Jo Swinson: Why I’m voting for our bold new immigration policy

Over the past few weeks, the debate on our immigration policy has unfolded on these pages and elsewhere. I’ve read with interest the arguments on both sides, and now I’d like to take this opportunity to explain why I’ll be supporting that motion in Brighton on Sunday.

Before delving into the detail of the policy, it’s worth considering the big picture, and the recent troubling developments that form the backdrop to this debate.

Look across Europe, where anti-immigration populists have risen to government in Italy, Poland and Austria. Hungarian nationalist Viktor Orbán won another landslide victory in April; his ally Janez Janša won the most seats in Slovenia’s national assembly in June; and the far-right Swedish Democrats received 18% of the vote in Sunday’s general election. In Germany, we’ve seen the rise of the AfD and even Nazi salutes on the streets of Saxony.

And, of course, we have an American President who has instituted a “Muslim ban”, ordered the building of a wall along the Mexico border and described white nationalists as “fine people”.

Here at home, the Conservatives are fixated on their damaging and arbitrary net migration target. They seek to drive down numbers at all costs, whether that means preventing people from joining their British spouses, deterring students from coming here to study, or wrongfully deporting people who have every right to live here. The Prime Minister, having put those nasty “Go Home vans” on our streets and denigrated people as “citizens of nowhere”, has deliberately turned our country into a “hostile environment”.

All of which is a crucial reminder that progress towards a freer, more interconnected world is not inevitable. Just as technology and communications have brought down barriers between peoples, reactionary politicians are constructing new ones.

The need for a strong, liberal voice on immigration has never been greater.

That’s why I am very pleased to see that the party’s working group has produced a big, ambitious and proudly liberal set of immigration policies for us to campaign on.

Scrapping the net migration target and the hostile environment. Ending indefinite detention and closing eight detention centres. Abolishing the income test for spouses and partners. Enabling refugees and asylum seekers to work while their cases are decided. These are all important, compassionate policies that I look forward to championing on behalf of our party.

If we are to actually get these changes into law, however, we must take on and defeat those who demonise immigrants and stoke resentment. May, Farage, the Daily Mail… They wrongly blame immigration for the problems people face – low wages, overburdened public services, housing shortages – and pretend that tighter restrictions will make it all better.

We know it won’t work. And the truth is, so do they.

This motion both celebrates the benefits of migration and commits us to engaging and convincing people who don’t yet agree with us. That reflects the approach I have always taken, and the only approach that can ultimately build a liberal immigration system. As the motion says, we cannot dismiss the concerns that some people express about immigration.

Of course, some comments about immigration are clearly racist, and we must never be afraid to call them out.

I know some members feel that parts of the motion don’t go far enough – and I’m glad to see the amendment from Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary that makes some important additions. Reducing application fees, restoring legal aid, requiring judicial oversight of detention longer than 72 hours and committing the UK to welcoming 10,000 refugee children. These are all policies that will strengthen the motion and would improve Britain’s immigration and asylum system immeasurably.

In a few months’ time, Parliament will debate the Government’s long-delayed Immigration Bill. They haven’t published it yet, but I don’t hold out much hope of it being more liberal than the last two Immigration Bills overseen by Theresa May. We may also find ourselves facing a snap General Election in the near future, and there is no doubt that immigration would play a major role in that campaign.

I sincerely hope that conference will pass motion F16, so that we have clear, liberal policies to take into Parliament and a bold, positive message to take to the country.

See you for the debate on Sunday morning!

* Jo Swinson is Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire, and was a Minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Equalities Minister from 2012-15.

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55 Comments

  • I’m so disappointed to read this. Groups like Lib Dem Immigrants, Lib Dems For Seekers of Sanctuary, and LGBT+ Lib Dems are not satisfied with this motion as submitted – I know I can’t support this motion unless these groups are happy. Jo – If you are reading the comments, maybe you can explain why you’d pass this motion despite the position these groups take that this motion – as written – clearly needs to be amended?

    For example, you also state that the motion “[Abolishes] the income test for spouses and partners.” But it keeps the NRPF rules that implement exactly these by the back door. The policies in this motion are less liberal than those of Michael Howard!

