Immigration White Paper

Before a mass of Liberal voices condemns the party’s immigration paper and the related motion for party conference, we need to reflect on two underlying issues: first, that global population growth, combined with weak states and intermittent conflicts across the developing world, and exacerbated by climate change, mean that migration to richer and safer countries is becoming one of the most intractable issues democratic nations will face over the next generation; second, that the white working class in Britain (above all, in England) have real grievances, which we cannot dismiss, and which are partly – though only partly – associated with immigration.

Yes, much of the resentment unskilled people in England feel against incomers is unjustified and misdirected.  That doesn’t mean that we should ignore it: politics, sadly, is as much about emotion as about reasoned argument.   However, we can’t reassure them merely by saying that they are mistaken, or ill-informed.  We have to address those grievances, by campaigning for policies that answer them.

The Leave campaign, aided and abetted by Migration Watch and the right-wing media, managed to present the challenge of immigration as coming from the European continent, triggered by EU free movement rules. In reality, migration from other EU countries has never accounted for the majority of arrivals in the UK in any year, despite the surge after east European nations joined.  The real ‘Project Fear’ in the Referendum campaign was the suggestion that the entire population of Romania and Bulgaria would move to Britain, and that 70 million Turks would follow.  The population of the EU-28, in total, is 500 million.  However, the population of Africa has grown by 500 million over the past 30 years, and current expectations are that it will double again over the next 25-30 years. Across the Middle East and South Asia, birth-rates remain high – closely linked to the subordinate position of women and their limited access to education.

Meanwhile, climate change, as well as conflict, is making life more difficult across much of Africa and the Middle East.  If you were a young Syrian, Libyan, Nigerian, Somali, Congolese or Iranian, you would try to find a way to get to a safer country, legally or illegally – and your extended family might well help to fund the costs of smuggling you through.  The annual surge across the Mediterranean will continue to grow, and all European societies will face agonising choices about how to respond. The sheer scale of immigration matters; mass migration disrupts settled communities.  Moreover, mass immigration affects those who are already marginal in the host country most directly, as newcomers and disadvantaged locals struggle for access to scarce resources.

We cannot shift the argument about immigration without tackling the shortage of social housing, the impact of cuts in local authority spending on our more deprived communities, the long-term failure to provide decent education and training to the children of what used to be the skilled working class, the introduction of universal credit in a form that penalises those who are struggling both to bring up children and to work, and the declining availability of health provision for people like them.  We know that the relentless pursuit of cuts in public spending and lower taxation has driven this impoverishment of our former industrial towns and estates, rather than competition from immigrants; but we will not persuade them unless we can promise to spend more on their needs, to provide better chances for their children.  Moreover, we have to admit that they’re not entirely wrong.   The continuing neglect of apprenticeships and vocational education has been enabled by employers’ preference for direct recruitment from Eastern Europe over the more challenging task of motivating and training local labour.

Those of us who’ve spent our careers campaigning in industrial towns and cities are familiar with the resistance to easier immigration that comes from people in marginal jobs and poorer housing – even when themselves the children or grandchildren of immigrants.  Unless Liberal Democrats are prepared to write off these communities and to limit our ambitions to constituencies with highly-educated professionals, we have to offer answers to their fears and hopes. It’s no easier to argue for higher taxation, to fund the regeneration of Britain’s neglected industrial communities, than for easier immigration: but we have to try.  Also, we should also focus development assistance on the education of women, without which the long-term flow of desperate migrants from poor and insecure countries to rich and safe will continue to grow.



* William Wallace has fought five parliamentary elections in Manchester and West Yorkshire. He is a former president of the Yorkshire regional Liberal Democrats.

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Aug '18 - 1:25pm

    A very good thing to read a view that has balance.

    Could be more of that, several articles on Johnson and his absurd comments, none on Corbyn and his absurd comments, did people not hear him say of an event, “I was present, but I don’t think I was actually involved.” Sounds like the sort of leadership this country expects.

  • James Baillie 15th Aug '18 - 1:35pm

    This article includes some disconcerting misconceptions.

    There is no evidence that the ‘annual surge across the Med will continue to grow’ and indeed it has dropped significantly in the last 2-3 years, down to pre-2016 levels. Painting a continued rise as an inevitability is both contradictory to actual data and more generally a nonsense, especially considering rapid economic development and moves towards freer movement rights across numerous parts of Africa which will expand local economies and make migration within the continent a more major feature. Scaremongering about ‘continued mass migration’ helps nobody and turns migrants into some sort of conglomerated problem, undermining the liberal position of seeing migrants as individual, valid human beings to whom we have as much obligation as to anyone else.

    The evidence that mass migration impacts local communities negatively is likewise not cited, probably because it doesn’t exist: the communities most opposed to immigration in the UK tend to be those with least of it, fear bred of unfamiliarity and the hard work of the right wing press in scapegoating migrants for real issues with service underfunding and jobs. People ARE wrong about this (including on apprenticeships, where the blame lies squarely with bad companies and ineffectual government). That they are wrong is not in many cases largely their fault; they have been sold a lie for decades by politicians who find it easier to blame than solve, and it is our job to counter those lies with the truth. We cannot respond to people’s actual concerns about their local services by continuing to allow people to blame them on immigration: fundamentally we need to change the narrative through which people see these problems, or we will lose and keep losing in the very communities William describes in this post.

  • Adam Bernard 15th Aug '18 - 1:35pm

    “We have to address those grievances, by campaigning for policies that answer them.”

    You yourself said that the grievances are unjustified, and you’re simultaneously arguing that we should espouse xenophobic policies to appease them?

    Not only is this morally suspect, it means that we can’t argue against the polemics of the far-right! Because how can we say on the one hand “no, this is not true, immigrants are not the problem” and on the other “we are taking action to deter immigrants”?

  • What am I reading? You seem to be saying that immigration is not a problem: “the resentment…against incomers is unjustified and misdirected”. But you then argue that we have to listen to people with “real grievances” – or, I guess, to put it in the language we hear so much – those with legitimate concerns.

