Opinion: The Immigration Trap

For liberal fundamentalists, open-door immigration policy exerts a fatal attraction.  Right-wing economic liberals advocate the freedom to recruit cheap labour on the global market and make British business more profitable and competitive.  Traditional centre-left liberals advocate anti-racism and individual freedom to migrate.  Thus, immigration is one of those special issues which can be claimed to bring Left and Right together, and thereby supersede these “outdated” political concepts with an all-conquering philosophy of Liberalism.

Joe Public will have none of this.  Joe believes it is bonkers to import shiploads of foreign labour while millions of natives are out of work and languishing on benefits.  UKIP and Cameron agree, while Labour hardly dare argue, because Joe has made up his mind.

Now, Joe’s economic argument is, of course, very much weaker than he thinks it is.  Most of the native unemployed simply could not do the jobs which immigrants take.  Cameron is vulnerable to an intelligent challenge, pointing out how much an immigration cap would cost our economy, increase the deficit and threaten tax rises.  Sadly, the Lib Dem challenge has instead relied heavily on faulty arguments which only serve to alienate Joe Public and reinforce his anti-immigration views.  Here are some examples.

Cable’s recent reference to Enoch Powell implicitly smeared the anti-immigration lobby as racist.  Joe Public knows this is an unfair calumny.  Whatever racist feelings Joe might perhaps harbour are irrelevant.  The valid concern is that immigrants drive down wage rates and take jobs and housing away from natives.  It has nothing to do with racism.

Then there is the lofty claim that immigration is good for Britain, usually presented in purely macro terms without regard to who benefits.  In fact, business and the middle class make all the gains, while workers often suffer.  When Lib Dems ignore this, it just looks as if they don’t care about ordinary people.  Immigration is a key part of the globalisation process which has driven rising social inequality for the last thirty years.

Predictions of substantial inflows from Romania and Bulgaria are dismissed as ridiculous panic – even though the official prediction of 13,000 Poles in 2005 was about 40 times too low!  Wouldn’t a bit less bombast earn us a bit more trust?

As a final example, take the common complaint that natives can’t get housing because immigrants have been given priority.  The haughty, if technically correct official response is generally that housing is allocated purely on a needs basis.  Complainants are often dismissed as ignorant racists.  Joe Public might reasonably retort “Look, if the immigrants hadn’t come here, I would have a house.  Because they’re here, I don’t.  And you’re saying you think it’s out of order for me to talk about that?”

How could we do better?

First, recognise that class matters, and Left and Right do matter.  The financial gains from immigration should be spent improving facilities – housing, schools, surgeries, etc – in places where immigrants cluster, so that neither they nor natives are disadvantaged.  Minimum wage legislation should be enforced and strengthened to reduce downward pressure on wages.

Secondly, in the longer term, seek a middle way between open-door and tight-cap policies.  Hitler and Mao believed in mass migration.  Sensible politicians do not.  As physical barriers shrink, international networking grows, and climate change begins to threaten at-risk regions, the EU’s absolute freedom of movement principle increasingly looks like a hostage to fortune.

We can surely preserve the principle, while permitting some control to prevent an excessive rate of flow.  As Miliband admitted, half a million Poles arriving in a single year was just too rapid a change for communities to adapt easily.  If we campaign that Europe should permit a (generous) cap on flow rate, we can show that we are in tune with both those who gain from immigration, and those who fear they will lose.

* David Allen is a member of the Rushcliffe Local Party and has been a member of the Lib Dems or its (SDP) predecessor since 1981

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76 Comments

  • Falls foul of Godwin. Thankfully.

  • Foregone Conclusion 7th Jan '14 - 5:50pm

    “Hitler and Mao believed in mass migration.”

    Tell that to the millions of Jews who perished in Occupied Europe because they couldn’t escape from Hitler’s clutches.

    I’m sorry if you find this offensive, but if you’re going to compare advocates for not-ridiculously-tight borders with two of the most evil men who ever lived, it is you who are inviting these comparisons.

    I have no idea why Liberal Democrat Voice keeps allowing such low-quality articles to be published.

  • “As physical barriers shrink, international networking grows, and climate change begins to threaten at-risk regions, the EU’s absolute freedom of movement principle increasingly looks like a hostage to fortune.”

    What does this part mean?

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Jan '14 - 6:06pm

    “Secondly, in the longer term, seek a middle way between open-door and tight-cap policies.”

    David, a lot of us “Cleggites” agree with this. Nick Clegg is attracting people to the party who dislike extremes. Surely this is an opportunity to reconcile differences between the centrists and the centre left of the party? The difference is not that great and we are both against fundamentalism.

  • Helen Dudden 7th Jan '14 - 6:12pm

    There were many in Europe,, who rose to the defense of the Jews.

    It was a time of war, and I feel that the EU is a way to prevent further problems, if used wisely.

    We are told that narrow minded people are the cause of many problems, and firstly, we simply do not have enough housing. There is problems with perhaps how we need to think , what we wish to achieve.

    I have felt it should be a way to improve countries that could benefit from new ideas on housing their own, and economic structures, are something that needs to be resolved.

    For sometime, during my frequent visits into Europe, and my continued support to work together on law and the subject of family issues, concerning child access and abduction, under the Brussels 11a.

    Incidentally, a further point,, not one of your MP’s is a member of the Working Party on the subject. I always say you have to join in, to play the game.

  • Foregone Conclusion 7th Jan '14 - 6:16pm

    OK, let’s look logically at what our current ‘extremist’ immigration policy does.

    It frequently imprisons asylum seekers indefinitely and deports them to countries where they face torture and death.

    It splits up families on the grounds of how much money they have.

    It harasses students coming to live in this country, thereby hampering one of our economic strengths.

    It imposes a ban on unskilled workers from outside the EU, and an arbitrary, politically-driven cap on those it does let in.

    It imposes a visa system which is bureaucratic and frustrates our attempts to reach out to business outside Europe, thereby making us poorer.

    It gives us a reciprocal right to work and live anywhere in the European Union.

