How to Address Concerns about Immigration

Every time I say something liberal about immigration or immigrants, people swarm to tell me that I’m being silly and idealistic and we have to respect people’s genuine, legitimate concerns.

Since they rarely say “these are my concerns” – there’s a lot of hand-waving and a lot of pre-emptive defensiveness about how not-racist they are – it’s difficult to figure out sometimes what the concerns are.

Sometimes the acceptably non-racist immigration concern is the “drain on infrastructure,” but the tide is already starting to shift on that one as people realize the infrastructure is underfunded by local and national governments rather than overused.

Sometimes the concern is about symbolic threats: hearing many languages on the bus, seeing a shelf of Polish food in the supermarket, Muslims celebrating their own holidays, and the general sense that the UK is not in control of its borders. That last point was made by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner as quoted by the Telegraph near the end of Labour’s conference: “Immigration is a good thing for the UK but what is not good is when people don’t know about what numbers we have. I think you do have to talk about those things. People raise that on the doorstep all the time and it is important that we deal with those concerns.”

And it is certainly true that “people don’t know what numbers we have.” According to an Ipsos Mori poll, Brits think on average that immigrants make up 24.4% of the population; in reality it’s 13%.

But there’s no indication that she addresses these concerns on the doorsteps with “About eight million people in the UK were born outside it.” Does she say “About 8% of the population are not British citizens”? Does she say “Less than 3% are recent migrants to the UK”? (I got all these numbers from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory in a few seconds’ googling; it’s not difficult to find out.)

Does she say “We’re used to hearing about ‘mass, uncontrolled’ immigration but it’s neither of those things? People who hear about my experiences with UK immigration are shocked at how controlled it is. The process has gotten increasingly expensive, intrusive, prolonged and stressful in recent years, to appease voters’ “concerns.”

But most voters don’t know about the barriers; they’re unlikely to know any immigrants well enough to hear their stories firsthand (areas of lowest immigration are regularly shown to be the most “concerned” about it and to vote accordingly) and the media and politicians still go on about “mass, uncontrolled immigration, so people think there’s still cause for concern.

So the immigration controls haven’t done anybody any good, and have brought misery and suffering to the lives of millions of people – and if you want to be nationalistic about it, many of those suffering people British, living with the fear or the reality of being separated from non-British spouses or children because of these immigration controls – as Tim Farron has said, three-quarters of British people cannot afford to fall in love with someone foreign.

Does Angela Rayner address the immigration concerns like that? Does anyone?

This is not a problem that can be solved by pandering to it. As the post-referendum rise in racist, xenophobic hate crimes illustrates, there are British people for whom any non-white people or speakers of languages other than English (even if they speak English as well!) are too many. This is what we as Lib Dems need to address, from policy to doorsteps.

* Holly is an immigrant, bisexual, disabled, and probably can tick most other diversity boxes that you have handy.

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129 Comments

  • The issue is fear. When you have very little you fear what little you have will be lost. For example if you have no chance of buying a house and the few social houses you have are either sold to foreigners (and by that I mean someone who is not from your location, be that people from outside the UK or rich incomers from more affluent areas) or are given to people you cannot identify with then resentment will build. Of cause the correct solution is to provide more, but as politicians have been saying we cannot afford a funded NHS, schools or public housing is it any surprise that people become angry and afraid and start looking for scapegoats.

  • *applause & whistling*

  • I think the general concern is that the arrival of immigrants generally means change, and most people don’t like change and would prefer it didn’t happen.

  • “People who hear about my experiences with UK immigration are shocked at how controlled it is.”

    The controls, draconian though they might be, don’t seem particularly effective.

    Gross immigration is now running at over 600,000 a year. This is a record level, but the gross figure has been at half a million a year for several years. And this excludes illegal immigration, obviously.

    What would gross immigration have been over the past few years if it had not been “controlled” one wonders?

  • Holly Matthies 11th Oct '16 - 3:50pm

    @Dav
    Considering how much of this animosity is tangled up with Brexit, I wish more people had realized a couple months ago that they don’t like change and had voted against that one. 🙂

  • Hm, I think a lot of those who voted Leave actually see the EU as a source of change and are hoping that be leaving they can reduce the pace of change / perhaps even move things back towards more what they remember.

    As Pratchett put it, ‘They think they want good government and justice for all, Vimes, yet what is it they really crave, deep in their hearts? Only that things go on as normal and tomorrow is pretty much like today.’

    And on a wider horizon, they want their children to grow up in a world pretty much like the one they grew up in.

    The fact the EU isn’t entirely responsible for that not being the case did not, I think, entirely stop them from blaming it.

  • (Well, blaming it and the entire political system, to the extent that you think the vote was about ‘the system’ rather than just the question on the ballot)

  • Peter Watson 11th Oct '16 - 4:25pm

    It’s interesting to juxtapose the article with Lib Dem policy which is surprisingly strident:

    By bringing back proper border checks – so we know who’s coming in and leaving the UK – we will identify and deport people who over-stay their visa. We will create visible security and firm control, with real processes to count everyone in and count everyone out. No more guesswork on numbers: real evidence to catch out overstayers. We’ll ensure people can speak English and are willing to work. We’ll ensure that migrants, including from the EU, come to work or study, not to claim benefits. And when it’s time for them to leave, we will make sure they return home.

  • “Since they rarely say “these are my concerns” – there’s a lot of hand-waving and a lot of pre-emptive defensiveness about how not-racist they are – it’s difficult to figure out sometimes what the concerns are.”

    And if there hadn’t been such a prolonged period of people calling everyone racist or suggesting that any discomfort with change was racism then it may be easier to get through the pre-emptive defensiveness and understand where they are coming from.

    “areas of lowest immigration are regularly shown to be the most “concerned” about it”

    And often contain people who are least skilled at expressing themselves in a nuanced way, so as to avoid being berated for their concerns.

    “there are British people for whom any non-white people or speakers of languages other than English (even if they speak English as well!) are too many”

    And these are an infinitesimally small number of people, but the more it is suggested that it is not tiny, the more people will fear that they are assumed to be in this group, and avoid discussing their concerns.

    Less judgement of people who disagree with us would go a long way to helping ensure there are less and less of them over time.

  • areas of lowest immigration are regularly shown to be the most “concerned” about it

    Oh, and surely, numerically, this is obviously going to be the case? Areas with high migration will have higher proportions of migrants (obviously) but also higher proportions of people who are okay with migration as those who aren’t will move out, and those who move in can be assumed to either be okay with or actively like migration.

    It’s like being surprised that areas without pubs have a higher proportion of teetotallers — of course they do, it’s just cause and effect as drinkers move to where there are pubs.

  • Holly Matthies 11th Oct '16 - 4:51pm

    I’m not surprised, my husband was at the debates about it in 2014 and said despite good speeches to the contrary — particularly from Caron, if I remember correctly — we ended up with this policy out of our own concerns about pandering to immigration concerns.

    I’m working on liberalizing the Lib Dems’ immigration policy, but I’ve got a long way to go. 🙂

  • Holly Matthies 11th Oct '16 - 4:55pm

    Shorter Psi:
    But those who really suffer from xenophobia are the people who might be called xenophobes!

    Mate, this is like the way too many white people think it’s worse to be called racist than to DO something racist. It brings shame to the majority and no help to the minority.

  • Do you know where Loony House is?

  • ………………. there’s a lot of hand-waving and a lot of pre-emptive defensiveness about how not-racist they are …………

    Those who have been drinking seem to feel the need to explain that “They’re not drunk” strangely I have never been told that by anyone not drinking…

  • Holly Matthies 11th Oct '16 - 5:10pm

    @expats
    Yeah, indeed. And that’s exactly what’s happened with Psi here. Funny, that!

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Oct '16 - 5:21pm

    My brother’s wife nearly didn’t come with us to a wedding on Friday because she was so stressed about the anti-migrant speeches at the Conservative Party conference. She’s been genuinely afraid after the brexit vote too.

    However to calm her down I spoke to her about some of the concerns and the problem is not just anti-migrant politicians but also fearmongering about what the Conservatives are going to do. She even showed me a standard ethnicity diversity box form on a job application and said a friend sent it to her. She thought they had just been introduced to discriminate against migrants.

    EU and non-EU nationals have problems in Britain, but they won’t be solved by fearmongering (not in this article but in general) or by opening the borders even more.

