Author Archives: Edwin Loo

Opinion: Our approach to immigration must be grounded in fairness

Many months ago, I wrote a piece on immigration policy for Lib Dem Voice in light of the calls for a variety of illiberal measures from caps to quotas. It is with some regret that I return to this issue now to view what you could call a radically changed landscape. We are now in coalition with the Conservatives, in agreement with the need for a ‘cap’ on ‘non-EU migrants’ and in favour of harder, tougher and nastier barriers against ‘foreigners’. This rhetoric is both disappointing and damaging, not only for myself but also for the thousands of other …

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Opinion: On Immigration and Being Yellow (both ethnically and politically)

I do not usually write on topics that have bearing on my ethnic background, quite simply because I do not think that in this day and age it really matters anymore. However, I am beginning to sense (and I have been sensing for quite a while) a certain backlash against foreigners (read: non-Europeans).

More specifically (and adding Darce-like tones and italics for effect) “benefit-scrounging, job-taking, NHS-using, council house hogging, swan-eating, non-English speaking” migrants which the tabloids and right-wing newspapers do very much like to bash. The rise of this particular form of bashing should be and hopefully is a serious cause of concern for the Liberal Democrats – together, of course, with the increasing ludicrous line being taken by both the Labour Government and the Conservative opposition on the issue.

I, of course, declare an interest in these matters – and as much as I rather not admit it in the current climate, I am in fact still a foreigner, and more so, one who finds Britain more of a home than “back where (you) bloody came from,” and who would be very, very happy to stay on and settle.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, and indeed, the straw that has made me break this single taboo of writing on even remotely ethnic issues, is the increasingly dire if not paranoid tone being taken by our media, and being accelerated by blatant populism within Westminster. We are of course talking about the famous action-reaction spiral – that, if my learned audience might recall, led to certain ‘mishaps’ over the course of human history, including the Cold War.

We are now observing the political reincarnation of this dreadful spiral between the Conservatives and Labour, but now over the issue of migration, with the entire debate being rather unhelpfully fuelled by certain newspapers of a certain slant busy pouring petrol over an already raging fire of misinformation, sleight-of-hand prejudice and downright xenophobia.

The Conservatives, good to routine, with the help of their friends in the media, will flag up certain exceptional cases of ‘naughty migrants’ – I would list some but I am quite sure you might be able to recall this or that about (insert choice of foreigner here) busy claiming or brashly taking (insert choice of public service, benefit or British job here) while British people suffer endlessly as the Government sits on its hands.

We have the reaction – Labour will engage in pointless populist gestures (remember the uniformed border security force? And what about the constant upward rise in fees for visa services?) while immigration hard-liners including the ever-so-nice Frank Field, Migration Watch and various, assorted Conservative MPs from the south (I suppose they come in nice, foreign-made boxes, like generic chocolate) are busy suggesting mad-men measures, including inflexible quotas decided by unelected, unaccountable committees which will starve the British economy of talent come the next boom, and the laughable alternative of EU withdrawal.

This mad, endless, and spiteful debate does no one any good. It creates an opportunity for covert racists to engage in foreigner-bashing under a mainstream umbrella, and does nothing to sort out the underlying economic and social failures started by the Conservatives and aggravated by Labour that explains both the reason why resentment now exists and why migration was needed in the first place.

It also diverts attention away from more important issues. Resources, time and effort – both within Westminster and the media – that rightfully should be targeted to deal with the dreadful and inhumane tragedy that is human trafficking are now being uselessly wasted on trying to target a ‘threat’ from highly skilled migrants who, in most cases, end up being exemplary British citizens and represent a net contribution to the British economy.

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Opinion: There Is No Conservative Future in London

Politics and administration is a rather difficult game in major cities. Everything is much bigger- the budget, the numbers, but crucially, the problems faced on a daily basis by the millions and millions of people who you are ultimately responsible for. This means the need for coherent, meaningful policies – all directed towards a coherent, meaningful objective. When it comes to London this is vital if not essential, with the problems of an expanding population combined with the ever-chafing issues of housing, transport, planning, safety and the environment.

It has nearly been a year since we saw a certain Boris Johnson come to the helm with a slate of rather cheery-eyed Conservative members of the London Assembly, promising, in an almost messianic way, a brighter, better future for London, based on coherent policies (which he probably didn’t write) and proper leadership (which, according to Conservative Central Office, would come from unelected advisors).

So far, we have been treated to a year of farce, incompetence, dithering and sleaze, backed up with the right amount of cynical spin, and with minimal change. London has become a rudderless ship under Conservative rule; and we should not expect things to get any easier with the onset of economic hardship.

Boris Johnson’s slate of policies is now in shambles. He has failed to deliver on planning, engaging in contradictory actions on the issue of skyscrapers, much to the dismay of his Outer London base. He has failed to deliver on transport, cancelling for good any real investment in London’s infrastructure for the next 15 years save for marginal improvements on the London Overground and Crossrail – a project by the City and for the City that even they will no longer be able to pay for.