    This is not an extremely lax position by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, it is very harsh.

  • James Brough 7th Jan '14 - 6:38pm

    I’m with Foregone Conclusion on this. I’d also add that we have an immigration system that is grossly undermanned and vastly inefficient. One which regularly loses applications and keeps applicants waiting for years. One where overworked caseworkers have to deal with multiple applications – frequently including copious detailed evidence – in a single day and one where the ethos is “if in doubt – refuse.”

    As for comparing the desire for less restrictive immigration controls to Hitler, i trust Mr Allen will be making a similar comparison next Movember – Hitler did, after all, have a moustache.

  • Peter Watson 7th Jan '14 - 6:49pm

    “Now, Joe’s economic argument is, of course, very much weaker than he thinks it is. Most of the native unemployed simply could not do the jobs which immigrants take.”
    I don’t think Joe’s argument is quite that weak. Joe Public is not simply concerned about cheaper imported labour taking current jobs, but also removing the incentive for government and employers to invest (through training and education) in creating employees suitable for future jobs.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '14 - 7:31pm

    For those who assume any reference to Hitler must be about the Holocaust – My reference was not. The mass migration that Hitler believed in was the mass migration of Germans into the “Lebensraum” to be created by territorial conquest. It was an evil belief. The mass migration that Mao believed in was forced migration within China in pursuit of economic goals. It was perhaps not an evil belief in itself, but it was crazy and it had appalling consequences.

    Of course the EU is neither evil nor crazy, and I don’t for a moment wish to claim any sort of equivalence with Hitler or Mao. Nevertheless, as things stand, if for whatever reason tens of millions of Europeans decided to migrate within Europe, the European freedom of movement principle would let it happen. Well, the Mao period shows what that can do to a civilisation.

    The reasons for potential mass migration within Europe might, for example, be gross oppression of minorities within one European country, or economic collapse within one country. Those who respond with such passion might ask themselves the question – Is it actually sensible that Europe should allow itself no option but to accept mass migration, in such circumstances?

  • Andrew Suffield 7th Jan '14 - 7:35pm

    The main problem with your “Joe Public” argument is that it’s wrong – we don’t have cheap immigrant labour taking up any jobs, on account of having a very strict immigration policy that doesn’t allow it.

    What those people are seeing is foreign-looking people with accents doing cheap unskilled labour. But we don’t let immigrants do things like that – so who are these people?

    Those are British citizens who were born here. Three or four generations ago, their grandparents were immigrants.

    The “racism” involved is the belief that these people are immigrants, because they look different.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '14 - 7:44pm

    “As physical barriers shrink, international networking grows, and climate change begins to threaten at-risk regions, the EU’s absolute freedom of movement principle increasingly looks like a hostage to fortune.”

    Mike Bird asks me to explain myself more clearly. Well, air travel has become cheap, reducing a physical barriers to migration. Social networking has encouraged international online contact and friendship so that prospective migrants are less likely to fear arriving in a country where they know nobody. Climate change may over the next fifty years make large regions of the planet virtually uninhabitable – first the Maldives and low-lying parts of Bangladesh, later it could even be Southern Italy. All of these are factors threatening mass migration.

    I am not saying that the answer must be to pull up the drawbridge. But I don’t think the answer should be to burn the drawbridge and prohibit all walls, either. The EU should have a plan to control excessive rates of migration.

    I do really mean excessive. Migration Watch think we could face 50,000 Bulgarians / Romanians per year, and my reaction is that, if it really turned out to be that many, then it wouldn’t be too many. I do think 500,000 Poles in a single year was too many. Would others care to argue otherwise?

  • David Allen 7th Jan '14 - 7:53pm

    Foregone Conclusion at 6.16 pm:

    I actually agree with most of your post. I think your points e.g. on harsh treatment of asylum seekers would gain more traction with the public if the politicians who made them also accepted that immigration has a downside, and that their policies should adapt to address that downside. It’s about gaining credibility by seeing both sides of an argument.

  • “If we campaign that Europe should permit a (generous) cap on flow rate, we can show that we are in tune with both those who gain from immigration, and those who fear they will lose”.

    No David. We don’t want a cap. The EU wouldn’t agree to one anyway. I’m a firm believer in democracy, David but I’m also a committed LibDem. We must never weaken our principles and It is up to us to convince the voters that our immigration policies make sense, then stand back and let the people decide.

  • Inward migration clearly benefits the UK economy. We can see a correlation between economic growth over the last decade and the opening of our job markets to the EU A8 countries in 2004. Many of the people arriving from Poland etc take the jobs that the native Brits simply do not want to do, picking vegetables, working in chicken sheds etc., and prefer to live on benefits instead.

    What we are seeing is a Darwinian process. Those too lazy to work will receive fewer and fewer benefits, will be forced to live in cold and damp flats, and will have their life expectancy foreshortened. Those who work and contribute, the eastern Europeans, will thrive and have more children.
    This is the reality of life, humans are not immune from the laws of nature.

    However, we do have a sense of morality. What we are witnessing today is a shift in thinking of what is moral and what is not. The far right is on the rise across Europe, and we must resist it. They are trying to protect the jobs of the native born workers in their own countries, completely failing to recognise the Darwinian principles are at play.

    We in the Lib Dems should be proud that we are resisting the populist clamour to restrict immigration into the UK. We have to stand by our principles, so that the best and the brightest from across Europe leave their own countries and come here, and contribute positively to society. My only concern is that 80% of immigrants vote for Labour, when it should be we Liberal Democrats reaping the electoral reward.

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Jan '14 - 9:12pm

    Sue Render – ‘We don’t want a cap. The EU wouldn’t agree to one anyway.’ I’m not too sure who, ‘we,’ is. But if not a cap how about something like this – http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-1440_en.htm

  • I stopped reading at the words “liberal fundamentalism,” as it was only too clear where the rest of the argument was headed. Liberalism is not a compromise between liberalism and illiberalism. Principled liberalism isn’t something to be embarrassed by.

