Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Immigration

Before writing this, I thought I'd better just check and see what I've said about immigration before. Given that I've been writing this blog (albeit increasingly infrequently) for nearly 9 years now and it almost invariably tops the "what are you most worried about" charts in the polls, and that it seems to dominate public discourse (while apparently being something about which people aren't allowed to talk), I assumed I must have written something about it already. Well, it turns out that I haven't - which is itself an accurate reflection of where I place immigration levels on my own personal list of priorities.
 
It's probably worthwhile, therefore, before I start to set out what my views are on immigration. Basically, what Sam Bowman says here. Immigration is a reflection of the desirability of the country as a place to live and work: higher levels of immigration are symptomatic of a country's success. Those same immigrants are then causative of that nation's future success. While there are valid concerns (about which more below) immigration should be seen as a vote of confidence in the country, and a source of future prosperity.
 
Why then is everyone so angry about it? Is it because they're just big old racists who hate brown people? Labour (particularly risibly) and the Tories are engaged in a toughness battle on who can restrict immigration the most, while the Trots-in-tweed of Ukip embrace the impossibilist absolutism of an absolute 5 year ban. Bash a migrant, win a goldfish. It's understandable, if depressing - the public is so anti-immigration that any politician wanting to get elected almost has to go with the flow.
 
But, as I said above, why the hostility? I think there is actually a fairly straightforward answer to this - for all the standard "land of immigration" memes that get rolled out (rather poignantly, this rather good example is by Brooks Newmark, now just a punchline to a joke about press standards), the sheer scale of immigration in the last 15 years is unprecedented in British history. People talk about the Huguenot immigration of the late 17th century as being probative of a tradition of waves of migration. Some 50,000 Huguenots came to England over a 40 year period. Roughly 500,000 immigrants arrive every year now. Even as late as the early 1990s, net migration figures were roughly between 0 - 50,000.
 
Then something changed.
 
 
What changed was a rapid and sudden increase in immigration, from less than 100,000 annually to more than 300,000. In part this reflected the fact that the UK was becoming an increasingly nice place to live, and a good place to get a job. In part it was the result of globalisation - both capital and labour have become much more mobile over the past 20 years. In part it was the result of deliberate policy.
 
I suspect that a change in migration levels of this scale will always provoke a reaction. People generally don't like change. Visibly different populations create a perfect environment for resentment and mistrust. The closer-knit a community, the harder it is for incomers to assimilate (this, by the way, would be my explanation for why London reports by far the least hostility to immigration - most people in London are immigrants, whether that's to the UK, or just to London from elsewhere). If you add a leavening of genuine concerns (say, the strains put on local services by increased populations or, more tendentiously, the propensity of some minority immigrant groups to be much less tolerant of aspects of British society than we have come to expect) you make opposition more or less inevitable.
 
So, for what it's worth, there's my thesis. Immigration is a good thing, both as a marker of a good society and as a thing in itself. The unprecedented scale of immigration since about 1998, however, has caused local tensions that were probably almost impossible to prevent. What can we do about it?
 
There's the rub. There's actually very little that any Government could do to reduce immigration without the policy being deeply damaging to the wider economy (and society). As a starting point as poor old Nick Boles said (and then unsaid), freedom of movement of labour within the EU is a cornerstone of the entire project. This is not a battle the UK can win, and the fact that it's been picked as one looks like a marker set down towards Brexit (or, more charitably, like a colossal bargaining chip to be negotiated away). Another large component of immigration is marriage. Speaking as someone who married an immigrant, I'd be reluctant for the British Government to start banning its citizens from marrying who they pleased. The third key component is economic migration: people move here not only because there are jobs here for them, but because here is a great place to create jobs. These are not people we want to discourage from being here.
 
What should they do instead? Obviously, educate British children so that they can effectively compete in the modern market (and hey! at least progress is being made on that front). Talk about the benefits of immigration while accepting that there are downsides, and concentrating policy not on preventing the migrants, but on alleviating the social problems that come with them (Hopi is predictably good on this). Finally, be unapologetic in asserting British cultural values. New citizens of the UK should be welcomed, properly informed of British laws and customs, and left in no doubt that where cultures clash, it is British values that take precedence.
 
