It’s “Immigration Hysteria Day”. Again. Here’s how Lib Dems need to respond

Another day, another bout of “the UK’s about to be invaded by 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians” hysteria. But today it’s not Nigel Farage splattering mis-shapen statistics into the debate: it’s the Prime Minister, David Cameron – increasingly resembling Mr Farage’s mini-me – who’s showing leadership by following the tabloid press. Here’s how the BBC lists the new proposals:

  • New migrants will not get out-of-work benefits for the first three months
  • Payments will be stopped after six months unless the claimant has a “genuine” chance of a job
  • The “habitual residency test” to determine eligibility for benefits will be tightened up
  • An earnings threshold will be introduced
  • New migrants will not be able to claim housing benefit immediately
  • Those not seeking work will be removed and will not able to return for 12 months
  • Fines for employers not paying the minimum wage will be quadrupled

It’s quite a list. Which makes you think benefits tourism must be a major problem. Except it’s not, not really. Here’s a chart from NIESR’s Jonathan Portes showing the percentage of people who could be affected by the changes:

So, for all the uproar and shouting, 94% of overseas nationals entering the UK do not claim out-of-work benefits within six months – c.6% do, compared to c.13% of UK natives. That’s not nothing, but it puts the issue into perspective, doesn’t it?

That’s also the most charitable explanation I can come up with for Nick Clegg’s decision to go along with the Tory proposals, describing them as “sensible and reasonable”. If he’d said the proposals were “blatantly populist but unlikely to have much effect beyond further stoking the public perception that immigrants are to blame for all our ills” he’d have been closer to the mark.

But Nick is still haunted by the experience of defending the party’s policy of an earned amnesty for illegal immigrants in 2010, which party strategists believe cost the Lib Dems half-a-million votes at the last election. It has the virtue of being the right thing to do (as even hard-line US Republicans have recognised) and the vice of being one of the most unpopular policies you can possibly offer voters.

He unceremoniously ditched it in March in the most depressingly illiberal speech by Nick I’ve heard – though he has at least now torpedoed the idea he floated then of security bonds for immigrants from ‘high-risk’ countries entering the UK.

The Liberal Democrats (of all parties!) cannot fight shy of defending the free movement of labour within the European Union. It isn’t just the principle – though that’s worth defending in itself. It’s also the practice – the UK benefits (and so do migrants) from their freedom to move to find work. Not only are immigrants to the UK less likely to claim benefits or to live in social housing than those born here, they also make a net contribution to the UK’s public finances. (The research underpinning these findings, from UCL’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, is available here.) As the Office of Budget Responsibility has pointed out, if you cut down on immigration then you will have to raise taxes or cut spending to pay for the loss of earnings potential.

What can Lib Dems do about this? First, by accepting reality: immigration crackdowns are popular. We might hate that fact, but fact it is. So we start from where we are and we begin to build alliances, as the cross-party Migration Matters group is doing. We make our pro-immigration case passionately, as the Tories’ Anna Soubry memorably did to Nigel Farage’s face on Question Time this month.

And, most importantly of all, we stick up for liberal values, values that are under assault from the combined conservative forces of our governing partners, the official opposition and most of the press – because that’s when our campaigning, our determination to stick up for the underdog, matters most.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 27th Nov '13 - 9:59am

    I was so cross this morning when I read all the headlines – I’m so glad that you have managed to articulate something cogent and challenging.

    Some friends of ours live in another EU country. Their work is largely seasonal. They are able to claim benefits to get them through the Winter with no problem. This all works both ways. We really don’t want to be setting up barriers when, as you have pointed out, the freedom of people to move within the EU actually benefits us in so many different ways.

  • Of course we must stand up for our values, not only on free movement of people, but also on non-discrimination where possible. How quickly discrimination can turn to racism.