    I’ve wondered for a while what Swinsonism is, and what directions you would want us to go in. I fear I’ve learnt that today. I’m genuinely sad, as I now feel I can’t vote for you in any future internal election – something I was looking forward to doing one day. But I want my future leader – in some far off election – to be someone who listens to the concerns of immigrants rather than asking members to pass policy like this. Surely we should be demanding better!

  • Jack Graham 10th Sep '18 - 5:36pm

    And LibDems wonder why they are making no progress at all.

  • Well I suspect this post has made the next leadership election MUCH easier to decide for me.

    More liberal than Theresa May but less liberal than Jack Straw doesn’t fit my definition of “proudly liberal”, Jo, and I’m astounded that you’re saying it fits yours. It’s pre-compromised rubbish, and you know it.

    I thought I couldn’t be more disappointed in our leadership today after reading Vince in Liberator, but clearly I was wrong 🙁

  • David Becket 10th Sep '18 - 6:02pm

    @ William

    Our Deputy Leader is not listening. What she should have said after the comment that some members do not feel it has gone far enough is “and I shall be listening very carefully during the debate”. This looks an attempt to bounce members. This follows an e mail on consultation on Vince’s proposals, which when you followed the links was very difficult to find consultation. Again I felt I was being bounced. William I share the sentiment in your last paragraph.

  • There is a desire in Lib Dem circles to emulate the success of the Canadian Liberal party. Unfortunately some think this can be done simply by copying their party organisation and structures, rather than their bold Liberal policies. I can’t help but contrast Justin Trudeau’s robust and unapologetic defence of immigration with our own timid approach. Our own leader doesn’t even believe in freedom of movement within Europe.

  • Sean Hyland 10th Sep '18 - 7:00pm

    I fear that i would have to think long and hard about voting LibDem if this was to be official party policy.

  • paul barker 10th Sep '18 - 7:07pm

    I find both Jos article & the comments confusing. Is Jo arguing for The Motion as it will be after all the amendments are passed or is she saying Conference should pass it as it is ?
    I get the need for urgency but No Motion might be better than a Bad Motion.

  • Sometimes we overdo introspection. Latest Westminster opinion for London should cheer people up.
    “London Westminster voting intention:

    LAB: 48% (-7)
    CON: 26% (-7)
    LDEM: 15% (+6)
    GRN: 5% (+3)
    UKIP: 4% (+3)

    via @YouGov, 03 – 07 Sep

  • I hope this means that the LD4SOS amendment gets debated or indeed accepted by the movers of the debate. And @Suzanne Fletcher of LD4SOS has said on LDV that she would support the policy paper if so amended. TPTB should note that they would I think have difficulty getting the policy through if it is not. I certainly won’t support it and I assume Jo won’t.

    I hope also the Lib Dem Immigrants amendment gets debated. The focus here has been especially on the rules on income/financial support for spouses’ visas. I appreciate that many people like @Andrew Hickey who have gone through the system feel strongly about it and it is an exceptionally good feature of LDV in that we can hear from his and others’ first hand experience.

    As part of my job over 15 years I saw hundreds of people who had had problems with their spouses’ visas. The biggest problem I saw was people not being believed that they were in an existing and genuine relationship akin to marriage – and the burden of proof is on the applicant. From my experience the financial hurdle pre-2012 was IMHO relatively easily cleared. The biggest help we can give spouses is improving the operation of the system. And this paper gives this a big boost – more resources into decision making, moving a lot from the Home Office, a proper parliamentary debate on the system etc. And perhaps most importantly a non-Tory Home Secretary – her predecessors may have been bad but May and her successors were a millions times (!) worse.

    On the financial hurdle itself there are many detailed ways it can be improved. Firstly reverting to 2 years before permanent settlement rather than 5 as pre-2012. But also savings to count more, a firm offer of a job by the non-British spouse etc. While IANAL and all laws are subject to interpretation my memory is that the pre-2012 rules did not meant anything near £15,000 (depending on your housing costs) and indeed most where the British spouse is on benefits should be able to meet it – may be with a little difficulty. Disabled spouses are exempt and there is an exceptional circumstances clause.

