Opinion: Liberal Youth petition Nick Clegg on immigration

The Liberal Democrats are committed to building a stronger economy in a fairer society. We might be sick of hearing that phrase but it does sum up our party’s values pretty well.

Yet Nick Clegg’s speech on Friday would damage the party’s plans for a stronger economy in a fairer society.

If Nick Clegg truly wants to enable everyone to get on in life, he should re-consider this new illiberal stance on immigration.

Liberal Youth oppose Nick Clegg’s ’security bonds’ policy, which will stifle foreign entrepreneurship and investment in Britain. We should be encouraging people to start up businesses in here, which create jobs and economic growth.  We cannot say we are being open and tolerant on immigration, whilst putting up further barriers to those who want to come into this country, to work and to get on.

However regardless of your view on this policy there is something else troubling about this speech.

Where was the debate?

As a party we pride ourselves on the ability to debate ideas to achieve the best possible policy outcome.

Yet the way in Nick Clegg announced the idea of the Government trialling a “bonds” system for migrants from high risk countries was done with no regard for the internal democracy. It is not possible for us to put forward a coherent argument for a stronger economy and a fairer society if there is a rift between the grassroots and the leadership.

To ensure that we have an open and frank debate on immigration, Liberal Youth has launched a petition to ask Nick Clegg to have an open discussion on the direction of the party’s immigration policy via a webinar chat.

Whilst we recognise that Andrew Stunnell is leading a review into the party’s Immigration policy, we feel the despair of grassroots members towards this issue cannot be overlooked.  We are asking for Nick Clegg to discuss and engage with members, and ensure a proper debate on immigration within the party can take place.  The Leadership of the party need to take into account the views of members before making a huge policy shift, especially one considered illiberal.

We ask you to sign our petition and share it with your friends.

* Sam Fisk and Kavya Kaushik are co-chairs of Liberal Youth

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  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '13 - 2:39pm

    In what way would security bonds stifle inward investment?

    For investors intending to employ UK staff, the number of foreigners wanting to immigrate would surely be a relatively small fraction of the workforce? – possibly just the top management – so the costs of the security bonds would surely be negligible compared to other things, such as the costs of building and equipping a factory and training the workforce?

    My impression is that the debate didn’t happen because hardly anyone in the membership or committees or conference delegates wanted to debate in any realistic way – meaning that Nick and the MPs had no choice but to invent on the fly.

  • Stuart Wheatcroft 25th Mar '13 - 2:44pm

    Richard Dean – Whatever the reason the debate didn’t happen before, we need to make sure it does now. That’s why I’ve signed the petition.

  • Tony Greaves 25th Mar '13 - 3:08pm

    What a ridiculous posting (Richard Dean). Anyway there is no evidence that the “MPs” have “invented on the fly. This is Clegg and no-one else. One thing is now certain – there will be a vigorous debate within the party. Clegg may end up regretting what he wished for.

    Tony Greaves

  • Richard Dean – from my understanding there is currently a party working group looking into this and Nick Clegg had not made a submission to that group. Consequently this is an odd way to behave and it is this sort of thing which is, on the ground, costing us good council candidates.

  • Calling for Clegg to interact informally with membership (while desirable), does not go far enough. By unilaterally reversing party policy apparently (well, in my cynical opinion) in the interests of saying something compatible with Cameron’s immigration-is-the-problem announcement today, he weakens the ability of the party to stand up for our principles.

  • Mark Blackburn 25th Mar '13 - 4:12pm

    Another shocking example of the leadership ignoring party structures and procedures to come up with something illiberal and unpalatable to grass routes activists. Intended no doubt to help the cuckoos in the party nest forward their agenda of creating another centre-right party to attract the vote of the supposed Daily Mail-reading middle ground. Good work LY, signing up now.

  • He makes a speech specifically designed, says Simon Hughes, to stimulate debate, then people complain that there has been no debate.

    As for circumventing party structures, he has done no such thing – he has not created, changed or abolished any party policy. The willfully subversive misrepresentation of this speech is frankly shameful, especially when it is such a complicated issue, and one of great concern to voters. Meanwhile, the anti-Cleggites gleefully clapping their hands thinking that he has finally unequivocably shown his true Tory colours need to get a grip and read what he ACTUALLY said.

  • David Wilkinson 25th Mar '13 - 4:50pm

    Good luck to Sam and Kavya on trying to change Clegg’s mind.
    A person who now thinks he above the party, I thought he was the leader of a Liberal party, wrong on that.