    I refuse to lie to make racists feel better. We have seen the language of Nick Griffin and Nigel Farage become mainstream. I won’t change who I am or what I believe and bow down to fascism.

    Immigration is a good. I prefer to stand by our constitution, and our commitment to promote the free movement of people. I prefer to be a liberal democrat. A Liberal Democrat.

  • George Potter 15th Aug '18 - 2:00pm

    “second, that the white working class in Britain (above all, in England) have real grievances”

    I really do love it when non-working class white men (should I say aristocratic since this is a peer of the realm?) decide to lecture the rest of us on what the white working class actually think or want.

    I suppose I shouldn’t listen to the working class friends I have (not all of whom are white). I shouldn’t listen to my white working class dad either.

    Instead I should listen to the patronising Lord William Wallace and his ilk who insist that the white working class all hate immigrants and, even though he knows that there’s no valid reason to hate immigration, we need to express agreement with and pander to those fears.

    Meanwhile actual working class liberal voices continue to be silenced and ignored by the powers that be because they much prefer deciding for themselves what working class people want rather than lowering themselves to actually talk to them.

    This whole attitude, which runs throughout Lord Wallace’s article, can go get in the sea as far as I’m concerned.

  • paul holmes 15th Aug '18 - 2:32pm

    A very rational and realistic analysis of a very emotive issue. No less than I have come to expect from William over the years and William it should be remembered has spent even longer campaigning for our Party than the 35 years I have put in.

    Sorry George but this working class boy, who grew up in a Council Flat and spent 25 years in elected public office representing mainly working class communities, doesnt agree with you.

  • George Potter 15th Aug '18 - 2:40pm

    With respect to Paul Holmes, I’m more concerned about, as a party, winning the votes of those younger working class people of all ethnicities who broadly align with liberal values and appreciate diversity than I am about winning the votes of older white working class men who are mainly interested in trying to keep things the way they like to imagine they were.

  • Iain Donaldson 15th Aug '18 - 2:46pm

    As a white working class (gay) man my first comment to this article is “Do not presume to tell me what I think!”
    Population growth happens most in poorer communities where low life expectancy, low wages, hunger and educational deprivation make large communal families an economic necessity to survival. Conflict generally results from power grabs by political elites, be it for land or resources or religious zeal. Migration is a human condition and has been continuous across all continents since man came out of Africa over 10,000 years ago.
    If the white working class in Britain have an underlying grievance it is not with immigrants trying to flee poverty, starvation or war, it is with the political and academic elites responsible for failing to alleviate those problems, and in many cases perpetuating them as a means for bolstering their elite.
    The referendum vote, the election of Donald Trump, and many other such ‘undesired outcomes’ arise because even in democracies we see the elitist offspring of the political classes perpetuated in power, whilst everyone else is left outside.
    It is not that people are ignoring the facts, it is that the facts don’t actually matter because knowing the real causes of the problem does not help you solve the problem. That said, when every news outlet is dumbed down don’t criticise the recipient of the news, criticise the newscaster.
    The leave campaign fed on fears, but so did the Remain campaign. It’s not a matter of who was better or worse it’s more about the simple fact that we wouldn’t be in this situation today if some political and academic elite had not been focussed on their own interests rather than the interests of the nation they fail to serve.
    As Liberals and Democrats we should not excusing the argument about immigration by blaming the shortage of social housing, low wages and the dismantling of the welfare state.
    What we should be doing is proposing policies to build new social housing, create higher paid work and providing a welfare state focuses on enablement rather than dependency.

    Those of us from industrial towns and cities are familiar know that we have the technology to desalinate sea water and irrigate currently barren lands, to install solar and wind generators in prairies and deserts to provide the power and water needed to make them fertile. We know that we have the ability to create the technology to make migration unnecessary.

  • George Potter 15th Aug '18 - 3:07pm

    @David Raw

    Forgive me for thinking that living in a listed village in a conservation area, whilst sitting as an unelected legislator for life in the House of Lords, after a lifetime career in academia and politics, isn’t exactly the typical working class lifestyle.

    And regardless of his personal merits, nothing changes the fact that Lord Wallace’s article is a load of absolute illiberal bunk advocating pandering to the basest xenophobia whilst not even bothering to attempt to defend the policy paper which he is advocating.

  • Sean Hyland 15th Aug '18 - 3:21pm

    Sometimes its really hard to support the Lib Dems. This policy proposal is proof of this.

    You don’t pander to racists and xenophobes – you challenge their views and falsehoods and offer an alternative view based on facts. You challenge the issues which are deemed to create the pressures – propose policies for social housing,education,training, benefits/taxation, and challenge cuts in funding/services etc.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Aug '18 - 3:33pm

    George Potter

    You do something here which your above, nemesis, David Raw often does, but the author Lord Wallace , rarely. You think your version of Liberalism and your views are Liberalism.

    David and myself had strong disagreements on local council tax, I think it unacceptable to hike it severalfold on a small holiday home for middle class people who might love and contribute to the area. He thinks it fine and thinks I do not know what I and those who are open minded enough to question what I call Marxism for middle class posers, don’t know what we are talking about.

    I made the point that those who support more immigration into this country do not like free movement within it.

    You are presuming that Lord Wallace is something you call him, just as David probably thinks I am right wing, you think Wallace is, illiberal.

    People who have these attitudes, whether older left wing members or young libertarian ones, are not in the tradition of unity which a party needs, we can unite families with a second home, working class white people on a housing list and ethnic UK nationals who are as much a part of this country as you or I, but we cannot unite a party if we cannot be mainstream and realise all things need to be discussed and reflection is not illiberal.

    Liberalism was not invented in the nineteen sixties or the recent years, nor was social democracy, much ignored in our party, by the left of old and the libertarians of now.

    Mill favoured the death penalty for murder, it does not make him right, but nor did it in the context of his era make him right wing.

    Something that considering increased taxation or increased immigration, does not make you, now, either, and people like me, and Lord Wallace, who unlike David I am a generation or more younger than!