  • Andrew Hickey

    “Because what *I* remember isn’t “people calling everyone racist”, but more multiple decades of newspapers egging on “anti-immigrant” racism on their front pages”

    Because the situation of the Tories calling UKIP racist, Labour calling the Tories and UKIP racist and the LibDems calling all of the above racist couldn’t possibly coincide with the newspapers pressing an anti immigrant sentiment? No, you never get a situation where a debate polarises in to two extremes of people talking past each other.

    There were times where people were doing things that were racist but the term had been stripped of impact by overuse. No one is listening to people throwing the term around, there is a good and compelling case to make for immigration, but people have to be open to hear it to be persuaded.

    “We’ve spent twenty years “discussing their concerns”.”

    No you haven’t.

    “Maybe we can get them to shut up now”

    Well unless you will take away the right to vote from those who disagree with you will find there are enough of them to keep right wing governments in power for decades yet.

    But that’s OK you will feel happy on your moral high horse sneering down at them. In the mean time other people can try to persuade them that there are sensible approaches to what concerns them, I’m going to suggest out that telling them to “shut up” won’t be part of that, but may get a ruder reply back.

  • Psi
    Back in the 1970s I went out canvassing at one house a man ask me if a black man raped your wife and mother would you let your daughter marry him?
    As long as I can remember in Britain there have been endless racist comments. In the last few years people have become more open about them.

  • Holly Matthies 11th Oct '16 - 5:44pm

    So what’s your good and compelling case for immigration then, Psi?

  • Without wishing to sound flippant why does it actually matter that much? When I go to new places I don’t think “God, these people are so insular and homogenised. We must educate them to be more multicultural”.

  • Holly Matthies 11th Oct '16 - 5:48pm

    @Glenn
    It matters because they’re voting for reduced immigration but all they’re getting is harm to the economy, the NHS, business, science and universities. If Brexit does happen there will still be too many non-white people and too many languages spoken so they’ll think immigration is still too high and vote labservakip in again.

    And in the meantime, it matters because people have been killed for speaking Polish. It matters because this is what killed Jo Cox. It matters because like I said millions of immigrants — and the British friends and family who love them — are suffering needlessly.

  • Glenn
    I was in Toronto last month and my goodness it really is multicultural. Someone even asked me if I was an immigrant.

  • You say ” but the tide is already starting to shift on that one.. [drain on infrastructure] ”

    Where is this tide turning.? As far as I can see, Schools, Housing, Health, plus a myriad of other service sectors are creaking and frequently on the brink of collapse. Where is this tide turning, because I can’t see it.?
    On immigration,.. It’s not fear of change, it is fear of *too rapid*,.. *uncontrolled*,… *unsustainable* change.? Let’s take each in turn.
    Too Rapid : Milliband apologised, but the Labour government initiated this [too] rapid immigration that caused consternation in communities who were unable to assimilate it. But didn’t Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne, both have those same concerns, at one stage saying ‘Yes’, to more migration, ‘But’ not in my back yard,.. London and the South East.? Were Clegg and Huhne, racist, and fear-mongering when they held that same view.?
    Uncontrolled : A government needs to know how many people it needs to manage its public resources for. If [per year], it feels it needs 70,000 immigrants to manage its economy, but if 330,000 turn up, then any attempt at resource planning is redundant.? Pushing to the absurd to make the point, suppose we need 70,000 [young newly qualified], nurses, but 330,000 [48 year old], HGV drivers,.. or 330,000 [63 year old] midwives turn up.? The control element, is about *needed skill sets* and *age profile*,.. not about the skin colour or ethnicity.?
    Unsustainable : The aging demographic argument, is valid, but sitting within that argument lies a trap. Assume a UK population of 55 million as of today. We can declare that we don’t have enough [for 55 million], affordable houses, schools, health services etc,… so how does adding an extra million every three years improve matters.? Worse than that,.. even if we assume all 330,000 immigrants are 26 year olds,… Will they not also get old !?!, and need care through their dotage. And in the mean time they have children who will need,. health care, schools and homes.? Can we concrete over green space indefinitely, and be sustainable in food produced, clean water, sanitation, pollution management etc?
    Unfortunately, the exponential function, is a mathematical reality we cannot ignore. At what point in your world view, does the UK population go into unsustainable overshoot,… 80 million,… 120 million,… 360 million,.. and then what.?

  • J Dunn
    East Germany had a falling population. Did that turn it into some kind of paradise?
    China has a big increase in population. In itself numbers are not a problem because growing economic activity makes it sustainable.

  • Holly Matthies 11th Oct '16 - 6:30pm

    @J Dunn
    You say ” but the tide is already starting to shift on that one.. [drain on infrastructure] ”
    I meant the tide is turning on blaming the infrastructure problems on immigrants. Tim Farron’s done a good job of this (http://www.markpack.org.uk/142448/tim-farron-immigration-liberal-democrat-newswire-83/#mctoc5), and various politicians from other parties have said in the last few months that it’s the government’s fault for underfunding infrastructure and public services, not the fault of immigrants for using them.

    The control element, is about *needed skill sets* and *age profile*,.. not about the skin colour or ethnicity.?\
    I married a British person and moved here. I was of the right age (early 20s) but didn’t have much of a skill set and my disabilities have kept me from working sometimes. How should I be controlled? We have to think of immigrants as mre than abstract economic units. For that reason I don’t really want to get bogged down in the arguments you’re making here, except to say that the answer to things like “We can declare that we don’t have enough [for 55 million], affordable houses, schools, health services etc,… so how does adding an extra million every three years improve matters.?” is that we talk like we have a finite number of houses, schools and health services. There’s no reason more money couldn’t be going on more of that, instead of Brexit and royal yachts. We want to tell people they want to vote for another kind of government, a liberal one, a Lib Dem one..

    At what point in your world view, does the UK population go into unsustainable overshoot
    Honestly, I don’t think that will be our problem, with jobs moving abroad and Britain becoming a less attractive country to live in by the day! We already don’t have enough working-age people to look after our old people, enough international students and their lucrative fees to fund our universities, and are such things really likely to get better instead of worse any time soon?

  • “I’m working on liberalizing the Lib Dems’ immigration policy”

    To what extent? Completely uncontrolled immigration? Or if not, what “concerns” do you have about the people that you wouldn’t let in?

    You mention the Oxford migration observatory. There are many fascinating pieces of research on there. One of them reveals that a majority of immigrants / ethnic minorities would like to see immigration levels reduced. I take that to mean that at least some of those people want immigration reduced for reasons other than xenophobia and racism. And if non-white / non-British people are capable of coming to those conclusions for non-xenophobic reasons, then perhaps the same might be true of some (but obviously not all) white British.

    This should be a technical discussion about what levels & type of immigration are optimal both for the UK as host and the immigrants themselves. The fact that we seem incapable of having such a discussion is as much the fault of liberals as it is of the extreme right.

  • paul barker 11th Oct '16 - 6:47pm

    I think the first step is to admit that a lot of people are racist, including a lot of those on the receiving end. The evidence (going back over half a Century of research) is that the highest levels of Racism are found among those living near enough to minorities to notice them but not close enough to interact, its harder to see individuals as The Other if you talk to them.
    I am not in any visible minorities now but I did spend a year living in Scotland. As an English man I was treated to some of the immigrant experience including drunken abuse & a lot of assumptions about my wicked intentions. Even among Greens & Lefties there were subtle restrictions on my right to hold or express opinions, it was like being on probation.
    I dont have any particular policy suggestions except a constant stress on the idea of Freedom, in general we should defend everyones right to live where they want if it isnt hurting anyone else & we should point out that it usually isnt hurting anyone else.

  • “Honestly, I don’t think that will be our problem, with jobs moving abroad and Britain becoming a less attractive country to live in by the day!”

    Over the past few years, people, many many people, have been prepared to move to the UK to work back breaking hours at minimum wage jobs, living in terrible housing stock , because they are leaving grinding poverty and lack of hope in their native countries.

    I sometimes think people don’t realise how MUCH richer we are than all but a few countries in the world, and therefore how great are the pull factors.

    Your optimism (or is it pessimism?) is misplaced. If we remove extant controls and continue with the free movement of labour (if this is your argument?) then the current level of 600,000 gross immigrants a year will seem very low.

    And there is no democratic appetite for that. In fact any political party which advocates it, making the “positive case for immigration” as it is usually put, will be committing electoral suicide, post Brexit.

