What’s the connection between 42 days detention for alleged “terror suspects”, the mass targeting of black people for stop and search, a sharp rise in racist attacks and the planned introduction of identity cards? Answer: each represents an aspect of an institutionalised racist state under the direction of the New Labour government.
When Gordon Brown’s party finished an astonishing fifth behind the openly racist British National Party (BNP) in the recent Henley by-election, observers put it down to general disenchantment with the government. Another way to look at it was that the BNP was reaping what New Labour had sown in a state-inspired racism combined with supreme indifference to poor white working-class voters.
The plan to hold people for six weeks before charge under so-called anti-terror laws, is clearly targeted at British-born minorities. The relentless scapegoating of the Asian community in this and other ways was bound to whip up hostility, especially in areas of high deprivation. And now we have the figures to show this. More than 61,000 complaints of racially motivated crime were made in 2006-07, a rise of 28% in just five years. Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "We're getting more British Muslims reporting to us that they feel anti-Muslim prejudice is increasing in society. There are incidents of attacks against mosques and Islamic schools."
But it is not just Asians who are the targets. Thanks to laws passed under this government, police have new powers to stop people in the street and demand they account for themselves. These powers were used a staggering two million times in 2006-07, according to government statistics published yesterday. This statistic, while incredible enough in itself, contains an even more frightening, not to say racist, aspect. For black people were on average two and a half times – in some areas it was five time - more likely to be stopped than white people.
It gets worse, much worse. The data shows that black people are still seven times more likely to be stopped and searched - as opposed to stop and account; three and a half times more likely to be arrested; and five times more likely to be in prison. All this is taking place before the introduction of ID cards linked to a national database. No prizes for guessing which communities are most likely to be asked to produce their ID cards in the street.
Yesterday, the plans for 42 days were savaged in the unelected House of Lords, of all places. Even for the former head of the spy agency MI5, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, condemned the very idea, declaring: "I have weighed up the balance between the right to life – the most important civil liberty – the fact that there is no such thing as complete security, and the importance of our hard-won civil liberties. Therefore, on a matter of principle, I cannot support 42 days' pre-charge detention.”
Their Lordships’ response shows again just how pathetic the overwhelming majority of New Labour MPs in the House of Commons are. They have sat on their hands (except when it comes to claiming vast expenses) and watched while the government has gone about constructing a racist, authoritarian state which the Tories are almost certain to inherit. What an achievement!