LibLink: Ibrahim Taguri: Immigration – do you want the truth or something beautiful?

Brace yourselves. Brent Central Liberal Democrat candidate has written a hard-hitting and heartfelt article for the New Statesman on immigration. He expresses his anger at what passes for debate on the issue:

This country has been built on the blood, sweat and backs of immigrants. This is the story of immigration in this country. It’s about time the political establishment recognised this. Not make us feel like foreigners in our own country.

The disenfranchised working classes are being whipped up over the issue and after being long abandoned by Labour are turning to Ukip.

Our country is being betrayed by politicians who are too weak and too self-serving to make the positive case for immigration. Instead it’s a testosterone fuelled race as to who can be hard, harder and hardest on immigrants.

UKIP are awful, he argues, but what of the Tories and Labour?

A populist offering, far more sophisticated than the Tories, who have ditched the dog-whistle and have gone all Mississippi Burning with their Go Home Vans and vile grandstanding on Mediterranean search and rescue.

We have long come to expect this from the hard right establishment.

But he reserves his strongest language for those who claim to be progressive:

The Parliamentary Labour Party continues to prove it stands for nothing but its own electoral survival in pandering to populist prejudices. Having lost control of Thurrock council this year, Ed Miliband visited and blamed west Africans for “changing communities fast”.

While I went on TV to condemn these comments, my Labour opponent in Brent, an Afro-Caribbean, was silent. If that were Nick Clegg, I would have plenty to say to him.

Yvette Cooper, last week’s culprit, with a narrative intertwining benefits and migrants. Two weeks before that David Blunkett claimed we were being swamped when net-migration figures just released had shown a drop.

So what should we be doing? Positive patriotism, he says, planting “a great big Union Jack” in the debate making the positive case for immigration and branding the others the Nasty Nationalists:

We can only beat that prejudice by showing leadership. Our focus should not be on punishing those who come to this country to contribute to our great nation’s success. Our focus should not be on turning away skilled workers, doctors, teachers and entrepreneurs for the sake of arbitrary political quotas to make us feel better.

You can read the whole article here.


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  • Eddie Sammon 25th Nov '14 - 12:41pm

    I read the article yesterday and whilst he makes some good points, he fails to deal with some reasonable concerns about immigration.

    I am not comfortable with the increasing anti-immigration nature of UK politics. Earlier this year ideas to only give benefits to migrants who have been here for two years were laughed at by mainstream politicians as being the preserve of the far right. Now Labour are supporting it:

    Having said that, I am concerned about people coming over who can’t speak English and returning jihadis. Some aspects of multiculturalism also worry me, but I also like aspects of it.

  • Glenn Andrews 25th Nov '14 - 2:08pm

    @Eddie Sammon –
    To be fair to Ibrahim I think it was more a commentary of the tone that our reactionary opponents are taking rather than a serious attempt at trying to deal with the infrastructure issues that population increases bring with them.
    I wouldn’t be too worried about the returning jihadis, I should imagine those returning are naive idealists horrified at what they got themselves into – the proper hardliners will stay in their new warped nirvana.
    And as for the more socially conservative and illiberal aspects of multiculturalism it’s up to the likes of us to bring them (and if not them their kids and grandchildren ) round to a more enlightened way of thinking

  • Well said Ibrabim Taguri !
    Excellent article in The New Statesman.

    In particular —
    “…The politicians have failed us. They claim to listen, to understand the concerns around immigration. I don’t want them to listen, I want them to lead. I want them to be honest and frank and to argue for it with every fibre of their being.”

    Talking of leadership, what has our leader said on this subject since the UKIP victory in Rochester?

  • Whilst the outrageously false claim “This country has been built on the blood, sweat and backs of immigrants.” grabbed the attention further reading my regard for Ibrahim plummeted further. It seems that Stephen’s recent piece “How Lib Dems should talk about immigration” and the report he referenced to totally went in one ear and out of the other. I think whilst he may feel the need to pen strong and emotively loaded articles, he does need to ensure they are factually correct and present a case that takes the reader with him.

  • Tony Greaves 25th Nov '14 - 4:03pm

    How refreshing to find a Liberal Democrat prepared to stand up to the prevailing bullies in the media and the other parties in a such a clear and Liberal way.


  • Dawud Islam 25th Nov '14 - 4:33pm

    It is very refreshing to read one of the best posts on the immigration debate for some time – and one that was very much needed. I think that on this issue in particular there is ‘clear blue water’ between ourselves and the three leading parties in the opinion polls. We ought to be shouting from the rooftops about our moderate approach to immigration and how much we value not just the economic but also the cultural benefits that immigration has brought to this country.