  • Peter Watson 11th Oct '16 - 7:08pm

    I’m struggling to pin down what makes me uncomfortable about this article.
    I think it is because it conflates racism and xenophobia with different attitudes to immigration and different types of immigration (with a bit if Brexit for good measure), giving the impression that it is a black and white argument with a binary choice between “uncontrolled immigration” and “racism” in which people will erect strawmen to misrepresent alternative viewpoints. I believe it is much greyer than that.

    I think it is possible to want immigration to be restricted and not be racist. Indeed, I am not sure how liberal the author wants to be about this: are we talking about no borders or simply a little less red tape? All parties seem to be proposing restrictions and controls to a greater or lesser degree. Equally, I think it is possible to make a case in favour of immigration and still be racist: the historic slave trade is a horrible example of this, but one could also argue that leaving the EU allows immigration controls to become less racist (e.g. a German doctor would no longer be treated preferentially over an Indian one).

    Racism in all its forms is wrong and should be challenged and rooted out, but this will not be helped and the word “racist” will be devalued if all people who want to put controls on immigration or who voted for Brexit are tarred with the same brush. It also lets off the hook other racists, e.g. immigrants from one country who discriminate against those from another, or disgusting Brits who happily travel to another country and abuse people there.

  • Holly Matthies 11th Oct '16 - 7:28pm

    @paul barker
    I absolutely agree. It’s a fallacy to talk about racism as a personal problem — it’s systemic and ubiquitous. Regardless of any one person’s views, racism is like a sea we all swim in. It is part of our institutions and all the systems of society. It is not something that needs to be conscious on a personal level in order to happen.

    @Peter Watson
    giving the impression that it is a black and white argument with a binary choice between “uncontrolled immigration” and “racism”
    I certainly don’t think it’s a binary choice — as you say, you can have both, or neither, or either on its own. Like I said to paul barker, racism I think we will always have with us — or at least for a long time yet — but I’m not trying to say anyone who doesn’t want uncontrolled immigration is racist. I’m really uninterested in calling people A Racist. I think we’re all affected by racism, because of its societal nature, but that’s hardly the point I’m making here.

    All I mean to do is to say that we can do a better job of addressing these concerns people keep having. We can tell them how many foreigners are in the UK, until people stop assuming it’s twice the number it is. We can tell them about the controls on immigration we do have, until they stop thinking it’s uncontrolled. We can tell them even we Lib Dems have, as you said above, pretty stringent proposals for how to treat immigrants. I’m not (here) advocating any policy change. I just think we can do a lot better at communicating the policies we — as a party and a country — have.

  • If people are going to discuss whether it’s okay to call such-and-such a group of people racists then I think people should define what they think ‘racist’ means, because it looks a lot like there may be some talking at cross-purposes going on here.

  • Holly
    Your article is titled “How to address concerns about immigration.”

    I’m sure nothing in my previous comment could be construed as racist or xenophobic, and I took the trouble to carefully outline, with detail, valid concerns about immigration that many people actually have,… and yet you say :
    “…I don’t really want to get bogged down in the arguments you’re making here”

    Not wanting to get bogged down in a conversation that contains pertinent arguments you’d rather not countenance, is all very well,.. but at some point liberals will have to face and address the very valid concerns, about too much uncontrolled immigration, disrupting the fabric and cohesion of the vulnerable in British society.?

    Or Lib Dems can continue as per this article, .. building racist bogymen, for the sole, and no doubt satisfying purpose, of throwing mud at them.?

  • In the past few years there have been many, many cuts to public services yet seemingly no control over the number of people coming into the country and it has created a strain. Of course it’s not the fault of those who are coming into the country however it’s also not those comfortable who feel the strain the most, and those who are comfortable can also be the ones posting pics of white vans and suggesting there is a lower class of people.

    I feel that when people talk about immigration it’s often that they don’t necessarily see the benefits to their communities – when people were talking about the EU nurse/Dr/health worker they often did from London or Birmingham yet there are so few GP’s (British and immigrant) who wish to service small, rural areas. There was a BBC Wales show called “The Indian Doctor” which is a fantastic example of immigration working (though some hurdles to overcome) to benefit a community and an immigrant, the community moreso.

    I believe that your sentence (“The process has gotten increasingly expensive, intrusive, prolonged and stressful in recent years, to appease voters’ “concerns.””) is accurate. I have heard that at times the reason people aren’t deported is simply that the Home Office have over-booked the number of seats on a plane which is an expensive mistake let alone the stress on people affected; people who have less and less support as the system has become more about getting them out quickly rather than investigating if they have a right to stay.

    It’s not an easy or short conversation to have as, it may even seem like there are more losers than winners, but it’s a conversation that needs to have a space. Even now those who have spent months and months (years and years) talking about immigration are trying to bring in some horrible policies just because “we can’t even talk about immigration”.

  • Holly Matthies 11th Oct '16 - 9:49pm

    @J Dunn
    Not wanting to get bogged down in a conversation that contains pertinent arguments you’d rather not countenance, is all very well,..
    I said that because I’m tired of marshaling references and arguments to my aid only to have them dismissed. I said that because immigrants are asked to do a huge amount of unpaid labour in constantly justifying our existence, our humanity, our dignity. Your evident lack of understanding of racism yet desire to place it on two random Lib Dems, your admitted absurdities in your hypothetical figures, made me tired just looking at them. Yes, immigrants will grow old and need care but they’ll also have contributed all their working lives. Immigrants are wildly beneficial to the economy, paying five times more in taxes than they receive in benefits. In the meantime, they can build the schools, hospitals and houses, they can work in them as teachers and carers and doctors and cleaners. They can be artists and actors who bring joy to millions. They can even be the friends or spouses of British people, those who understand that integration is not a one-way street and that asking foreigners to assimilate into British culture also asks the Brits to ensure that culture is not xenophobic, because who can be exepcted to integrate into a culture that asks them to hate themselves?

    but at some point liberals will have to face and address the very valid concerns, about too much uncontrolled immigration, disrupting the fabric and cohesion of the vulnerable in British society.?
    Why? Who are these vulnerable? Why does “the fabric and cohesion of British society” depend on people who can’t be called migrants? Are those British but born elsewhere all right? Do they need to be British citizens? What if they’re naturalized citizens? Why are people always telling me “oh, I don’t mean YOU dear” when they find out I”m an immigrant? If I’m the right sort — even if I’m economically unproductive — am I not a threat to the vulnerable in British society?

  • Holly Matthies 11th Oct '16 - 9:56pm

    @DJ

    In the past few years there have been many, many cuts to public services yet seemingly no control over the number of people coming into the country
    But it is controlled. Even citizens of other EU member states are restricted in the time they can be here without work. And non-EU people like me, it’s getting impossible. The cuts to public services have been in spite of migrants, not because of them. There’s no finite number of houses and hospitals that the UK can have — or if there is, we haven’t reached it yet — it’s down to government decisions about funding the NHS, about who is taxed how much, and so on. We know this is an economically as well as socially illiberal government; that’s the problem. Not whether people stay in the country they’ve always lived in.

  • Katharine Pindar 11th Oct '16 - 10:23pm

    Holly, well said. Hear hear. Thanks for all that, and keep on fighting this good fight.

  • @Holly
    “There’s no finite number of houses and hospitals that the UK can have”

    Clearly there is – all economic resources are finite. If they were not we would have no need for economics since there would be no “economic problem” (infinite wants but finite resources).

    You say there’s no reason we can’t have enough houses and hospitals for the people who are here now. Perhaps, but what you overlook is the importance of planning. Just a few years ago, the number of EU nationals in the UK was roughly the same as the number of UK nationals living in the EU. In a very short space of time, we have now arrived at a situation where there are 2 million more EU nationals here than there are UK nationals there. The scale and speed of this change was not predicted and hence was not planned for. You can’t compare this to changes in the birth rate, because these changes tend to happen pretty gradually and, once they do, we have years to plan the necessary local resources. It would not be economic to have millions of empty houses on standby just in case we have a sudden influx.

    If the number of immigrants in the UK at present had been arrived at by years of steady and controlled growth, I don’t think the issue would be anywhere near as controversial. But that’s not how it happened, and that’s why the whole system has lost public support. People on the left have to take their share of the responsibility for that, and the unpleasantness that has ensued.