    On the costs the paper wants a review. In fact a key factor in reducing costs would be that better decisions and spouses not having to put in multiple applications.

  • Mark Seaman 10th Sep '18 - 8:39pm

    Increase in supply = downwards pressure on price
    Increase in demand = upwards pressure on price ….
    …Unless of course it relates to anything to do with people moving from or to a country in which case pseudo economics suddenly rules the day and special magic happens to prevent the rules of economics working. Since I was born the population of the UK has increased by aprox 12 million… but clearly house prices would be just the same if those folks were not in the UK… oh dear 🙁

  • Mark Blackburn 10th Sep '18 - 8:41pm

    Are the Coalition era SPADs back? This so reminds me of the missives spewing forth from HQ trying to head off the naive idealists when approaching a Tory-appeasing Conference vote. Even the fakey headline – it’s not bold’ in the slightest; it’s limp and insipid, not worthy of a party with the word ‘Liberal’ in its name.

  • Mick Taylor 10th Sep '18 - 9:02pm

    Sorry Jo. You’re incorrect on this one. Unless amended as suggested earlier on this thread this apology for an immigration policy will have to be referred back or chucked out. Please engage with those of us who are desperately unhappy with this motion.
    Mark Wright. You really need to do some serious reading about this. Sure, a lot of people are anti immigrant, but not anywhere near the figure you suggest and if you think we should seek election by appealing to narrow minded non Liberals then it’s not us that have lost the plot.

  • Andy Hinton 10th Sep '18 - 9:05pm

    And here come the straw man arguments!

    Mark Seaman, I don’t think anyone is arguing that population size doesn’t affect house prices; rather, the argument (which I don’t think even the writers of the original motion would disagree with) is that if the demand has risen, the supply ought to increase to meet it. The problem comes when people focus disproportionately on immigration as the only factor here, when births, deaths, emigration, movement within the country, etc. all have their effects on populations and house prices. The key thing should be how we get the houses built which are needed.

    Mark Wright, I don’t think anyone has argued that we should proclaim that immigration is far too low. Rather, we are against setting arbitrary targets and then setting about making people’s lives miserable in an effort to discourage immigration sufficiently to hit those targets. And actually there is a significant chunk of the electorate out there who agree. What is needed, as others have said above, is a clear liberal voice making the case that immigration needn’t be a “problem” if governments competently deal with its effects in terms of housing policy, public services, etc.

  • @Mark Seaman – “Since I was born the population of the UK has increased by aprox 12 million… but clearly house prices would be just the same if those folks were not in the UK”

    Most of that increase is the natural result of births exceeding deaths and rising life expectancy. If you think 12 million is too much, are you going to advocate compulsory birth control, deportations or euthanasia?

  • Nobody is saying “we think immigration rates are far too low.” We’re just saying “there’s no reason to be so horrible to people who do immigrate here, or want to.” No would-be immigrants are waiting around for us to relax income requirements or No Recourse to Public Funds so that they can swarm in here. This isn’t about encouraging more immigration, it’s about being humane and liberal towards people who have strong reasons for wanting to be in the UK.

  • Peter Watson 10th Sep '18 - 10:19pm

    @theakes “Latest Westminster opinion for London should cheer people up. … LDEM: 15% (+6)”
    Though that cheer should be tempered by the fact that this is a change of +6 from the 2017 General Election result shortly before which the same YouGov polling put Lib Dems on 14%.

  • Phil Wainewright 10th Sep '18 - 11:38pm

    Coming so soon after Vince’s attempt to open up leadership contests to non-MPs, I feel sure this article must have been deliberately planted in an attempt to undermine Jo’s credibility with the grassroots membership.

  • Wow, I agree with Jo Swinson on something. I was beginning to think this would never happen

  • “Mark Seaman, I don’t think anyone is arguing that population size doesn’t affect house prices; rather, the argument … is that if the demand has risen, the supply ought to increase to meet it.”

    So, it’s OK to encourage unlimited immigration, all we have to do is build, build, build so as to house all the incomers and stop the price of houses from increasing?

  • David Allen 11th Sep '18 - 1:29am

    Couldn’t we just try to learn a few lessons from history?