    In terms of Nick Clegg’s hammering after the first 2010 TV debate, which arguably brought Lib Dem vote share back down to where it would have been had no TV debates taken place (certainly if the election had been a week later that outcome, if not worse, would have happened), the main issue was his inability to marshal a cogent, Lib Dem values based argument. It was at that point I realised there was no going back, he was unsuitable to be Lib Dem leader. The whole point of leading the Lib Dems is to be able to defend a number of values which do NOT have majority support, and even more importantly are opposed by much of the press. Any Lib Dem leader worth their salt must stand up to press attack when they make a high profile defence. They must be able to frame their words in a way which sound credible, and they must not be afraid of taking the tabloids head-on. Many of us will have had these debates on the doorstep, or in a hall, but it takes on a much bigger dimension when you are talking to the nation.

    Many of us, and many of our supporters have been with us over many years precisely because we are (as Stephen puts it) prepared to stand up for the underdog. Frankly, this is one of the biggest values that Clegg is throwing out of our window, in the interests of a spurious centrism and wish to get a few bums on Government seats, irrespective of what we have to say or do. Of course Government requires compromises, and Coalition perhaps more than most, but you necessarily have to show why what you are doing fits with your values. This is where Clegg and his allies have massively come unstuck.

  • Paul Connolly 27th Nov '13 - 10:01am

    Well said. Alliances on this is critical. Most employers, for reasons of economic self-interest, favour mass labour movement to address domestic skill shortages. This creates an exploitable tension between them and the Tories (whom they often fund). The trick is to link the economic argument to practical policies to address the domestic skills deficit as well. This will confront the Farage argument that adequate domestic training would obviate the need for migration head on. It is a fallacy. Even a completely competent, full engaged workforce would leave the UK short of capacity in critical areas, not least the NHS. More tricky to counter is the corollary to migration: drains on the domestic economic capacity of the countries migrants leave behind. It is not enough to point to the (often contested) evidence about repatriated pay. We must build up an argument that migration helps knowledge transfer effectively – and where the evidence is patchy, encourage employers to assist it, through secondments, targeted CSR, and investment. Through the hard-headed case, we can then build up towards the cultural case: that immigration enriches and diversifies otherwise monochrome cultures. But that’s a hard slog, especially given the infantilism of our media, Labour’s years of Daily Mail appeasing poltroonery, and the constant Tory recourse to the dog whistle.

  • Paul Connolly 27th Nov '13 - 10:10am

    Alliances on this “are” critical, even. Perhaps an unconscious attempt by me to illustrate the skills shortage…;-)

  • Fine words. Utterly betrayed by the leader of your party endorsing Cameron without reservation this morning.

    You need to do something about Coalition, it’s squeezing the soul out of your party.

  • Alexander Smith 27th Nov '13 - 11:27am

    If immigrants are here to work what is the problem with preventing them from claiming benefits it is not the job of the the UK to look after the world particularly given we have 2.5 million unemployed

    Please sign and share, blog, tweet, facebook the Daily Express petition to stop EU immigration. Over 151,000 have signed.

    Sign here-

  • There seems to be more hysteria and misinformation here on the issue of immigration.
    Firstly, racism. Ask David Blunkett, and the Asian community he represents in Sheffield, about their opinion on border control and EU immigration.
    Secondly, this constant misinformation from LibDems, that Farage and UKIP want to shut the doors on immigration, is very tiresome, inaccurate and frankly hysterical. UKIP want the UK to have control of its borders and immigration, in a way not dissimilar to the Australian model.
    Thirdly, It is axiomatic, that you CANNOT have control of your borders and your immigration policy, AND be part of the EU. If anyone can show how you can be an EU member and have managed control of immigration, I (and many others), would be all ears to the suggestion.?

  • “Some friends of ours live in another EU country. Their work is largely seasonal. They are able to claim benefits to get them through the Winter with no problem. This all works both ways. ”

    Yes, I was just about to ask about that. If other EU countries retaliated, what would the impact be on British subjects who wished to work abroad? How many would end up claiming benefits in the UK rather than elsewhere?

  • “The whole point of leading the Lib Dems is to be able to defend a number of values which do NOT have majority support, and even more importantly are opposed by much of the press.”

    I always used to be impressed by Charles Kennedy’s ability to make convincing arguments for principled but unpopular policy positions. In contrast, Clegg’s instinct always seems to be to shift his position rather than defending it.

