Immigration and the wicked side of social media.

Jun 3, 2014 by

The wicked side of social media strikes again. Over the past few days Twitter has been populated by a plethora of posts from people who are outraged about Anna Soubry’s statement that people with concerns about immigration are racist. But there’s one gaping problem here… she didn’t actually say it. The Chinese whispers of the Twitterati (helped nicely along by the press too) have, yet again, got everyone all worked up over nothing.

The comments at the root of the controversy were made on the Andrew Marr show during a discussion about immigration where Miss Soubry sought to explain conversations she’s had about the subject with her constituents. The crux of her point was that, upon further exploration of their views, it became clear that a lot of constituents’ perceived problems with immigration were without foundation. This is the most important message Soubry delivered on the show as it represented an example of how an open and informed dialogue about immigration can be beneficial. There was suggestion that these people, whether opinionated, misinformed or otherwise, were racist.  Miss Soubry did concede, however, that there are some people who profess concerns about immigration that are actually racist views. This is not controversial. Some people in this country are bigoted and they undoubtedly hide their points behind arguments about immigration to try to give their views a sense of legitimacy. In our own constituency of Broxtowe, for example, 1422 people voted for the BNP. They are, thankfully, a small minority but clearly do exist nonetheless and all Soubry did was acknowledge this. In doing so, Soubry actually distinguished them from the (majority of) constituents with immigration concerns who are not racist, although potentially misinformed about the real effects of immigration.

However, when the Twitterati picks its victim it pursues it with undying relentlessness and the truth is a mere irrelevance. The various comments lamenting Soubry’s “dismissal of those with immigration concerns as racist” has been regrettable. Of particular concern are the self-identifying Conservatives who have been quick to attack Soubry for what she, in actual fact, did not say. This mindlessness needs to stop. Conservatives should have seen from the countless bits of propaganda directed against its own Government over social media that Twitter is all about spin. It’s about catchy and, ideally controversial, soundbites. Unfortunately, this latest incident has revealed that some Conservatives are willing to buy into this, which as a Party supposed to be combatting the rhetoric of UKIP, is very worrying.

Anna Soubry’s comments on the Andrew Marr have been allowed to be completely misrepresented and used against her and the Conservative Party more widely by those who wish to see us lose the 2015 General Election. As activists and supporters we cannot afford to allow this to happen and have a duty, at the very least, not to be drawn in by the ridiculous social media soundbites. Intelligent debate about immigration policy is to be encouraged and across the Party views will naturally vary, but as long as petty things like this create unnecessary division amongst our ranks we are undermining our own cause.

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