Well this morning, David Cameron made a speech about how mass immigration has “discomforted and disjointed” communities and therefore Labour’s open-door immigration policy must take part of the blame for the rise of the BNP and other extremist organizations.
To an extent I think this is true. Whilst the previous government can at least be credited for finally deciding a couple of years ago that yes, maybe they had gone a bit too far, they took a pretty long time to do it. Their blind support for mass immigration, and especially multiculturalism, certainly did allow the BNP to attract disenchanted Labour voters (from whom they get most of their votes), and to say the established parties were ignoring the people’s concerns.
But his solutions? He wants to ban spouses under 21 from being imported into the UK (similar to what the Danish government has done). He wants to dramatically shrink the numbers of skilled workers coming in and tighten rules for student visas, so that immigration levels will go from hundreds of thousands a year to the tens of thousands that came in the Thatcher and Major years.
That first suggestion would do a lot of good, and would certainly go far in stopping forced marriages, but I’m wary about the second proposal. Labour’s policy of completely uncontrolled immigration, which allowed over 2 million people to settle here under the 13 years of Labour government that we had, was clearly unacceptable. But do we really need to bring immigration levels back to how they were in the ’80s and ’90s?
Whilst for most of those years I wasn’t even alive, I do know it was a completely different time. We didn’t have as many pensioners and we didn’t have as few young people as we have today. Britain does need skilled immigrants to help pay for the health and pensions of old people, so that when they make up half the population by 2050 or whenever (and so the Tories will probably be permanently in government!), our whole economy won’t collapse. We should certainly stick to the points system that Labour eventually introduced, and make some steps to further lower immigration, but why not be a bit flexible on work permits so we get a lot of skilled and hard-working people coming to temporarily work here, and instead focus most of our controls on permanent settlement?
Also, why not leave the EU so we can control immigration from inside as well as outside Europe? Why not ban the burka in all public buildings as well as schools and banks (but not everywhere as the French have done, nor go down the silly route of banning minarets as the Swiss have done)? Mr Cameron’s speech is helpful, and it’s not irresponsible and unwise as Vince Cable has said. It’s far less “inflammatory” than probably any speech that any issue-denying Labour politician has ever made. But in some ways it goes too far and in other ways it doesn’t go far enough.
Above all, let’s stop dishonestly making out that we can control immigration properly and be part of the EU at the same time. Eastern European immigrants are on course to be at least as big in number as any group of non-European immigrants, so there’s no point in controlling non-EU migration when you can’t control EU migration as well.