  • An excellent article, Tim. I was very upset that Nick seemed to just agree with the nasty consensus across all parties that seems to have developed – let’s be honest, this is UKIP led. Why are we so scared of them? We need to stand up to them and challenge their ideas – in this case, that Eastern European immigration is always a bad thing and that if we don’t stop them, millions of workshy foreigners are going to swarm our shores and rape, pillage and take our jobs.

    It’s less the policies than the tone that worried me. There was nothing liberal in Nick’s response at all. I understand that he doesn’t want the Lib Dems beaten up on this – but if he doesn’t produce a distinctive liberal voice here, you have to ask exactly where will he? If we just try to sound identikit and don”t rock the boat for fear of being unpopular people will understandably wonder what we’re about as a party. We will come across as moderate perhaps but not believing in anything.

    For example, couldn’t he have said something like “It isn’t right that some people think they can come to this country with no intention of working and it’s right that we as a government are doing something about this, in line with what (other countries) have done. But at the same time, shutting the doors as some would like isn’t the answer. Britain needs some immigration if we’re to rebuild our economy. As ever our coalition partners are exaggerating a problem – about 6% of immigrants are on benefits within 6 months, less than half the national average. If we discourage genuine immigrants we could do serious damage to our economy.”

  • Stephen even! Who’s Tim?!

  • “What can Lib Dems do about this? First, by accepting reality: immigration crackdowns are popular.”

    But what does that mean? 60-70% support them? What about the other 30-40%? Given that the Lib Dems are currently around 10% in the polls, why not try to attract some of the minority who don’t agree with this stuff? It’s probably a considerably larger constituency than your current base.

  • Leekliberal 27th Nov '13 - 2:07pm

    @’g’ Our position in defending civilised Liberal values on immigration would be vastly easier if the Labour Government hadn’t messed up big-time in 2004 when the new A8 countries joined the EU. France, Italy and Germany sensibly said they would have transitional controls on immigration for seven years. The Labour Government airily dismissed those who pointed out that if the UK alone immediately threw open it’s doors we would receive an unmanageable wave of Eastern european immigrants. The pressure on local authority services when the inevitable happened caused understandable resentment by the indigenous population and arguing the case for decent treatment for the immigrant community has been an increasingly uphill task ever since!

  • Leekliberal, the present Coalition proposal has nothing to do with Labour and requires Lib Dem consent to pass. Deal with the present instead of dredging up old arguments.

    Incidentally, the Liberal Democrats always argued that Labour weren’t sufficiently liberal on immigration while in power, what changed?

  • “The Labour Government airily dismissed those who pointed out that if the UK alone immediately threw open it’s doors we would receive an unmanageable wave of Eastern european immigrants.”

    Did the Lib Dems argue in favour of transitional controls on immigration at that time? I don’t remember them doing so, but I could be wrong.

  • Leekliberal 27th Nov '13 - 4:51pm

    @g asks ‘Incidentally, the Liberal Democrats always argued that Labour weren’t sufficiently liberal on immigration while in power, what changed?’ It wasn’t necessarily greater generosity on immigration we hoped for from Labour in power, just basic competence!

  • Tony Dawson 27th Nov '13 - 5:45pm

    “The “habitual residency test” to determine eligibility for benefits will be tightened up”

    If this is a joke, it is a pretty sick one. The operation of this ‘test’ often upon people who have poor command of English, especially bureaucratise (as written in DWP forms) is currently incredibly haphazard with sometimes ludicrous decisions and people having their benefits (including Housing Benefit since the eligibility for this rides upon the Habitual Residence test). The delays in this test permitting perfectly-obviously habitually resident people getting their money can be horrendous.

    People are being left starving for weeks and months, totally dependent upon charity, due to the DWP losing papers, failing to ask all the relevant questions at the right time and yes, sometimes due to their own errors in form-filling. You see, they cannot apply for emergency payments either if they are not considered Habitually Resident.

  • “If immigrants are here to work what is the problem with preventing them from claiming benefits …”

    Absolutely nothing. Provided, of course, that you don’t expect them to pay tax and national insurance.

    But that strategy would be remarkably stupid, considering that immigrants from the European Economic Area paid 34% in taxes than they received in benefits in the decade 2001-2011:

  • A Social Liberal 27th Nov '13 - 6:41pm

    So Leek, DID Lib Dem policy include transitional controls ?