  • The fact that a
    Arge number of Polish, Lithuanian, Slovak. Migrants came here several years ago, rather proves the point THAT THEY WHERE NEEDED. At that time I was involved in running a company with call centres employing up to 100 people in the summer season. We struggled to find ‘English’ English people who would work evening and weekend shifts. We paid a decent wage ! Plus good comimission, the large numbers of Eastern European workers we employed did very well.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '14 - 9:37pm

    Joe King said:

    “What we are seeing is a Darwinian process. Those too **** to work will receive fewer and fewer benefits, will be forced to live in cold and damp flats, and will have their life expectancy foreshortened.”

    (**** stood for “lazy” in Mr King’s posting, but it also no doubt stands for “sick”, “disabled”, and “below average intelligence” as well).

    That’s what I mean by liberal fundamentalism. Am I alone on these pages in recognising that liberal fundamentalism can be a moral evil?

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Jan '14 - 9:50pm

    Peter kemp – But with respect (and to be clear I do mean that), you talk the talk about a good wage, but were you really being confronted with the full economic cost, or not? By that I mean that those Eastern Europeans you employed used things like transport, the rule of law, health, perhaps second language schooling – the infrastructure of society. Now presumably they paid VAT and the like. But were you actually meeting the cost of that transient labour to society at large? If not then you were getting a staggeringly good deal.

    Maybe you were, but you see, ‘a good wage,’ can mean quite a few things in an age of devalued labour. Good to send back home, good to afford a mortgage and raise a family, good for what exactly? If you can’t live off it then it’s not a good wage in any meaningful sense.

    Now – of course – we could argue that the full economic cost is too high and there should be cuts to services, but that’s another story.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '14 - 9:54pm

    Peter Watson said:

    “Joe Public is not simply concerned about cheaper imported labour taking current jobs, but also removing the incentive for government and employers to invest (through training and education) in creating employees suitable for future jobs.”

    Good point. Unbridled economic liberalism and a free global market in labour helps business and the rich exploit the poor. When “Bright Blue” and Orange Book lobbyists expound on the economic benefits of immigration, and pose as progressives, what they are often hiding is their elitism. The public aren’t fooled, and nor should we be.

    The more difficult choice is to decide what to do about it. There are macroeconomic benefits of immigration, which we can scarcely afford to lose. That’s why I think we should recognise the problems you describe, and offer the public a reasonable deal. If we are to permit substantial immigration, then we must also tax the businesses which profit from it, and we must spend the revenues in educating our own citizens to match the employability of the immigrants.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '14 - 10:00pm

    Andrew Suffield said:

    “we don’t have cheap immigrant labour taking up any jobs, on account of having a very strict immigration policy that doesn’t allow it”

    Try going to Boston and saying that. Warning, they might lynch you.

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Jan '14 - 10:01pm

    David Allen – This though assumes that a lack of skills on the part of people in the UK is a problem There are always skills shortages to some extent (global shortages). But look at the unemployment stats for engineering graduates or IT graduates. Is database administrator a highly skilled job in short-skill supply?

    The arguments about education work only if the shortage is of skills, and the shortage is genuine. My sense is that in no small part the shortage is of robustly funded posts offering stability and a future.

  • “were you really being confronted with the full economic cost, or not? … were you actually meeting the cost of that transient labour to society at large?”
    I’m struggling to make sense of these questions and failing. The assumption seems to be that certain human beings, who happen to have originated from another country, by that fact and by their very existence impose a net “cost” on society which other people who happen to be born in this country do not. The assumption seems to be that a Pole or a Bulgarian or a Romanian cannot positively influence their community in any way. I don’t see any evidence for that other than prejudice.

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Jan '14 - 10:11pm

    David-1 – ‘I don’t see any evidence for that other than prejudice.’

    So prejudiced in fact that Mrs Paper is an East European immigrant.

  • Peter Watson 7th Jan '14 - 10:29pm

    @David-1 “The assumption seems to be that certain human beings, who happen to have originated from another country, by that fact and by their very existence impose a net “cost” on society which other people who happen to be born in this country do not.”
    I don’t agree with your interpretation. People point out that there are costs associated with immigration which must be set against the benefits, but I don’t think they are claiming that it is necessarily a net cost overall (though I am sure it depends on one’s perspective and their will be individual winners and losers). I also don’t believe anyone is denying that native Brits impose a cost on society: we all do through our use of services for education, health, etc. But we cannot avoid the costs of native Brits and we risk them being unable to contribute economically in order to offset those costs.

  • David Allen, I am really worried by the tone of your article and comments.

    Is this what you really think? ‘Try going to Boston and saying that. Warning, they might lynch you.’

    That is the sort of comment that we would expect from the BNP or UKIP surely.

    We have to educate people to accept that immigration is good for the economy. By keeping wage rises in check it makes our economy more competitive on the world stage. How else are we going to compete with China unless the wages of manual workers are reduced in real terms? We have to resist populism, and the enticing message of the far right.
    Plumbers and decorators used to rip us off too before the eastern Europeans arrived. Now you can get someone to work for £40 per day putting up your wallpaper.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Jan '14 - 10:51pm

    We need to stop having this false debate based on fear of what the other person just might believe. Joe King, do you believe we should open the border to the whole world tomorrow? Probably not. So why are you making out that this view is as simple as “immigration good or bad?

  • Giles Goodall 7th Jan '14 - 10:58pm

    David: Please do not conflate free movement within the EU – which is a right used by Brits as much as anyone else – with immigration. They are different things. Free movement of people is an essential part of the EU Single Market, along with free movement of goods, services and capital. Without it, this very British invention wouldn’t work and we’d all be a lot poorer.

    Free movement is a two-way street: Brits retire in Spain, Poles come to work in the UK, Brits get jobs in Germany, French people work in London, etc etc. Many of the Poles who came to the UK after 2004 have gone home. Why? Their economy is doing better and there are plenty of jobs there. That’s not to underestimate their contribution to Britain’s economy and public finances: they have undoubtedly helped boost our national wealth and tax receipts while claiming very little back in terms of public services.

