The Liberal approach to immigration

The Liberal approach to dealing with the unpopularity of immigration and immigrants is to challenge that concern. It’s to robustly make a positive case for immigration as a policy and — crucially — immigrants as human beings.

The Liberal approach is to shift attention unfairly directed at them to where it belongs: Government unwillingness to fund housing, the NHS and other public services.

The Liberal approach includes strongly differentiating between migrants and refugees, which lately have all too often conflated by media and politicians, so that everyone understands the different reasons that people want to be welcomed into the UK, be they economic migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, students, or any of a host of other categories that people in different circumstances will find themselves in.

The Liberal approach is to detail what “controls on immigration” are actually like — the UK’s treatment of immigrants from outside the EU (or Commonwealth) is surely instructive on how a post-Brexit UK would like to treat people from EU countries as well, and that treatment is shockingly poor. It’s so bad, and so little understood, that I’m writing a book I’ve successfully crowdfunded on my experiences immigrating here from a non-EU non-Commonwealth country because I got so discouraged by how easy everyone assumed it’d be for me compared to how traumatic it actually has been (I’ve written for Lib Dem Voice before on some of the problems it’s caused with my mental health). We need fewer people to be treated as badly as non-EU immigrants currently are, not more.‎

We need less appeasement and more education of those people misdirected into blaming immigrants for problems that immigrants suffer from just like everyone else. We need to stop being afraid of making a positive case for immigration rather than just deflecting negative lies about it.

We need more empathy — as social media has pointed out, a week of post-referendum turmoil has gotten Brits scrambling for foreign passports whenever possible…and yet we don’t understand why Syrians would want to leave their country after five years of violence and chaos?‎

Whatever else happens in the upcoming weeks and months and years, Britain needs immigrants and it is better for having them. The Lib Dems should be proud to say so.‎

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

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  • Max Wilkinson 1st Jul '16 - 1:02pm

    An excellent article, Holly. I agree wholeheartedly.

  • Adam Bernard 1st Jul '16 - 1:09pm

    Well said. Thank you for articulating this.

  • Holly Matthies 1st Jul '16 - 1:20pm

    Without these, only the rich benefit from immigration. With them, we all do.
    This is such a good message, Dave.

  • Max Wilkinson 1st Jul '16 - 1:34pm

    @Dave – we can certainly try at the local level to ensure enough houses are built. I suspect our efforts are often focused on the other side of this debate.

  • I think this is a brilliant piece. Immigration is good for all of us and its benefits are seen in things we have or use every day – our diverse diet and culture for a start.

    It looks like nobody else is going to be giving this message – John McDonnell opposing free movement of people this morning – so it really is up to us. We can’t afford to be half-hearted about it. That’s part of the reason we lost the referendum – half-heartedness in the advocacy of the case for Remain with passionate voices marginalised by a Brexit focused media.

    As liberals we support free movement and we should get out there and make that case.

    I never feel more ashamed than when I read about how we treat people who want to make their home here. It is one of my biggest regrets about our years in coalition that we didn’t reform the Home Office to make sure that it treated people in a humane way.

    There is this myth that anyone can come here and have access to all sorts. Nothing could be further than the truth as Holly knows only too well.

    The answer to communities feeling the pressure is to make sure that they have the infrastructure they need and not to allow the scapegoating of immigrants.

  • *applause and whistling*

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '16 - 2:20pm

    It’s not just about more infrastructure. I don’t want Britain concreted over. We need to engage with the immigration argument and accept the premise of immigration controls as a necessity in today’s world and not something that can just be steadily rolled back.

    I also think it’s fair to prioritise high skilled immigration rather than simply immigration from anyone. Although post-brexit we won’t be able to be as fussy with who we take.

  • Dean Crofts 1st Jul '16 - 2:20pm

    I like.. great piece

  • I agree with all of this, we will only stop this racial madness if we get the quality of life of all our citizens improving and clearly state whose responsibility that is. Unfortunately the Tory contenders believe they need to continue the old narrative rather than dealing with the source of discontent and creating a more equal society.

