Thursday, 14 April 2011

Cameron’s Enoch Powell moment

David Cameron complains about people coming to this country who don’t speak the language. It is nothing more than hypocrisy from a government that is closing the door on the very classes that help people to learn English.

From September, spending on ESOL classes (English as a second language) is being slashed. They are hugely popular, with over 180,000 students attending classes in England alone. Up to 100,000 people will now lose the chance to learn the language.

Of course, Cameron’s speech is not really directed at immigrants. It is not meant to welcome, or encourage, or point the way towards getting the language skills that people need.

No, for all his talk about integration, his words are directed at those who don’t like immigrants at all, whether or not they speak English. His speech means to press the xenophobic buttons of parts of the electorate.

As Rebecca Galbraith and Mel Cooke from Action for ESOL note:

‘From Jewish workers arriving in London’s East End in the late nineteenth century to the diverse groups of people migrating to the UK today, the ability of migrants to speak English has long been a preoccupation of politicians and the right-wing press. And blaming migrants for social and economic problems is nothing new and is always more heightened in times of economic depression”.

Three weeks before an election, with opinion poll ratings falling, the health reforms in crisis, and the economic looking ever more fragile, David Cameron has conjured up the ghost of Enoch Powell.