ordinary people, but that has to include fighting for all workers' rights, including those of migrants.
Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.
More articles from this author
- How far will he go? Trump and the limits of populism - book review
- Dirty tricks: the British State and the left
- Be in no doubt: Britain will be involved if there is war on Iran
- Iran: act now to stop Trump’s dogs of war
- Organise now to avoid war with Iran
- Boris Johnson as Prime Minister should not be tolerated
- Pompeo threatens Corbyn: nothing to see here