While it is not entirely under his remit, he has also decisively failed on the issue of ensuring London’s continued economic prosperity by doing precious little when it comes to regeneration. He refuses to put forward London’s case to central government, instead opting to dither before scoring petty political points when central government does nothing – all at the expense of ordinary Londoners and to his political gain.

The fact of the matter remains: there is no Conservative policy for London, there is no Conservative vision for London and there is no Conservative future for London.

Where there was once coherence, there is now contradiction. While Conservative-run local authorities from Westminster to Barnet pledge to lower living costs by bringing down or freezing the unjust Council Tax, the Conservative-run Greater London Authority does the opposite by slashing-and-burning investment funding while simultaneously raising transport costs.

The Mayoralty is now spinning around in a policy-free vacuum. Like the dying Labour administration in Westminster, they are not governing but are merely maintaining. What we are witnessing is the total collapse of policy in little over eleven months in office, an unprecedented failure in leadership, and the rise of obstruction, bluffing and uncertainty.

The Conservative Party in London seem to think they can abuse and misuse with impunity on the basis of their support from the bigoted cabal of men and women who run the Evening Standard. They claim they are going from ‘strength to strength’ – when in fact they seem to be going from hushed-up scandal to scandal – from Brian Coleman and his obsession with milking the taxpayer dry by way of Hackney Carriage to … Brian Coleman and the exploding boiler … and onwards to the Victoria Borwick Mailgate saga – the Tories seem to get away with actions that merit the full flog-and-shame routine that our media are well versed in dishing out.

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 9 Comments

Opinion: The Elephant In The Room

There is something very wrong with the House of Lords- but it is nothing compared to the consequences of a botched attempt at reform under our ‘flexible’ constitution.

The recent outbreak of the ‘Peers-for-Hire’ scandal has led to renewed calls for ‘reform’ of the House of Lords – and from all sides of the political spectrum. Labour members would love to see a fully elected House of Lords, while Conservative members, despite their reservations, are now slowly heading in that direction. Both parties, however, seem to completely miss the point. And we as Liberal Democrats – as much as it seems …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Opinion: Boris Johnson’s transport strategy – a flailing mass of contradictions

A quick journey into the fantasyland that London’s City Hall has become leaves one quite simply lost for words. When in the past under Livingstone there was a degree of discipline, vision and planning (tempered of course by a slight whiff of the unusual) backing up the policies of Transport for London, we now have confusion, contradiction and incoherence flowing out of every orifice, from Boris’s mouth and advisers to TfL’s own offices.

The most amazing part of this farce is the manner in which Londoners seem to passively sit by and watch while London’s transport policy falls apart at the hands of a Conservative Mayor egged on by indifferent Tory Greater London Authority members representing the vested interests of Outer London. In City Hall, the only concept relevant is political mileage – even if the cost is throwing away the future of London by killing years of necessary investment and replacing it with a mass of spin, nonsense and re-launches.

The most dangerous part of London’s new transport policy is the very fact that it makes no sense whatsoever. Boris may portray himself as a man of some intelligence, but it is deeply unfortunate that his policies seem to spell out intellectual and logical bankruptcy. What Boris has managed to achieve in his time in office so far is to reduce future capacity and increase fares at a time of soaring demand for public transport. He has cancelled alternatives to the Tube and Bus in the form of the Oxford Street and Cross River Tram lines- promising extra bus services – while at the same time making this virtually impossible by ‘brooding’ over the scrapping of the congestion charge.

He has committed himself to regenerating East London and the Thames Gateway while at the same time scrapping nearly every single project that would help achieve that aim. When taken one at a time, his new ‘vision’ for transport in London sounds rather terrific – fewer cars, more bikes, improved Tube. However, when aggregated together, it becomes a flailing mass of contradictions.

How, I might ask, are we supposed to reconcile more bus services and a possible lack of a congestion charge with increased bicycle use? Or, alternatively, how on earth will London cope with massive population growth without improving its capacity to move people from A to B? Put simply, TfL is now advocating a policy of zero expansion in the face of rising demand, preferring instead to ‘spin’ new capacity out of nowhere rather than actually pick up tools and spend money to build it.

Not that you would hear this from TfL, if you actually bother reading the spin that comes out of that particular part of Boris’s empire. Apparently, new Tube upgrades will result in capacity increases of up to 40% on some lines. This forms one of the key arguments made against projects that the Liberal Democrats and Liberal Youth support like the Cross River Tram – there is no need for it, as Tube capacity is going to ‘increase substantially’ thanks to ‘improvements’ to the Northern line. Boris seems to completely miss the plot here. Given the fact that the Tube is already overcrowded and full to the brim, surely this is merely expanding capacity to cover demand that is currently unmet?

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