  • I agree with all of this. Great article, well put. Especially when Labour is going full on racist.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '16 - 2:49pm

    Yes Dave, I agree with improving other places as a liberal means of reducing immigration.

    I think the issues that Holly raises about cruelty are important too.

  • Holly Matthies 1st Jul '16 - 3:07pm

    @Andrew Hickey, I agree with all your points about integration. But also, we need to support, encourage and expect native Brits to integrate too — into a future where other languages, foods, cultures, religions aren’t to be attacked as threats to their own, but understood as things that other people hold as dear as they do theirs. And too that immigrants’ houses, jobs and school places aren’t taking those things away from anyone else because they’re not a zero-sum game.

  • Chris Bertram 1st Jul '16 - 3:10pm

    I’m imagining a time during the next election campaign, I’m walking through New Street station to catch a train. I fancy a read of the paper, so I pop into W H Smith. All the papers are there on the stand, and I scan the headlines. They all scream “Lib Dems in immigration free-for-all” or words to that effect. Apart from the Grauniad, of course.

    If our immigration policy is capable of that treatment, then rest assured that that is the treatment it will get. And we would be toast, because no matter how internationalist and generous of spirit we may be, enough others just aren’t. Yet.

    Recognising this isn’t “pandering to racists”. It’s accepting that we have to bring the electorate along with us, and doing it gently is very likely to work better than forcing a policy that seems extreme, even if that is more perception than reality.

    I’d love to be more optimistic about this, but fear that wide-eyed optimism might not serve us well in the present climate.

  • Holly Matthies 1st Jul '16 - 3:20pm

    I thought that what I was talking about here is how to do this gently, how to take the electorate along with us. I didn’t discuss policy here, much less a “free-for-all.”

  • Chris Bertram 1st Jul '16 - 3:27pm

    @Holly, I’m sure that’s what you mean to do, but your first praragraph does contain the words “challenge” and “robustly”. And we would never use the phrase “free-for-all”, but the press loves to roll it out given half a chance.

  • Holly Matthies 1st Jul '16 - 3:40pm

    When you look at how entrenched anti-immigration sentiment is in the British media, politics and culture, when the starting assumption is that immigration is a problem in and of itself, when the best I heard from the Remain side is “immigrants put more money into the UK than they take out,” as if the money immigrants spend isn’t mostly in British shops, to British landlords, and so on…than yeah I think we do need to be pretty robust in order to counteract that.

    The first policy I’d suggest is getting rid of the Life in the UK test, which is such a small and obscure step it’d probably get no attention…but it would matter to the immigrants affected by it — it’s something I had to do, hated, and would love to see no one afflicted by it again.

    I specifically thought of this as something so obviously good and so little harmful that it’d get those traditionally “concerned” about immigration on side, and so far when I’ve pitched it to people it seems to have done that.

  • Chris Bertram 1st Jul '16 - 3:47pm

    @Andrew – Didn’t we get to our present position as a result of having been the Tories’ human shield for five years, rather than any particular policy stance? In 2015 I reckon we could have promised either (a) £1,500 cash for every man, woman and child in the land or (b) slaughter of the firstborn, and have done no better or worse than we actually did. No-one was in a listening mood.

    Now, however, there is a chance to be heard, starting with the promise to reverse Brexit. And if we’re heard on that, we’ll be heard on other issues as well. I don’t propose “triangulation to the centre”, we should know where we stand and hold our ground. But if we are so out of tune with the people on one hot-button issue that it deafens them to anything else we have to say, we’re fools.

  • Triangulating centrism works really well when you’re on 35% and you want to be on 45%. Do tell me when we’re there. It works because your core vote doesn’t have anywhere else to go – and because you’re all over the media.

    Why would we want to be the “me too” party? If we sound nuts in 2020 and we stay on 8-9% then we get 10-12 MPs. Which is probably about par for the course anyway.

    But we’ll get an 8% that really believes in us. There’s a name for that. It’s “core vote”.

    And, let’s be clear, we make really unconvincing anti-immigration people. We don’t believe in it.

