One of Leave's most politically savvy moves was to talk about Commonwealth immigrationby John McTernan / March 21, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Cameron’s EU deal is wafer thin, but that’s not the point
Britain’s Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities should be at the heart of the referendum debate. They are among the most reliable Labour voters, so they should be central to the effort to get as many people to the polling stations as possible. And they should be mobilised to defend all the benefits of the European Union—from strong equality legislation through to open markets for entrepreneurs to exploit.
But there are two problems for the Remain campaign. For one thing, most voters have no idea that the Labour Party supports staying in the EU. The studied detachment of Jeremy Corbyn on the issue tells voters a truth—that he thinks the EU is a bankers’s romp and only the desire to avoid a row prevents him from telling his MPs that.
The second thing is that the Leave campaign has found a seductive message to pitch to BME voters. When they first started banging on about how the UK outside the EU could have renewed relationships with the Commonwealth I thought they were simply nostalgic for the past and longing for the days of Imperial Preference. I was wrong. They were doing something different—and very clever. Their argument is actually about the New Commonwealth and is aimed at BME voters. Leave are signalling that outside the EU the UK could allow more people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh—after all, someone will have to replace all those Eastern European workers. And it’s working—the message is getting through.
Remain needs to respond. But how? As in all political campaigning, it should be swift and brutal. So they should cause a row and force the Leave argument into the open. The reason this argument about the Commonwealth is being made sotto voce is because if it was stated openly it would alienate those UKIP voters who form the base of Leave. By taking it head on that contradiction can be exposed and the question for the BME community will be “Can you really believe that Nigel Farage wants to let more Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis into Britain?”…