Anna’s Blog: The respectable racism that surrounds Harlow’s Gypsy/Traveller problem
Politics / Tue 14th Oct 2014 at 10:05am
By Anna Szpakowska
ON Saturday morning, I was shopping in Harlow town centre. I spotted Robert Halfon next to a stall set up opposite Marks and Spencer. The stall had a cardboard placard which read ‘No to illegal encampments’. When I questioned one of Halfon’s colleagues, about what their petition was about, he informed me that the petition opposed the ‘illegal’ camps set up by travellers in Harlow. He also claimed that the petition was to put pressure on the council to give travellers land to settle on. He said that he ‘didn’t have a problem with travellers just the crime they cause’. I asked him why he didn’t set up a stall opposing white working class crime. He had no response.
If Halfon was so genuinely concerned with crime, perhaps he ought to petition against tax evasion or insider trading, much of which lead to the financial collapse of the UK and has cost the taxpayer billions. Furthermore, if Halfon was so concerned by illegal encampments perhaps, he should have opposed illegal settlements on Palestinian land.
Apart from Halfon’s obvious hypocrisy, my issue with Halfon’s petition is it aims to divide ordinary people.
If he genuinely wanted to help travellers, the sign would have read ‘support the travellers in our community’. Since 1994, when the Caravan Sites Act was abolished, land for travellers to settle on has been reduced and there is no longer any legislation which puts pressure on councils to provide land for travellers. If Halfon wants to help ordinary people, perhaps he ought to lobby government to reinstate legislation that forces councils to provide land for travellers to use.
Those in power continue to perpetrate the myths that travellers are ‘dirty’, ‘lazy’, and ‘criminals’. It is true that often travellers live in communities separately from the rest of the town and can therefore be viewed as hostile. However, these groups of people have been subject to discrimination for centuries. By attacking the travelling community, Halfon aims to divide normal people not unite them. It is irresponsible and immoral for those in power to use this form of racism to deflect from the real issues in our community.
Halfon and others like him ought to stop hiding behind a guise of respectability and be exposed for what they truly are: racists.
I have to say you'll be very short of support for this Anna. I have seen nothing anywhere by anyone that suggests travellers are dirty, lazy or criminals. However, they have left a mess across the town that to date has cost £45k, which is twice the £23k in the environmental clean up budget, and they still haven't left, so this bill will go up. Taxpayers will have to pay for this - and the travellers pay no tax apart from on things they buy, yet they use roads, schools, and common land which the rest of us have to pay for. I am far from racist, I'm a realist - and I see no reason why we should bend over backwards to cater for a group who make no contribution financially for using services the rest of us pay for through our taxes, which go up to clear up the messes they leave in their wake. I do however completely agree with you that crime has many forms, and tackling tax avoidance, insider trading and the like seems to have little action from any of the old political class who are keen to keep them on side for party donations and such like. Similarly, I think it is in the National interest to cut red tape and get our police force back on the beat preventing crime - be that knife crime right through to littering our streets.