Full council meetings are very often blessed with motions. Maybe blessed is
not the right word though motions might be. Personally I would be more inclined to regard them as a
curse; they take up a lot of time and I have little idea why councillors propose
them. Perhaps it is to allow them to pose like an MP in the Commons
and spew out their thoughts while pretending they are Very Important People.
There have been lots of them in Bexley over the years; recently motions have applauded the idea
of a tunnel at Silvertown, praised gay marriage and deplored the cost of energy. Frequently
the subject has little or no bearing on Bexley or at least none which the council can
influence, but they do it just the same for their 15 minutes of glory.
Last Wednesday councillor Alex Sawyer stood to “acknowledge the positive contribution of most immigrants” but “urged the government to greatly reduce immigration levels”. It could have been a tightrope walk beneath which was the yawning chasm of racism but Alex did not get close to falling into it.
Some key facts from Alex’s speech…
• 92% of Bexley residents who responded to a survey placed immigration at the top of their list of matters of concern.
• Local resources are already stretched and cannot be stretched a great deal further.
• Most immigrants have made Bexley a better place.
• In 1997 there were 327,000 immigrants, ten years later 596,000 were coming in to the country every year.
• Foreign nationals in Bexley have doubled in the past ten years.
His theme throughout was that government should work more closely with local councils to ensure the views of residents were heard.
In seconding the motion councillor Alan Downing took the opportunity to take a swipe at the Labour government for its lax border controls and general encouragement to all and sundry and many will agree with him, undoubtedly the Blair years changed the character of the country for ever.
Councillor Munir Malik then piped up with an amendment. It looks to be an entirely reasonable amendment to me. I might be surrounded where I live by people who speak with strong foreign accents but I’ve yet to meet one who I’d like to see the back of, although I would be happier if certain Africans learned to use their refuse bins.
In the ensuing debate councillor Seán Newman suggested that Alex Sawyer’s speech was in response to the UKIP threat to Conservatives. Maybe he is right
You’d think that Alex Sawyer would welcome the extra paragraph. Who wants to see racism and xenophobia? Nobody you might think, but you’d be wrong. Bexley council, well the Conservatives anyway, do not want to put a few extra words between it and racism and xenophobia. With the honourable exception of councillor Peter Catterall every single Tory voted to reject the amendment.
Why do they do it and risk being labelled racists? Probably for the sole reason it was a Labour amendment. Everything from Labour must be ridiculed and voted down. Peter Catterall was kicked out of the cabinet a couple of years ago presumably for an excess of integrity. Now he is standing down altogether. I suspect you can understand why.