    Given that Clegg as already lost 50% of the party’s members and hundreds of councillors , I can only assume his ideas on secret courts, bedroom tax, immigration, etc are design to finish us completley.

  • David: he is the leader of a liberal party, as evidenced by (for instance) the comments here and on any number of previous occasions. The problem is he’s either a) abandoned his liberalness, b) never had it, or c) been misguidedly convinced that it’s in the interests of the country to pretend he’s quite happy to go along with Conservative policies on more-or-less anything. Which of these you go for is a question of how charitable you’re feeling, but whichever it is, the conclusions are pretty much the same.

  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '13 - 5:06pm

    @Tony Greaves. It is surely your own posting that is ridiculous – since you simply claim mine is ridiculous and don’t bother to explain why you think that.

    Consider a car maker wanting to build a factory here. Maybe employing 500 people. Are all those people likely to be immigrants? No! The car maker will perhaps have 20 senior managers in-country. The cost of their security bond is likely to be miniscule compared to the cost of the factory and the equipment and the training.

  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '13 - 5:11pm

    @Henry. Great. A working group sitting on its backsides smoking pot and thinking it’s god while urgent matters from the real world continue to pass it by. If the group was actually “working” it would have produced something worth debating by now. It would certainly not be complaining that a leader didn’t produce a “submission”. Maybe this fire is just what it needs to get the work it’s supposed to have been doing started.

  • David Allen 25th Mar '13 - 6:15pm

    @ Richard Dean: It is the visa applicant who would have to pay the £1000 bond upfront, not the employer. So if you want it explained as to why you are being ridiculous, here you are.

    Now you have moved on to accuse a party group (on zero evidence) of “smoking pot and thinking it’s god”, You are motoring today, aren’t you! Did you ever hear about this little offence called libel?

  • @ Richard Dean: the working group has only just been formed. The group is formed from dedicated volunteers who will potential immigration policy in their spare time. It takes time and energy to come up with sensible options to put to member consultation and then to draft a policy paper to be debated at a conference.

    Now instead of criticising hard-working people (who I suspect you know nothing about), tell me this: what have you ever done for the party?

  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '13 - 6:37pm

    If that was the case, David Allen, the employer would pay the visa applicant.

    The famous working group doesn’t appear to have produced anything worth debating. I don’t know whether it’s been smoking pot or not, but some explanation as to its failure to produce seems to be needed. Where are the group’s products? Where are its proposals? Where are its guidance notes on the pitfalls in the immigration debate? Is it willing to help MPs, or does it believe its role is to destroy? Where are its principles?

    This party membership needs to get a grip. The evidence, from the behaviour of MPs, is that MPs have lost confidence that working groups are useful. You see the results in the behaviour of voters, moving to UKIP and elsewhere. It’s up to the working groups to show that they have something to justify their existence.

  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '13 - 6:39pm

    Ah, the group has only just been formed! Right on. So would anyone expect Nick Clegg to have submitted something to it before it existed? It’s not me that’s been smoking the pot, not tonight anyway!

  • David Allen 25th Mar '13 - 6:50pm

    Richard Dean – are you saying that if a party working group has only just been formed, Nick is entitled not to know that they exist, and therefore he is entitled to ignore them out of justifiable ignorance? With defenders like you, Clegg does not need enemies….

    And no, I don’t suppose it is pot you are on. It doesn’t degrade the mental faculties sufficiently to account for your behaviour!

  • If we want immigration to stimulate the economy, it should be skills based, not based on whether daddy is a banker or a mobster. We are in a marketplace for talent and in some areas the UK is a leading knowledge economy. A transactional approach to migrant labour is a great way to encourage the best to go elsewhere. Unfortunately Clegg is a career politician with no real knowledge of the global economy, and on this topic, he is taking advice from people with a similarly narrow outlook. Its not just illiberal, its economically peverse. I have lost nearly all my faith on Clegg following this.

  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '13 - 6:55pm

    You perhaps need to check your dates, David Allen. Has the group even met once yet?

  • David Allen 25th Mar '13 - 7:01pm

    Richard, since it is you who is slagging off the working group, it is you who needs to check the facts. But since you ask, this tells you that they have met twice.


  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '13 - 7:18pm

    David Allen. That same post says the working group is not due to report until next spring. Not exactly hurrying, are they? We are in government, not in beards, and this issue is urgent at this very moment. If it will take them a year to come up with a draft, they can’t have gotten very far, and some of what they presently think may change and will anyway need to be debated. So what on earth use would it be to a leader or speech-writer to check anything with them right now?

