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UAF Conference: Ukip Must Not Be Allowed To Influence Politics And Immigration

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The rise of Ukip and the influence of the anti-immigration party on British politics was feverishly analysed at this weekend's United Against Fascism conference.

Labour MP Diane Abbott and former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone were two high-profile speakers addressing issues of racism and immigration rhetoric at the conference on Saturday, which also saw experts speak on neo-Nazi parties in Europe and discuss campaign tactics against the British National Party at the 2014 European elections.

Abbott urged her own party not to "take another step to the right" or follow the Conservative party lead on immigration rhetoric, because of a concern about a rise in support for Ukip, who came second in the recent Eastleigh by-election.

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The UAF (Unite Against Fascism) march to oppose the presence of EDL (English Defence League)

"I am very fearful that mainstream parties will take the wrong lessons from the rise of Ukip. I am worried for my own party, the Labour party, will take the wrong lessons," she said.

"For every party that considers itself progressive, moving to the right on immigration, at the current time is just a spiral downwards."

Former Labour MEP Glyn Ford, now the UAF's Europe officer, warned that Ukip were the beginning of a slippery slope for voters. "Ukip are not a fascist party, but they are xenophobic, ultra -nationalistic, many of their members are racists, and they act, in my view as a recruiting ground for people who may later on veer even further to the right," he said in a workshop addressing the rise of the far right in Europe.

Abbott blamed "deregulation of the labour markets" and "rampant and exploitative employers," adding "they are the ones who drive down wages, not immigrants."

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Diane Abbott, who spoke at the UAF conference

Addressing a crowded hall at the Trade Union Congress Centre, Abbott said: "I get particularly upset when I hear that immigrants are creating too much pressure on the welfare state. Without immigrants, Britain would not have an NHS.

"My mother was that generation of West Indian women who came here to work in the health service. And I think it is disrespectful to that generation to talk about immigrants as if they are a drain and never speak about the contribution they make to keeping our public services going."

Multiculturalism, Abbott said, had become a swear word in Westminster. "I am old enough to remember what would happen to black, Asian families who moved onto a white estate, and to remember estate agents who would say bare-faced to black families, that house in that middle class area is not for sale.

"If communities live separately now, we have to look at that institutional racism."

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Former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone

Former mayor Livingstone said immigration was blamed for problems that were created by the government's poor economic management. "We hear that immigrants take our jobs, take our homes, whether it's Jews, Muslims or Romanians next year.

"But the actual reason we have a housing crisis is because for the last 30 years, the Labour and Conservative governments failed to build more council housing.

"We allow financial institutions to dominate our economy, and we have no good manufacturing jobs for working class people.

"That's the difference between Germany and the UK today. The banks were never allowed to have that kind of power there, and they still have strong industry."

UAF's joint secretary Weyman Bennett said that Ukip leaflets he had seen during the recent Eastleigh by-election had often been "worse than the BNP".

He added: "One said that three million Bulgarians are coming to live in Eastleigh. I'm not sure what exactly it is that's so attractive about Eastleigh."

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UAF Conference: Saturday 25 February, central London

Unite Against Fascism