  • Yorkshire Guidon 27th Nov '13 - 7:40pm

    Is the party supporting the deportation of people sleeping rough?

  • ” Given that the Lib Dems are currently around 10% in the polls, why not try to attract some of the minority who don’t agree with this stuff?”

    Blimey, I seem to be in agreement with the latest issue of Liberator, as endorsed by Jonathan Calder:
    “That one third is a minority but it is a considerably larger one than that which has ever voted Liberal Democrat. It is the obvious pool in which the party should be fishing.”

  • The fact is joe public doesn’t like open border immigration . Labour screwed up and ignored the role of employment agencies making money from turning migration into a business. Cameron’s proposals are more aimed at stigmatising the benefits system and over playing the idea of benefits tourism. What is actually needed is a tightening of work permits and maybe putting employment agencies under a bit more equal opportunities scrutiny. If it is illegal to exclude foreign labour then it should be illegal to exclude local labour.

  • Looks like Clegg failed to read Stephen Tall before putting out his letter of support for Cameron’s UKIP-style pandering to racism.

  • Old King Cole 28th Nov '13 - 5:28am

    Personally, I never saw what was wrong with the amnesty proposal. Seemed a rational and sensible way of concentrating resources and indeed increasing resources, since legal workers would pay tax etc. Otherwise I agree with Chris with Charles Kennedy’s approach. An approach which, I might add, served Liberal and Lib Dem leaderss well, from Jo Grimond , through Jeremy Thorpe and onto to Charles.
    Clegg seems to me to have thrown away a very great deal of what I and others believed in and campaigned for through the last 50 years!

  • Tony Dawson’s description of the practical impact of Coalition policy on the poor is one that many Liberal Democrats will have no first-hand knowledge. Intelligent, well-intentioned, highly educated people, people who are in some cases in parliament or important jobs in the professions will know nothing of the lives of people for whom the denial of support for a couple of weeks can be enough to tip them into hunger, homelessness or worse.

    Tony Dawson 27th Nov ’13 – 5:45pm
    “The “habitual residency test” to determine eligibility for benefits will be tightened up”.
    If this is a joke, it is a pretty sick one. … … People are being left starving for weeks and months, totally dependent upon charity, due to the DWP losing papers, failing to ask all the relevant questions at the right time and yes, sometimes due to their own errors in form-filling.

    This is the direct result of propping up a government that thinks it is sensible that a clown like Iain Duncan Smith should be a Secretary of State for the DWP. Read more at –

  • Mainstream politicians, by pandering to the Farages of this world, are feeding the very far-right public opinion they fear. I suspect that, once again, we are seeing an effect of the political class now being formed from such a narrow, privileged base.

    Read more at –

  • Nick Clegg’s scapegoating of immigrants is his most unforgiveable Tory collaboration yet
    OWEN JONES The Independent Wednesday 27 November 2013

  • Dave Eastham 28th Nov '13 - 10:32am

    Has anybody yet realised that all this is mostly smoke and mirrors from D Cameron?. It can be argued that all of these “new” proposals exist already, either in the UK or Europe, with the possible exception of ‘a new minimum earnings threshold’. See

    Also there is the venal little story from the Daily Mail on 11th November, when they claimed that half of two Romanian villages are about to decamp to the UK in January, is not all it seems. As the latest issue of Private Eye magazine (1384) on page 8 reveals. As it is often said “You could not make it up”. Looks very much like the Daily Mail sort of did.

    With rubbish like this from the Right Wing press, no wonder opinion polls reveal a hardening of attitudes to “immigration”. Like others have said, I’m not at all happy with Nick’s reaction to all this. He should know better.

  • This is an issue of democracy, as much as it is about jobs and benifits.

    Immigration may be good, it may be bad, but no ones actually asking the voting public, instead it’s foistered on them with no say in the matter (the only choice the public have if they don’t want immigration, is to vote UKIP or BNP).

    This kind of situation will foster an anti militant feeling towards immigration, people will invevitable resist something that they feel is forced upon them (you can talk technicalities, and claim hyperbole, the short of it is they have little input on the matter).

    Add in youth unemployment and housing issues, you are sitting on a powder keg if not handled properly.