  • It’s not about “checking with them”. It’s about arriving at our policy using the formal democratic process that our party is built upon. I don’t think there’s any need to rush. The Coalition Agreement sets out government policy on immigration and we should stick to that throughout our time in government. As a party we need to come up with workable policies that fit our values for our 2015 manifesto. Or, if Clegg thinks this was urgent, he could have put an emergency motion to spring conference. Instead, he has taken it upon himself to bin our ‘earned amnesty’ policy, with no input from the membership whatsoever.

    It’s not the first time Clegg’s done this, either. At the last autumn conference I criticised him for floating a “pension of mum and dad” proposal to help the sellers of houses to first time buyers achieve a price they otherwise couldn’t get. There was a housing motion being debated that very week and he could have put it to the membership. Maybe we would’ve voted in favour of it, maybe we wouldn’t (I think it’s a terrible idea), but he should have asked us before committing us to it.

  • David Allen 25th Mar '13 - 7:42pm

    What on earth use would it be to a leader to check anything with (the official party working group on the subject, or the rest of his party in general)?

    Can’t think, Richard. Haven’t a clue. As my old friend Idi Amin used to say, you just can’t beat the smack of firm government authority….

  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '13 - 8:14pm

    Are you smoking pot, David Allen? 🙂 Idi Amin is not really relevant to this debate!

    If the working group has not yet got any kind of authorization through the process of debate and vote at conference, and if it hasn’t had time yet to do anything much in the way of sorting out roles, identifying issues, or collecting evidence and opinions, a person would certainly be foolish to think of them as any kind of authoritative voice.

    What is happening here is obvious – anti-Cleggites are using any excuse and any issue to attack the leader. That is very damaging to the party, and should not be encouraged at all. No wonder voters are turning away.

    As a matter of interest, the working group has now had some days to develop a statement about NC’s speech. Has it made any such statement?

  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '13 - 8:16pm

    We’re in government, Duncan Stott. So everything is a rush. That’s how government is.

    You may need to shave! 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Mar '13 - 8:32pm

    Some constructive criticism: Liberal Youth should spend their time focusing on areas that concern young voters in the UK. In the pubs, clubs, coffee shops and houses, nobody below the age of 26 is talking about illegal immigration. This is not to say it doesn’t matter, but Liberal Youth need to focus on their USP.

  • “It’s not the first time Clegg’s done this, either. ”

    He’s not the only one to do this either. Even the venerated St Vince has got up to this in the past – that’s how we got the mansion tax as a policy even – his original proposals were incredibly lacking in detail.

  • Richard Dean 25th Mar '13 - 8:57pm

    I disagree with Eddie. I think Liberal Youth have a perfect right to comment on whatever they want to comment on. It seems like centuries since I was young, but I do remember immigration as a topic of interest way back then.

  • 50% of the 18-24 year olds in eastleigh gave immigration as the most important issue in deciding how they voted. Mind you the sample size was 6 so there might be a margin or error issue 🙂

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Mar '13 - 10:17pm

    While I agree with the criticism of Clegg for not consulting with his party before making this speech, I do think some of the criticisms of it are underneath typical of the right-wing way of thinking that seems to have infected our party. The bottom line seems to be all that matters is business and the profit it makes, so if more profit can be made for the bosses by replacing British people with imported people, then let’s have it.

    Have the Liberal Youth people really thought this through? Why should business here pay taxes to support education and training of young people here, when it can rely in other countries doing that for their young people and then business here importing those young people? Why should any business offer a job to anyone of below average ability in this country when there are plenty of high ability people in other countries willing not just to come here and do those jobs, but also to do them for peanuts?

    Bertold Brecht had something to say about this sort of thing:

    After the uprising of the 17th June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?

  • Clearly the debate highlights the serious problem that the party structures are not capable of dealing with the demands of government, particularly coalition government.

    While the FPC designs policy, and is very good at this, it is not able to respond swiftly to events – for the working party to respond in 2015 to an issue which is being debated now removes the democratic mandate for the leadership of the party to stand up to arguments put by right-wing opponents.

    Nor does the FPC prioritise different policy proposals (which is the job of the manifesto group) – in coalition this leaves a communication gap where different internal interests are mislead as every idea is assumed to have equal priority and guidelines on negotiation cannot be set, meaning for every step forward we take at least one back.