  • And, @Eddie: what on earth makes you think that infrastructure means concreting over the countryside? I live in a city that’s expanding its infrastructure rapidly. We haven’t paved over single square foot of green belt in years.

    What we’ve been doing to add 10,000+ people every year to Manchester is lots of flats; a mixture of very tall in the city centre (we gave planning permission to a 200m 64-storey tower today) and lots of 4-6 storey flats in the inner suburbs. Replacing a row of terraced houses with a row of “mid-rise” flats can double or triple the population without really changing the look of the area that much.

    As fot transport, well, there’s a new tram line every 2-3 years, which turns what was either a bit of wasteland between houses, or one lane of a road, into a transport route with more capacity than a dual-carriageway. But a tram line doesn’t look anything like as ugly as that dual carriageway. And schools, hospitals, GP practices, shops? Hardly going to take over the area, are they?

    We’re not daft enough to build American-style, car-dependent sprawl. We might eventually get to the stage that London is at where it needs to pick (or build) an out-of-town transport node (Ebbsfleet) or an ex-industrial suburb (Barking Riverside) and turn it into a commuter town every few years.

    We learned a lesson in the nineties – you can only get so many cars into a city during the rush hour. If you want more people than that many cars can carry, then you have to build public transport. And if people are commuting on public transport, then they need very different kinds of housing. The denser it is, the shorter the walk to the station (or bus stop). But dense, which means building up, not out to give people enough space in their homes, means you don’t take up much land.

    Or, in summary: We’re all New Urbanists now.

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Jul '16 - 6:22pm

    Richard, thanks and your post goes someway to reassuring me. I just thought it was common sense that if the population increases by hundreds of thousands each year then green-belt land is going to suffer. Eventually.

    And if green-belt land is never under threat then why are there so many campaigns to save it? Maybe it is opportunism, but I think we could do with having a bigger debate on this topic.

  • @Eddie, to be fair, Manchester had a lot of near-empty terraces to pull down for mid-rise and a lot of brownfield.

    But the real differences are public transport (density doesn’t work if you can’t walk to a tram stop or train station or direct to work) where Manchester has had more investment than the rest of non-London urban England combined, and planning permission, where suburbs won’t grant permission to build mid-rise.

    As I’ve said several times: Paris is mostly six stories high. It’s not exactly Manhattan.

  • Holly Matthies 1st Jul '16 - 7:38pm

    I think the reality of greenbelt development (or lack thereof) probably suffers from the same lack of information in its debates that immigration does.

    And this is really what I’m calling for here, not a specific immigration policy but an acknowledgement that, when we talk about greenbelts, or housing, or transport, or whatever, that we are actually dealing with any non-bigoted “concern about immigration” that somebody could have. If we don’t leave people these fig leaves of respectability to hide behind, they have to either own up to their xenophobia or admit t everything is actually better for everyone if we make it better for immigrants.

  • Paul Pettinger 1st Jul '16 - 8:24pm

    Strongly agree. The last thing we should be doing is help further mainstream xenophobia, but challenging it, the scapegoating of migrants, the lack of investment and planning for population growth, the lack of action to promote improved integration (including via forging a less ethnically segregated school system), the failure of the UK Govt to better redistribute the proceeds of economic growth, along with promoting immigration as a social good.

  • Stevan Rose 1st Jul '16 - 11:55pm

    @ Chris Bertram. Well said.

    Migration is vital to the economic and social well-being of this country. Immigration policy needs to be generous in spirit, compassionate and humane. But there needs to be a policy in the first place and it must take into account the ability of the host to cope with the increased demand on services. Those services need to be planned and in place to meet migrants on arrival. This is not blaming or scapegoating of immigrants, not xenophobic, not racist. It is saying the venue is at capacity and for health and safety reasons we can’t let more people in until the venue has been extended. The Liberal Democrat approach should be to promote the building of hospitals and schools, the expansion of public transport, the building of high density social housing, so that we can open the doors again without adversely affecting those already here. People, especially in this party, need to stop equating having a sustainable migration policy with being anti-immigration. I work with Commonwealth immigrants who voted Leave because they can’t get affordable housing and timely access to health services. They’re not turkeys voting for Christmas but sensible and reasonable.

