Home > Race and Colour, Terrible Tories > Tim Montgomerie and the ‘key message’ of racist hate

Tim Montgomerie and the ‘key message’ of racist hate

The editor of Conservative Home, Tim Montgomerie, is, I understand from the Financial Times, a “committed Christian”.

He is presumably familiar with the way in which the parable of the Good Samaritan warns us away from racist stereotyping, and perhaps also of the anti-racist message in the episode of the moneychangers in the temple.

He is also, according to the FT, a key influence on the thinking of the Conservative party hierarchy, his blog supposedly reflective of Conservative grassroots opinion.

In this guise, Montgomerie is now proposing that each Tory leaflet before the election should strip the content down to three key messages.  Here they are:

(1) something on the economy, emphasising how Brown has failed on controlling debt, cutting waste and regulating the banks;

(2) something on crime and immigration; and

(3) something on protecting the NHS and the most vulnerable.

(My emphasis)

So Montgomerie is suggesting that around a third of the Tories’ overall ‘message-time’ should be spent conflating the issues of crime and immigration. 

For him, and presumably for his readership, it is perfectly reasonable to insinuate/imply/spell out that crime is a problem because there are immigrants, and immigrants are a problem because there is crime.

In its way, this is actually much more shocking than Rod Liddle’s outrageous claims, because however revolting they are there is always the sense that it’s the desire to outrage that drives the racist message, rather than the other way round.  (Certainly Sunder gives him the benefit of the doubt.)

But Mongomerie’s casual, perhaps even unthinking racism, with its apparent willingness to victimise a whole section of an already victimised population (let’s not get into who’s an immigrant) is simply disgusting.

And this man calls himself a Christian.

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  1. March 9, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Agree with everything here. What a shit

  2. paulinlancs
    March 9, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Either you’re blogging on the toilet, or you think Mr Montgomerie’s a nasty piece of work. Or both. Keen to get this mini-expose (well not really) ‘out there’ if you can help. He needs calling out given his apparent reputation for ‘niceness’.

  3. Alan Jones
    March 9, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Interesting that you don’t pick out the completely disparate things that Montgomerie also conflates under (1) – failure to cut waste (in the public sector presumably) has got no connection with failure to regulate the banks.

    His reference to ‘crime and immigration’ is probably just shorthand for traditional Tory strong points with the electorate relative to Labour, with no causal relationship between the two implied. Just as he’s not suggesting there’s a causal relationship between not cutting waste and not regulating the banks properly.

    Seems to me you’re being over-sensitive. It’s interesting that you saw a link between crime and immigration where others simply wouldn’t.

  4. March 9, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Regardless of whether he is conflating them or not, I can’t for the life of me work out how any bible-believing Christian could take any considered position on immigration other than open borders, based on writings on migrants in Leviticus and the universalism of the NT.

  5. March 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Let’s remember the more accurate and updated definition of racist:

    RACIST: 1. Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive term for a white person. 2: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, if promoted by white people. 3: a belief that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race, if promoted by white people.

  6. Mil
    March 9, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Conflating the two is quite possibly deliberate – at the very least in the way that tabloids put stories of fallen vicars next to photos of the scantily clad.

    It’s also quite possibly cowardly, because when he says immigration, he means only certain kinds of immigration. My family is immigrant, technically speaking – but I’m sure Montgomerie wouldn’t consider it as such. (On the other hand, maybe he would. Wasn’t long ago that my daughter asked me if we’d have to go back to live in Spain were the BNP to get anywhere close to government. She’s only eleven, bless her – but she’s already worried about her right to live in a country I try very hard to be proud of.)

  7. paulinlancs
    March 9, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Alan @3: Interesting points, certainly, but I’m not sure I buy your comparison with the first of his ‘key messages’. I think, however, dislocated the aspects of the economy argument are in reality, they have already been articulated as a whole by the Conservatives, and in any event they do not end up as an attack on a minority; it’s fair political game.

    Am I being over-sensitive? No, I don’t think I am.

    Certainly there is no explicit recommendation that the two aspects of message 2 should be conflated, but he’s not stupid – he knows how it will be read by his target audience, those who will have input into local Tory leaflets either centrally or locally.

    He can’t have it both ways, saying that the initial 6 messages need to be brought down to 3, but then argue that actually one of the 3 is actually 2. That suggests strongly that the conflation is quite deliberate.

    And the sad thing is I know that Tim Montgomerie may be acting against his better nature. I understand he was behind the anti-BNP ‘nothin British about’ website for example, but here he’s not just pandering to the more abhorrent wing of his party, he’s giving them advice on how to be abhorrent.