  • Adam Bernard 15th Aug '18 - 3:37pm

    George, David, Paul: can we get off the ad-homs and just agree that policies should be decided on their merits?

    █ Not going to solve any problems
    █ Illiberal
    █ Hurts people (and if you don’t believe this, you’ve not spent enough time talking to people who’ve been through the immigration system)
    █ Removes our ability to rebut the narrative of the far-right, and reinforces their message

    █ Popular with people who have internalised the lies of the right-wing press and right-wing politicians over the last couple of decades.

  • Well, if anyone was in any doubt about immigration being an emotive issue it clearly is – in various directions. With my two colleagues I represent a mainly white working class ward where people tend to see me as a man of the streets rather than part of some absent elite. People’s opinions are more complex than a distorting referendum vote might suggest . For example before I was re-elected in May there were some who said “I dpn’t agree with you about the EU but …So please don’t accuse me of not listening. I suspect when it comes to the debate in Brighton I may end up on the opposite side to William, someone whom I greatly respect and who has served the party well in policy formulation and presentation over the decades. So let us have civilised rows like Liberals have traditionally been good at.

  • Steve Trevethan 15th Aug '18 - 4:09pm

    Might it help to have policies to Keep us out of armed conflicts and aspects of hybrid wars so that there are fewer refugees to deal with, as well as fewer terrorists?
    Ditto policies which moved us away from forms of Austerity for the many and hyper prosperity for he few?
    Ditto policies to make the dangers of the current climate crisis more visible and to address them?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Aug '18 - 4:12pm


    You may not have seen those views because you do not hold them, which is good, but I can say there are many left wing libertarian types who think we need more or less open border policy plus support a sort of inverted snob anti middle class , all second home owners are villains hike up their council tax many times, policy! My view is that many on the left of this party unite on some things, not others, but there is a unity of some with that view. I am a moderate of the centre and centre left, which makes me a radical now as few like this area or stance. I want managable humane immigration and manageable humane taxation. I would abolish all income thresholds, and would allow married parteners who become but are not yet unemployed when they marry, to claim benefits as ant UK national. But I would not allow this for those not married to UK nationals. My immigration policy would be about the needs of immigrants who flee terror, but the needs of immigrants who marry UK nationals, not the interests of either anybody who fancied moving here, nor big companies who fancied moving them here. This was our policy as a party untul the party became a mix of libertarianism of right and left and socialism for those who dislike Labours realism and authoritatianism.

    I also think you have misunderstood, as have those like George, there is a Green party which has views for those to the left who want open borders and prisons, and a Libertarian party for those who are of that view to the right.

    I am happy in the centre and centre left but not happy with the state of the party that espouses that whether Labour or Liberal Democrat.

  • paul barker 15th Aug '18 - 5:19pm

    What have the “White Working Class” done to be patronised ? Being poor or less educated doesnt mean that you dont grow up. Adults should be treated like adults, when we disagree with them we should say so, politely but unapologetically. We cant fight Racism by soft pedalling & its actually rude to tell people that they have a point when you dont think they do.
    Overwhelmingly, Liberals believe that Racism is wrong, factually & morally & we should say so, often & loudly.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Aug '18 - 5:50pm

    I represent a mainly but not entirely white working class ward on the Council (where we won a double by-election a couple of weeks ago by 2 to 1). And have done so for most of the past 47 years. So I know about areas and people who have been left behind by metropolitan elites and the like. I know about deprivation and people who have seen their jobs for life (and the local mills that provided them) disappear. I know about people juggling two or three part-time jobs and a young family. I know about people pauperised by a cruel benefit system that always looks for fault and never tries to help. (And I know that these people come from all local communities).

    I also know that you do not successfully fight racism and prejudice and blaming “the other”, by triangulating towards the racists and the prejudiced and those who will just adopt a populist policy instead of debating and explaining and campaigning for Liberal principles.

    I also know that any significant cuts in immigration can only take place at the expense of our economy, our public services, the lives of families, and any kind of fair and decent policy towards people who have come to live here.

    I also know that linking the cuts in services and investment (that are destroying many of the more disadvantaged areas of this country – at every scale) with immigration is cowardly and dishonest and just pandering to the unprincipled populists.

    PS for the avoidance of doubt I am not an aristocrat!

  • Mick Taylor 15th Aug '18 - 5:58pm

    I’m not sure that William is defending the white paper. He is pointing out things the party will have to do in order to convince them of a decent immigration policy. Heavens above even talking about immigration is a minefield!
    It is one thing to say that most of the concerns about immigration are groundless, quite another to convince those who have had decades of anti EU and anti immigration pushed at them by some political parties, the media, the leave campaign, Migration watch etc etc.
    If you think that a substantial number of the British Electorate can be ignored and their concerns, however much you don’t like them, can be ignored, then we will restrict ourselves to low poll ratings and limited success.
    This doesn’t mean pandering to the view they believe in and William doesn’t say that in his piece. What it means is that in addition to thoroughly Liberal immigration policies we have to tackle the problems of employment, housing, benefits and the NHS. Of course we must speak up about the very positive benefits of immigration and campaign against the appalling view of most of the press and at least 3 political parties, but to do that IN ISOLATION, will be futile.
    Now I don’t think the immigration policies in the white paper or the resolution are right and there has to be either significant amendment or reference back.
    I do worry that some of the attacks on this topic actually misrepresent William Wallace and accuse him of things he hasn’t said. We can have civilised debate if we try and I urge all contributing to this discussion to write without calling out people as illiberal or racist. Immigration is a difficult and emotional topic. As the son of a German Jewish refugee to the UK I know that only too well.
    We are supposed to be Liberal and Democrats. Let’s act like it.

  • Ruth Bright 15th Aug '18 - 6:21pm

    George Potter’s irritation is surely justified.