  • “the acceptably non-racist immigration concern is the “drain on infrastructure,” ”

    Regardless of the reasons, infrastructure in this country, transport, health, housing, education, is overloaded and inadequate for the population it serves. Even if there was unlimited funding it is impossible to fill the gap overnight. It would take years if not decades for expansion of the infrastructure to catch up. But there’s not unlimited funding so who pays? In the meantime what do we do? We cannot control the birth rate, we can control migration. There’s no point in putting a different spin on the cause, there’s still the same problem. What’s the immediate and practical solution. Find an answer that people will vote for and it’s game over for Brexit. I don’t think there is one.

  • Ahh the joys of flood prevention software

    Holly Matthies

    Perhaps you could try re-explaining what you were trying to express in the comments at 4:55 and 5:09?

    Manfarang

    I’m not sure I got the point of your comments? Has someone said racism doesn’t exist?

  • Holly Matthies

    “So what’s your good and compelling case for immigration then, Psi?”

    Funny you had to ask for one, as you’ed written an article to address it but as you ask. It is best expressed verbally rather than in writing, I find you need to tailor it to the individual you are speaking to, based upon geography, industry, skills etc.
    I kick off with the opener, that will be dismissed, about greater economic growth. Then depending on who I am speaking too I kick off with the natural disruption that technological innovation provides, and from that the need for immigration to keep the flexibility of the economy to adapt to the changes. The need for immigration (and it to be as simple as possible) to exist for it to be attractive to make sizable investment in the country. Then the dependence of these sorts of projects on a variety of labour such as shortage skills, I normally rely on a comparison of the way Nisan was established in Sunderland and how the flow will vary over time of these sorts of investments. I also make the point about the supply chain and support industries that result from these sorts of projects and the different time scales in different industries.
    Then at the personal level there is also reciprocity over time, and the example of the 90s construction industry (also tying in the resilience to a skills base to the economic cycle). From that back in to the need for flexibility which only immigration can provide when responding to significant corrective readjustments, such as our current under supply of housing and the issues trying to cope with a correction purely domestically would have (probably citing the British industry in the ‘70/’80s and a comparison).

  • Holly Matthies
    [single post separated by flood prevention]
    If discussing with someone near a university town or some level of expat workers I point out the links that the flow of people through the country in the form of students and expat workers creates an emotional link which is useful for those who will in later years potentially be either in decision making positions for the likes of investment or supply chain decisions. Also the emotional link can be used to generate the “premium” impression over nationally produced products something that can provide domestic jobs with a completive edge (Scotch being the basic example). This is getting to the area where the link is less obvious for most people so I don’t tend to dwell too long. I normally throw in a bit about how specialised the leading edge of economic change is and how only immigration can accommodate that, but for the most part most people don’t see that as important.
    I try and pick off the basic misconceptions that people will have (like lump of labour fallacy, housing questions, key current drivers being other economies which will reverse at some point etc) as I go through, but that is one where you need the very open discussion as you are basically telling them they are wrong (preferably done before they raise them).

    When I’m speaking to people I don’t tend to use the buzz words I used above as I can use examples from them and their local area to explain my point.

  • Few of these arguments are really about economics or practicalities. There actually about differing visions of the world. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe in the principle free movement, but it’s no more reasoned than arguing against it.
    The argument isn’t really liberals against the far right. It’s actually about the boring reality that people tend to be a bit tribal and bit conservative and thus favour what and who they grew up with.

  • It’s actually about the boring reality that people tend to be a bit tribal and bit conservative and thus favour what and who they grew up with.

    Exactly. Immigration, almost by definition, means change. People don’t like change. therefore there will always be resistance to immigration.

    Liberal Democrats often have trouble understanding this because they are generally of a personality type characterised by neophilia. But a minority of people are of that personality type (hence the core Lib Dem vote of 8-10%) and most people are not liberals, but are small-c conservatives.

  • Psi
    I constantly hear, “I not racialist but blah blah blah (racist comment).

    Glenn
    “who they grew up with”
    I grew up with Anglo-Indian neighbours and was seated with one of them at infant school.
    Put the “foreigners” together!
    My first roommate at university was born in Pakistan.
    There was once a British Empire!

  • Tim
    “I think people should define what they think ‘racist’ means”

    This has come up before. A few months back the definition that was suggested on another thread by R Uduwerage-Perera was:
    “It is a: Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
    It is also: The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/taking-a-stand-against-postbrexit-racism-51384.html

    Personally I’m not sure that is a perfect definition but it is better than having it used simply as an insult stripped of all descriptive meaning. But I’m not the one accusing others of this so I will leave it to them to explain their meaning.

  • EU immigrants contribute a net £5 billion per year to the UK public purse. That is before taking the positive impact on the economy into account. Those who want more restrictions on immigration from the EU need to be more honest with the public about what services they will cut or what taxes they will raise to pay for their desire for a less diverse society.

  • Psi
    At the beginning of the last century teachers in British schools would tell their pupils that one British man equaled six foreigners. Something of that has clearly remained.

  • Manfarang.
    I’m not saying no one mixes at all. but really my experience from living in Leicester is that when you have lots of cultures side by side they tend to form mini mono cultures. I put this down to innate small c-conservatism.

  • Manfarang

    I’m a bit confused. I’m talking about how we should persuade people in 2016 (and onwards) that a liberal approach is best and this includes a pro immigration approach. People have the wrong ideas and I would like them to change their minds. I’m making the point that one of the significant barriers is people’s unwillingness to be open to discussion.

    To point out why you disagree you cite an anecdote from the 1970s followed by one from 1900. Is this how you normally discuss issues in the present day?

  • @Al
    “EU immigrants contribute a net £5 billion per year to the UK public purse.”

    This kind of thing is actually impossible to measure and several wildly different estimates are available.

    “Those who want more restrictions on immigration from the EU need to be more honest with the public about what services they will cut or what taxes they will raise”

    You are assuming there that the current (pretty much uncontrolled) flows of EU immigration are economically optimal, and that a more controlled (or what you call “restricted”) system would not be able to improve on that net contribution. I find that very unlikely, so the question can be batted back – how do those who prefer a continuation of uncontrolled EU immigration propose to pay for the fact that such an unplanned system is likely to be sub-optimal?

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 12th Oct '16 - 8:23am

    Brilliant article, Holly. I’m so glad you are doing all you can to liberalise the party’s immigration policy. It is an appalling if the party’s official position is still the policy quoted by Peter Watson in the post above (4.25pm yesterday).
    Don’t take any notice if people accuse you of being “naive and idealistic”. That’s what people once said about about those who called for the abolition of slavery, or who believed that children should be attending school rather than working in factories…
    The time will surely come when it will be accepted that every human being has the right to move freely around the earth. That day may be far off, but we should recognise that it is the ideal, and do what we can to move towards it.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Oct '16 - 9:13am

    Britain would be a much poorer place without the Holly Matthies of this world. Long may she remain ‘silly’ and ‘idealistic’.

  • I agree there are policies which could reduce this concern, which we failed to put into practice while in government – pursue an economic policy to achieve full employment; fine large employers who don’t employ people who could claim employment and support allowance, pay them a short-term grant to employ these people and those who have been unemployed more than a year; ensure that employers have training programmes to train new people if they recruit from aboard so in the future they will have no need to recruit in foreign countries; build enough houses to reduce house prices and eliminate the housing waiting list across the UK; provide finance to school so class sizes can be below 30 everywhere; provide finance to the NHS to ensure everyone can see a GP within 24 hours.

    If we can’t provide these policies then we have to put up with others proposing other policies which we find abhorrent.

  • This idea that the UK is super-racist… during the War, when segregated US army units were stations here, wasn’t it the British who demanded that black soldiers be treated equally?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/12035018/Revealed-How-Britons-welcomed-black-soldiers-during-WWII-and-fought-alongside-them-against-racist-GIs.html

  • Stephan Breban 12th Oct '16 - 10:00am

    Immigrants have a lower average than the general population. They are more likely to be working than the general population. Every study shows that they are net contributors. As to the NHS, there would not be an NHS in London without immigration. There is absolutely no evidence that immigration is a net drain on the NHS.

    There are concerns. Some valid. However, it is important to call out the errors and the ignorance. Immigration adds value. It adds wealth. It adds to the tax revenues. It adds to dynamism. Silicon Vally has a population that is 80% born and/or educated outside of the US. It is the most dynamic place on the face of the earth. London is a close second.