  • Holly Matthies 2nd Jul '16 - 8:42am

    It is saying the venue is at capacity and for health and safety reasons we can’t let more people in until the venue has been extended.

    But is it at capacity? We always start from this assumption, so it’s never explained, justified or backed up. This is what I want to call our attention to: why does everyone do this? and are we correct to do so?

    I work with Commonwealth immigrants who voted Leave because they can’t get affordable housing and timely access to health services.

    How will that help? I hope it does, but I don’t see how. I genuinely don’t see that they’re being sensible an reasonable.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Jul '16 - 9:15am

    Good stuff from Richard Gadsden 1st Jul ’16 – 6:11pm and 7:07pm on planning. Have you met Greg Clark MP? He was loosening the planning rules during the coalition and since.
    London is simply bigger than Paris or Manchester, but is not defined by its current boundaries. Its catchment area currently includes Brighton and Norwich. Should HS2 be reviewed? It is currently over budget and extensions beyond Birmingham may be unfunded.
    This thread started out on immigration. Tory MPs are debating in public, in private and in an open society there are bound to be leaks. Michael Gove has said he wants an Australian-style points system. Home Secretary Theresa May could be asked detailed questions on a subject which others treat I a broad-brush manner. Unlike the current Australian Immigration Minister and the current Australian Prime Minister on Channel 4 News on 1/7/2016 she is likely to answer.
    EU member states need to be full signatories to the 1951 UN convention.

  • @Holly
    “But is it at capacity?”

    If it isn’t, then why do Lib Dems keep telling us there is a “housing crisis”? It’s impossible to have it both ways. Either there’s a housing crisis and net immigration of 1/3m inevitably makes that even worse, or if mass net immigration is not a problem then there cannot be a housing crisis. Which is it?

    Your article starts from the false premise that “immigration and immigrants” are deeply unpopular. I don’t accept that’s the case. Very high and poorly managed levels of immigration are certainly unpopular (including, as Stevan rightly points out, among many immigrants themselves) but that’s not the same thing at all. Polls show that only around 20% of people in the UK want to see immigration stopped completely, which (taking into account don’t knows) leaves around three quarters of us who could be described as in favour of immigration.

    Yet too many Lib Dems continue to see this issue in binary, thinking that people must either love immigration or hate it. That’s not how it is for the vast majority of people, but until this is more commonly acknowledged, the whole debate will continue to be utterly poisonous.

  • I went to an immigration office yesterday to do my 90 days reporting. The office is in a small shopping center that has businesses that cater to migrant labour. If there was no immigration office there, the place would close down.
    On my way back I stopped at a vegetable market to meet my wife who had gone out shopping(My wife’s parents were immigrants- they never got round to learning the local language here though).
    The vegetable market was in a middle of a raid by soldiers and police looking for illegal Burmese workers! Some of the stall holders had run away, the others were on their mobile phones
    Migration is a global phenomenon, in all parts of the world.
    I look forward next month to some walks in the English countryside. I love these walks. I rarely meet a soul.

  • Stevan Rose 2nd Jul '16 - 6:45pm

    “But is it at capacity? We always start from this assumption, so it’s never explained, justified or backed up.”

    Yes. If you have to wait 2 weeks for a doctor’s appointment, let 3 tube trains go by because they are already packed tighter than sardines, stand on a Manchester to London train, can’t get NHS dental treatment, your kids have to be bussed across town because your local schools have no places left. Yes if you can’t get decent housing near your work at an affordable rent. These things are not the fault of migrants but until those things are fixed, allowing unlimited additional people above and beyond the natural population increase to join in the competition for those services is not sustainable. There are lots of things we can do but they all take time to put in place. We increase housing density, make hospitals 7 day operations, widen roads, build tram lines, pay for it by dumping vanity projects like HS2 and the ludicrous and unnecessary replacement of motorway central barriers.