    The author writes of: “them”, “they” and “these communities” as if the white working class is a homogeneous group being observed in an anthropology project. Apparently the Liberal Democrats should tack gently, poshly and patricianly towards the unrefined prejudices of this curious grouping yet somehow show it the true path!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Aug '18 - 7:25pm


    You really illustrate the point I make, in suggesting my explaining a fact, that the decent and reasonable, though I disagree with them on much, Green party, and even Libertarian party, are similar to some in our party, is comparable with suggesting I join UKIP. Insults get you to prove your authoritarian stance to match your libertarian element, many typical of that get us to the few per cent we are on.

    I share the view of Lord Greaves, but think the article from Lord Wallace gives us a balance of views. Why is understanding people pandering to them at all?! I might loath some kind of music, like rap, or heavy metal at its hardest. But I cannot engage with why until I have heard it.

    I remember Mary Whitehouse saying The Romans in Britain , which had a scene of nudity,at the National Theatre was terrible. Had she seen it, not a bit of it!!!!

    This party is mainstream, none of us, least of all me, the son, and the husband, of two immigrants, father and wife!

    My views are in support of getting to the root, ie radical. And moderate.


  • John Marriott 15th Aug '18 - 7:27pm

    As a former immigrant myself (Canada 1970-73 and West Germany 1973-74) there is no way that I am going to object to immigration. Other contributors have clearly outlined why it has been good, nay, essential for our country’s well being. But we do have a problem convincing many people that they aren’t being swamped by people from many countries around the world.

    Mr Potter and his ‘friends’ should be careful of trying to occupy the moral high ground in attacking Lord Wallace for daring to state the obvious. It’s this kind of almost hysterical, even hubristic, in fact, downright rude behaviour, which was employed by some people on the ‘Remain’ side of the EU argument, ignoring the genuine concerns of many people, which delivered the ‘Leave’ vote its unexpected victory just over two years ago.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Aug '18 - 7:31pm

    My comment should read, this party is mainstream, none of us, bigots,

  • Katharine Pindar 15th Aug '18 - 7:52pm

    Well said, Mick. It’s good to have such a balanced view. Interesting to know you are the son of a German Jewish refugee. My best Liberal friends during my long career in Milton Keynes, who encouraged me to be an activist like them, were themselves German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, and their son and family are still good friends of mine and have careers of service.

  • Frank Bowles 15th Aug '18 - 8:19pm

    One of our greatest failings is to set aside radical Liberal policies to appeal to non-Liberals who nevertheless still don’t vote for us. We need to be bold and appeal to liberals who will vote for change.

    What is a border for? To keep people out. For all the discussion my liberal view is simple. If people want to enter the UK, they should be allowed to unless there is a good reason why not.

    People who enter the country to work create wealth. They pay taxes. But our Government doesn’t direct the taxes to the areas where they consume services, while clearly it should. That way more immigrants, more investment rather than the view that immigrants are putting a strain on the infrastructure.

    We do not have the immigration we need. The Scottish Government’s figures show that if immigration remains restricted Scotland will be £5 billion worse off by 2040. Pandering to the prejudices of the white English working class won’t pick the fruit in Perthshire, one of the UK’s major fruit growing areas.

    Instead we need to tackle prejudice by supporting the right things, regional policy, infrastructure development and education, devolving power – economic as well as political- to the regions and nations of the UK. And not by closing the gates to people who want to live and work here.

  • Martin Walker 15th Aug '18 - 9:05pm

    What a shameful article, but fully in keeping with the process of the working group throughout. As Caron Lindsay said last week some people think the earth is flat but we don’t give them a rope to avoid falling off the edge.

    Are there any other ‘unjustified resentments’, which we are assuming (in an awful generalisation) that white working class English people hold, that we should address by campaigning for policies which we think they would like? Or just immigration? The absurd premise of the various papers and statements that have come out on this issue seems to be that we can create space for a more liberal debate on immigration, first by being less liberal. Are there any precedents for this, anywhere in the world, ever? Thought not.

    Why are you linking the shortage of social housing to immigration, instead of root causes, such as 40 years of poor housing policy, crazy constraints on local authorities ability to build houses, stop start initiatives, a focus on tenure mix, no regional policy to address viability in the north of England?

    Then you say ‘we will not persuade them unless we can promise to spend more on their needs, to provide better chances for their children’. I joined the Liberal Democrats three years ago, rather hoping that we didn’t indulge in separating society into ‘them’ and ‘us’ – and certainly not making promises to mollify ‘them’, when ‘they’ are white English working class people who you assume, as a homogeneous group, wrongly blame immigrants for everything.

    I’ve spent my career working in some of the most deprived communities in the country. I am indeed ‘familiar with the resistance to easier immigration’, though have often observed that this resistance is often greater in ‘white flight’ areas rather than the most deprived areas. Regardless, when people blame immigration for everything, I challenge it. I’ll continue to do so. I’d rather hoped I’d joined a Party which would too.

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Aug '18 - 9:08pm

    OK…To my mind there is a big unspoken in this debate. Generally, the debates focus on staid arguments about economics, how to run the economy (or not) and whether or not a dislike of large scale migration is de facto racist. To me this debate goes round in circles because these are staid arguments that are little more than value positions, neither right nor wrong per se.

    The bigger question in my view is **reciprocity**. The feeling that IN PRACTICE large-scale migration is one way. There is a world of difference between free movement as a wide-ranging freedom to establishment and free movement as not having to queue at Magaluf airport.

    Were it realistic for 2+m young un/underemployed UK nationals from areas suffering economic dislocations to go to the A8/A2 countries and get housing/wages/welfare then we probably would have just had a 95% REMAIN vote.

    What we have in reality is hopelessly asymmetric migration that has pooled very hard and fast in some places. To say as much is to make no value comment on any political stance or individuals. It is to say that free movement has to be more than the opportunity to find yourself put under pressure for work, housing and the like.

    Granted, I don’t think that anyone ever said that free movement was equal movement. And indeed I have no sympathy for those Eastern EU countries complaining about the downside of depopulation. Frankly, it is long-past time that some A8/A2 countries were asked why so many of their citizens are voting with their feet and what those countries are going to do about it.