    The UK is the EU’s 5th biggest exporter of migrants. It’s a bit rich to complain about a right which we ourselves use so extensively isn’t it?

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Jan '14 - 11:01pm

    One of the best things the Liberal Democrats could do would be to get rid of members who hold unelectable views. It’s a waste of time debating with the “immigration always good” camp.

  • Foregone Conclusion 7th Jan '14 - 11:07pm

    @David Allen

    The fact that you can’t distinguish between forcible movement of people and movement of people by their free choice makes me think that your grasp of liberalism is pretty limited.

    And if you didn’t mean to compare anyone’s views to those of Mao and Hitler… why mention them?

    @ Eddie Sammon

    If we were to purge people from the party who lose us votes, Nick Clegg would be the first contender.

  • Eddie, what are you suggesting? Just because our stance makes us unpopular does not mean that it is not right. What is more important, our principles, or getting votes?
    On the point about immigration, it is always right if the people arriving are harder working than those already here. Did you watch the programme about immigration on BBC2 just now? The strawberry farmer could not get any lazy Brits to do the work, so he had no option but to employ immigrants from eastern Europe.
    If our party got rid of everybody with differing views, there would be nobody left before long.

  • Little Jackie Paper 7th Jan '14 - 11:17pm

    Eddie Sammon – ‘Joe King.’ Have a little think about it. If you don’t get it try removing the e and the space from the name.

    Giles Goodall – The Spanish have found the limits it would appear (see my earlier link to Sue Render). In any case I seriously would not test the public mood with the idea that, ‘free movement,’ and, ‘immigration,’ have a meaningful distinction to the man on the street.

  • Eddie Sammon 7th Jan '14 - 11:21pm

    I don’t want to debate for the time being. My wish is that we move on from the “immigration good or bad” debate. Whilst this may have a place in an anarchist organisation, it doesn’t have a place in the Liberal Democrats.

  • Little Jackie – yes it is a pseudonym, I guess your screen name is too. So what? I am trying to prompt some real debate, rather than bland sameness. We have to admit that our collapsing poll rating and membership numbers (barring the artificial boost of the last three months) does need a serious attempt to ‘think outside the box’, and I have made various suggestions on other threads to that effect.

    Eddie, we cannot avoid debating immigration. It is the hot topic of the moment, and will be all the way through the Euro election and through to the General Election. If we bury our heads in the sand and hope that it will go away, do not be surprised if we are run over by a juggernaut that we did not see coming.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '14 - 11:37pm

    Giles Goodall said “The UK is the EU’s 5th biggest exporter of migrants. It’s a bit rich to complain about a right which we ourselves use so extensively isn’t it?”

    Yes, we export a lot of middle-class migrants who enjoy retiring to sunny Spain. Does that mean that a working-class painter and decorator, who can no longer find work because (as Joe King so charmingly puts it) you can now get someone from Eastern Europe to work for £40 per day putting up your wallpaper, has no right to complain about losing his job to an immigrant?

    Joe King, do you live on £40 per day? Would you take a job for £40 per day? If you refused, would that mean you were too lazy?

    In Jo Grimond’s time we described ourselves as a “classless” party. Have we now become completely purblind to the fact that different people from different classes may have quite different interests? Can Lib Dems really not see that a struggling unemployed young decorator in Britain gains nothing from having his grandad sitting on a beach in Marbella soaking up the gin?

  • Peter Watson 7th Jan '14 - 11:40pm

    @Eddie Sammon “My wish is that we move on from the “immigration good or bad” debate.”
    My reading of David Allen’s article was that immigration is both good and bad (and both left and right – or neither), and that navigating this is a challenge for Lib Dems (and all political parties).

  • It’s impossible to talk with people who talk vaguely about “costs,” which is a way, I guess, of pretending to be very professional and implying that they have green eyeshades and nicely balanced ledgers in front of them, while never actually citing a single figure. What *are* these supposed costs? How much in pounds and pence? Cite good sources for your figures, and show what the difference is between the “cost” of an immigrant vs. the “cost” of a native — and find equally good sources for “costing” the benefit they provide.

    I think, though, that the logical end of “costing” the worth of every person in the country would be the conclusion that the great majority are useless riff-raff who ought to be quickly disposed of — especially the unemployed, the elderly, the sick, anybody who imposes a net drain on “society.” Which in turn suggests (to me, if not to those equipped with imaginary ledgers) that “cost” is not the right way of thinking about human beings.

  • Peter Watson 7th Jan '14 - 11:45pm

    @Jo(e )King “We have to educate people to accept that immigration is good for the economy. … Now you can get someone to work for £40 per day putting up your wallpaper.”
    This might be great for the person with the wall but not for the person putting paper on to it. Both of these people are part of the economy but it’s only good for one of them.

  • Joe King wrote:

    “David Allen, I am really worried by the tone of your article and comments. Is this what you really think? ‘Try going to Boston and saying that. Warning, they might lynch you.’

    No, this is David Allen attempting to crack a joke. Sadly, in politics, jokes are a dangerous thing because a lot of people take them literally. I try to avoid humour when talking about politics in a public forum, though I can’t say I always succeed.

    East Lincolnshire is an area which is largely working-class, has low levels of educational attainment and has failed to see the benefits of economic growth, though not in a conspicuous way. Because the region lacks traditions of organised labour (as in urban Britain), and is without a powerful non-conformist tradition (as in Wales and the South-West), people tend to vote Tory (and increasingly UKIP) and hold unenlightened opinions. One can compare it to rural parts of the United States. Coastal Kent has similar characteristics, as do most of our seaside towns. Engaging with this constituency isn’t easy, and Liberal Democrats have made only limited inroads.

    Immigration is complex. Not all immigrants are poor. Some are highly educated and some are very wealthy. Think of the American and French communities in the West End of London, many of whom have highly paid jobs in the City. During the short period in the 1990s when I worked in a merchant bank, I discovered that the traders came from places like the Netherlands and Norway. They weren’t picking fruit in the Fens, and they weren’t claiming state benefits. Think of the number of non-UK nationals working in our universities, and in R&D departments in British industry. The folk in Boston don’t see that side of it. A responsible political party needs to tell them.