    Housing is an obvious one as it is all about market forces. When I bought my first flat in Tunbridge Wells it cost 2.5 x my salary as a junior civil servant. It’s now 6 times. That can only happen when demand vastly outstrips supply. That’s your evidence. I saw something on the TV the other day where working migrant families are living in 1 or 2 room emergency accommodation waiting for suitable housing which could take years. And yet you want more people to come with no idea how you are going to house them in decent conditions. People are living in sheds and garages. That’s your evidence. As Liberal Democrats we should be campaigning for the infrastructure improvements and against vast low density suburban sprawl that makes the problems worse. But I see nothing Liberal about permitting a situation where with current infrastructure families moving to the UK are forced to live and sleep in sheds and single rooms. Fix first.

  • John Shoesmith 3rd Jul '16 - 5:22am

    I think it is important to distinguish between EU and other flows of people. Not because of any inherent characteristics of the people themselves, but because of stark economic reality and the need for rapid action.

    When it comes to the EU we have two broad choices. Membership (or some close equivalent), free movement of people and a thriving economy. Part of that will possibly be some extra rise in population beyond that which is inevitable because of demographics. We urgently need to be able to model what drives population but I suspect it won’t rise as high as some imagine because market forces will lift accommodation costs here and the rest of Europe is recovering.

    The other choice is no freedom of movement. No access to the single market. Our high technology industries migrate to the continent. No access to EU collaborative research. Our universities lose their reputation. Tax take falls – the NHS needs to be revised back and even education must take further cuts. Millions of our young people are marooned in a withered island, see their dreams shattered and live blighted lives.

    And it is the young that we must focus on. Hundreds or perhaps thousands of young lives are being blighted every day that we remain in this state.

  • Stevan Rose 3rd Jul '16 - 9:42am

    @John Whitesmith. You are describing the two extremes of potential futures for the UK yet there are unlimited options between those points. The trick now is to see how much compromise is needed at free trade and movement end to satisfy the majority of our citizens. Universities collaborate globally, high tech companies go where the research and skills are, Cambridge doesn’t stop being Cambridge.

    Is it that bad that the dodgy banking and bankers that brought us to our knees go to Frankfurt – our GDP may take a hit but it was GDP that was consumed by overpaid dealers and brokers gambling and not actually producing anything yet expecting a bail out when they lose a bet.

    Are millions of Aussies and Kiwis marooned on withered islands? No. I deeply and passionately believe in EU membership but we lost the argument and the vote. We can aspire to rejoin or cancel Article 50 but to get a popular mandate to do so we must address the issues that made people want to leave. We can fix our infrastructure to make free movement a non-issue. Marching through London to protest the result has not changed one mind. A sustainable housing policy might start to do that.

  • @Andrew Hickey
    “Yet successive governments keep making immigration more and more difficult”

    I’m not sure how you can argue that given the actual figures.

    I’m completely ambivalent personally about whether immigration rates should go down or up, so please don’t ascribe views to me that I have not expressed. However, I reject the idea – which seems to be held by you but correct me if I am wrong – that any attempt to additionally control or reduce immigration is somehow morally questionable, for two important reasons.

    First, I believe that there is an optimum level of immigration that we should strive for. What this level is will change from time to time and, as I say, I am ambivalent about whether it should go down or up. There will be times when it would be beneficial to increase it (e.g. due to labour shortages), and there will be other times when it might be desirable to decrease it due to pressures on things like housing and public services. Whether immigration is “to blame” for such pressures, or whether it’s the fault of inept politicians, is by the by. Regardless of who is to blame for the housing crisis, net immigration of 1/3m per year isn’t realistically going to help it, unless large numbers are living in tents while building more houses. In my view we should fix the housing crisis first, THEN allow immigration to increase, not the other way round.

    The second respect in which I differ from a lot of people here is that I think it’s really important that we have an immigration policy that is broadly supported – whether I personally agree with it or not. I think there is ample evidence that a policy which ignores the wishes of the people ends up leading to more division, more intolerance, and more unpleasantness. Trust the people more. I don’t believe this will inevitably lead to less immigration than the long-term trends, though it would probably mean less than we’ve had over the past 12 years or so. If that’s what the people want – they should be allowed to have it. Ignoring the people’s wishes leads only to the kind of nightmare we’ve seen this past 10 days.

