The politics of strawberry-picking (or the Daily Mail, Part I)

Reading the Daily Mail is rarely good for my blood pressure. However, today there are two stories about refugees and migrants which underline the extent to which the Daily Mail’s view on refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants are propelled along by a general sense of moral outrage, rather than any logical argument.
First, we have a Race row after Labour MP Glenda Jackson suggests most immigrants are ‘fruit pickers’ and ‘potato diggers’. I’ve read this story three times now, and I still can’t work out exactly who the Mail is angry with and why. There’s a quote from Conservative MP Nadhim Zahawi, who insists ‘I was not born in Britain and I have never worked as a strawberry picker.’ But this unlikely idea that the Mail is championing the rights of migrants to aspire to a life beyond agricultural piece-work isn’t really followed through, as a different Conservative MP (and former strawberry farmer) – insists that there’s a mix of workers in the business: ‘some of them foreign, but many of them British.’ So the message seems to be that while some migrants are strawberry pickers, not all strawberry pickers are migrants.
Hardly a revelation, though it’s unusual to see Tory MPs rushing to migrants’ defence. But this, I suspect, is because that the real target of the Mail’s ire on this occasion seems to be the “undeserving” British poor, who have let migrants into the country by failing to pick enough strawberries or dig enough potatoes. The row began, after all, because the Works and Pensions minister, Chris Grayling, insisted that ‘migrants had snapped up UK jobs because millions of Britons were on benefits’. So migration is now a necessary evil (whether in the strawberry fields or not). And it’s poor people’s fault. What a relief: we’re back on solid Daily Mail territory after all.