“Dog whistle” politics comes back to bite Theresa May.

Posted on: 26th April 2018

“Dog whistle” politics is when a politician seeks to carefully use words which artfully imply something it would be outrageous to say outright. The Conservatives admitted using this technique since their notorious “are you thinking what I’m thinking” poster campaign in the 2005 General Election

So we shouldn’t be surprised to discover how the Conservative Government has treated British citizens who lawfully came to this country more than 50 years ago.

It’s shocking that British people have been fined and deported because of their skin colour and heritage. But that’s not what shocked former Home Secretary, Theresa May. The shock for her was that she’d been found out.

Of course this isn’t the first time that Theresa May’s mask has slipped. The Conservatives may continue to use artful language. But we know what they mean when they blow the immigration dog whistle: when they call for a “hostile environment” for immigrants; and when they send out vans emblazoned with “GO HOME” slogans into neighbourhoods with large black populations.

The Immigration Act (2014) is a case in point. It introduced powers to stop ILLEGAL immigrants from illegally using public services. On the surface it was unarguable. Even the Labour Party didn’t oppose it. And, as a serial ‘rebel’ at the time, I had to choose my fights with care.

But we all suspected the Conservatives would interpret this as a green light to go much further. And, as we can now see, so they did. They even forced through another Immigration Act in 2016 after they they had thrown off the shackle of the Liberal Democrats.

It’s time politicians of any Party came together to combat this. If they, like me, believe we should stand up to this inflammatory, nasty (racist even) attitude to fellow human beings we can successfully, collectively promote a kinder politics and withstand the kind of irresponsible whipping-up of prejudice which follows the dog whistling.

Perhaps it’s time for Government Ministers to apply to themselves the same standards they ask of other public servants. For example, Ministers expect Doctors and Nurses to scrupulously apply a ‘Duty of Candour’ when mistakes are made or things go wrong, as they inevitably do in a pressurised and over-stretched NHS.

It would be even more appropriate for Ministers to be honest, not just about their mistakes, but also to own up to what they were really up to…