    Britain, like most countries, has seen multiple waves of large scale immigration and emigration for many centuries. Often, the various immigrant communities have gradually integrated with the native population, gained acceptance, diversified our culture, and contributed to the national economy. But sometimes, immigration has led to longstanding resentments and intractable enmities. The factors which make an adverse outcome more likely include: an immigrant group which is economically much weaker or much stronger than the indigenous population: an immigrant group which arrives suddenly in large numbers: an immigrant group which tends to compete in the job market rather than filling unmet needs or creating its own opportunities: and, sadly but incontrovertibly, any immigrant group of people who look very distinctive from the majority population, speak their own language, and/or maintain their own religion.

    It follows that tub-thumping politicians who demonise immigrants, and equally, tub-thumping politicians who gleefully declare that immigration is an unalloyed good, are both ignoring the lessons of history. They are each playing the politics of divisiveness, in which they identify a target group of political supporters, and then set out to favour that group and to attack those who do not belong to it. The Left make the excuse that supporting downtrodden immigrants provides a good reason for playing divisive politics. It is only a partially valid excuse. It can lead to dogmatic stances, for example a refusal to accept any controls on immigration, which can end up causing harm to the immigrants themselves.

    Good community relations are promoted by a fair amount of free movement, within overall limits, as a general principle. Good community relations are put at risk by sudden large inflows which appear to be out of control, especially if not driven by emergencies such as famine or persecution in the source country. If we can show we understand these realities, we can win support from sensible non-ideologues.

  • @Peter Watson @theakes

    Polls:

    Yougov and BMG both have us on 11% UK/GB wide. These are the first polls to have us above 10%. Now it is important not to cherry-pick and it is difficult on a day-by-day week-by-week basis to distinguish the noise from the signal. And Survation had us on 6% (although we are back up to 10% in their latest poll). But it is a “swallow” and while a swallow doesn’t make a summer – conversely to have summer you need swallows.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_next_United_Kingdom_general_election

  • Peter Watson 11th Sep '18 - 8:00am

    @Michael 1 “These are the first polls to have us above 10%.”
    But only since the 2017 General Election. Voting Intention for Lib Dems is back where it was (or slightly below) before that: http://britainelects.com/polling/westminster/
    Before reading too much into an apparent electoral recovery evidenced by the polls, the party needs to understand and learn from last year’s election performance which, after a similar recovery, instead dropped back towards the disappointment of 2015 despite far more favourable circumstances.

  • Cllr Mark Wright 10th Sep ’18 – 8:43pm…………………..Well said Jo – there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a party that could actually win a national election, rather than one content to be a warm and fuzzy but ultimately fringe pressure-group…………

    I think we all heard that argument between 2010-15. Dressing up in ‘slightly worn’ Conservative clothes wasn’t, and isn’t, the answer.

  • Here we go. The ‘I don’t believe in borders; let who will, com; we are one global family; why should Britain prioritise those who were born or otherwise have their roots here’ brigade are out in force in their never-ending effort to bring our poll rating from poor to extinction. Mark wright has said it better than I can. Certain of the ‘Imagine’ set clearly have a vested financial interest in a policy change or at least a brooding resentment about a past charge. Never had a lot of time for Jo S, re-considering my view now.

  • The key issue is why so many people are willing to risk their lives in order to get to Europe. When they are in Europe the attraction of England is obvious. We speak English and so do many of them. However they come here because they fear death in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and so on. We need to start taking responsibility not for housing them in the U.K., but for helping to bring peace to their countries. We have failed to do this. We must stop regarding weapons as a means of making money, and start realising they are designed to kill people.

  • David 11th Sep ’18 – 9:10am……………….Here we go. The ‘I don’t believe in borders; let who will, com; we are one global family; why should Britain prioritise those who were born or otherwise have their roots here’ brigade are out in force in their never-ending effort to bring our poll rating from poor to extinction……………..

    I note that the ‘Here we go’ hyperbole is used by those on favour of a ‘status quo’ that has, demonstrably, failed to reduce immigration.
    No-one is arguing for no borders/unlimited immigration; just that the mindset and policies that produced the ‘Windrush’ scandal are challenged by a party that still has ‘Liberal’ in it’s title.