    Denying people a say on the matter, well that’s what is getting us to where we are, resentment and the rise hostility and “immigration hysteria”

  • James Sandbach 28th Nov '13 - 2:34pm

    The habitual residence test will be quite impossible to administer, prove, evidence etc – the reason that immigration and citizenship status is in so much of mess is down to the historical maladministration in UKBA

  • Jayne Mansfield 28th Nov '13 - 6:24pm

    @ john Tilley
    Thank you for the link. Owen Jones seems to be a man with something sorely lacking amongst our politicians, a man with moral courage. One doesn’t need to agree with everything he says, but he doesn’t blow with the wind like the current coalition politicians.

    People are being whipped into an anti- immigrant frenzy. First the ‘Go Home’ vans and then this back of a fag paper sop to UKIP that makes all ‘immigrants’ feel second class and a problem for Britain.

    I didn’t have a privileged education like Cameron and Clegg and I am so thankful if they are the end results. They seem unconcerned about evidence based policy making and they appear to lack the integrity and moral courage to stand up for immigrants and different demographic groups who in my opinion are being slandered given the vile rhetoric that is being poured out by the right wing press and UKIP. As for David Blunket, words fail me.

    Aren’t these the politicians who took us into the EU? Aren’t these the politicians who voted in favour of Bulgaria and Romania joing the EU? They have made policies and now when anti immigrant feeling is being whipped up by a right wing press hey don’t have the backbone to defend the immigrants from the lies that are being spread about them.

    In a fairly new and frightening development, I have found complete strangers in shops parrot anti immigrant ( and racist) nonsense that they have read in certain newspapers, confidently assuming (wrongly) that I would agree with them. I have entered into discussion with them , telling them the facts, but it leaves me shaken. What makes them assume that I would share their views?

    I am not a politician, I don’t want to enter into political discussions with complete strangers, but the issue of immigration has become poisonous, pre- fascist in some instances .

    Shame on Cameron and Clegg for not reiterating over and over again, the true facts of immigration instead of kow-towing to UKIP, whose followers will probably never be placated. What happened to all that ‘character building’ that is supposed to go on in top public schools?

    A group of like -minded friends and I are of the opinion that we need to start our own party. One that actually has values and principles that we are prepared to fight for and defend. We wouldn’t trust any of the existing parties and probably for the first time ever, won’t vote at the next election. Shocking, given that we have always argued that we should cherish our right to participate in a representative democracy.

    I said some time ago that I would not post on here any more but I have made this exception because I still enjoy reading the posts, and I thank Stephen Tall for his post. If you ever want to defect to a party of angry OAPs, Stephen……….

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 28th Nov '13 - 6:46pm

    It’s quite obvious to me why Clegg supports Cameron’s proposals. Now that the Lib Dems have colluded with the Tories to get hundreds of thousands of people to work for nothing, euphemistically referred to as “interns”; or, in other cases face the removal of their benefits if they refuse to work for next to nothing, it’s clear that there is no longer any need for the mobility of cheap labour from Europe. But what else would you expect from the parties of capital and the bosses?

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Nov '13 - 12:23pm

    @Mack ( not a Lb Dem)

    Mack, if you are not a Lib Dem, what party do you support? This is an impertinent question and you are not obliged to answer, in fact it is probably a rhetorical question.

    I was in Sheffield reading the Sheffield Star and following the story when David Blunket made his riot comments about Roma and Slovacs in the Page Hall area of Sheffield, and Nick Clegg made , in my opinion, his rather limp contribution. I remember the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech and Mrs Thatcher’s claims about Britons fears of being ‘swamped’ by people from an alien culture and I learned the power of language. Shouldn’t MPs, particularly those who supported the free movement of people in the EU, be helping new arrivals to integrate and come together rather than behaving like prophets of doom predicting riots? I would argue that predictions of riots increases the chance of them occuring by feeding into discontent.