    What we need is not less free movement but more. We need free movement of people that MEANINGFULLY goes in two directions. Not student exchanges or holidays – reciprocal movement. Of course there is a sense of injustice about free movement when there is not meaningful reciprocity.

    What will save the EU is not further Treaty, but technology. Real-time translation tech that would allow people to move around friction free. Tech that would allow for a real citizenship where people can move far more freely than now. Does the EU have such a vision – I honestly don’t see that it does and in my view the EU wants more of the same model that has brought us the sullen, divided EU we have now.

    The key here is bring about meaningful reciprocity, and I see no one in the UK or the EU talking about that.

    Anyway, I’ll kick back and let everyone shout abuse at me now.

  • Little Jackie Paper 15th Aug '18 - 9:14pm

    Various – Isn’t a problem here that there isn’t really any such thing as the ‘white working class’ any more. At least not in any sense my grandparents would recognise. The term white working class gets lobbed about like confetti on the internet, but really it’s just prolier-than-thou guff.

    What we have is what I would term an underclass, an overclass, a comfortable class (largely propertied boomers) and a coping class.

    So the comfortable class see au pairs and the chance to sell bubble-priced houses to fund retirements in the Costas. The coping class sees wage arbitrage and spiking rents.

    What to do about this is another matter – but the class system is not pickled in aspic. Indeed it is probably recent immigrants who are in the coping class.

    It just feels at times like we are having a 2015 debate in 1965 concepts. Which in part is why we go round in circles.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Aug '18 - 10:53pm


    As you do not get quite to the point of insulting people, I regard the comments you make worth noting. I think as one or two here, the tone of the piece by the Lord Wallace, belies some views misconstrued.

    I think what is being said, please read now quite a few comments by me, is we need to understand concerns, not of racists, but of those who perceive things are due to things they are often not directly due to, they get the wrong end of the stick, rather like many here, for understandable reasons.

    If you and I say it is lack of provision why their is not enough housing or school places or what shortage there is in an area, it is not being addressed by community leaders or councils or governments or parties .Therefore a quick increase in immigration indeed does effect supply being less, with increased demand.

    No party, especially the so called business party, there’s a laugh, the Tories, get, understand or adhere to the simple law of supply and demand. It means we need either or both social democratic planning or social liberal market solutions. We need a more full on spending and monitoring of needs for housing, doctors, teachers, and or a more fluid and flexible delivery in services, the encouragement of a social market, such as competition in some cases, competing providers, all aware that new people are new clients, keen on their part as providers, to , provide.

    We have, whoever is in charge, in this country, top down, rationed provision, a system caused by the left, due to dislike of even more social market ideas, and the right, due to encouragement of big monolithic corporations and starving of funds in austerity as an ideology.

    It is no coincidence that Harold Maccmillan built the most council houses. He was more left wing than New Labour, let alone the current sorry Tories!

    We need to unite in discussion and see most people are in harmony in our party on values, it is the mean attitude that is the problem on the left and right which is why my centre ground which is more akin to the politics of Liberal and social democracratic notions of agreement and compromise is more radical today than all the far left and right could offer.

  • Tony Greaves 16th Aug '18 - 10:46am

    Just two more comments. (1) the resentments of people in disadvantaged and semi-abandoned communities are indeed justified but the causes are NOTHING TO DO WITH IMMIGRATION. that is what we should be saying loud and clear (amongst lots of other positive things.

    (2) the disadvantaged and semi-abandoned communities are relatively poor, powerless, suffer disproportionately from austerity cuts in services, suffer from all the problems of “flexible employment practices”, and the rest – they are relatively disengaged in modern parlance. But they are NOT defined by being “white working class”. The are defined by being relatively poor, powerless, suffer disproportionately from austerity cuts in services, suffer from all the problems of “flexible employment practices”, and the rest – they are relatively disengaged in modern parlance.

    Some such communities are mainly white, some are mainly ethnic minority, lots of them are mixed, in all kinds of different ways.

  • David Evershed 16th Aug '18 - 10:46am

    Lib Dem immigration policy has to be careful not to discriminate in favour of immigration from the predominenly white population of the EU countries and against the predominently non white countries of Africa and Asia.

  • Neil Sandison 16th Aug '18 - 10:56am

    I agree with Tony and Mick i live in and represent a ward that could be considered working class with a sizable ethnic mix within the inner urban area of a midlands town.There are pressures on the area from migration in terms of education and housing ,social care ect ,but there always have been this is not new. New populations have migrated to our towns for centuries each offering new challenges each settling ,and adding to the prosperity of their area. They do not move automatically move into those nice new 4 bedroom new detached homes on former greenfield sites so favoured by developers but start their working life in the terraces and edge of town estates where rents are reasonable and transport links are available to employment .The landlords know this and we are seeing more homes being converted from conventional residential houses and flats to properties in multiple occupation licencing will help but more humane living space standards and parking provision would be better .The feedback i am getting from those already here is the need for an even playing field with recruitment companies not exclusively filling vacancies from abroad ,That there are enough school places for siblings to attend the same local school and councils to start building council houses again so that local residents are not charged exploitative rents by private landlords charging by the bed space and not by the house

  • I find myself in full agreement with Lord Greaves.

  • William Wallace 16th Aug '18 - 1:04pm

    I spent Wednesday evening talking with one of our Bradford Councillors about the impact of spending cuts on poorer people – including cuts in provision of children’s services and help with education for the children of recent immigrants. There’s a mass of evidence on the plight of the ‘left behind’, or ‘ignored’, or ‘white working class’: every label sounds patronising, unfortunately. A working group of peers from mainly northern cities and towns reported on this last year; I’m sorry that Conference committee did not accept our resolution to debate its proposals, last Spring. Check the Open Society Foundation’s study of Higher Blackley, for example. (I can provide links if needed.)
    Opening our borders without tackling the social deprivation and resentments (justified and unjustified) that Britain suffers from will fuel hostility to elites and to immigrants. Global population growth and climate change, together with corrupt government and conflict, are generating levels of migration that settled rich societies will struggle to cope with. Yes, there’s a mass of evidence on all that, too, including that criminal networks now find it more profitable to exploit and smuggle desperate people than to smuggle drugs.
    Liberal Democrats are not a sect, appealing only to true believers; we are a political party, hoping to persuade wavering and confused voters to give us their support. In Ripon Cathedral in mid-Referendum campaign, I set out to a large (white Christian) audience the case for continuing free movement, ending by quoting from scripture to say that we need to consider ‘Who is my neighbour’? The first of the working groups to report back, after a discussion, responded ‘We have been discussing who is NOT my neighbour?’ I’m sorry some comments accuse me of being patronising when I am actively engaging in a difficult and complicated debate, on which the majority of British voters hold illiberal views; we have to win them over and change their minds, not simply condemn them (in a patronising fashion) as ignorant or prejudiced.