    This situation is unsustainable, as it is leading to division between the membership and the leadership.

    Opponents are laughing at us. We must act.

  • Richard Dean 26th Mar '13 - 10:44am

    Perhaps Gareth Epps could explain why he thinks they don’t?

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 26th Mar '13 - 11:16am

    @Richard Dean,

    As a member of the Immigration, Asylum and Identity Working Group I can assure you that it is not ” sitting on its backsides smoking pot” and it is “working”, but an evidenced based approached cannot be completed in a matter of days/weeks, for as I am sure you are aware evidence needs to be heard from expert witnesses, interested groups, as well as our Parliamentarians, etc before a proposed policy can be put together for the wider membership to discuss.

    As someone who freely exposes opinions in LDV, I would personally be keen to hear yours, but without the need to dismiss others, who are clearly more liberal in thinking to your expressed views within LDV? Why not step forward metaphorically speaking and offer the Party your wisdom as a volunteer in the same manner that the majority of the Working Group has rather than shouting from the sidelines?

    As for the statement “We’re in government, … So everything is a rush. That’s how government is”

    I believe because we are in Government with a political Party that is known for being intolerant, and unforgiving then we need to take the time to counter their retrospective and draconian desires. It is exactly because we have previously rushed into appeasing the Tories that we are party responsible for decimating the hard fought for equalities legislation in this country, appearing to support such ridiculous things as the bedroom tax, and others less than liberal matters, including supporting secret courts.

    Your views about Liberal Democrat Youth “Liberal Youth have a perfect right to comment on whatever they want to comment on” tends to make me think that you have not been completely won over by the ‘Dark Side’, and there is still hope.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair

  • Richard Dean 26th Mar '13 - 11:29am

    Pot is not necessarily so bad, but I’m glad the IAIWG are doing something. It would be nice to see some results in this millennium. And remember the IAIWG or EMLD are not the fount of wisdom either. All those results will be scrutinised and debated and probably amended before a version of them become policy. Then, if the policy is implemented, its hard edges and uncomfortable parts will need to be corrected. In the meantime, politics and life goes on, elections come and go, and wronged people suffer. How can any practical politician afford to wait so long?

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Mar '13 - 11:45am

    “Liberal Youth oppose Nick Clegg’s ’security bonds’ policy”

    Where’s the evidence? I’m a member of Liberal Youth and I wasn’t asked my views on this. Such statements and articles should be backed up by surveys, not just a few at the top picking a position and claiming to speak for the many. Evidence would also strengthen their cause.

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 26th Mar '13 - 11:46am

    @Richard Dean

    “remember the IAIWG or EMLD are not the fount of wisdom ”

    At what point did I or anyone else say that these groups were the font of all knowledge, for I actually stated that the Working Group, is hearing evidence from “expert witnesses, interested groups” etc. As for the EMLD, this does not merely ‘shoot from the hip’, but you will find that it has actually done considerable research and spoken with ‘interest groups’ before. On issues such as immigration, it has been debating this matter for a lot longer than the Party, I can assure you of this.

    As for “How can any practical politician afford to wait so long?”, well if politicians do not engaged with sources of knowledge and understanding, then they will inevitably make the wrong decisions. Politicians actually gain respect by admitting that they are not the font of all knowledge and they need to speak to others prior to making a decision. The reality is that most discussion do not need an immediate decision, so why as a Party do we rush into making the wrong one?

    I still offer you the opportunity to come up with some meaningful positive solutions rather than repeating the problems, which is easy to do, for we need only read the Daily Mail, and listen to the diatribe of Ukip, and those who are now chasing to catch up with, and share in espousing their odious statements.

    Must dash off now, to yet another meeting on these very issues, but feel free to respond.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair

  • Utterly bizarre that the column inches of LDV should be taken up with a discussion about whether or not a working group has or has not met. The wider political issue seems to me to be that the three main parties are following UKIP on this one and the comments I heard at my gym this morning suggest that following is what we and the Tories are doing. That we should try to wrest the initiative from UKIP is not in dispute but following will only invite them to up the ante. What do we do then…follow them further or backtrack (remember student fees anyone). This is a dangerous game that we don’t need to play. Cameron has a much bigger problem with this area than we have and we owe him no favours. How many votes will we win from UKIP by following them? Did we propose an amnesty so that we could bin it when the going got tough on immigration, as it was always going to?

