Saturday 14 May 2011

'Host populations'

Will Hutton thinks that the left needs to smarten up its attitude towards immigration. The argument: the far right is gaining ground across Europe. The notion that 'the left must make the case that immigration is a force for good – it makes Europe richer' is 'denial'. If we are to win the debate on immigration, the left must argue for 'a good capitalism that will drive growth, employment and living standards by a redoubled commitment to innovation and investment' and 'accept that immigration offends basic attitudes to fairness' by allowing immigrants to 'get benefits without paying anything into the collective pot'.

Let's set aside that the likelihood of a 'good capitalism' is slim. Let's also set aside that Hutton is a liberal who has a deep fear and distrust of 'the mob'. His argument is a fairly standard one, one that has been repeatedly touted by the last Labour government and is now being championed by Maurice Glasman: in order to prevent a violent, barbaric racism we must embrace a legal, enlightened racism. In other words, we must wean racists from the racist far right by showing them their demands are being addressed.

But I really feel the need to seize on the term 'host population', which Hutton uses quite casually. It hardly needs saying that this phrase has two meanings, and this ambiguity serves the right. First, a host is someone who puts up guests and looks after them. Second, a host is the victim of a parasite. That, of course, is how the far right (fascist or otherwise) perceives 'the British': as a host body (the nation as an organism) that is being sucked dry by foreign leeches. Using a term like that is to walk right into racist discourse. One can only advise Hutton to stay away from it.

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