THE BLOG

Bonga Bonga Land Attitudes Are More Prevalent Than Many of Us Would Care to Admit

08/08/2013 21:23 BST | Updated 08/10/2013 10:12 BST

We shouldn't kid ourselves. While reference to 'Bonga Bonga Land' by UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom in a recent speech he gave was predictably and rightly panned across the political spectrum, disowned by the leadership of his own party, and drew the ire of the liberal commentariat, it will not have been greeted with the same disdain in many homes up and down the country.

On the contrary, his disparaging and racist reference to those countries in receipt of UK foreign aid would not only have been understood by many, it would have been welcomed. We only have to look at the growth in electoral support for UKIP itself - an anti-immigrant party which harbours more than its fair share of racists in its ranks - to know that while the focus of the liberal intelligentsia, the left, and progressive forces in general has been the rise of the kind of active racism espoused by the BNP and the EDL, casual racism remains entrenched within many British institutions never mind among the wider public.

There is no clearer evidence of this than the government's current campaign against illegal immigration, a campaign comprising advertising vans touring areas of London heavily populated by ethnic minorities, a poster campaign, and spot checks carried out by immigration officers in train stations. The fact that the Government has obviously calculated that such a campaign would meet with public support, and the fact the campaign is focused exclusively on targeting ethnic minorities - as if there were no Australian, American, South African illegal immigrants in London - is significant.

Never mind outright support, public acquiescence towards this Government-sponsored wave of anti immigration is in itself the product of a reactionary populist media in the, which has successfully promulgated myths regarding the impact of immigration - social and economic - that are patently false. It's also a consequence of Britain's foreign policy, which has redounded in the form of terrorist attacks and the essentialisation of the Muslim community in particular.

Bloom's description Britain's foreign aid budget as treason is of course the product of ignorance, not to mention mendacity. At 0.7 percent of GDP the amount we're talking about is hardly cause for the kind of moral panic whipped up in the pages of the Daily Mail. On the contrary it conforms to the percentage of GDP agreed by the UN 35 years ago as development aid to poverty-stricken economies of the developing world, where an estimated 11 million children under the age of 5 continue to die year on year as a result of hunger and preventable disease.

The concept of interdependence may be an alien one in the narrow purview of Ukip's Godfrey Bloom and his ilk, but nonetheless it remains crucial to our understanding of foreign aid as the sine qua non of any serious attempt by nation's of the developed world to forestall mass migration by those seeking an escape from the absolute poverty that blights their lives. There is also the moral case for foreign aid, which if made on the basis of justice would see the current level increased by a factor of at least 100 given the history of exploitation of the human and natural resources of the Global South by the North, responsible for the huge disparity in wealth and development.

On a wider note, isn't it instructive that the use of the word Bonga Bonga Land to describe the developing world induces such condemnation from a Tory-led government that has mounted one of the most targeted and vicious campaigns of demonisation against the poor in its own country of any in living memory?

Public attitudes towards austerity, welfare reform, immigration (which for many is indistinguishable from foreign aid in that both are increasingly viewed through a xenophobic prism) reveal that on these issues the Right has won the battle of ideas.

A supine Labour Party leadership, currently more concerned with attacking the unions at the behest of the Tories than pushing a strong alternative to austerity and its attendant assumptions on issues such as immigration, has much to answer for.