    My view is that there is a distasteful ‘arms race’ between all the parties to show how tough they are on immigration. Debate has decsended to a mealy mouthed, immigration has been good for Britain….BUT, or the distinction beween good immigration and bad immigration. Hypocritically, I notice that the ‘faux concern for poorer EU countries ‘ argument is gaining traction. Apparently , according to David Cameron, it is not a good thing for us to take the educated , skilled workers from Romania and Bulgaria, it just isn’t good for them either. But isn’t that the rationale of of the good immigration/ bad immigration argument. We want their educated, rich nationals, just not their poor, unskilled or uneducated? Free movement for some but not for others.

    I am appalled by the current level of ignorance that has been allowed to prevail. Many people term migrants, immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers , the British born children of immigrants as ‘immigrants’. The majority of people that I overhear, cannot distinguish between the discriminated European Roma and Romanians. Politicians must share the blame for this.

    As an earlier poster has rightly said, there is a whole group of people like myself who want a political party we can vote for. At the moment we will have no option but to sit on our hands rather than visit a polling booth.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Nov '13 - 4:25pm

    Jayne Mansfield – With the greatest of respect, do you not think that people are simply taking the evidence of their own eyes? That actually people are fully cognisant of what is going on around them and their politics are a reflection of the lived reality. Maybe you have not got a party to vote for because there really aren’t that many of you outside of the internet echo chamber.

    Ms Mansfield, it is no good simply chanting over and over that immigration is great in the round sort of. If you have found your doctor’s waiting room full to bursting or housing has become unavailable due to weight of numbers or you have been hit by immigration induced low wages or you have found your local school needs to cater for lots of second-language pupils you are not going to smile about it, lie back and think of the cultural enhancement.

    I have no concern about East European countries. They signed up to this – they lose good people then tough. But we should not be in the business of placing some great concern about freedom of movement above stark reality faced by those not on the sweet end of the deal. It’s not some great affront to your world view – it’s just what people are seeing.

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Nov '13 - 11:38pm

    @Little Jacky Paper,

    Having read your opening words ‘ with the greatest of respect’, my instinctive reaction based on my lived reality was – wait for it.

    Let me tell you something about my lived reality. Iisthanks toimmigration that I have an excellent GP, a friendly chemist who fulfils my prescriptions., hospital doctors and nurses who care for me when my opthalmic condition requires hospital treatment and the knowledge that there will be enough young wage earning people paying taxes to ensure that I am cared for in my old age.

    Have you ever considered that doctors waiting rooms are filled to bursting point, that there are low wages , that there are not enough houses are not problems caused by immigrants. but of political failures. You know things like millions if not billions spent on a top down reorganisation of the NHS that we were promised pre-election would not happen, the selling off of council houses without any thought to replacing them, etc.

    I actually think that promises should be kept. You know, the old fashioned cultural value that a man’s (sic) word is his bond. Bulgaria and Romania joined the common market. I am not a politician, I did not argue for entry into the EU, deeper integration into the Eu or enlargement of the EU to include poorer southern European countries nor Bulgaria or Romania. Correct me if I am wrong but I believe that was the Conservative Party. These nations joined under the understanding that there would be free movement of people.

    I believe that you are wrong that few people agree with me. I think that there is a great deal of agreement across the political divide. Even right wingers like Andrew Neil are publicly stating their distaste for the current scapegoating of immigrants. Perhaps you missed Sir Martin Sorrell’s comments on This week too.We might not be as loud-mouthed as UKIP and their camp followers, or panicked politicians who are scared of putting principle before populist vote chasing, but we are here, and in greater numbers than you would like to believe.

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Nov '13 - 11:41pm

    Sorry if my words are jumbled. Fatique adds to the problems of my macular degeneration , but I hope you got the gist!

  • Jayne Mansfield 29th Nov ’13 – 11:41pm
    No need for you to apologise, Jayne, your words ring out with clarity. Your wisdom is a welcome relief after some shallow and ill-informed comments on this subject. And as you said, when it comes to immigration –
    “We might not be as loud-mouthed as UKIP and their camp followers, or panicked politicians who are scared of putting principle before populist vote chasing, but we are here, and in greater numbers than you would like to believe.”

