Swedish People’s Party chairman challenges (without luck) PS head Soini on racism

by , under Enrique

Migrant Tales raises its hat to Swedish People’s Party chairman, Carl Haglund, for challenging Perussuomalaiset (PS) Timo Soini on Helsingin Sanomat to an open debate about racism. Apart from immigrants and visible minorities, Finland’s Swedish-speaking population, which number about 291,000, has been under near-constant attack by the PS. 

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It is unfortunate but understandable in today’s Finland that only a small party like Haglund’s is the only one openly challenging Soini on a crucial issue like racism. If the PS ever won an election that would make Soini the country’s next prime minister, the country’s Swedish-speaking population would, like immigrants and other minorities, have the most to lose.

The reaction of some PS MPs reinforces the latter.

PS MP Reijo Tossavainen, who suggested in May 2011 with Teuvo Hakkarainen that Finland should close its borders to asylum seekers, slammed Haglund’s attack on Soini  as “childish.”

Haglund recently asked on Helsingin Sanomat a timely question: Why is he the only one challenging Soini on racism? Why are the other parties so silent?

The answer is pretty obvious. There are two answers to this question: the biggest parties are too afraid to do so and/or silently agree with many of the populist policies of the PS.

Even if the PS can be called Finland’s Immigrantionphobe Party in the same way as The Independent called the Ukip, Soini’s followers are  ostensibly anti-EU and want to relegate Finland’s second official language, Swedish, to the dustbin of history.

Haglund correctly pointed out last month when Soini appeared on BBC’s HARDTalk that the PS leader shamed Finland because he treated, as he usually does, racism with kid gloves.

Soini has refused to comment on what Haglund said and has made it clear that he doesn’t want to be seen with him in public.

Whatever Soini may want to say, he got caught off guard by BBC’s HARDtalk journalist Stephen Sackur.

One of the these situations was when Soini attempted to defend PS MP Hakkarainen and his use of the n-word in Finland which is “completely unacceptable and racist.”

Soini: “I said [to Hakkarainen] don’t use that kind of [racist] language.”

Sackur: “Why didn’t you fire him?”

Soini: “Why should I?”

Saucker: “Because if people use that sort of completely derogatory word towards people of a different race it suggests that they are racist.”

Soini: “Yes, but he hasn’t said he’s a racist and I don’t believe he is a racist.”

  1. Mark

    For parties that are traditionally on the Right of centre, there is very little to be gained by tackling PS on the issue of its anti-immigration/racism stance. PS can easily argue that they have already issued a statement condemning racism and that in fact they are martyrs to a media witch hunt.

    There are very few votes on the Right of centre to be won by arguing against racism, and quite a few to lose. The typical strategy has been to toughen up their own rhetoric on immigration.

    Meanwhile, those on the Left of centre have traditionally argued against debating publicly with Far Right politicians for fear of giving them more of a platform from which to spread their message of grievance. That stance is completely out of date in today’s Europe, where the Far Right have established their own platform in a vacuum of debate on issues relating to immigration, but I still see influential Lefties arguing for exactly this kind of ‘let’s not talk to them’ stance.

    Ironically, those on the Left of centre well understand how the poor or disinfranchised are vulnerable to just this kind of grievance politics, as they themselves use exactly the same tactics to garner votes.

    It really is time to engage in the debate and to build an alliance between politicians from all parties who oppose racism and researchers who likewise are brave enough to take a moral stance in regard to their topic of study. To do that effectively, we need rock solid facts and relevant and properly interpreted statistics.

    You would think that would be a normal and legal obligation of the State, but the State is terrified of what it might reveal. The Dannish research debacle is a good example, where seemingly objective economists can create a very biased and narrow picture (the project leader resigned over how the results were misinterpreted for political ends) that ends up showing immigration to cost billions.

    The Denmark research was deeply flawed. It looked at costs to the state and not overall economic benefit, e.g. to employers. Immigrants are typically low-paid employees that benefit the bottom line of employers and local economies. You cannot measure economic benefit just in the form of tax receipts for the State. Likewise, benefit payments are usually spent quickly, returning money to both the local economy and the Treasury very rapidly. This is not GDP ‘growth’, but it is economic activity with benefits. The costs of supporting an immigration policy were not compared to the potential costs of having no or low immigration in the near future.

    Researchers often stay outside the Politics–Media–Research triangle, for fear of being seen to lose their objectivity and for fear of being manipulated by an unpredictable Press and a fickle political establishment that often has a finger resting over the ‘funding’ button. Better to hide in the corner and pretend you are not there and pick up the pay cheque at the end of the month.

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