  • Interesting gender split in the comments on this post

  • Stephen Breban,
    So why isn’t Boston in Lincolnshire a hot bed of dynamism or what about Leicester and Birmingham. The truth is Silone Valley is the birthplace of modern IT so it attracts people to work there and London is a major financial capital so it attracts people. It’s a chicken or egg argument. Of course immigration can add to business success, but it does not guarantee that success or dynamism or anything else.

  • suzanne fletcher 12th Oct '16 - 11:54am

    nothing like having the facts to hand !
    there are quite a few sites on the web but we have a special section on our LD4SOS website now http://www.ld4sos.org.uk/archives/category/documents and there is 20 top facts to download.
    2 anecdotes. yesterday I posted something about our churches harvest festival on my facebook page. It was shared by a muslim friend before anyone else. He is a Lib Dem and not an (immigrant) but looks different and has a different faith that I respect.
    As Michael Meadowcroft said in a speech at conference, and know to be true myself, if a family living in a community are threatened with removal back to country of origin there is an outcry from the neighbours, schools etc, and nobody has a bad word to say about them. Petitions are got up, and lobbying done. It is the fear of the unknown that causes the problem.

  • suzanne fletcher 12th Oct '16 - 11:58am

    re our policy on immigration.
    I was on the working party for that, and there was a lot of tension about the wording of some sections (and I recognise the one above) with pressure to have something that the Daily M*** was not going to distort.
    We have moved on from that as a party now, and when ( if ever) the present crises are subsiding I think we need to look again as a party.
    PS I was concentrating on the asylum and refugee issues in the paper, and did get better wording eventually, but not all to my liking! as in much of life there had to be compromise, and we have a much better policy than labour and tories. they have virtually nothing on asylum either (you can see ours on “Snap manifesto” on http://www.ld4sos.org.uk/archives/category/documents )

  • Best piece on immigration I’ve read on here – or anywhere on the internet – in years.

  • Simon Banks 12th Oct '16 - 1:56pm

    Psi – if I was reluctant to disagree with people and explain why I thought they were wrong, I wouldn’t have any place in politics. That’s not judging people – it’s judging their beliefs and arguments.

    There are three substantial groups of people who are concerned (negatively) about immigration. One is those in areas like the Fens where recent immigrant numbers are very high. The immigrants are meeting a need in the labour market unmet by locals – but the numbers do put a strain on public services and the environment and the government hasn’t done enough to help local authorities address it.

    The second is people in rather run-down towns mainly in the North or South Wales, which have serious problems nothing to do with immigration, but it’s easy to blame the EU or immigration – and by immigrants people often mean Black and Asian people many of whom were born in the UK.

    The third is people in retirement areas who have got out of, for example, East London because they didn’t like the way it was going, which may reflect issues about the loss of close communities, crime, litter or whatever, but often reflects a dislike of visible minorities. These retirement areas generally have few immigrants and those they have often work in the NHS or the private care sector, but they’re still among the most anti-immigrant of all areas.

  • Simon Banks

    “if I was reluctant to disagree with people and explain why I thought they were wrong, I wouldn’t have any place in politics”

    Who said anything about not disagreeing? I’m suggesting if someone has concerns about immigration then they are almost always holding some ideas that are mistaken and changing their mind should be the priority. What is your concern with my specific points, that you shouldn’t go around calling people racist, you should actually listen to people and try and get them to open up in expressing what they are concerned about and you should address their concerns and correct misconceptions?

  • @ Catherine Jane Crosland

    “Don’t take any notice if people accuse you of being “naive and idealistic”…
    The time will surely come when it will be accepted that every human being has the right to move freely around the earth. That day may be far off, but we should recognise that it is the ideal, and do what we can to move towards it.”

    The World Bank has estimated that 1.2 billion people are living on less than $1.25 a day.

    In your view they should have “the right to move freely around the earth.” That is a very noble ideal, of course, but have you considered the practical consequences of their exercising this right, unfettered by any controls? Of how it might work in practice?

    This is just utopian day dreaming, unworthy of a serious political party. Cloud cuckoo land stuff…

  • Simon Banks’
    Actually the majority 70-77% want lower immigration. Wanting open borders and high immigration levels etc. Is a minority view. There isn’t even really anything specific to Britain, let alone areas of Britain about this. Do the same survey pretty much anywhere in the western world and you would get more or less the same or higher results. In my odder moments I sometimes wonder if liberals are a tribe that doesn’t know they’re a tribe.

  • I sometimes wonder if liberals are a tribe that doesn’t know they’re a tribe.

    Liberals are generally people who like change. And they don’t understand that most other people hate change.

    So when they see people complaining about change, they think, ‘They can’t really be complaining about change, because change is good and fun, change is what makes life worth living. Nobody could be against change. So they must really be complaining for some other reason, like they are racists.’

    But no, most people aren’t racists and actually do just hate change of all kinds, and they wish things would stay the same as they are used to.

  • @ Catherine Jane Crosland
    “The time will surely come when it will be accepted that every human being has the right to move freely around the earth. That day may be far off, but we should recognise that it is the ideal, and do what we can to move towards it.”

    I think a better objective would be that there were less economic inequalities in the world and no one believed they would be better off living and working in another country.

  • Dav/
    I think Tim responded with a similar comment earlier. I don’t think it’s that simple. I consider myself a liberal. Probably a pretty bad one. I just ask myself if a lot of my “liberal” assumptions and beliefs are actually true. So my point on immigration is not that it or that changes it brings are bad. I sometimes wonder if it really is as progressive as it’s presented as being.

  • Psi
    England is a very conservative place. I tend to notice how many things remain the same.
    Abroad some places have changed beyond recognition. Cultures don’t change that radically. Chinese are Chinese. English are English.

  • @ Glenn

    “I sometimes wonder if…[immigration]…is really as progressive as it is presented as being.”

    You are not alone in wondering that. My question to all the open borders folks would be a simple one. Mass immigration to the UK, year after year, decade after decade, is progress to…what?

  • Manfarang

    Me: “I’m talking about how we should persuade people in 2016 […] you cite an anecdote from the 1970s followed by one from 1900”
    You: “England is a very conservative place. I tend to notice how many things remain the same.”

    I think we should just agree to disagree, I don’t think we are going to be on the same page about the nature of the world.

  • Glenn

    “Wanting open borders and high immigration levels etc.”

    It is also possible to want “open borders” (speaking relatively here) and not be aiming for any particular level of immigration. The EU for a prolonged period had open boarders and people were comfortable with the numbers.

    The current numbers have several factors impacting on them.

  • @ Mark Wright. Couldn’t agree more, well said.

  • Cllr Mark Wright.
    That’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to say. One survey after another has shown more or less the same thing over and over again year in year out. To me the compromise would be to concede to free movement of labour, but lose the presumption of the right to permanent residency. Also stop counting students in the immigration figures.

  • David Evans 13th Oct '16 - 1:02am

    Martin:
    You appear to be in favour of sacrificing all hope of liberalism and condemning the country to being run by the Conservatives for decades, because you think that it is more important to be pure on everything than successful in changing the county in some ways for the better. Somehow I thought we learned the folly of that approach in the period from the 1940s to the 1960s when Conservative after Conservative was re-elected and we went down to 6 MPs.

    If we have to re-learn those lessons from scratch again, I fear our road to recovery to anything remotely relevant to the British people will be very long and lonely indeed.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Oct '16 - 1:52am

    Mark and others !

    Holly is speaking about the reality for the immigrant or those attempting to become immigrants . As the son of an Italian father who came here a decade before I was born in the later 1960s , who myself married someone of American origin, I know from direct experience and the experiences of more recent examples of these situations , from people such as Holly, the way the system has changed in a worrying way.

    It is appalling that people can basically only now buy there way into Britain if marrying a British national , and if not here with a well paid job or as an EU citizen. Residency permits , visas the lot , have become big business for HMG ! A phrase of my own I use discussing these things is, it is not the business of government , to make a business out of government ! All this got worse under New Labour , it is this arrogance on the far right of the p[arty then, that , coupled with its far left lurking then , too,put paid to my involvement in that party , more than a decade and a bit ago ! Huge sums of two or three thousand pounds for a residency permit , id, call it whatever, is not cost price it is big profit ! Otherwise why was it a few quid under the much missed Sir John Major ! And why should the husband or wife ,and the British national ,not be able to live here regardless of income level ? A disgrace ! They could once.