  • Little Jackie Paper 30th Nov '13 - 10:35am

    Jayne Mansfield – Oh, believe me I’m fully aware of political failure and domestic political cowardice. I’m also fully aware of commitments made to Bulgaria and Romania. Indeed I’m typing this from my wife’s family’s house on the Bulgarian border, and I’m pretty confident that the current story (at least for the short-term, longer term I’m less confident) is over-hyped. Whilst it is sad that you can not afford me the respect I afforded you I’d hope you can at least hear alternative views without taking affront as standard.

    Believe me, I’m quite cognisant of domestic shortcomings. If anything I’d go further than your list and throw in energy and transport. However, if those who criticise immigration excessively conflate issues, it is not helpful to do the same in response. Ms Mansfield, badly planned immigration can be a cause of problems AS WELL AS domestic failure. I am quite capable of seeing the difference as, I believe, are the great many others out there in the UK.

    I realise, of course, that you have a different view. But for a politics to be real you can not take as your starting point that everyone else is wrong or you will be viewed as treating reality with contempt. Good luck to you.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 30th Nov '13 - 11:03am

    @ Jayne mansfield.

    I am an internationalist, Pro-European member of the Labour Party who believes that Europe should be reformed from the Left. I also believe that in anticipation of the catastrophic consequences of climate change all First World nations should throw open their borders and admit agreed quotas of refugees from the zones that will eventually be devastated by drought and violent, population destroying weather conditions. These lifeboat countries would not only be saving members of their own species (it astonishes me that humans will go out of their way to save lions and pandas from extinction but not their own species) they will also benefit their economies. But of course such a strategy would require a prescience that our present pygmy, short termist politicians do not possess. How much easier to simply join in scapegoating immigrants instead of standing up to the forces of evil that want to blame them for the circumstances that are not of their creation. By the way, I agree with all your remarks about the selling off of council houses and the unnecessary, unmandated selling off of the NHS to the sharks in private health companies. I long for the Labour Party to announce the end of the mendacious “right to buy” which is the source of all our housing woes.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Nov '13 - 7:31pm

    @LitttleJackie Paper
    I suggest you reread your post and then my response and reflect on who showed disrespect to the views of whom.
    Just for the record, I don’t inhabit an internet echo chamber , whatever that is.

    Without demeaning individual perceptions, I would suggest that our personal experiences ( our lived reality if you like) is limited). That is why , before my brain became addled with age, and health problems, I always preferred to an evidence based approach when making judgements.

    I don’t remember ever claiming that ‘immigration is great in the round, sort of’. I am still working my way through that by reading up on the evidence. So far, it does seem that , in the round, it is. You rightly point out that there are problems. Some children are in overcrowded schools amongst a large number of non- English speaking children. However, I don’t see this as a problem of free movement of people but as the consequence of political incompetence and indifference to the experiences of certain sections of the population..

    I have every sympathy for those who find themselves in conditions where scarce resources are spread even thinner because of sudden population growth. I also feel sympathy for those on the lower wage levels because there is some evidence that these wage levels have been driven down.

    However my view is that we are where we are. I believe that every problem has a solution. It is not beyond the capability of politicians if they have to will to solve these problems despite lamentably failing to put in place strategies and resources to prevent them occuring in the first place.. For example, there is an argument that if migration leads to greater growth in the economy than it drives down wages, redistribution could be used as a tool to make people better off? In terms of education, wouldn’t the retention of local authority planning and review of educational needs for school places been more effective than current policies. Surely some strategic thinking could have ensured that school places were provided in the numbers and in the places that they are needed. Migrants tend to be young and therefore of childbearing age. Did no one think this through? Whilst you might think that these solutions would not solve the problems, I am in no doubt that there are solutions.

    The Bulgarians and Romanians aren’t just turning up unannounced next month, government has has had plenty of time for forward planning. There is no excuse. They have adequate warning of the problems that can arise if appropriate planning is not in place.

    May I ask, if you have no concern for East European countries because they signed up for this , ( Whether they signed up for the vilification and demonisation that is currently taking place is a moot point), why are you so concerned for the `British people who also signed up for it through the ballot box? We had a choice. on whether or not to support a political party that was Pro EU . People voted Tory when they signed up for Maastrich. They continued to vote for Mrs Thatcher when she signed up to even closer integration. They continued to vote for Labour in elections that took place following the arrival of large numbers of migrants from Poland. UKIP has been around for 20 years for those who wanted out of the EU. The fact is, that oeople were not obsessing about the EU and migrants when the economy was booming. It was not a subject that was high on our agenda. It is ridiculous to argue that it was only the middle class who got cheap nannies that benefitted. Most of us were all benefitting from the fruits ( in some cases literally) of migrants labour. The problems were restricted to areas where government failed.