Obviously, none of this will happen. The Tories, Labour and Ukip will spend the next 6 months promising to be beastlier to immigrants, while never actually spelling out what that means (except for Ukip, who don't care when things are impossible, only that they fit on the door of a taxi), and one of the things Britain ought to be proudest of will become another grubby piece of politicking. Can't wait.

3 Comments:

Blogger Recusant said...

I agree with all you say here about immigration, but, as a resident of Kensington, I am very much aware that it is people like me who receive all the benefits of immigration. I am very sympathetic to the feelings of those not as wealthy or educated who receive none of those benefits directly, but at the same time have to put up with their neighbourhood being changed utterly in a short space of time. And then, to top it all, if they have the temerity to point out any negatives, they are denounced as, at best, ignorant bigots, or, more usually, foul racists. For the sake of cohesion, they need listening to.

11:42 am  
Blogger Tim J said...

I entirely agree with that by the way. The job of the Government has to be to alleviate the negatives of immigration, while doing their best to persuade people of the positives. It's not intrinsically racist to oppose immigration to your area (look at the Welsh/Scottish opposition to English immigration) and that ought to be understood.

10:06 am  
Blogger jOHN nEWELL said...

The solution:

Procedure By Which conservatives Could Control Parliament

If UKIP  is  Lucky,  UKIP could  get,   perhaps,  get   ten to thirty   seats
in  Parliament.  Do  not   forget,   the  public  still regards  UKIP  as   a
one  issue  party.  To gain  control of  Parliament  UKIP  and  (and frie-
nds) should  form a  new  conservative  party  with  a  platform that is 
close to that of the existing Conservative party, omitting, of course, 
policies that are objectionable to conservatives. The purpose would
be to make a bed that would be easy for conservatives to slide into,
including  the eighty  percent  of  the Conservatives who left Conser-
vative  associations. UKIP and the  conservatives  should   then  form
 a  political  association  in  each  parliamentary  district.   UKIP   could
merge with the new party, thus getting rid of the one issue problem. 
Every one who would have worked  to  form  the new,  conservative,
 party   should   be   prevented   from    joining    the    new   party    for
a  period   of time  to  prevent  the  impression  that  UKIP  controls  it.
The two or three conservative parties should hold a primary election
to determine who runs as the Parliamentary candidate, with the losers
to help the winner. The cost of forming new associations can be raised
by local contributors. It is suggested that the  new   conservative   asso-
ciations and the political party be controlled by the lowest level of con-
servatives, such as teachers, small businessmen, solicitors, professionals
etc. If the  above   procedure   can  not  be  completed  in  time  to   get 
candidates   elected   to    Parliament,  the  new  party  must  wait  until
after the  election  and  hold  a  petition  demanding  that  the  elected
MP  resign. Note: an MP  represents   every  person  in  his  district,  not
just members and   supporters of his party. When the petition reaches
fifty percent of those who voted in the prior election, the conservatives
will be morally justified in demanding their MP"s resignation. Then the
new party could run their  candidates  in  the  following by elections. 
 
To select a candidate, a local  association should  advertise  for applicants
or the position of candidate for  Parliament, then  select   the   best  app-
licant  by using rigorous tests, including, most importantly,  psychological 
evaluation. psychological evaluation is an absolute necessity as the psych-
ological evaluation is the only way to tell who is honest and who is a con-
artist; members of the public  cannot.  Testing  could  be  required  of the 
association  officers,  committee  members and delegates, etc.

The platform, selected by new party associations,  should be some what
 vague in order to facilitate integration  the platforms of the  new  assoc-
iations into one platform. It is suggested that self forming cliques of those
who are   honest  and   trust  worthy  be formed;  then form   self  forming
cliques of those who have   political skills  and  capabilities,  within  the
first described clique.

The corruption in Ukip is a cause for concern. Information about the corr-
uption may bee seen on the following websites:
ukip-vs-eukip.com
unfashionista.com
eureferendum.com

John Newell

3:52 am  

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