  • Part of my job over a 15 year period was helping people with immigration issues.

    Including getting a woman off a plane with half an hour to spare before it took-off and who was subsequently granted asylum here. And a gay man from Uganda who had cigarettes snubbed out on his back by police – and ultimately won asylum here. And plenty of spousal visas and visitor visas wrongly turned down etc. etc. – including the wife of a British citizen with HIV/Aids.

    For the sake of people like these, lets please, please, please, pretty please and again please not get too hung up on the perfect wording around this, let’s instead have the right POLICIES and f.***ing get rid of this Tory government who operate the asylum and immigration system terribly. The one thing about a Labour government and a Lib Dem one would be that a Labour Home Secretary would operate the system far more humanely – they have in the past – as I am sure a Lib Dem one would.


    Asylum: Current decision making is dire. Absolutely the right policy to have much better skills and qualifications for home office officials taking decisions and increase the time for them to look at them properly. Coupled with hard-hitting proper parliamentary scrutiny.

    Spousal visas: Absolutely right to reduce the income requirements. To be picky this is the one policy I would – ideally – amend – reducing the “no recourse to public funds” back down to 2 years.

    Work visas: Absolutely right to transfer this to the business department so that it can judge the best needs of the economy and have a merit based system.

    Student visas: International students are essentially “exports”. As the policy says, they should be taken out of the immigration figures. It makes sense to allow them to work for a few years here after graduating as most other countries we are in competition for their money with allow this.

    Let’s have a debate on LDV about which specific policies in the policy paper would be changed and how – because so far in three threads on the subject we haven’t. AND NOT JUST GRANDSTAND IN A WAY THAT HELPS NO IMMIGRANT OR ASYLUM SEEKER.

  • David Allen 16th Aug '18 - 1:28pm

    Let’s look at some facts. Thousands have drowned in desperate efforts to reach Europe. While Brussels has failed to plan, the fascists in Hungary and their neighbours have dictated Europe’s real response – Steel fences. Merkel has condemned the steel fence, but the harsh truth is that if it hadn’t been for that fence, she’d probably have been slung out by now by the German voters. Meanwhile, climate change gathers pace. Reasonable scientists suggest that Europe ain’t seen nothing yet when it comes to migration pressures.

    Finding any kind of reasonably humanitarian response to these pressures will be a huge challenge. What won’t help – and will only get its proponents ignored – is denialism about the problem.

    Many of the comments to this post are full of denialism. For example, the temporary downturn in migration over the last three years is taken as an excuse for ignoring the problem. We have individuals from the white working class saying “don’t presume to tell me what I think”, when everyone very well knows what so many white working class people do indeed think. We have “don’t pander to racists and xenophobes” when a more apposite comment might have been “don’t kid yourself they aren’t winning”.

    Corbyn says that poor-white UKIP voters have got it all round their necks, and that what they really need to solve their problems is the imposition of doctrinaire socialist remedies from on high by outsiders. Do Lib Dems want to argue that poor-white UKIP voters have got it all round their necks, and that what they really need to solve their problems is the imposition of doctrinaire liberal remedies from on high by outsiders?

  • If you have immigration control and most Lib Dems would say that you do then you have to say what that looks like and to me it looks like that set out in the paper – even if you could tinker with a few aspects.

    Humans throughout their history have organised on protecting, helping and co-operating with each other in groups of increasing size. Firstly family and then in small groups that went out hunting or gathering together. Then in villages and tribes and then as nation states. To have a strong nation state means many good liberal things – we all contribute into welfare, education, health.

    But we are all protectionist. Perhaps actually “the middle classes” more than “the working classes”. People have rallied to protect their livelihoods – the luddites against machines, the guilds to protect their professions, trade unions, and with things like the closed shop and the demarcation of labour. Highly rational.

    That a British plumber would want to protect his livelihood against a Polish plumber coming and undercutting him is rational behaviour. To protect our welfare state, NHS, council housing, schools is as well – and not incompatible with a liberal point of view.

    I believe that actually immigration and the greatest possible freedom of movement enhances these things – in the longer term. But it is not irrational for people to prefer the “bird in the hand” against the vague promises of “jam tomorrow” from politicians – particularly at a time when politicians don’t seem to be delivering.

    It is rather like if a Lidl and a Marks and Spencer were built next to a Tesco or there was the threat of it – offering respectively cheaper and better quality goods. The Tesco employees would be fearful. Even if longer term everyone benefits – Tesco improves, goods get cheaper and better quality!

  • George Potter 16th Aug '18 - 2:02pm

    Here are some facts to consider:

    Concern about immigration (as measured in opinion polls) has no correlation with actual levels of immigration.

    Concern about immigration is now the lowest it has been for a decade (about 20% view it as one of the top issues facing the country).

    So this proposed policy makes about as much sense as saying, in 2005, that a lot of people don’t like the EU and therefore we need to tell them that the EU is a problem in order to be able to win their support for our pro-EU policies.

    How about we focus on the very large group of people who are fed up with anti-immigration rhetoric from all the parties rather than wasting our time trying

  • George Potter 16th Aug '18 - 2:04pm

    *trying to compete for the votes of the people who will always be best represented on immigration by UKIP.