    What about you – what kind of immigration policy do you think we shoud have?

  • Alex Sabine 3rd Jul '16 - 12:37pm

    It’s hard to improve on the sonnet The New Colossus written by Emma Lazarus in 1883, the following lines from which appear on the plaque beneath the Statue of Liberty in New York:

    “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me:
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

    Sadly, both here and in the US, uplifting paeans to the liberating potential of immigration cut little ice with those who see themselves as its victims.

    The historically high migration flows which we are undoubtedly experiencing are in many ways a natural counterpart to the globalisation of trade and capital. (This is a point which right-wing supporters of liberal economics are reluctant to grasp.) In both cases the benefits are widely dispersed and thus less visible, whereas the costs – real or perceived (overstrained infrastructure, greater population density etc) – are concentrated (geographically and/or demographically) and often highly visible.

    Faced with the dislocation caused by capital and migration flows, it would be better to adapt our economy and infrastructure, improve our skills base and manage the effects of change rather than pull up the drawbridge and turn back the tide of globalisation.

    That was always a hard-sell politically and it has become more so since the financial crisis, fiscal blowout, refugee crisis and post-Brexit political turmoil.

    But the case must be made all the same: Inside or outside of the EU, the UK will fare best as an outward-looking, optimistic, dynamic economy and society whose essential orientation (however it may be implemented in detail) is to welcome ideas, goods, services, capital and people from all over the world.

    We are at a crossroads – less as a result of the EU vote itself than the underlying tensions and divisions it highlighted. To retreat behind barriers and borders and tariffs and restrictions would make us all poorer and the country a meaner-spirited, blander and more monochrome place.

  • @Alex Sabine
    “But the case must be made all the same: Inside or outside of the EU, the UK will fare best as an outward-looking, optimistic, dynamic economy and society whose essential orientation (however it may be implemented in detail) is to welcome ideas, goods, services, capital and people from all over the world.”

    That sounds indistinguishable from many a speech I’ve heard from the likes of Gove and Johnson and the other Leavers. Even Farage keeps talking about “re-engaging with the world”.

    I’d like to hear much less wooly rhetoric from all sides and much more detail about what all this means for policy. The best way to stop this topic being so divisive would be to strip the emotional language from it – from both sides – and get down to a serious, more technical kind of discussion about how we optimise the benefits of immigration, both for the immigrants and for the people already here.

  • I met someone in Germany who worked for a German company. He was a US citizen, from Chicago if I remember correctly. He worked in their office in Nürnberg. He spoke almost no German. He said it was no problem. He said all the business in the office was transacted in English.

    Many European immigrants are here because they were recruited by British firms who couldn’t find for example electricians. We are very short of teachers. And doctors. We have a NHS which would not function without immigrants. We pay doctors more I am told than they do in Germany.

    Isn’t it about time we started to fix our own problems rather than look for others to blame?

    If we don’t like the way the EU is run, why have successive British governments agreed with each change? Why have they not asked the British people?

    The Empire is gone! Get over it!

    I must say it is more fun having a bit of a rant than engaging in rational discussion.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Jul '16 - 7:38pm


    As the son of a father who was am immigrant from Italy , and the husband of a wife of American origin , all I need to say is , “bravo and you bet !”

    We need what this party has , a sensible and rigorous , moderate and realistic policy on immigration.Too often our leaders sound like the oft used American phrase “bleeding heart liberals “! The alternative is not the corrupt, money dominated, bring and buy sale for settlement , governments have in recent years put together !

    I have my own phrase for this and other related areas of policy- it is not the business of government to make a business out of government !

    That is what has happened. All theses charges and financial barriers are immoral and appalling! We omit the poorer saint to welcome the richest oligarch ! It must stop!

    It was made in the worst excesses of the period when New Labour lost its way .It was continued in the coalition losing its !