  • David, don’t blame me for the facts of the job market in the UK. This is what free movement of workers is all about. If someone from Lithuania or now Bulgaria is willing to take £40 per day, who are we to argue with the value that they put on their time and effort?

    Why don’t you go and join UKIP if you do not like it? Or join Labour with their unworkable ideas of a ‘living wage’.
    Sorry to be so blunt, this is the reality of where we are now. Don’t blame me for the way things are.

  • David Allen 7th Jan '14 - 11:57pm

    Little Jackie Paper said: “The arguments about education work only if the shortage is of skills, and the shortage is genuine.”

    True. Well, we have always profited from importing bright well-educated immigrants – Commonwealth doctors come to mind – and employing them here, thus reducing the need to educate native Britons, and harming the poorer countries from which immigrants come by depriving them of their best people. Certainly there are limits to the extent to which we can improve things for natives by improving British education. There may not be many jobs going anyway (as you point out): and immigrants may in any case win UK jobs on merit (as with many Commonwealth doctors).

    But unless we just couldn’t care a hoot about working people, and like Joe King we applaud a Darwinian race to the bottom which delivers us the best wage-slaves from anywhere in the world at the cheapest prices – We have to do something to show we care.

    Education, which I mentioned in agreeing Peter Watson’s point, is only one of the things that we should spend more on. More directly, as per my main post, we should concentrate on local services in areas of high immigration. We should spend what it takes to (for example) attract more GPs into such areas, where the demand is often overwhelming and both natives and immigrants suffer. We should similarly spend on local housing, schools and facilities. Business, which has made all the economic gains from immigration, can afford to pay more of the costs.

  • Peter, it is good for both. The immigrant from Bulgaria was probably only getting £4 per day back in his home country.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Jan '14 - 12:00am

    Peter Watson, I was praising the article.

  • Peter Watson 8th Jan '14 - 12:26am

    @David-1 “show what the difference is between the “cost” of an immigrant vs. the “cost” of a native”
    There is no reason to assume that everybody is always using “cost” in a purely financial sense. Rather than “benefit” and “cost”, pros and cons might be suitable alternatives much of the time.

    To answer your question in financial terms though, I doubt very much that there is a difference between the cost of an immigrant and the cost of a native. It doesn’t matter who is using schools, the NHS, the police, armed forces, infrastructure, local services, etc, the financial cost to the public coffers will have much more to do with age and other factors than it does with place of birth. However, it seems reasonable to assume that these costs will increase if more people use these services.

    As a country though we have a choice about whether or not to incur these costs for the benefit of those from elsewhere, and our willingness to do so will depend upon what we believe we get in return. Joe’s wall-paperer on £40 / day is unlikely to be making enough of a direct financial contribution to pay for the services which he and his family might receive regardless of whether or not he/she was born in the UK. Little Jackie’s DB administrator might. And as David Allen points out, some people (employers?) do well out of the situation while others (NEETs?) do not. To ordinary people, the benefits can seem very abstract but the downside is all too real. The challenge, as David identifies at the end of his piece, is to identify and communicate a solution which satisfies “both those who gain from immigration, and those who fear they will lose”.

  • Peter Watson 8th Jan '14 - 12:30am

    @Joe King “Peter, it is good for both. The immigrant from Bulgaria was probably only getting £4 per day back in his home country.”
    Why do you assume that the person putting up the paper is an immigrant rather than a native forced to compete in a market where salaries have been depressed by labour from elsewhere?

  • Peter Watson 8th Jan '14 - 12:34am

    @Eddie
    Sorry – wasn’t trying to criticise you. You were right that the debate had become very much about good or bad even though David’s article was not.

  • Peter Watson 8th Jan '14 - 12:46am

    A quick question about terminology if anybody can help me here.
    “Immigrant” seems like a relatively neutral technical term with a specific meaning so is hopefully not likely to cause offence per se. I am less comfortable when I use or hear words like “native”, “Brit”, “indigenous”, etc., and am a bit paranoid that in this sort of on-line discussion it would be easy to offend inadvertently by picking an inappropriate one. What is the best word to describe somebody who was born in this country rather than relocated to it?

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Jan '14 - 1:50am

    🙂

  • Peter, the terminology means something fairly well established and precise:
    Assuming we are referring to the UK:

    ‘native’ simply means the person is born in this country. It is related to the word ‘nativity’.
    ‘Brit / British’ is someone who holds or has the right to hold a British passport. It does not necessarily mean they are native or indigenous.
    ‘indigenous’ means those whose ancestors were from here. In practice for most people it is difficult to trace much further back than 1700, so maybe if your ancestors were all in the UK at that time, you could claim to be indigenous as a pragmatic definition, Just a suggestion.
    ‘immigrant’ is someone who aims to settle here. Does not include people on holiday, or here for a business meeting or conference.

    I think I am stating the standard definitions. There may be some argument over the term ‘indigenous’. The indigenous population probably all have some Viking DNA, some Anglo Saxon, some Norman, some Roman etc. In practice the effort of arguing is pointless.

  • Peter ‘Why do you assume that the person putting up the paper is an immigrant rather than a native forced to compete in a market where salaries have been depressed by labour from elsewhere?’

    I was simply giving an example, in order to get a handle upon the matters that we are discussing – what it all means in practice.

    Assuming equal quality of work, the person who is offering their work for the lowest price will tend to get the work. So on a particular day, if someone else is offering to work for say £41 per day, and there is only one job available that day in the locality, then the person asking for £40 will get the work. I am surprised that I have to spell it out like this, it should be fairly obvious. We are talking about the ‘job MARKET’. This is the straigtforward and obvious result of the free movement of people within the EU. I thought that this is what our party stands for. Or do we not want free movement of people in the EU now? Some of the comments and complaints about lack of fairness seem to indicate a change of policy? Can somebody please explain what our current policy actually is, it seems to be evolving quicker than I can keep up, or else some people here commenting should join a different party if they are worried about immigrants depressing the wages of Brits.