    Polls show that there is a significant minority, about 20-30% of the electorate, who are completely opposed to the entire UKIP message and consider them to be the biggest threat to Britain today. For this group stopping UKIP and refusing to sign up to the ‘immigration narrative’ is going to be their no. 1 issue in the General Election. As all three of the ‘leading’ parties (in the polls) are pursuing to a greater or lesser degree an anti-immigration agenda it therefore follows that the party best placed to win seats out of those that are left will be the one that can attract their support. In England at least that has to be ourselves. I do believe that by aggressively pursuing this agenda we can potentially pick up a lot of the ‘missing 15%’ by taking an unequivocal message on this.

    We have already shown ourselves as being a party prepared to make tough calls even if they are costly in electoral terms. This would further fit into that narrative and contribute to the General Election narrative that we are about doing the right thing rather than that which is populist or politically expedient.

    So well done Ibrahim, let’s see more of it!!

  • Tsar Nicolas 25th Nov '14 - 4:55pm

    @Dawud Islam

    The notion that the Lib Dems can increase their vote share by going flat-out on pro-immigration messages strikes me as rather similar to the idea behind being “the party of in” during the euro-elections.

    That was successful, wasn’t it?

  • Roland, today, a Chinese girl and an British boy sat in a living eating Indian food in a Japanese style, whilst watching an African film. I would say that this shows how Britain has become a melting pot of cultures, but the truth is that we have always been as such.

    Whether it going back thousands of years to when people first started moving to this island, or to Anglo-Saxon times, when we began to adopt customs so close to the Mainland Europeans that we convinced historians for almost 100 years that we wiped out by them, or to two world wars, where thousands of brave men and women from across an Empire (consider it good or ill) came together under one banner, or our language which is a beautiful mongrel of other cultures and languages, or our food and drink that is taken from around the world, or our brilliant technological advancements that came from our ability to build on the ideas from other countries, or the host of other things that the British use to identify themselves as a culture, Britain is and always has been a melting pot of cultures, ideas and customs.

    Of course, Britain is not alone in this aspect (though, it could be considered a very pronounced example of it) because to imigrant and move about is a very human thing.

    PS For any who are wondering why they ate in a Japanese fashion: it takes up less space in the small flat in which they were located.

  • What Tsar Nicolas said

  • SIMON BANKS 26th Nov '14 - 2:24pm


    Since this country grew rich on the proceeds of the slave trade (admittedly the slaves weren’t immigrants, unless you count them as immigrants to the Americas) and Irish navvies were crucial to the building of the railways, Ibrahim’s claim is not enormous exaggeration. There are many examples of immigrants contributing a huge amount to Britain, usually by extremely hard work or exposure to danger – for example Asian immigrants who kept the Lancashire mills going after the Second World War and many Poles and German Jewish refugees from the Nazis who served in the British armed forces in that war.

  • Simon & Liberal Al – I don’t disagree that ‘immigrants’ (including slaves) haven’t played a part in the success of Britain, however we do need to put this into perspective. This country was mostly built on the blood, sweat and backs of the people who lived here, with some help from their ‘friends’ and allies. Revisionist’s like to play down the part played by the natives (who as Liberal Al points out have an interesting genetic history), probably because it is socially acceptable to do so and it suites their purpose to treat them as an undistinguished people compared to the variety of immigrant cultures that have recently arrived in the country.

    In relative terms, Ibrahim’s claim is more accurate with respect to the USA and Australia than the UK, which is why I regard it as being outrageous when applied to the UK.

    My main thrust though was that Ibrahim’s article contained much of the rabble rousing rhetoric that has stifled debate and which was at odds with Stephen’s recent article that seemed to identify a way forward out of the simplistic mud slinging of the pro-anti viewpoints. Interestingly, just reread Ibrahim’s comment on that article and it seems to confirm that he hadn’t registered what Stephen was actually saying, being content to simply grab a single sound-bite that supported his own view… The issue isn’t migration per sa, but how we manage it, particularly if we want to live in a sustainable society.

  • “Having lost control of Thurrock council this year, Ed Miliband visited and blamed west Africans for ‘changing communities fast’… If that were Nick Clegg, I would have plenty to say to him.”

    So can I assume that you had “plenty to say” to Nick Clegg when he made the following remarks in a speech in August?

    “For years our immigration system wasn’t properly managed. Up and down Britain today, around kitchen tables, in the pub, at work, conversation will turn, probably for the millionth time, to the problems of immigration: the unfairness people feel; the threats they see to their way of life.

    Does that make you a racist? No it does not. More often than not these are understandable and legitimate concerns… Some of our communities have undergone huge change over what is, relatively, a very short space of time. Labour failed spectacularly to manage that change and equally to manage public expectations – not least, of course, over the number of Eastern Europeans who came here as the EU enlarged.

    So no wonder so many people still worry about immigration.

    It’s almost as if Clegg and Miliband employ the same speech writer!

  • Liberal Al
    Small flat? Are you sure it wasn’t Thai style?

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