  • There’s some sensible humane stuff in it, but probably not many votes.

  • James Baillie 11th Sep '18 - 11:02am

    Have any of the tub-thumpers for the “we have to be cruel to immigrants or nobody will vote for us” brigade actually got any hard evidence to back up their claim that doing so will in any way improve our polling numbers rather than tank them yet further as the public lose even more faith in a party unable to stand by its own values? Tearing apart families isn’t actually that popular, and even if it is popular, it’s wrong. There are compromises I’m prepared to make on my views for electoral success, but “it’s OK to tell people who are in love whilst poor and/or disabled that they’re too poor to live together” is not a compromise I’m prepared to make, nor is it a compromise that to my knowledge there’s any evidence to support the popularity of.

    People generally price the Lib Dems in as “pro immigration” regardless – there’s actually near-zero electoral penalty for being *more* pro immigration, once that’s the case. The main argument against a genuinely liberal immigration policy is a “practicality” argument without practical support.

  • George Potter 11th Sep '18 - 11:08am

    @Cllr Mark Wright

    I’m sorry but you are talking complete and utter nonsense. In the most recent opinion polls (this month), 47% of the public think that immigration is good for the economy and 44% think it enriches our culture.

    Maths might not be everyone’s strong suit but I think you’ll find that that’s considerable larger than the 3% figure you quoted – if I didn’t know any better I might assume you’d just made it up out of thin air. But I’m sure that’s not something that an elected representative of the party would do.

  • Cllr Mark Wright 11th Sep '18 - 11:30am

    @George Potter – Typical straw-man. A large number of people think that immigration is both generally good and currently too high. Anyone over the age of 8 can understand this – it does not follow that because something is generally good we can never have too much of it…

  • George
    It depends who is asking the question and what the question is. When the BBC ran a big survey years back it was 78% in favour of lowering immigration and even the Channel 4 news one produced a 60% plus majority. I suspect that if you held a referendum on the issue it wouldn’t be remotely close. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that liberal immigration policies are wrong or should shift to the right, but I wouldn’t expect many votes either. The other problem is immigration is a side issue that cuts across party politics. Apart people drawn to the the far right, it’s mostly not really a burning issue that will lure voters one way or the other.

  • Neil Sandison 11th Sep '18 - 12:26pm

    The are two issues we need to clearly address are the unfairness of the Home office and its appalling treatment of those who thought they had citizens rights but were then not allowed to return which has been going on for generations. And how to cope with a sudden influx of economic migrants into Europe from economically bankrupt or war torn states .The latter will not be solved by unilateral immigration decisions of one state but will need international co-operation .If i is not addressed at that level then we will continue to see a further drift to the far right and a return to the horrors of the 1930s ,Bosnia and ethnic cleansing are on the lips of those who espouse facism and racism .The public clearly want managed migration and political parties to demonstrate fairness .If that cannot be demonstrated then further lurches to the right are more not than less likely and the goal of a socially liberal state moves further into the background.

  • David Evans 11th Sep '18 - 1:01pm

    George, I have noticed that you quite often react to disagreement by using a quick one line put down rather than engaging with the facts and judgements being expressed.
    I would suggest that if you want to influence people, you try to consider their view carefully rather than send out a rapid response to a fellow Lib Dem who has different views to you.

    Mark and I have disagreed strongly about several issues over the years, but it doesn’t mean either of us is less liberal, it means we have differing views as to the relative importance and balance that needs to be struck between different factors.

    In this case, what Mark is pointing out is that a substantial majority of the population, when asked, have said immigration levels need to be lower, and hence a strongly pro-immigration policy is likely to lose us votes. I’m not certain what your view is, as you haven’t indicated, but many people here believe that the ‘Right thing to do’ is to adopt policies that would make immigration easier.

    Judgement has to come in when you have to decide whether it is best to be ‘right’, lose votes and have less influence and power, or whether it is best to be successful, and have the power to do something that makes the UK a bit more liberal.