    Immigrants are setting the pay level. Which it is fairly well documented are lower than Brits have been used to, which can be a shock if the Brits have a mortgage and family to support. The immigrants may be living 6 or 8 in a house, and so their living costs are much lower, and hence they can easily out-compete the Brit, particularly if the £40 is paid as cash rather than properly invoiced and tax paid. If the Brit cannot compete, then he simply has to go onto benefits. This is the reality of the situation.

    What we should not do is compromise our principles of free movement of people in the EU just because some people are hurting a bit. Otherwise what is the point of having principles?

  • Peter Watson 8th Jan '14 - 11:31am

    @Joe King
    Thanks for the definitions. ‘native’ seems to be the word I’ll use (‘indigenous’ is one I hear a lot in the media and feel uncomfortable with).
    You ask, “What we should not do is compromise our principles of free movement of people in the EU just because some people are hurting a bit. Otherwise what is the point of having principles?”. I think this is a key part of the debate, and the flip-side of your question is “What is the point in having principles that hurt people?”. Especially when the people being hurt are the ones who vote.
    Your comment that Brits who can’t compete with those from low wage economies have to go onto benefits is a bit too laissez-faire for me. It also suggests that a consequence of uncontrolled migration is a levelling down that means that rather than being improved, the British economy will become more like those which immigrants are leaving.

  • David Allen 8th Jan '14 - 12:37pm

    Peter Watson,

    I have reached the same conclusion as you did, that “native” is the least worst word to use as a counterpoint to “immigrant” in this debate. It isn’t perfect (thus, the economic impact of new immigration often hits hardest those people who came here a generation back, plus their families who are native to Britain), but it will have to do.

    I’m also influenced, I suppose, by my distant childhood, when what was then common parlance would now be recognised as glib racism, and the word “native” generally meant “savage wearing loincloth and grinning stupidly”. So I guess that if I now call myself a native, I’m not overclaiming on self-importance!

  • what reason do people who do manual work have to support immigration exactly?

    The comments all seem to come to the same conclusion everyone already knows, all they get out of immigration is a cut in their wages.

    And no one can offer anything but “well, who cares”.

  • fake 8th Jan ’14 – 1:01pm
    what reason do people who do manual work have to support immigration exactly?

    Simple answer (one of many possible answers) -Why don’t you count up the number of manual workers in this country who haves job thanks to enterprising immigrants who have set up businesses? Some of the best paid manual jobs fit into this category.

    Onthe lowpaid side -Delivering pizzas is an unskilled manual job – guess what country of birth of the founders of two of the biggest pizza chains in the UK.

    Not sure if someone who callsthemself “fake” deserves an answer, but hopefully you will acknowledge that I have given you a couple of reasonable answers here.

  • *Why don’t you count up the number of manual workers in this country who haves job thanks to enterprising immigrants who have set up businesses? *

    And these statistics can be found where…….?

    How many jobs did they create, how many jobs did immigrants take?

    Is the net effect positive for indiginous workers, various studies say very marginally not, so again, why would they support immigration especially when the best it’s supporters can say is “well yes, there are some losers, boho”.

    *guess what country of birth of the founders of two of the biggest pizza chains in the UK.*

    And that has what to do with the manual labourers, unless you are suggesting pizza delivery wouldnt exist without them?

  • David Allen 8th Jan '14 - 1:55pm

    fake,

    That was my point exactly (or at least, one of my points exactly). It is an uphill struggle, but I am pleasantly surprised how many Lib Dem posters on this thread have recognised that it does matter.

  • Hi david Allen, Really interesting and thoughtful read
    There are all kinds of problems when you look at mass immigration. My view is that things like employment agency turned migration into a business and you could see the shift in the way they were recruiting very early. But as a liberal I have trouble balancing the my beliefs in freedom of movement with my concerns about local communities.
    I’m not sure i would have mention Hitler and Mao in this context. Both were more about colonisation than migration , but yeah I share some of you concerns and sometimes worry about the eventual effect on voting patterns.

  • And I too am uncomfortable with invoking Darwinian principles as a way of advocating mass migration. It;s as pseudo scientific as invoking them to advocate racism. Evolution contains no morality one way or the other. People are complex moral beings and not merely subject to environmental shifts, If you choose to interpret what Darwin was saying in one way it is a moral choice not a matter of fact. Darwin is basically big things eating small things, species out breeding other species or adapting to fill a niche. It can encompass anything from a pack of dogs protecting itself from other packs of dogs to interspecies. codependency, . It is not an economic or political principle, that suites one view better than another, but merely an observation of how nature works. It certainly aint specific enough to decide who gets to stack boxes at tesco or what people should accept according to a misunderstanding of the laws of nature and is certainly no indicator of the complexities of ethical evolution, either.

  • fake 8th Jan ’14 – 1:51pm

    Fake, You asked ” what reason do people who do manual work have to support immigration exactly? ”

    I gave you two reasons. You did not like those reasons – so I will give you two more.

    People who do manual work have a higher rate of industrial injury requiring medical treatment – one third of NHS doctors were born outside the UK
    People who do manual work are not morons and can see through the xenophobia that blames immigrants for economic problems rather than bankers or Tories.