    My standpoint is that we made our decision and we must live up to our responsibilities. One of which to challenge the virulently misleading information peddled by the Right wing and now allegedly not so right wing, ( A certain tabloid is currently crowing about the success of their ‘crusade’ against Bulgarian and Romanian immigration, ie. the Conservative and Liberal democrats proposals on benefits). Doesn’t it make one proud?

    I am not in the least affronted by your opinions, little Jacky Paper. You are as entitled to your opinions as I am to mine. No, what I am affronted by, is what I see as the dishonourable conduct of our current government. For me, this sort of behaviour has uncomfortable echos of the past when Enoch Powell encouraged people from the commonwealth to come here to fulfil labour shortages in the booming economy only to later frame them as a problem.

    It does not matter whether the motivation is racism or sheer political opportunism, the effect is the same. It play into, and give support to the narrative that EU migrants are just here to leech off our benefit system and that they have damaged our economy. No matter how carefully the weasely words are couched, provide encouragement and reinforcement for those who wish to scapegoat migrants for our economic ills. I suppose this strategy has its benefits. It distracts attention so that awkward questions are asked/ For example. did their political party oppose bank deregulation? or oppose the influx of EU migrants during the boom years? Did they argue for less public spending before the crash? etc.. All very clever, all very cruelly cynical.

    By the way, please pass on my regards to your friend Puff.

    I voted for a party that did not oppose EU membership and I must now live with that decision and accept the rights and obligations that that has placed placed on our country. I am not going to support any form of discrimination nor fuel hostility towards migrants. As I said in a previous post, I have had good reason to be grateful for the care and skills that migrants have brought to this country.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Nov '13 - 9:52pm

    @ Mack ( not al lib Dem)

    Thank you for responding to what was a really impertinent question.

    When I was younger I worked as a volunteer teacher in one of the areas that you mention. The tribal people originally forest people who were hunter gatherers were denied their rights to the forest by their own government but with help and charitable donations to buy land became subsistence farmers. The diet remains rice and lentils, a totally inadequate nutrition in totally inadequate amounts. Living in mud and thatch huts, they have contributed a miniscule amount to global warming but they will be amongst those who wreak the havoc. They will not be migrants either.

    Good luck with your politics. I wish that I had the strength to fight harder on behalf of the underdog.

    Te Green taxes on energy prices will now be reduced, reducing funding for the less well off to insulate their homes. Insulation that helped them to keep their bills down by reducing leakage of energy. Still, the more energy that leaks, the greater the bills and the more profits there will be for the energy companies. It is not in the interests of the energy companies for consumers to use less energy.

    The vote Blue get Green promise was but another instance of how we the voters have been lied to by unprincipled politicians.

  • Mack (Not a Lib Dem) 30th Nov ’13 – 11:03am
    I agree with all your remarks about the selling off of council houses and the unnecessary, unmandated selling off of the NHS to the sharks in private health companies. I long for the Labour Party to announce the end of the mendacious “right to buy” which is the source of all our housing woes.

    Mack, I am intrigued by your comment about council housing. You say that you are a member of the Labour Party. Following 1979 Thatcher made the “right to buy” council houses the central government housing policy, The Labour Party when in power between 1997 and 2010 did nothing to either reverse or even modify this policy. Did you and your fellow Labour Party members have a problem with this?
    Members of the Labour Party that I know talk the talk like you on council housing – but I do not know of a single Labour Council that has actually built many houses in the last 30 years. After 1997 the Labour Government continued with mass stock transfers ie the handing over of entire council house stocks to so-called social housing landlords. Even now I do not hear council housing being a major policy for Labour. Do you not fond this frustrating?

    The solution to housing problems is not to scapegoat immigrants but tohave a housing policy which provides housing. It is yet another area where the free-market philosophy of Conservative, Labour and the Clegg Clique fails and fails again.

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