    And I don’t think I’m being too harsh on Tim Montgomerie. I acknowledge that the consequences of the conflated message he is recommending to Tory activists may well be unintended, but for the conflation is clearly there.

    In the hed, he is promoting the development of racist material by his party, however unthinkingly; more particularly I’m suggesting he should have reflected more on the message he was promoting and to whom he is promoting it, given his professed Christian commitment and his willingness to make public how that faith informs his work.

    Tim F @4 and Mil @5: Good points, thanks. I agree.

  8. Alan Jones
    March 10, 2010 at 8:03 am

    I think we will have to beg to differ about TM’s intended meaning!

    Couple of thoughts though:

    * Previously the left has ridiculed the Tories for fighting the 2005 election partly on an immigration control platform. What I sense in this election is that whenever the Tories even mention immigration (which is rarely enough, given how high a priority most voters consider it to be) the left gets aggressive. Why the change in attitude? I suspect it’s because the left suspects that an immigration control platform is a vote winner in this election, unlike the last.

    * If TM is producing racist material linking crime and immigration (and I wholly disagree with the idea that he is) he must be doing so because ultimately he thinks it plays well with the electorate, not just to pander to the ‘nasty wing’ of the Tories. If so, he’s either right or wrong about this. Interested to know what you think. If you think he’s wrong I think you would be better to ridicule his tactics than to call him a racist.

  9. March 10, 2010 at 8:40 am

    A couple of answers to your couple of thoughts:

    * The Left should get aggressive any time the Tories talk about immigration – because Tory attitudes to it attempt to turn an element of the battle between labour and capital into a battle between workers over a nominally limited number of resources.

    * Right or wrong, racism is racism and should be called out.

    You seem to be determined to get someone here to admit that an anti-immigration attitude is prevalent. That’s not a significant admission. If it is a vote-winner, it’s because the entire established political order loves to spout the same faulty premises of the BNP in other guises. Whether this is Margaret Hodge or Tim Montogomerie is irrelevant.

    A widely spread attitude doesn’t mean that people are right, it just means that racism and anti-immigrationism (and the two tend to meld one into the other) naturally flow from certain views necessitated by an acceptance of capitalism. The only fault of the Left in such circumstances is our failure to organize workers and extend the internationalist sentiments of struggles like Lindsey.

  10. Alan Jones
    March 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Here’s what I find interesting.

    You acknowledge that a lot of people don’t like the government’s current approach to immigration policy (which, since 1997, has been laxer than during any other time in the post-WWII period – not sure how that reconciles with your view that ‘the entire established political order’ has an anti-immigration attitude, but let’s leave that to the side). Many voters consider it too lax. Presumably you acknowledge that a lot of those voters are just the kind of ‘workers’ you claim to speak for – there must be quite a few ‘workers’ among the million who voted for the BNP at the European elections. Are these ‘workers’ racists?

    I’m guessing you’ll say they’re not (unlike Tories who object to current immigration policy). Rather, you’ll say they’re misguided, victims of some right wing ideology that’s taken over our politics and media. Well that’s where I disagree with you. I think the reason these workers vote for the fascist, racist BNP is because they perceive, in many respects rightly, that current immigration policy is not in their interests. And the failure of the left is not to have not extended internationalist sentiments between workers from different countries (not really sure what that would look like), but not to have provided a moderate alternative to the racist, fascist BNP for these workers at the ballot box. Many on the mainstream left seem to have belatedly recognized this now that the UK is represented in Europe by the racist, fascist BNP. The extreme left seems to prefer a strategy that will only increase support for the BNP – indeed maybe this is just what it wants to keep itself relevant. For this reason I’m personally grateful that the extreme left’s views are totally irrelevant to mainstream politics.

    One other thing – if you want some allies in your ‘unlimited immigration’ stance, look no further than the Institute of Directors or the CBI. They are big proponents of lax immigration policy – the more cheap labour they get to work their capital the better. Might be worth pondering why you have ended up with such curious bedfellows.

  11. paulinlancs
    March 10, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    “Well that’s where I disagree with you. I think the reason these workers vote for the fascist, racist BNP is because they perceive, in many respects rightly, that current immigration policy is not in their interests.”

    The fact is that in, let’s say Spain, much larger scale immigration has not seen the rise of a rightwing party like the BNP. There must, I suggest, be factors at work other than the immigration itself. These factors are, I suggest further, the very ones you identify mockingly.