  • Michael Parsons 8th Jan '14 - 5:21pm

    It’s not immigration but uncontrolled borders that seems to justify greater restrictions. For example, if an immigrant arrives and worked illegally, but once located pretends to have no passport (perhaps destroyed it on arrival) and to have fogottenh his native land and date of birth, the officials appear to be only able to set him free to roam,at least as the documentaries show it..
    It might seem reasonable for me, as a member of the Sovereign People of democratic England(UK) to object to all and sundry coming here. If I defend and set up a modern liberal secular State, of which I am partly in charge, I might reasonably expect it to sustain my rights and insist on the similar rights of all admitted to it. Among other things the right to belong or not to belong to any particular faith group, the right to marry at choice or not to marry, the right not to suffer physical mutilation without my informed consent prior to my mature years, the right to divorce without suffering religious sanctions, the right to freely cohabit with a partner of my choice, the right to abortion etc etc, the right to dignity at work and decent education, care for aimals and humane slaughter.. To allow settlement by people who are not prepared to accept that, and once given papers would deliberately work against my Sovereign Will; who practice and preach against my secular Liberal State, is an act which, theoretically, I might consider I have the right to punish. Hence the widespread unease raised in our liberal nation by uncontrolled non-assimilative immigration?
    I fear talk of higher profit-levels which risk mass impoverishment, progress for global elites that entails no progress for our working poor because of economic freedoms for the powerful and so on don’t seem likely to win moral or intellectual victory. But as the people’s sovereignty is denied by groups that hide behind police truncheons and tazers the argument for decent secular freedoms imposed on all regardless, incomers or not, may well go under, poilitically speaking: the methods of power not being the methods of reason.

  • Re-reading David Allen’s original piece again I am reminded that I agree with him on one point. Class is important.

    But it should not be assumed that working class people or people who do manual work are all lining up to support any Tom, Nick or Harriet who start mouthing anti-immigrant propaganda. The working class in England is not one monolithic mass of opinion. There are differences depending on where you live. Anti-immigrant or racist sentiment can be found in parts of the country where a black or brown face is never seen outside a doctor’s surgery or the local Star of India takeaway. Whereas very diverse parts of London have working class people from all parts of the world rubbing along happily together. Anti -immigrant nonsense cann more often be found in a provincial Rotary Club or on the golf course where the ignorant middle class swap prejudices. The upper class only dislike poor immigrants they have always been happy to sell their daughters to the highest bidder so long as a sufficiently large inflow of foreign cash will keep the country estate going .

  • David Allen 8th Jan '14 - 7:36pm

    Foregone Conclusion said:

    “The fact that you can’t distinguish between forcible movement of people and movement of people by their free choice makes me think that your grasp of liberalism is pretty limited.
    And if you didn’t mean to compare anyone’s views to those of Mao and Hitler… why mention them?”

    It was probably a mistake to mention Hitler, but it was a mistake mainly because so many people switch off their rational thought processes when they read that name.

    It is fair to point out that there are big differences between forced and voluntary migration, but it is unfair to suppose that I’m not aware of them. Further, even “voluntary” migration can often involve an element of pressure that may shade towards compulsion – for example the Pilgrim Fathers, the Huguenots, the German Jews in the 1930s.

    If extremist parties were to gain power in Hungary or Greece, and make life intolerable for their Roma or Jewish communities, wouldn’t we be seeing pressured or forced mass migration within the EU? And if that happened, then, rather than react in panic, wouldn’t we do better to have established some EU principles about the restraint of mass migration?

    The influx of half a million Poles in 2005 was of course entirely different from my hypothetical examples above, and didn’t involve any coercion. Nevertheless I think there is again a case for restraint due to the sheer rate of flow. The message to the Poles could have been – yes you are free to move to the UK, but you may have to wait a little, you can’t all come at once!

  • Darwinian evolution is simply the principle that those individuals of a species which is more fitting to a particular environment have a greater probability of survival and thereby produce offspring. The offspring will tend to also have the inherited characteristics that fit them well to that environment. The word that Darwin used ‘fit’ has an alternate meaning now, i.e. physically fit individual may be good at running/ swimming etc. Some people seem to incorrectly think that it means ‘strong’. In the context that Darwin intended it, that the species fits well into its environment and thrives.

    Darwinian evolution does not imply morality or purpose. I am certainly not advocating eugenics, the programme of eugenics in the 1930s/40s Germany did not end well!

    My point is that immigrants appear to be more ‘fit’ for life in the UK than the indigenous people, based on the fact that immigrants have a significantly higher birth rate on average. If this differential population change continues at the current pace, calculations project that the indigenous people will be in the minority around mid century. Of course any projection, like weather forecasting, is an inexact science.

    I am wondering whether the cultural memes are what make some immigrant communities more ‘fit’. The list that Michael Parsons 8th Jan ’14 – 5:21pm identifies may well contribute to the greater fecundity. As such, these cultural memes are not going to disappear any time soon in the UK, because their propagation is increasing in pace compared to the general population. These memes being neither Liberal nor Democratic, somewhat puts a time limit on the survival of our political party!

    Hope my rambling comment makes sense. Please ask for clarification if required.

  • The author is incompetent. . The competitivity of the companies in UK has to do with wages. If the wages are to high then UK is not competitive. For this reason, many of the British icons: Rols-Royce, Jaguar, Land Rover have been bought by foreigners long before the migrants from Eastern Europe. The author of this article is incompetent as much as Nigel Farage. And at this time, the commercial deficit of UK shows that UK is not competitive at this level of wages.

  • Joe King
    your argument is spurious because you are applying a Darwinian reading othat ignores the fact that the ideas involved are the result of observations on nature not on culture, Further more high birth rates are also associated with poverty so you’re picking and choosing the data to draw a predecided conclusion, which is as pseudo scientific as eugenics, For instance, there is no evidence that because birth rates amongst migrants are higher at the moment that they will remain high once those migrants are settled for a few generations . There is a lot of evidence to suggest that improved education,and financial factors actually means that people have children later in life in advanced economies and thus produce fewer children and so forth. Plus migrants tend to be young and married which will give you natural spikes in birth rates because young married people often like to make babies. It’s possibly even why they got married. Also migrants are not one culture acting in a unified way so those birth rates are not just dictated by economics and even less by natural selection. And the fact is you did imply that local population were being displaced by migrants in a ridiculously simplistic way that connected a scientific principles to a biased reading of economic forces and prejudices towards people you perceive as lazy, based on a selective reading of the available data. My point is much more simple, Nature doesn’t care about economics one way or the other. People on the other hand vote and stuff.

    Personally, I can’t help but notice that virtually everyone who has ever invoked Darwinian principles to explain complex social issues is invariably doing so to bash people they believe to be inferiors in one way or another.