    Or are we saying that the vote of a 60 year old white, working class man is more important to us than the vote of a 25 year old mixed-race, working class woman?

  • Sean Hyland 16th Aug '18 - 2:13pm

    @ David Allen – so what am I as a white working class male thinking? – interested in your answer “as everyone knows” you say.

    This is not a “working class” or “white” issue – in runs through all classes of society including the so called “elite”. Hope not Hate,for example, can point you in the direction of a few “non-white” individuals speaking out against immigration of any kind.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '18 - 3:32pm

    Yes to the recent above comments by, Lord Wallace, Michael 1, David’s Allen, including the criticism of Corbyn and Raw not including the defence of Corbyn!

    And why has there been no article or attention about or to the disgraceful dissembling from the so called leader of the opposition on this wreath saga, I have never heard more confusion and evasion from a leader, not in years at least!!!

  • Peter Hirst 16th Aug '18 - 4:51pm

    The key is to convince the marginalised that immigration brings benefits in terms of skills, values and culture. If we can mix that with some compassion and humanitarian considerations, then perhaps we can forge a consensus. We can all agree that illegal immigration should cease.

  • “Labour Home Secretary would operate the system far more humanely – they have in the past”

    I’m not old enough to remember a Labour Home Secretary who did that, as I was three years old when Roy Jenkins stopped being in the office.

  • Nigel Jones 16th Aug '18 - 5:03pm

    I am extremely disappointed by the attitude of those who seem to favour a completely open policy on immigration. It has to be controlled and combined with two wider issues; one is the effect of current government policies on the less well-off in our societies, the other is our role internationally in helping countries and communities from which people wish to migrate.
    Many years ago when the National Front marched in Bristol, at the time of the riots in the St. Paul’s district of the city, a local journalist interviewed a woman on the march. He tried to put the issue more personally by asking her what she felt her action would do to the black immigrant man who happened to live next door to her. She said roughly ‘Oh, he’s alright, we know him’.
    Does this not indicate that with time and patience, people can be persuaded ? It will not be achieved by ignoring their fears of those strangers from foreign lands, because their fears are genuine and made worse by current economic circumstances in some of our communities. In fact, ignoring their feelings, will make matters worse and could lead to a situation in which actions against immigrants will increase. You cannot force people to live beside those they hate, however irrational that hate is. You first show them the situation is under control and then in a patient way, bring them to understand each other.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Aug '18 - 6:11pm

    David Allen – ‘Do Lib Dems want to argue that poor-white UKIP voters have got it all round their necks, and that what they really need to solve their problems is the imposition of doctrinaire liberal remedies from on high by outsiders?’

    I think that is precisely what a lot of people in the contemporary LDP want to argue.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Aug '18 - 6:17pm

    Nigel Jones – ‘He tried to put the issue more personally by asking her what she felt her action would do to the black immigrant man who happened to live next door to her. She said roughly ‘Oh, he’s alright, we know him’.’

    Well…yes. But that seems to me to suggest that the problem there is not racism. The issue there is not immigrants per se but immigration. A fine difference perhaps, but I would suggest a very real one.

    It just feels that a lot of people seem to work on the level of:

    There is scepticism of immigration – scepticism about immigration may be racist – therefore this whole debate must make a priori moral condemnations that sceptics are racist.

    It’s a bizarrely limited world view.

  • Peter Watson 16th Aug '18 - 6:58pm

    @Andrew Hickey 15th Aug ’18 – 3:37pm
    “I’ve literally *never* seen anyone on the pro-basic-decency-to-immigrants side argue otherwise.”
    In the leadership debates before the 2010 election, I recall Nick Clegg arguing for regional work permits, a Lib Dem policy that would restrict the freedom of immigrants to move within this country.

  • David Allen 16th Aug '18 - 7:43pm

    A confession then, when I wrote:

    “Corbyn says that poor-white UKIP voters have got it all round their necks, and that what they really need to solve their problems is the imposition of doctrinaire socialist remedies from on high by outsiders. Do Lib Dems want to argue that poor-white UKIP voters have got it all round their necks, and that what they really need to solve their problems is the imposition of doctrinaire liberal remedies from on high by outsiders?”

    I began by writing the second sentence. Then I reflected that many Lib Dems would find it very hard to swallow. So I cast about for ways to sugar the pill. I then came up with the idea of beginning with the first sentence, about Corbyn. I don’t think it was unfair to talk about the mote in Corbyn’s eye, but the primary aim was to encourage consideration of the (potential) beam in our own eye!

  • @George Potter

    Do you
    1. Believe in completely open immigration – with no immigration control. If so, say so and put in amendment to conference to that effect
    2. Believe in immigration control as has been the practice in this country for many years and supported by 80%+ of the population. If so, say which specific policies in this paper you would change.

    On the wording and parallels on the EU. The paper references the research of British Future – not an “anti-immigrant” group. That a sizeable percentage have concerns about immigration – particularly over the pressures on services in their locality – is a fact. We can wish it away, we can ignore it – we can if you want delete the reference from the policy paper. It does not change the views of this sizeable group. Any liberal policy on immigration should acknowledge the difficulties it brings as well as the benefits. But it shouldn’t pander. And these are IMHO liberal policies that don’t pander.


    On the EU, it is a clear that a failing of the pro-EU side over many years was not to acknowledge the problems many people had with it, not talk about the EU at all if we could get away with it and sweep it under the carpet. In what I think was his last speech to conference, Charles Kennedy acknowledged that. If we had had referendums on the various treaties and changes to the EU even if some were lost then we probably would have voted to remain. If we had “trimmed” if you like a bit more on issues such as when we allowed more immigration quicker from the accession countries. If we had acknowledged the difficulties with the EU and also that people felt that their way of life – litres and metres – rather than pints and miles – was coming under threat from an unelected bureaucracy hundreds of miles away. If we hadn’t dismissed people as racists with real concerns and indeed highlighting true problems with the EU and incorporated – as a country over years – their views in a generally pro-EU policy. Then we might well have voted to remain – and by a substantial majority.