    We need a clear evidence-based policy that gives us a distinctive Lib Dem position consistent with our beliefs and grounded in the global economic reality. Until the working group come up with something I see no point in a webinar that will simply allow the YLD to voice the frustration that many of us feel, receive an apology and be told to wait for the working group.

    Robin Lynn
    Cardiff & Vale of Glamorgan

  • Richard Dean 26th Mar '13 - 11:02pm

    I know why we’re waiting R U-P. It’s because the working groups are all busy telling us they’re busy!

  • “The wider political issue seems to me to be that the three main parties are following UKIP on this one”

    Yes, and sadly, UKIP are pulling away. Farage has quite correctly pointed out that the arguments over things like security bonds are basically just shadow boxing over lesser issues. What genuinely worries people – whether rightly or wrongly – is another really massive influx of EU migrants, this time Romanians and Bulgarians rather than Poles.

    Respectable middle class Lib Dems and others state or imply that those who fear this kind of mass immigration are racists. Angry working class people whose fears have been aroused by the Press know perfectly well that, whether or not some of them do have racist feelings, the dominant reasons for their fear are not racial. They are economic. They don’t want immigrants to take their jobs.

    Respectable middle class Lib Dems may pooh-pooh such fears. Their jobs are not at risk. Working class jobs are.

    Respectable Lib Dems say that the fears are overblown, that the influx probably won’t be anything like half a million this time. Angry working class people quietly recognise that even if this might be true, there is not a lot that government will do about it if it isn’t. So they feel entitled to be angry.

    Nick Clegg has recognised that there are votes in pandering to the angry, so he has jumped into action and done some publicity-seeking shadow boxing over side issues like security bonds. Well, if it succeeds, it does not deserve to. I suspect it is recognisable by most people for the opportunism that it is.

    What might actually command respect is an acceptance that the EU’s free movement principle is seriously flawed and needs reform. That would mean standing up and campaigning for change. Yes, it might take a while to get results. But the events of the last week show that besides free movement, there are many other “north-south conflicts” within the EU that urgently need to be dealt with differently!

    If Farage is the only politician who seems to recognise these EU problems, he will win support, even though his solutions to the problems are bogus ones. We need to recognise the crying need for change in the EU, too!

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '13 - 12:40am

    David Allen, I agree that the EU needs serious reform quickly. I used to be strongly pro EU but I’m beginning to move away from it because I can see only three ways the immigration issue can be solved:

    1. Cut our benefits, public services and minimum wage so we are no longer attractive.
    2. Tighten up the free movement rules from the EU’s poorer countries.
    3. Leave the EU.

    At the moment I’m favouring option 2 and moving onto option 3 because of things such as capping bonuses in the financial services sector which was strongly against our national interest.

    Although there is a problem with people going missing after their Visas, this is not what people are concerned about. There is also the over population issue and loss of green sights, pressure on public services, school places, housing, all sorts – I don’t even think race really comes into it – these people are white! So it also blows the argument away that anyone who has moaned about immigration in the past must be racist.

  • @Eddie: Explain to me how free movement within the European Union actually works and how the benefits system works in relation those from other countries trying to claim benefits. I ask this rather than tell you because I hope you will research the issue to try and prove your point, only to discover how flawed it is.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '13 - 1:05am

    Liberal Al, you can pick holes with the specifics of my argument until your heart is content, but my recommendation that the free movement rules need to be tightened up remains.

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '13 - 1:06am

    If you are trying to imply that I am ignorant I will imply that you are ignorant that immigration is a problem and the EU is the cause.

  • Eddie Sammon, I think liberals should strongly oppose your option 1, to make life so unpleasant for immigrants that they go somewhere else (and have a race to the bottom with our neighbours in Europe in that respect). I think anybody who doesn’t want massive business dislocation and huge and prolonged arguments with our allies would treat your otion 3, to leave the EU, as an absolute last resort. So that leaves us with option 2, to campaign for a change in the way the EU works. There are limits to what mass population flows within the EU are sensible. Others face the same problems. The Bulgarians don’t necessarily want to see all their brightest people emigrate! So change is a realistic aim.

  • Immigration brings major benefits and major problems – often to different groups in society. It depresses me how few people can see both sides of this!

  • Eddie Sammon 27th Mar '13 - 3:29pm

    I wasn’t really being serious with option 1, I was just putting all the options on the table. I agree option 2 is a must and I’m glad a more traditional liberal is able to be critical of the EU.

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