    My elderly widowed mother-in-law , after the death of my father- in- law ,could not apply to come and live with my wife and I in the latter years of the Brown government , because a certain former minister , later found fiddling his expenses, as immigration minister , fixed an arbitary figure on income and savings ,for family retired and immediate members, to enter this country. My mother-in-law was and is self sufficient financially, with a decent state and private pension, but not the 25, ooo,ooo pounds a year they demanded , plus savings that they wanted higher too! She lives alone and lonely now thanks to the British government , A Labour one !

    It is because I want people with a real interest , committment or connection to this country , like the Gurkha soldiers , Brown and co. also let down, that I have never favoured complete freedom of movement in the EU and do not now

    Holly, I hope , or am sure, understands what I mean , as well.

  • David Evans 13th Oct ’16 – 1:02am……… Somehow I thought we learned the folly of that approach in the period from the 1940s to the 1960s when Conservative after Conservative was re-elected and we went down to 6 MPs…….If we have to re-learn those lessons from scratch again, I fear our road to recovery to anything remotely relevant to the British people will be very long and lonely indeed……

    Strange how you feel the need to go back over half a century when a far more pertinent example of ‘folly’ can be found a mere 5 years ago….
    Our 57 MPs were elected on our (LibDem) policies but, in their wisdom, most decided that they’d to go along with what the electorate ‘really’ wanted by making the Tories the largest party…
    To use your final paragraph, “If we have to re-learn those lessons from scratch again, I fear our road to recovery to anything remotely relevant to the British people will be very long and lonely indeed…”

  • David Evans

    I think you are correct the the impression of “purity” is important here. I’m more pro immigration than the average voter (probably more than the average LibDem voter) is comfortable with, yet lack the “purity” because I don’t think running around calling those I disagre with racists is fair or sensible.

    Interesting that the incinuation made above (11Oct, 5:10) against me has no clarification a day and a half later. If a pro-immigration LibDem supporter gets that experience, just imagine what it must be like to be a voter who is isn’t sure or is worried about the issue. Particularly when some think they should “shut up” if they disagree.

    I find the behaviour disappointing but can see the funny side. The average person being contacted by the LibDems would probably have a more negative reaction.

  • Martin

    “a Lib Dem display of sitting on the fence”

    One person’s fence sitting is another person’s nuance. Without specifics it is hard to judge what side someone wants to take. But there are plenty of people on here demanding “purity” and plenty of the electorate who hold certain opinions only very lightly and can be persuaded but ideological purity is not one of the tools I would use.

  • Martin

    “The anti-immigrant agenda resurrects arguments that normally would be summarily dismissed. To forgo the benefits of the Single Market for specious pretexts is incomprehensible idiocy. Those who suggest this course need also to be explaining how they could ensure that the economy would be successful and not be harmed. No one in this thread has done anything like this: with no argument there is no persuasion.”

    That straw man is looking pretty battered, best put him down and come back to the discussion. I have seen people attacking those who have advocated solutions like EEA/EFTA membership to ensure we retain single market membership (all be it on worse terms with less influence) as a least worse option, however these people have been criticised, again on the basis of lacking “purity.”

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Oct '16 - 10:52am

    Simon, and Michael BG – In my comments above I intended to make it clear that I regarded a world with completely open borders as an ideal, which we should be trying to work towards as a long term aim, rather than something which could or should happen immediately.
    Creating this ideal would also involve creating a world in which there was a good quality of life in every country. Then no-one world be forced to become a refugee or “economic migrant”. In this ideal world, people throughout the world would move to another country only for the sort of reasons that many British people now choose to emigrate – because they would like to experience life in a different country, or perhaps because they have fallen in love with someone from another country.
    In this “ideal” world, immigration would occur quite evenly throughout the world.
    Therefore, in an ideal world, completely open borders would be perfectly feasible. As I said in my earlier post, the time when this can occur may be far off, but it is the ideal that we should be working towards.

  • Catherine,
    In this ideal world what happens to culture and why would anyone travel to experience it if it was all much of a muchness? What if more people decided that the Amazon was where they really wanted to settle? What if the locals did not want them there? Do you then supress decent to impose tolerance? And if so how would this imposition of current western political/moral beliefs be different from imperialism! What about religion? What about politics? How do you even know you are describing the ideal world rather than just your ideal world. Do you really even need open borders to solve problems of poverty etc.

  • What if more people decided that the Amazon was where they really wanted to settle? What if the locals did not want them there? Do you then suppress dissent to impose tolerance?

    Liberalism holds that the freedom of the individual (in this case, to live where they like) is the most important value, so presumably yes.

  • In the past free movement was the freedom of people of a country to visit other countries. It was a freedom that citizens had to leave their own country. There were countries that did not allow their citizens to leave their country.

    Some countries had wide definitions of their country and I think France was such a country. The UK was seen as one country, but people might have thought that there was freedom of movement as we definite it today between Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England.

    Free movement within the EU was not a problem at least until 1981 as the nine members all had similar economic development. However once this was no longer true free movement was destined to become a problem with pull factors from the poorest countries to the richer ones. Within the UK the people accept free movement and that the government takes action to make the poorer regions as rich as the richer ones via regional policy. This is not true in the EU (Germans do not want to balance their economy with Greece, but in the past they accepted the need to do it with East Germany). A government has a responsibility to protect its electorate. A German voter might interpret this as not giving huge amounts of economic aid to Greece which might reduce their economic wellbeing. A UK voter might interpret this as not allowing the population to increase because of immigration to a point where they perceive a reduction in their life chances (having their own home) or a reduction in services (having to wait longer to see a GP; not getting their child into their local school; class sizes increasing).

  • Is free movement of all of the world’s population an acceptable liberal policy? How far should national rights be granted to non-nationals? I can’t imagine Lloyd George granting all of the world’s population the freedom to live and work in the UK. As liberals we should see a difference between foreign policies and domestic or national policies. It is right to grant all out citizens the freedom to leave the country. It is right for them to have the freedom to vote in elections. It is not right to grant the right of everyone in the world to vote in our elections. In the same way it is not right to grant everyone in the world the right to live and work in the UK. In foreign policy it is right to pursue policies to reduce inequalities for everyone in the world (but no government would do this if it meant domestic negative economic growth), but not make every country have open borders and allow anyone into their country. If there was a world government then it would be right for liberals to want everyone in the world to have the right to live anywhere and to have regional policies to discourage huge movement of population from the poorer areas to the richer ones, by reducing inequalities between areas.

    @ Catherine Jane Crosland
    I am glad that you agree with me, that we need to reduce inequalities in the world so there are fewer economic pull factors to migration.

  • Okay, how about this for explaining why the fact that people are ignorant of the numbers doesn’t actually matter.

    Say I like the way a certain person makes pasta sauce. Then one day they say they are trying out a new recipe and I taste it and go, ‘Oh yuk that’s horrible, you’ve changed it, it’s too garlicky.’ So they say, ‘What proportion of it do you think is garlic? And I say ‘Oh at least 5%’ and they say ‘Well actually it’s only 1%, how do you like it now?’

    Do you think I am going to like it any better now I know the exact proportions?

    It’s not that I dislike garlic (I like other, even more garlicky things); and indeed I might have liked the new recipe if it had been that recipe all along. What I don’t like the fact I had got used to one taste of pasta sauce and now it has changed.

    Why would being corrected about the magnitude of the change make me dislike the change any less?

  • “….we need to reduce inequalities in the world so there are fewer economic pull factors to migration.”

    I see no evidence that Lib Dems want to reduce inequalities in the world,.. when they can’t even devise policies to reduce inequalities right here at home, within the UK,… between London and the outer regions of Wales and England. Is it too much to ask that you attempt to promote equality 7 miles or 70 miles away, before your noble ambitions stretch to 7,000 miles away.?

    So why not start small on your good intentions, with a simple policy to kill off the Barnett Formula if you’re true to your word.? Policy to promote equality in the UK never actually materialises, because experience tells that Lib Dems are first-class at providing fine words, and strange fantasies based on distant Utopia(s), plus a dash of kumbaya for good measure,… and to be honest, not much else.

    Surely, even at a pragmatic [party preservation] level, common sense ought to remind you, that your voters are in the 7 to 70 mile range, and that you have NO voters in the 7,000 mile range.?

  • Dav and J. Dunn
    Why do you keep using “liberal” as an insult in a manner that seems half inched from an American right wing political blog?

  • Where have I used it as an insult? I’ve used it as a description of a certain political position, often held by a certain type of person.