    My view is that, as a party, we are very close to having no influence or power whatsoever and being right is no guarantee of success – you only have to look at our position on Brexit to realise that. To me a pragmatic liberal who gets elected and delivers just 1% more liberalism (and that is difficult enough), is much more valuable than a liberal who is right, fails to get elected and delivers nothing. You may have a different view.

    The one thing I hope we all can agree on is that Lib Dem politicians need people’s trust that we mean what we say. Nationally our leaders tried not doing that once and it led to the mess we are in now.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Sep '18 - 1:51pm

    Those here bringing up Jo and the leadership are conflating and insulting, for she is to be judged by many things as and if she seeks the role, here she only seeks to support a policy and we should respect her position.

    I believe she supports the motion as with ammendments, as do I, though some alterations to get to a position of better treatment for spouses in need should not be ruled out.

    I am against freedom of movement in the EU as practised by the UK, and for freedom of labour, as practised by other countries of the EU, in other words, only here with a job. This is precisely because this allows for best treatment of those who have a real connection to our country based on marriage, rather than, initially, one based on economics or market or careers. The limitation of spouses to be with their loved ones in my view, has happened because of huge numbers of EU here, therefore talk of it being the good old days under Michael Howard, seen thus, ignores hundreds of thousands here since from the EU. Bob Dylan, the times they are a ….extremely changing.

    We do nobody a favour when we insult. Mark Wright and David Evans get it t the point when they, from different perspectives, are saying much the same thing. We in this party need to be many kinds of Liberal, the denigration of moderate, as laboured and tired as the elevation of radical. We are and can be radical moderates.

    Being literal and irrelevant makes us Literal Irrelevants.

  • George Potter 11th Sep '18 - 1:55pm

    @Cllr Mark Wright and @David Evans

    For people who complain about strawmen it’s remarkable how many strawman arguments you seem to be making yourselves.

    We’ve had Mark say that people criticising the motion secretly want open door immigration. We’ve got David saying I’m accusing people of being illiberal. And we’ve also had Mark completely misrepresenting the facts regarding public attitudes to immigration – the fake news pushers would be proud!

    Here are the facts:

    The British Social Attitudes survey has been running for 35 years. Every year they survey the public on a wide range of questions to find out what the attitudes of the general public are.

    The results of this year’s survey are written up here in the Financial Times:

    https://www.ft.com/content/b9cfac7a-836e-11e8-a29d-73e3d454535d

    What they show is that negativity about immigration has fallen massively, and positivity about immigration has risen massively, since 2013. For instance, in 2011 over 40% of people thought that immigration was a bad thing for Britain’s economy – now that figure is down to 18%.

    (Please note that all of the polls and statistics you’re throwing around tend to be of 2013 vintage or earlier).

    The fact is that the public has become much more positive towards immigration and to take party policy in the opposite direction, just as a liberal attitude is finally making progress, would be bizarre.

    And I will make no apology whatsoever for being robust in calling out people who lie, strawman others and misrepresent the facts.

    What you are basically saying is that we need an illiberal policy of being nasty to immigrants in order to win votes. And the simple truth is that that, even apart from being an utterly unprincipled and morally vacuous stance, wouldn’t even achieve its own objective of winning us more votes.

    Those people who are opposed to immigration enough that it will decide how they vote already aren’t voting for us. Meanwhile there are literally millions of people (particularly younger people) who are positive about immigration and who have no major party that reflects their views on the topic.

    So all you’re advocating is chasing the votes of people who’ll never vote for us at the expense of the votes of people who should be our core voters.

    And if you object to the fact that I think that is an utterly ludicrous attitude, and will call it out as such, then I am afraid you are likely to continue to be offended.

  • George Potter 11th Sep '18 - 1:58pm

    I’ll also note that Keynes famously said “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?”

    It makes me wonder what the correct response should be to someone who insists that the facts have never change just in order to avoid having to change their mind…

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Sep '18 - 2:26pm

    George, that is rather a nice quote, this is I like more,

    “These are my principles, if you don’t like them, I’ve got others.”

    It is thus possible, as, in American sense, he was a liberal Democrat, to be a Marxist, fan of Groucho!!!!

    But George, why not smile a bit, even at good friends and actual colleagues like Mark and David? It might refresh you.