  • David Allen 8th Jan '14 - 11:27pm

    alex said: “The author is incompetent. . The competitivity of the companies in UK has to do with wages. If the wages are to high then UK is not competitive. ”

    Well Alex, I don’t know. I am no doubt incompetent in manifold ways. On the other hand, I can spell, punctuate, mostly use grammar correctly, and use logic in preference to chucking bricks. Unlike some others posting here after 9pm this evening….

    Clearly there is a rational argument that in a globalised economy, Britain must reduce its manpower costs to the global minimum, or else a third world competitor will eat our lunch. The argument is generally employed by comfortably-off middle class people, whose jobs may be professional, or parasitic, or exploitative. It is generally employed against the British working class, who are the people who it is deemed must take the hit.

    It is not an argument that has much appeal in Germany. There, they have employee supervisory boards and wages councils which give workers considerable influence in governing business. The resulta are well-paid workers, a high level of investment in home industries, successful products, and stable profitable enterprises. Not joining the race to the bottom appears to have paid off.

    We are a political party. You, and Joe King, would opt to position our party to the right of the Conservatives, with a commitment to let Darwinian “natural selection” do its worst, and the devil take the hindmost. Even Clegg and the Orange Bookers would recoil. There is an alternative – well, there are many alternatives, the German approach being one. We can choose not to let Darwinian selection rule unchallenged, and we can boost our national productivity in the long run if we do so.

    We can also identify many of the advocates of open-door immigration for what they really are. Right-wing neocon ideologues hiding behind a “liberal” banner.

  • David Allen 8th Jan '14 - 11:37pm

    John Tilley,

    I agree with much of your latest post. Racism is at least as likely amongst the white middle class who rarely see a black face in their streets, as it is amongst those of the white working class who meet black and brown people all the time.

    Opposition to excessive immigration is, or at least can be, a totally different kettle of fish. It need not have anything to do with racism! It arises from economic causes. The working class are predominantly the people who are hit by it, so they are likely to predominate amongst the non-racist opponents of uncontrolled immigration.

  • David Allen 8th Jan '14 - 11:54pm

    Joe King 7th Jan 10.45 said: “David Allen, I am really worried by the tone of your … comments… ‘Try going to Boston and saying that….’ That is the sort of comment that we would expect from the BNP or UKIP surely.”

    UKIP and the BNP have for some time milked the immigration issue for votes, by daring to speak about things which their more respectable opponents keep quiet about. Why should we let them have a free run?

    It is actually perfectly possible to discuss high immigration in a non-racist, non-offensive way. Local areas of high immigration need our help. They need resources to help overcome the problems which arise when schools are overcrowded and when teachers must cope with multiple languages. Why keep quit about things like that?

    Interestingly, when Farage recently went to Boston for Question Time, he flopped. The Tories adopted an oh-so-reasonable tone and knocked him for six. The good burghers of Boston were quite willing to present themselves as a community which deserved help to cope with a big influx of incomers. They were not happy to present themselves as a bunch of xenophobes, and they did not want Farage to do that for them either.

    We must not shy away from immigration issues just because the BNP talk about them. The challenge is to talk better sense than the BNP.

  • David Allen 8th Jan '14 - 11:56pm

    “Why keep quiet”, not “why keep quit”. Sorry for the typo!

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Jan '14 - 12:06am

    Darwinian principles also apply to politics and those advocating mass immigration under the name of Darwin will soon find themselves among the “unfit”.

    I hope for a world with free movement of people – free trade and free movement make the liberal heart sing – but this world has got to be created slowly, otherwise we’ll get kicked out of office. There is also a moral reason for restricting migration, even if only temporarily, and that is stability.

  • Michael Parsons 9th Jan '14 - 2:02am

    alex
    Then how come the recent decline in UK real wages has not seen an export surplus? Perhaps it is more to do with the increased rate of exploitation thant the level of competence? With an ancient, pre-industrial financial class that invests in asset-bubbles (land, houses, shares) and not modern business?

  • Johntilly = “I gave you two reasons. You did not like those reasons – so I will give you two more.”

    You gave me two reasons, I questioned them, instead of answering those questions you just move onto others.

    Weak.

  • Highly delighted that Nick has said we are in favour of ending child benefit payments made in respect of children not present in this country. At least the leader ,if not the bien-pensants that frequent these pages, is in touch with how people view the milking of our non-contributory, generous benefits system at a time when benefits are under such pressure.

  • @David Allen: The German workers are well payed relative to the expenses in Germany which are lower than in UK but the operations costs are higher in UK. The costs of operation in UK are higher as it is known. And, as Germany has been a direct competitor to UK industry for 2 centuries, you know it is hard to outperform while operating at higher costs.
    UK can be competitive while having that level of wages and operational costs against many 3rd world countries but not having higher operational costs than countries with good technology and manufacturing execution such France or Germany.
    @Mr Parson: <>
    The UK declines and goes in depth at a faster rate than the decline of wages. UK had invested its money in gambling and welfare as well as in military interventions against low tech countries as well as in aid to basic infrastructure reconstruction not in strategic innovation. How would you expect to improve its competitivity against countries who invested heavily in research and innovation while making no foreign interventions and limiting the welfare to education. (ex…you find them easily by these statistics). You can keep high wages if you have a lot of innovation or some strategic advantage resulted from a particular strong military or geographical position. The strategic position of UK has been declining in all 3 essential elements so only a major cut in wages could keep the competitive position at the previous level. Worse, UK isolates itself from Europe weakening its strategic position even more, cuts the most important strategic elements (the only that really count) from its military and takes has leaders inviting expensive welfare immigrants from countries with not manufacturing tradition from outside EU while demonizing skilled immigrants from countries of EU claiming they are guilty for the welfare the UK government hands in the highest proportion to non-EU immigrants at various generations in UK. Of course, in these conditions, trimming wages will not be enough and UK ( as David Allen claims ) is at an un-winnable race to the bottom with third world in lowering wages. ( see Commonwealth GDP/capita ) Does EU have anything to do with that ? On contrary !

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