    Do you disagree that liberals are often people who are unusually open to new experiences and comfortable with change, compared to the general population? Most of the liberals I know not only fit that description, they are rather proud of it.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 13th Oct '16 - 4:42pm

    Glen, to answer some of your questions about my comment –
    I assume that there would always be some cultural differences between different parts of the world. I wasn’t suggesting that every country would be identical in an ideal world, only that there would be a good quality of life in every country, and people would be able to move freely between countries.
    There would always be plenty of differences in scenery, climate, history, wildlife etc, that might make people choose to move to another country. Someone who wanted to study kangaroos and koala bears in their natural habitat would always have to move to Australia !
    Obviously every individual country would have to make its own decisions about whether its borders should be open, and this could not and should not be imposed on them by other nations.
    I wasn’t suggesting that open borders were necessary in order to solve problems of poverty. But the essence of liberalism is the freedom of the individual, and part of true freedom should be the right to live wherever one chooses. I think most of us would want this right for ourselves, so why should we deny it to others?

  • Catherine
    I would have chosen to live in New Zealand but will never get to go there. I did go to the Middle East not exactly out of choice but I needed a job. That’s is the situation of many who move countries. Their own countries do not provide the opportunities for a better life.

  • Glenn
    “Why do you keep using “liberal” as an insult…..”

    Not all liberals,… but there are some LD’s to the liberal left, who have an uncanny ability to churn out mighty fine words, and fine intentions, but the words never bear close scrutiny, because policy-wise, there is rarely any ‘meat on the [Lin Dem] sandwich’.?

    Take this example from your Lib Dem 2015 manifesto :

    “We will grow a high-skill, low-carbon economy by supporting education,
    training, infrastructure, innovation and technology. With a stable, competitive business environment and investment in green industries and infrastructure, we will ensure growth is embedded in every part of the UK.”

    How,..exactly will you grow a high-skill, low-carbon economy.?
    How,… exactly will you support education, infrastructure, innovation and technology.
    How,.. exactly will you ensure growth is embedded in every part of the UK.?

    Without a detailed [financed], plan of action, you have only a wish list.

    Have you also noticed that when I mention a proposal for an actual policy to spread equality, like scraping the Barnett Formula, which amounts to spending less on London and Scotland, and more [per capita], on improving social equality in Wales and the English regions,… the liberal metropolitans suddenly go deaf,..avert their eyes,.. and head for the hills. Is that abrupt silence, a London,… liberal,… elitist,.. self interested,.. coincidence,.. or what.?

  • @Martin
    “If we genuinely thought that concerns about immigration were not motivated by xenophobia or worse…”

    But we have proof that it’s possible to have these concerns without being xenophobic, since a majority of immigrants (or descendants thereof) themselves believe that current levels should be reduced.

    I take it as a given that whatever non-xenophobic concerns those people have, it’s possible for white British people to have them too.

    In fact, since virtually everybody in the country has “concerns” inasmuch as they do not favour completely open borders, it would be pretty depressing to think that almost everybody around us is xenophobic in some way. That’s not my experience of life in the UK at all – and I’ve spent my whole life in one of the most ethnically diverse parts of the country.

  • J. Dunn.
    I was reading your response with some cautious interest and then you had to go and spoil it by invoking the bogeyman of “liberal metropolitan, London elitist blah blah blah”. Then I just shrugged and thought nothing to see here.

  • Glenn

    And I’m still waiting for a response on the idea of scraping the Barnett Formula, as a means towards providing UK, per capita equality,.. but since it will likely mean less public money spent on a precious liberal London, I’m not holding my breath, waiting for folk who hypocritically, regard fine talk, as an equivalent to real policy action towards UK equality.?

  • J. Diunn.
    Most lib Dems are not London based and they are not in power. You’re invoking a meaningless cliché of the political right. Popular amongst weekly columnist like Peter Hitchens and their regular commentators.
    The problem with argument about the Barnett formula is that scrapping it would barely increase spending in England. The main beneficiaries are actually Northern Ireland and Scotland and it’s main purpose to smooth things over in a period of devolving power. So certainly you can make a case for scrapping it on the grounds of equality of public spending, but all it would do is spread spending thinner but more evenly over a wider area. I’m pretty certain it will eventually be scrapped and absolutely no one will notice any material improvement in spending in the regions in England.

  • Glenn
    “I’m pretty certain it [Barnett formula], will eventually be scrapped and absolutely no one will notice any material improvement in spending in the regions in England.”

    Well it’s good news to hear that London and Scotland are ready to accept a reduction in public finance, in the spirit of a more equal UK [per capita], spread of public spending. So there should be no barrier to making it a Lib Dem policy to scrap it then.?

  • J.Dunn

    Personally I would scrap it and increase tax to boost public funding. But I’m not the leader of the Lib Dems and I edge towards the Left. J Dunn and what would you do if you were leader of UKIP, coz I seem to recall you describe yourself as Red UKIP or something.

  • Britain used to have freedom of movement with the whole commonwealth, over a billion people I think. It baffles me that 3 million non-Brits living here is considered a burden which we cannot tolerate any longer when more than 10 million Brits live outside the UK. people also seem to miss the basic point that we have nearly 1million job vacancies with low unemployment and high levels of emigration, it’s hardly surprising that there are people moving here to work.

  • @ J Dunn
    “when they can’t even devise policies to reduce inequalities right here at home, within the UK,… between London and the outer regions of Wales and England. Is it too much to ask that you attempt to promote equality 7 miles or 70 miles away, before your noble ambitions stretch to 7,000 miles away.? (sic)
    So why not start small on your good intentions, with a simple policy to kill off the Barnett Formula if you’re true to your word.?” (sic).

    Firstly I am not an expert on the Barnett Formula, which if I have understood it correctly, allocates budget increases to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales according to their population. (I am not aware of how it applies to London.) However as a liberal I do support regional support, whereby poorer regions are given aid (which can be financial) to assist them in growing faster than the richer areas of the UK. (I am not aware if our membership of the EU makes it difficult to provide such regional support, because regional support is provided by the EU.) I do support allocating recourses to the regions and nations of the UK based on need, rather than population.

    Secondly as a liberal I do wish to reduce inequalities including economic inequalities within the UK. I would hope that a Liberal Democrat government would try to achieve this and I hope that all members of the party would support these aims.

    Thirdly I do not believe that public money should be spent equally in every area of the UK as this would not reduce inequalities in poorer areas where it is likely more public money is needed.

  • Neil Sandison 14th Oct '16 - 11:36am

    Holly is right it is in most instances about fear ,fear of change and feeling isolated in the community around you that it has changed particularly if you have been left behind .
    Fear that you wont be able to access services or housing because of growing demands on those services. But it is also about being exploited by the fear mongers who blame migrants for our profit rationed housing ,exploited by those who blame migrants for housing shortages when the developers come forward with 5 bedroom detached houses with 2 double garages where you could have got 3 modest 3 bedroom houses at affordable rent levels .Fear of not getting that warehouse job down the road because the company that owns it only recruits on short term contracts or directly from abroad on poverty wages. Fear that even the application for a job has now to be accompanied by you producing a passport even though you have never ever left these shores .We all have much to do to overcome these fears.

  • Holly Matthies 14th Oct '16 - 5:20pm

    Well people who think I’m not worth listening to might listen to the CBI: “Why don’t the politicians do their jobs & explain to people the consequences of lowering immigration?” https://www.ft.com/content/58db5dde-914d-11e6-8df8-d3778b55a923

    This is all I’m asking us to do. To understand that the 77% or whatever who want lower immigration mostly want other things, to dig into that, to explain the consequences.

    I’m not saying “anyone who doesn’t want totally open borders is a racist.” I’m saying people have been given bad information or no information about what immigration is and does in its current state, which is horrible for immigrants but beneficial to British people. Whether they think so or not. 🙂

    Theresa May was in the news just yesterday for having vastly overstated how many students overstay their visas, and the British public generally approve of the number of international students anyway, appreciate what they bring to the UK, and would be fine if there were more or if they were able to stay on and work after they finish studying. And that’s a third of our immigration figures! And five parliamentary committees told the government a couple years ago to stop including students in this number. Maybe we can call attention to things like that?

    I’m not even talking here about changing our policies, just the way we talk about the current reality.

  • *hugs and strawman repellent for Holly*

    ppb makes good points, I feel.