  • David Evans 11th Sep '18 - 2:43pm

    George, I really do suggest you read first, then read again and then think hard before you fire off a post.

    You say “We’ve had Mark say that people criticising the motion secretly want open door immigration.” but the only person on this thread to use the term “open door immigration” on this discussion is you.

    Likewise you say “We’ve got David saying I’m accusing people of being illiberal.” and again the word illiberal doesn’t appear until you used it in that post.

    As I said “Lib Dem politicians need people’s trust” the problem with your latest post, when you put words that haven’t been said into other people’s mouths, is that people begin to doubt whether they can trust you. At present, it seems to be that you just make it up as you go along.

  • James Baillie 12th Sep '18 - 9:09am

    David Evans says:
    “a substantial majority of the population, when asked, have said immigration levels need to be lower, and hence a strongly pro-immigration policy is likely to lose us votes.”

    This is predicated on the fallacies, or at least untested theses, that a) we are trying to uniformly appeal to every member of the population, that b) people’s views on immigration are uniformly their primary reason for casting a ballot, and that c) people will react worse the more pro-immigration our policy is. I don’t think any of these things are reasonable assumptions in the absence of evidence.

    Firstly, we’re clearly not trying to appeal to every member of the public. If the number of people who are pro-immigration is higher than our vote share, and it is, then it’s a vote-winner. A party on 8% of the vote can’t afford to be thinking about building a government-scale voting coalition – small parties, and we are one right now, need to stand out and get airtime. The “tack to the centre” philosophy only works when your voting base is secure, and ours isn’t.

    Second/third, people see us as pro-immigration anyway; it’s already priced into their votes. Polling crossbreaks would indicate that we’ve already either lost the votes of people who are seriously anti-internationalist or they’ve decided that voting for a pro-immigration party is acceptable for other reasons. Most voters really don’t pay attention beyond how they and the media broadly categorise parties – once you’re already the most pro-immigration major party, and we are, the electoral penalty for being more so is pretty close to zero, whereas the electoral benefit among communities that want a more pro-immigration voice may be significant.

    The “we’ll lose votes” argument just doesn’t have the weight of evidence it needs to be plausible. The case hasn’t been made.

  • Nonconformistradical 12th Sep '18 - 9:48am

    @Peter Watson (11th Sep ’18 – 8:00am)
    “Before reading too much into an apparent electoral recovery evidenced by the polls, the party needs to understand and learn from last year’s election performance which, after a similar recovery, instead dropped back towards the disappointment of 2015 despite far more favourable circumstances.”

    Favourable circumstances? You mean our then leader’s “car crash” performance?

  • Peter Watson 12th Sep '18 - 10:28am

    @Nonconformistradical “Favourable circumstances? You mean our then leader’s “car crash” performance?”
    Compared to 2015, definitely!
    Tim Farron oversaw a huge rise in party membership, and then in 2017 the Lib Dems faced two divided main parties (one with a vilified leader) and tried to tap in to a huge anti-Brexit sentiment.

    Farron’s problems with explaining his views on homosexuality were of his own making, but were only part of the “car crash” that was the election campaign.

    Trying to explain the party’s position on Brexit while simultaneously claiming to respect the result of the 2016 referendum, trying to explain the high-profile surprise cannabis policy, no clue what to do about the the albatrosses around the party’s neck of coalition, tuition fees, and a lack of trust in the party … these messy parts of the “car crash” were the responsibility of all Lib Dems, not just Tim Farron, and unfortunately they are still unresolved.

  • James Baillie
    It is a logical fallacy, but it isn’t a vote grabber either. It doesn’t make the Lib Dems stand out at all and isn’t going to attract votes from Labour or even really the Conservatives. It’s a limited appeal side issue that generates little but click bait and ill will . To attract votes you need attractive policies, not a lot of high-mindedness and soul searching about the true nature of liberalism. Transport, potholes, schools, spending, stamp duty and so on is where the votes are.

  • Any immigration policy must be sufficiently flexible to adapt to changing circumstances. It must be seen to be fair and compassionate. As our economic circumstances change our ability to accommodate immigrants from wherever they come might alter. We must be able to both satisfy the immigrants’ aspirations and our own quality of life.

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