The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

Immigration: The Dog That Sort Of Barked

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 1, 2010 @ 10:34

Immigration is good, see?

Before this election was called, no one could have dared to think that the top issue the politicians would be talking about would be immigration.

After all, we’ve just been through the worst political crisis in decades, exposing corruption and deceit at the heart of our democracy. Oh, and that little thing that was one of the deepest recessions in decades, including a run on a British bank for the first time in history. The recession may well be over for now, but one false move at this delicate time could plunge growth back into negative territory.

Then there was all this talk about the deficit, and where we’re going to cut. That should have led to a sensible debate about what our priorities should be. Defence? Foreign wars? The NHS? Education? Transport? Housing? Which of these should bear the brunt of the cuts, and in what proportion?

All it took to change what should have been the real issue was one little question, in one little debate.

Think back to the very first debate. It was the very first question. And it was a very reasonable one.

What key elements for a fair, workable immigration policy need to be put in place to actually make it work effectively?

The politicians all replied and insisted that they were going to talk about it all along, because they had heard the concerns of people all up and down the country. That’s probably true, because in certain areas there is indeed a great deal of resentment, and a lot more misinformation, about the presence of immigrants. But amusingly, according to the IPPR:

Our findings suggest that areas that have higher levels of recent immigration than others are not more likely to vote for the BNP. In fact, the more immigration an area has experienced, the lower its support for the far right [sic].

(I do not agree with calling the BNP “far right”)

If I want to be a little mischievous, I would go so far as to say that some of this “concern” for immigration comes in areas that have no immigrants in them at all. Media distortion, perhaps? All those Daily Mail and Daily Express articles must have some impact on the agenda.

This question in the debate, and the controversy surrounding the Lib Dems’ brave policy on how to deal with the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in the country, has made the issue a centrepiece of the entire campaign. Please don’t let anyone again claim that politicians don’t wish to talk about immigration.

The problem in my mind is the way it has always been spun during the campaign. It seems to me that all our politicians, even from my own party, have settled on forms of words regarding the topic that consistently talk about immigration in negative terms. Out of control. Restriction. Capping. Deportations. Criminals. Overstaying visas. Dodgy visa applications. Border controls. I’m pretty sure that Nick Clegg in the first debate has given the only defence of the subject: that our economy is reliant on immigration, and that it has largely enhanced our culture.

But now everyone is afraid of doing that. The new political consensus is that the last decade of net positive migration must be reversed.

What I’d like to point out to people is that if we do that, and the “indigenous” British people continue along their current path of reduced fertility, the problems of ageing population are going to get far worse, employers are going to find it difficult if not impossible to fill certain jobs, resulting in economic difficulty, and those very same British people that like to complain about a lack of “British” people are actually creating the rod for their own backs.

Immigration is a huge issue, because it cannot be seen in isolation. Here are just a few questions it raises:

  1. Do we need immigrants because of our failing education system?
  2. Do we need immigrants to correct a population imbalance caused by the retirement of the baby boom generation?
  3. Do we need immigrants because the “native” population simply isn’t reproducing enough, storing up massive demographic problems for the future?
  4. Do we need immigrants because we have raised expectations of life too highly that menial work is now seen as beneath most people?
  5. Do we need immigrants because there are some skills we simply cannot train in such a short space of time, and if that’s the case, do we send them back once we’ve fixed the problems here?
  6. Do we need immigrants because without them the economy would suffer greatly in the short term?
  7. Do we need immigrants because immigration is politically easier than tackling the people on welfare who could take a job but won’t?
  8. Do we take immigrants because it is our moral duty to give the life chances we get in this country to other people?

But do you hear politicians talking about any of those?

Do you hell.

We do indeed need a debate on immigration in this country. But it needs to be way beyond the platitudes we’ve seen during this campaign. It needs to go back to first principles. And it needs to be more honest about the important role it is going to have to play in this country for decades to come.

Chances of that happening?

Zero.

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