  • Holly Matthies 14th Oct '16 - 5:35pm

    Oh and another thing I didn’t know: the reason net migration’s been hitting records lately is not a larger number of immigrants (only 2,000 more last year than before) but a smaller number of emigrants. That’s the problem with it being a “net” target. I suspect 2016’s target will be easier to reach now that Brexit’s breaking the UK! 🙂

  • I’ll sign up to Lloyd George’s immigration restrictions too. Seems like a sensible compromise.

  • @Holly
    “the reason net migration’s been hitting records lately is not a larger number of immigrants (only 2,000 more last year than before) but a smaller number of emigrants”

    That’s not really borne out by the bottom graph on this page :-

    https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/statistics-net-migration-statistics

    Though emigration is certainly down over 100,000 on its 1998 peak, on the whole the emigration line has stayed relatively flat compared with the immigration line – which is why the net immigration line is almost exactly the same shape as the immigration line.

    In the early 90s both lines were fairly static at around 300,000 each (i.e. a very flat net rate). In recent years, emigration is almost the same as it was then (300,000 pa) whereas immigration is more like 600,000 pa.

    What sort of immigration policy do you think we should have?

  • Daniel Walker 14th Oct '16 - 7:48pm

    @Jennie
    Well, I’d change the last bit to “all people who marry a British person”, but I suspect so would you 🙂

  • Under the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act 1919 a statutory instrument was passed in 1920 requiring all aliens seeking employment or residence to register with the police. All aliens seeking employment had to seek permission from the Ministry of Labour. Each immigrant had to have the means to support themselves and their dependants before they would be given permission to enter the UK.

  • Holly Matthies 14th Oct '16 - 8:37pm

    So definitely immediate-postwar thinking, that’s what we need? Yeah.

  • Holly Matthies 14th Oct '16 - 9:14pm
  • Katharine Pindar 14th Oct '16 - 10:48pm

    What I take from reading all these comments is a strong wish to argue the case, Cllr. Mark Pack, about ‘75% of the public thinking there are too many immigrants’, since most people surely tend to differentiate between certain kinds of immigrants and object only to those who are believed to cause hardship to local people. They can be rapidly won over to those immigrants in their localities who themselves suffer hardship – such as teenagers who have gone to school here and settled, but are told to leave when they are eighteen, breaking up a respectable hard-working immigrant family. And for me, I am sad now to think of Lorenzo’s lonely mother-in-law, kept out of the country because she isn’t rich: that is surely an aspect of current immigration policy which we must deplore and fight, Holly. Well done raising all this debate.

  • Catherine,
    Sorry not to get back to you. You’ve sort of answered my point. The problem is to have the right to live anywhere one chooses relies the co-operation of locals, but the cultural difference would in a lot of cases bar people from those choices. To get past this you would have to break down things like religion, reticence of the locals so in effect the dominant culture was always a form secular liberalism. But cultures are resilient. Religions harden under threat. Groups subdivide and can become hostile. Ideas never really go away even when exposed counter arguments. In other words personal freedom can only exist as a contract that relies on group co-operation. We live in a fairly liberal society, but it still needs police, still has upheavals, etc. In short you can’t have an ideal world because it will always comes up against the awkward reality of people and group dynamics. The thing about utopian ideas is they are always internationalist and always require fundamental shifts in human behaviour which never really happen.

  • Glenn
    I am not sure your conclusion is necessary correct. If everyone could live anywhere and a person went to live in a society that was not “liberal”, it is likely that they would conform to the norms of that society. If there were few inequalities in the world, then the main reason for living in another society would be because you found that society more to your liking and so you would want to conform to its norms. There would be little need to move to another part of the world and to bring your own societies’ norms with you. It would be a true utopia of few inequalities and no economic pressures to live in societies that do not share your own values.

  • Michael BG
    If anyone could live anywhere but societies were illiberal then everyone would not be able to live anywhere in the first place. The problem is that cultures are not lifestyle choices, they are histories and reinforced values.

  • Glenn
    I am not aware of any society that bans all outsiders from entering it. I am not aware of any society in the past that banned all outsiders from joining it. For a person to be able to join a conservative society there is likely to be a requirement to conform and so long as the person does conform then they can join and be accepted as part of that society.

    I accept there would likely be problems if free movement meant that liberalism and the right to not conform was imposed. There would in this utopian world society be a large degree of non-conformity across the whole world and this might make a higher level of conformity to each community more acceptable to liberals. (It would seem that in this utopian society the price paid by the individual to live where they want would be the requirement to conform to the norms of the society that exists at that location, howver they would have the freedom to live within a community that aligns with how they wish to live.)

  • Michael BG
    “I am not aware of any society that bans all outsiders from entering it. I am not aware of any society in the past that banned all outsiders from joining it.”
    North Korea more or less. A few tourists and business men do visit but are closely watched.
    In recent times Bhutan, Burma (in the 1960s) and Albania (in the communist period)
    Historically Japan and Tibet cut themselves off from the world.

  • Manfarang
    An isolationist country is not the same as not allowing any foreigners from living in the country. Can you name any laws that banned ALL foreign people from living in a country? According to Wikipedia during the sakoku the only Europeans allowed were the Dutch at Dejima. However both Koreans and Chinese traded with Japan. Are not the Indian and Chinese minorities living in Burma of long standing? It does seem that new foreigners were restricted to only 24 hours in Burma sometime during the 1960’s. When do you think Tibet banned all foreigners from the country?

  • Michael BG.
    When did I say banned from. The point was that the notion of “free to live in” is reliant on co-operation and legal frame works. You would technically be free to live in the Islamic State under your definition, but in reality you would not be free to do so unless you totally agreed with it and you would not be free to leave just because you wanted to unless you imposed a liberal framework on it. in which case it would argue that it is not free to be the Islamic State. The point is that liberalism is not universal

  • I am making a distinction between society and government. The society did not have a policy of rejecting the foreigner who wished to be assimilated into their society, however governments sometimes do take action to protect their society from a foreign culture. Therefore in my utopian world the government would need to protect communities from cultural imperialism. There is a question about how legitimate it would be to setup a community with a different culture to that prevalent in the region. In the past we see problems with the idea of an ex-pat community trying to maintain a British life-style in say Spain, or say India.

    Glenn
    Muslims migrated right up until the end of the Caliphate. While I know that there have been countries which do not allow (or have not allowed) people to leave, I am not aware of cultures who have a cultural value which makes it impossible for someone to move away from the location of that culture.

    So you are correct I am saying that the freedom to live anywhere should be conditional upon the acceptance of the norms of the society in that area. Otherwise we have cultural imperialism. It is for the outsider to change not for the host community. It would then not be necessary (or right) to impose a “western political/moral belief” system on the host community.

  • Michael GB
    Although a kabya himself (half Chinese half Burmese, Ne Win banned Chinese-language education and created other measures to compel the Chinese to leave. Ne Win’s government stoked up racial animosity and ethnic conflicts against the Chinese, who were terrorized by Burmese citizens, the most violent riots taking place at the time of the Cultural Revolution in China in 1967. All schools were nationalized, including Chinese language schools. Beginning in 1967 and continuing throughout the 1970s, anti-Chinese riots continued to flare up and many believed they were covertly supported by the government. Similarly, Chinese shops were looted and set on fire. Public attention was successfully diverted by Ne Win from the uncontrollable inflation, scarcity of consumer items and rising prices of rice. The 1982 Citizenship Law further restricted Burmese citizenship for Burmese Chinese (as it stratified citizenship into three categories: full, associate, and naturalized) and severely limited Burmese Chinese, especially those without full citizenship and those holding FRCs, from attending professional tertiary schools, including medical, engineering, agricultural and economics institutions. During this period, the country’s failing economy and widespread discrimination accelerated an emigration of Burmese Chinese out of Burma.
    And the Indians, after he seized power through a military coup in 1962, General Ne Win ordered a large-scale expulsion of Indians. Although many Indians had been living in Burma for generations and had integrated into Burmese society, they became a target for discrimination and oppression by the junta. This, along with a wholesale nationalization of private ventures in 1964, led to the emigration of over 300,000 ethnic Indians from Burma.Indian-owned businesses were nationalized and their owners were given 175 kyat for their trip to India. This caused a significant deterioration in Indian-Burmese relations and the Indian government arranged ferries and aircraft to lift Burmese of Indian ethnicity out of Burma.
    And a lot of Anglo-Burmese got chucked out too. A few remain but they adopted Burmese names and became Buddhists.
    The Bama got all the government jobs and only a few got rich by using their connections , the rest became dirt poor.

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