  • Paul Pettinger 16th Aug '18 - 8:42pm

    William Wallace writes “…. we are a political party, hoping to persuade wavering and confused voters to give us their support.”

    We have lost a core vote to triangulate with, and triangulating on immigration will not help the many confused voters understand what we stand for. You are applying conventional triangulatory wisdom and, in so doing, don’t seem to understand that what you are offering is a recipe for continued irrelevance William.

  • On asylum and spouse’s visas:

    @Dave Page @Richard Gadsden

    Labour home secretaries may have been bad but May was THREE MILLION times worse. I think also – whatever else you might say about them – Corbyn and Diane Abbott would OPERATE asylum far better because of where they are coming from ideologically and their voting record backs this up. And I would hope have better policies.

    Under May and her successors, there was a hell-bent mad rush to try and get the immigration figures down. From what I saw ministerial responses to MPs vastly deteriorated from 2010. Unfortunately legal aid for asylum cases was cut, many charities, good solicitors etc. got out of providing legal advice as a result and it became incredibly bad. And one policy we should re-institute is more legal aid. Massive pressure was put on home office officials to reject as many applications including spouse’s visas as well as possible. And Windrush was one but unfortunately not the only result.

    I always think if I was living in the 1930s what would I have done to help people escape the holocaust – frankly probably not enough. I don’t think this paper does pander but frankly I am happy to have a bit of pandering if that is what it takes to have better policies and more humane operation of the asylum system, to have gay men not go back to have cigarettes stubbed out on them by their own police.

    Another thing our policy does is make it easier for grandparents to come here – which is long overdue.


    Asylum is separate from immigration – it is about protecting people from persecution, torture and death.

    On immigration I veer towards the end of the spectrum that supports virtually completely open immigration – but I am probably in 1% of the population. We have in this paper a more than perfectly sensible and liberal policy.

    As I say – apart from the minor improvements I have advocated – no-one else over three threads has outlined any other policy changes they would make.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Aug '18 - 10:28pm

    Peter Watson – It is worth pointing out that although regional visas were hopelessly impractical and would never have survived any brush with reality the thinking was not dumb.

    There is a reasonable point to be made that if one takes the view that high immigration is needed to fill labour shortages, then it’s not unreasonable to take steps to see that migrants do actually go to where there are shortages. For years in the NHS there was a very generous immigration regime and still the services screamed there were shortages of staff.

    Regional visas of course would never have flown in the real world but the underlying point was a good one.

  • Little Jackie Paper 16th Aug '18 - 10:46pm

    Michael1 – OK then. A CIAB – Citizen’s immigration advice bureau is a policy I’d like to see.

    When my wife and I went through the system some years ago in 2002 I naively thought that good advice would be easy to come by. What I found was a muddle – expensive lawyers of doubtful (to be kind) quality, little clear advice, people who seemed to want to tell me what they thought I wanted to hear, badly written advice by support groups.
    My view was thoroughly negative.

    Now in fairness to the Home Office I can fully understand why they would see mixing casework and advice as not a good idea. But there it leaves a great big black hole where good, non-partizan, cheap advice should be.

    Over the years my wife and I have helped a good few people who have crossed my path through the system. I’d like to think I do a good job, but I’m an unqualified well-meaning idiot who has no more expertise than having been round the system a good few times since 2002. It shouldn’t come down to someone who knows someone who is able to point migrants in the direction of people like my wife and I.

    Politicians (national and EU) bear some responsibility for creating too complex a system. The legal profession, as ever, needs to take a long look at itself. Sadly I suspect legal aid would be money thrown at a bad system. But my impression over many years is that too many are left without clear, accessible advice. It shouldn’t be that way.

    And I do think it is worth saying here, some immigrants in my experience perhaps do need to take more responsibility and act like adults with agency. A CIAB is the place to start.

  • Neil Sandison 17th Aug '18 - 11:32am

    Has anyone seen the latest immigration figures EU migrants down by 86,0000 .Recent NFU spokesperson stated automated harvest collection will have significantly advanced in the next 10 years .So are we tilting at windmills that are historical .The real challenge will be the conservative governments immigration policy and if it meets the countries needs going in forward or is just punitive for the sake of being punative. They are really chasing the UKIP vote.

  • @Little Jackie Paper
    “Michael1 – OK then. A CIAB – Citizen’s immigration advice bureau is a policy I’d like to see.”

    Thanks an interesting idea and bears further exploration. As individuals if the system is failing and clearly the quality of asylum decisions is then we should get involved and provide what help we can to our fellow humans and there are local groups around the country. As I say the question for all of us is would we have done enough to rescue people from the holocaust.

    We should also be demanding a better quality system and it should NOT be that individual help should have to come to the rescue of Government and system failure.

    As supposed to other immigration matters the consequences of getting an asylum decision wrong is appalling – death, torture, the permanent disfigurement or disability.

    So, firstly the home office should start by making the correct decisions. And half succeed on appeal so they clearly don’t. And the report by the watchdog/inspector on asylum decisions is absolutely damning. Secondly asylum law is complex relying on case law and many quite technical and challenging aspects. Frankly that does involve paid professional help – paid for by legal aid. But you also save money on fewer cases going through the asylum tribunals. And the fact that doesn’t happen is an absolute disgrace. And as you say legal advice and representation is very poor. The best tended to be charity-based with qualified lawyers and that subsidised the legal aid when it existed but many couldn’t continue post 2010. Finally there should high quality parliamentary debate and scrutiny on the asylum system as there is on other areas and this simply does not happen.

    The main point on asylum is that the whole OPERATION of the system is improved. I think that would happen under a non-Conservative home secretary just because May and her successors wanted to reject as many as possible. But I am also very heartened by the policies in the Lib Dem policy paper – and let’s hope they get implemented in a non-Tory parliament soon!

  • suzanne Fletcher 18th Aug '18 - 6:40pm

    It would be good to see what amendments other people are putting in.
    any constructive suggestions welcome please, asap.
    [email protected]

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