Tony Blair has come under severe criticism after comments he made that seemed to blame immigrants for far-right attacks, stating that immigrants into the UK had a “Duty To Integrate” to combt the far-right.
In an astonishing example of victim-blaming, the former British Prime Minister wrote in a report for his Institute for Global Change that suggested MPs were “avoiding difficult questions” and that immigrants “have a duty” to integrate into society as “far-right bigotry” is on the rise across the country. Blair went on to suggest that foreign culture and faith can “upset” the social contract.
“Particularly now, when there is increasing evidence of far-right bigotry on the rise, it is important to establish the correct social contract around the rights and duties of citizens, including those who migrate to our country.Tony Blair
We make it clear that there is a duty to integrate, to accept the rules, laws and norms of our society that all British people hold in common and share, while at the same time preserving the right to practise diversity, which is fully consistent with such a duty.
Without the right to, for example, practise one’s faith, diversity would have no content; but without the duty to integrate, ‘culture’ or ‘faith’ can be used as a way of upsetting that basic social contract that binds us together.”
Evocative of far-right tropes including those surrounding culture war, cultural incompatibility and false suppression of free speech, Blair’s comments have been widely condemned and called out as both victim-blaming and words that are only “pandering” to the far-right, not combating it.
The report by Tony Blair’s institute also calls for mandatory citizenship lessons and the indroduction of idendity cards.
Blair’s words do absolutely nothing to aid the fight against the far-right, nor give comfort to the communities targeted by the likes of UKIP and the former EDL. In placing the blame for violence and increasingly hateful rhetoric at the door of immigrants and alleged failures of integration, Blair shirks responsibility, avoiding his own “difficult questions” surrounding increased religious violence around the world, increasing levels of poverty under austerity and the role of politicians and the media in blatant and coded hate speech.
While Tony Blair might like to victim-blame immigrants for the rise of the far-right, perhaps the origins of the problem lay far closer to his own front door.