    We need restricted immigration.Not restricting those we need to be here ,and those who need to be here !

  • Holly Matthies 3rd Jul '16 - 8:10pm

    Either there’s a housing crisis and net immigration of 1/3m inevitably makes that even worse, or if mass net immigration is not a problem then there cannot be a housing crisis.
    That you can’t conceive of immigration existing without bringing about a housing crisis is indicative of how urgent my argument is, because our society’s discourse around immigration is so ill-informed. Meanwhile, the problems of rent-seeking, social housing sell-off, and centralization in London continue and worsen, unaddressed, because too many people think that immigrants are filling up “their” houses.‎

    And this is another point I wished to make: We’re not just doing immigrants a vast disservice — as with most policy areas whose failings are blamed on immigration, finding the real causes of the housing problems helps improve the situation for everyone, as well as removing blame placed unfairly on immigrants. We don’t have to wait for optimism or generosity to be popular in our party or the electorate; we can make cases for these things that appeal on self-serving bases as well as more obviously Liberal ones.

  • Holly Matthies 3rd Jul '16 - 8:11pm
  • Holly Matthies 3rd Jul '16 - 8:19pm

    In my view we should fix the housing crisis first, THEN allow immigration to increase, not the other way round.
    I didn’t say, and none of the comments you were replying to seem to say, that immigration should necessarily “be allowed to increase.” My point is simply that we should make good use of the housing we have, we should build more and fairly pay the workers that employs, we should ensure social housing levels go back up from the 6% they are now to more like the 60% they used to be. And the same goes for other kinds of infrastructure: health, schools, transport, etc.

    I think it’s really important that we have an immigration policy that is broadly supported – whether I personally agree with it or not… Trust the people more.
    I agree that we should trust the people more, but that leads me to the opposite conclusion. Trust them to be educable, and do the educating. Trust them to vote in their own interests, and then show them how their own interests are those of immigrants just as much as they are of native Brits — that, indeed, the electorate contains many immigrants! Respect them enough to show them where they are starting with bad information and trust that they’ll see the benefits of a liberal approach to immigration as their understanding improves. An insular, misinformed public does not get us any closer to the fair, free and open society that all Liberal Democrats pledge to build. The public have plenty of anti-immigration parties to choose from already. Indeed, they’ve really got nothing else. Let’s ensure we’re giving them that option, and offering some representation to the immigrants and others sympathetic to immigration.

  • Holly Matthies 3rd Jul '16 - 8:23pm

    And thanks to Alex Sabine, Tom Harney and Lorenzo Cherin, about whose comments I can only say thanks for the support, for making me smile, and for giving me faith in this party to be sensible and humane on this subject!

  • Holly Matthies
    “Trust them to be educable, and do the educating.”

    I really need to thank you for your generosity, and your willingness to educate the retarded working class clueless, in order to guide them into the perceived world of your reality.?
    Thank you,…. thank you,… and thank you again.. Holly,….,.. I really don’t know how we working class half wits manage to even get out of bed and shower, without your superior liberal educating guidance.?

  • Peter Watson 4th Jul '16 - 7:48am

    @Holly Matthies “Trust them to be educable, and do the educating.”
    I have to agree with the point that J Dunn makes above.
    Perhaps it would be better (and less condescending) to use the word “demonstrate”, not least because an equivalent sentence, “Trust them [the benefits of immigration] to be demonstrable, and do the demonstrating.” puts the onus on those in favour of uncontrolled immigration to show that it benefits everybody, something that the Remain campaign failed miserably to do.

  • Holly Matthies 4th Jul '16 - 9:35am

    …who said anything about working class? And who said I was anything but working class myself? Even your sarcasm is so ludicrously offensive, J Dunn — please don’t use “retarded” like that, even if you think you’re being ironic.

    @Peter Watson, yeah, you’ve definitely chosen better words there, thanks for that. (Though I don’t think people have to be in favor of uncontrolled immigration to support the kind of approach I’m advocating here. Just willing to reconsider some of the axioms we’ve inherited about how “concerns” are always warranted no mater how ill-informed they are, and that the blame really does belong w immigrants when people can’t get a dentist or are stuck in a traffic jam.)

