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Goldsmiths' Official Student Magazine

The Week in Politics: Brexit, Borders and the Manufacturing of Distraction

22 February 2019
Jordan Knights looks back at the week in politics...

Here we are, Brexit’s out of the way and… oh no wait, that’s still going on. You would have almost forgotten about it had you not been contemplating the moral conundrum of whether a UK citizen who joined ISIS should be let back into the country. We still don’t have a resolution to Brexit, Theresa May’s running down the clock and she needs distractions fast; cue moral outrage.

I’ve been so busy keeping my sense of looming dread in order that, surprisingly, I can’t keep up with the daily ins and outs of Westminster. Also, I’m pretty dweeby when it comes to parliamentary arithmetic. This Brexit thing has been going on for so long now that I think most people have lost their sense of political reality. But while we’re screaming for certainty, let’s remember that this precarious nature of Brexit is all of Tory making.

This week, 8 Labour MP’s left their party. Some of them have questionable policy ideas there’s no doubt about it. Figures such as Chuka Umunna and Angela Smith have dubious connections to powerful backers that really makes you question whether the working class is now a synonym for anyone that will write you a big fat check. We be ballin’ boys. How aptly they have timed their defection considering the current inability of this Tory government to pass anything through parliament. The potential of a Corbyn government that intends to break the stronghold of neoliberalism must be too frightening a prospect for their conception of ordinary people. Honestly, I love my student debts, as Angela Smith said, this is me enjoying my poverty, wearing it as a badge of pride.

But this was allegedly about anti semitism in Labour, which Umunna denounced as institutionally racist. Somehow Angela Smith calling a BME person a ‘funny tinge’ is the best way to demonstrate your state of moral exceptionalism. While labour have been poor in tackling anti semitism, not to mention their mangling of the recent post-Brexit immigration bill, it is sad to see anti-racist campaigner Luciana Berger go. But this debate goes far further then racism within the Labour Party. It demonstrates the fundamental way racism functions in our society as an ordering structure. Angela Smith’s comments are a demonstration of utterances of everyday racism reinforcing the structure.

Why has the figure of the terrorist suddenly reappeared in the media? We must always ask why certain news stories appear when they do. For example, Sajid Javid’s announcement of a migrant crisis. Under international law we are obliged to provide asylum. Migrants in Calais routinely have their tents and sleeping bags burnt and destroyed by a militant security force in order to stop them settling. These guards are also swapped around regularly so that they cannot form emotion/human attachments to these people. The policing of these bodies is tied intimately into the idea of borders which is emblematic of the EU as a whole. In Sajid Javid’s case, he has overlooked the fact that Shamima Begum is a girl that has had a very difficult experience, which must make us question what it is about being Muslim in the UK that would drive three young girls to join ISIS.

Calling upon the figure of the terrorist is a distraction. It is a damning indictment to the level of Islamophobia in society that illuminates wider problems within Tory policy. Racism must be fought on all fronts, including the deep psychological and societal structures that function as modes of governmentality. It is in the listening to each other, to those that are different from us, that we find humanity and solidarity in one another.

This is the same old cultural politics that successive neoliberal governments have been playing for years. This is the legacy of Blairite migration politics. We must say a firm no to these tactics if we genuinely oppose those xenophobic elements of Brexit we are fighting hardest against.

Words, Jordan Knights – @legitjk

Image, AFP