    • Mil
      March 10, 2010 at 7:38 pm

      Whether you agree with the monarchy as a guiding institution or not, I remember one Christmas listening most gratefully to King Juan Carlos praise and underline the contribution that immigrants (me being one at the time) were making to Spanish culture, to the economy and to life in general. Spain has had its own unhappy history of conflict, that’s true – but is undeniably the better these days for being a patchwork of cultures. Both left and right rule in areas which have benefited from immigration, and could not do without it. And immigrants themselves (I’d far rather the term “migrants” for some reason) have benefited from a touchstone concept in all Spanish politics which – curiously – doesn’t really have its equivalent here in Britain: that of “solidarity”.

      Where does the difference between the two countries lie? Spain is also practically an island – so I don’t think this concept of island races wanting more vigorously to protect their borders is valid here. Perhaps the real difference is that Spain, with several official languages of government, cannot deny that cultural mix is the way forward. The English meanwhile (and I mean the English), for so many reasons which range from the now trivially historic impositional and repressive structure of the Union Jack to the widespread use of their language by everyone else, can still believe they don’t have to make that extra effort to join the rest of the human race.

      I have been an immigrant in Spain. My children have been immigrants in Britain. Only once was one of my children insulted at school with the epithet of “chocolate skin”. Mostly, our experience of the condition of immigrant has been positive. In our family at home, we freely mix English and Spanish. The children are learning French at school and my eldest is also learning Mandarin Chinese. We need to advertise far more these kinds of attitudes and behaviours and far less the subtextual massaging of prejudice that pasting ideas such as crime and immigration onto the same election leaflet may lead to – whether intentional or not. Like bullying and sexual harassment, the reality must be in the eye of the beholder. If people with less power feel that people with more power are abusing their condition of advantage, that must surely be investigated – and where appropriate denounced as Paul has seen fit to do.

  12. March 10, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    Alan, you’re absolutely right – and I know all about the CBI attitudes, reflected in a certain wing of the Tory Party. But there are a bunch of reforms which would soon make it too difficult for British business to use immigrant labour to undercut indigenous – and in any case, outsourcing and the continuing restructuring of jobs to make them more casual, less secure and of worse remuneration and terms happens within the country, without the need for immigration to top it off.

    Simply put, that’s a battle we have to take to the CBI even if immigration was banned.

    Incidentally, I think you mis-characterize my remarks as regards the political order. A faulty premise can be spouted from multiple angles – including pro-immigration angles.

  13. Alan Jones
    March 11, 2010 at 12:22 am

    @paulinlanc. Can’t comment on Spain because I don’t know the facts, but I certainly don’t think the BNP vote is simply and mechanically the result of immigration. It’s no doubt a host of factors, but it seems implausible that immigration isn’t a major one of these. It’s possible that everybody apart from an enlightened few has been brainwashed by the right wing press about what’s in their best interests, but that’s not a claim you can either demonstrate or refute so I don’t find it that useful. I prefer to assume that people have a pretty good sense of what’s in their own interests (not perfect, but certainly not consistently wrong) and they use what options they have available to them to serve their interests. It’s a crying shame that lots of decent people have reached the point where voting BNP has become to them a tolerable option for expressing their protest.

    @Dave. Not sure what reforms you have in mind – you can’t (and shouldn’t) force employers to discriminate against foreign workers who have lower wage demands than non-immigrant workers. You could set the minimum wage higher, and enforce it better, but that would almost certainly increase unemployment. Agree with you about the increasing precariousness of work – but perhaps that is the product of there being lots of workers in the market who are happy to work for low wages, in part because of loose immigration policy. I don’t agree with you about outsourcing – most economic activity in the UK consists of services that can’t be outsourced and can’t be done anywhere but in the UK, so limiting low skilled immigration does enhance the employment and wage prospects of unskilled non-immigrant labour.

  14. March 11, 2010 at 6:54 am

    I don’t mean outsourcing to other countries, Alan. A much older form of outsourcing is to employment agencies and so forth. And everyone is prepared to work for less when the alternative is unemployment. Who wouldn’t rather have a job?

    This is not simply to do with immigration. It was going on long before 1997, if that’s your watershed immigration year. And the answer is not easy – none of these problems will be solved simply by passing a law, such as raising the minimum wage (though that would help) or banning immigration (which might in theory also help, but creates side effects which are undesirable).

    In any case, the minimum wage is a rather half-arsed excuse for collective bargaining, it’s to expand the power and range of the trades unions and, importantly, to get immigrants into unions.

    You’re right, on the current model of capitalism that would create unemployment in the UK, as there’d be all sorts of consequences that would see investment run to other countries. So the best answer is internationalist socialism.

  1. April 13, 2012 at 11:26 am

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