  • David Evans 4th Jul '16 - 2:06pm

    I must admit, as a lifelong liberal, I do worry when we use the word educate in the context of how we relate to people who disagree with us. Political parties, almost inevitably, are largely filled with people who are better educated, both in a formal sense and in terms of the opportunities and life experience they have had, and the Liberal Democrats are probably the most well educated of all. This leads us to see the advantages of co-operation, internationalism and the EU very clearly.

    However, the majority of the population do not have and have not had those advantages, but this does not mean that they are uneducated nor does it mean that they are making the wrong decision. Indeed from their viewpoint they clearly believe they were making the right decision.

    Voters of both Remain and Leave have voted on the basis of the experience and the priorities they have, and those experiences and priorities are very different.

    It is clear from the vote that large cosmopolitan cities (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester etc.) voted most to remain, followed by their affluent suburbs; while less affluent cities and suburbs, (even cities with a significant Lib Dem presence like Hull) voted leave. Clearly this isn’t simply because their citizens are uneducated, but because immigration and other issues relevant to them have had a different impact to the impact they have had on Holly, me or anyone else who believes that international co-operation is fundamental to many of the things we hold dear.

    Someone in London, in a well paid job, dependent on Europe-wide and world-wide trade, benefits hugely from EU membership and so is much more likely to vote Remain. Someone in Boston, who has seen his or her wages stagnate in cash terms for nearly a decade partly due to the import of workers from the EU, has a totally different view, but could educate those from London in the realities of life in a Lincolnshire market town.

    The issue isn’t necessarily whether being in the EU is a benefit to the UK, but much more that those benefits have not been shared out anything like equally. This has been exacerbated by the welfare cuts implemented by George Osborne both in the coalition years and now, which have largely hit those less well off.

    As someone much wiser than me once said, “When in the desert, learn from the Bedouin. When in the City, learn from the snakes” to which I add “When in politics, learn from everybody.”

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Jul '16 - 2:33pm

    The man who put his head into the door of my local ethnic food shop whilst a friend was there and shouted, ‘Get back to Romania’ to the Sri Lankan serving her, certainly needs educating.

  • David Allen 4th Jul '16 - 2:49pm

    That’s true Jayne, but anyone who treats all Leave voters as equally racist also, er, needs educating.

  • Holly Matthies 4th Jul '16 - 3:47pm

    My point was merely that Britain’s perception of immigration and immigrants is so different from the reality. I’m not very educated myself as it happens, having dropped out of college. But I know more about immigration than most people, and I don’t think that should be the case. I don’t think Leveson’s comments on how migration is reported should have been ignored as easily as they have because the media’s where most people get their perceptions of immigrants/refugees/asylum seekers.

  • David Evershed 4th Jul '16 - 5:18pm

    There is nothing more racist than the UK’s current policy which discriminates between migrants from EU countries and immigrants from Africa, Asia and America.

    Introducing a common immigration policy for EU and Non EU migrants is the opposite of racist.

  • David Evans 4th Jul '16 - 11:11pm

    Thanks for the clarification Holly. It’s good to know that we are all singing from the same hymnsheet here. Having crossed swords with trendy lefty Labour types for longer than i care to remember, the one thing you find is that they choose to portray people who disagree with them as objects of derision and scorn because they do not comply with their norm, rather than individuals of worth who may actually know a lot more about the real world than they do.

    Liberals know better than to assume they always know best.

  • Holly Matthies 4th Jul '16 - 11:48pm

    @David Evans I promise I am not, and never have been, trendy, left or Labour. 🙂

  • David Evans 5th Jul '16 - 12:57am


  • Our ageing population is in my view the strongest argument for immigration. We expect to have an extra £1m over 65s by 2020. Where are the young people going to come from to pay the national insurance needed to support them? This is a simple argument that everyone can understand.

    To sell an idea there must first be a problem that needs solving.

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