“Uncontrolled mass immigration”, Nigel? You must be joking.

I guess I was lucky to survive my breakfast today. First of all, I almost choked on my Corn Flakes reading some of the tales on the “What’s your funniest canvassing experience?” post. Mark Smulian has a lot to answer for. And if your sides aren’t sore enough, Alex Wilcock has done a whole post recounting his tales from the doorstep. I might disagree with him on the worst by-election candidate ever, though.

Things got more serious, though. Hilarity turned to annoyance and shame when I saw Nigel Farage on BBC Breakfast going on about immigration. “Uncontrolled mass immigration” he kept saying. Now there’s a phrase redolent with demonising people, fear and stoking up resentment against people who come to this country to work. You know, those people without whom we wouldn’t have a National Health Service. Those people who make a significant net contribution to the wealth of this nation by paying their taxes. The way UKIP and Farage have both Cameron and Miliband dancing to their fraudulent tune is sickening and is not backed up by evidence. Just the other day, a study reported in the Independent showed that, contrary to the nonsense spread by UKIP, immigrants are not coming over here and taking our jobs.

Anyone who knows anything about the immigration system knows how difficult it is to get into this country. In fact, some people find it hard enough to even get their spouses, the people they are sharing their lives with, living here. Last month, Holly Matthies wrote as part of our Time to Talk day about the effect on her health of the struggle to get to live with her husband in the UK:

That first time I flew to the UK, my feckless answers to the questions I was asked — I’d just had to drop out of university due to poor mental health, so I was met with suspicion because they weren’t sure I had any reason to go back home — led to even more questions, and having to wait while the whole next planeful of new arrivals were processed, and then more questions. My partner, who was waiting to meet me, was found and asked questions to see if his answers matched mine. My checked luggage was fetched and searched. Eventually the border guards had to admit there was no reason to prevent me from entering the UK, but they seemed almost disappointed by that fact.

Think I sound paranoid? Well as the old saying goes, it’s only paranoia if they’re not actually out to get you. And as an immigrant I can be in no doubt that the country I worked so hard and sacrificed so much to move to is out to get me, more lately than ever. I watch with not just intellectual interest but visceral panic the conversations unfolding on social media and down the pub. I cringe when even the party I joined for being pro-immigration is proud of cutting interpreters for people taking their driving test and talks about “British workers” and “British families.” it feels like we non-British are only talked “about”, never “to”. Much less talked _with_.‎ What is an abstract debate to some is a matter of life and liberty to us.

Dentist Pramod Subbaraman, standing for the Liberal Democrats in Edinburgh South, had this to say on Facebook about his experience of coming to live in the UK:

I had to meet near impossible conditions for several years. I had to apply for 3 work permits and 3 tier 2 visas over 5 years before I could apply to settle. I was not allowed a day of unemployment during that period and had to live in fear of further new laws and a lot of uncertainty during all that time. All that stress has taken its toll on my health and well being. I am in many ways left traumatised by it all. I can’t rule out there being PTSD type experiences from time to time. Life for a Non European immigrant who is trying to follow the rules and do the right thing is HELL! Upto the point of settlement. After that, you’re only dealing with prejudice, which if you’ve survived to settlement, almost becomes the cost of doing business and gets factored in! Sad! Very sad! But true! 

Respect? Dignity? I never saw any of that

I hope that by standing for parliament, I can challenge the anti-immigration brigade. I hope to be the candidate who represents immigration and immigrants, having been through all that trauma myself. 

And how can it ever be fair to separate couples and families like that! I know of so many people separated from their spouses because of the insane regulations. It’s not like this is a Tory/UKIP thing. All of my traumatic years in the run up to settlement were during the Labour years. It was when I saw Nick Clegg talk sense in 2010 that I realised that the Liberal Democrats were the only human party in British Politics! 

As an MP’s caseworker for four years, I had to deal with some heartbreaking situations where a heartless Home Office didn’t even follow its own policies. Most of the time, I feel very proud to be British. I relish the leadership role that our government and Lynne Featherstone within it is taking on violence against women and girls, for example. However, the immigration system is too harsh, unfair and does not treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve. As a liberal and an internationalist I feel ashamed of it.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

161 Comments

  • You are more than entitled to your view Caron, and you express it with admirable clarity, lucidity even. Well done!

    Would it be too much to ask that this is reprinted and put on every Lib Dem Candidate’s leaflet for the election? Please?
    It will really help you get the votes you need to save a lot of your MP’s seats.

    It is a fantastic electoral pitch when you come to think of it. We know best for your country, we are right and you are wrong in wanting immigration controlled. Vote for us!

  • A political party with any sense would have already grasped that this ‘pro unlimited immigration’ battle was lost in the May 2014 elections.
    An immigration policy broadly based on the Australian immigration model, is perfectly sensible, and more importantly, the voters see it as sensible, and also fair to *all* resident British people.
    This battle is lost Caron, and you have 60 days to find something that the British people agree with Liberal Democrats on.
    Good luck with that.

  • Immigration IS well out of control we cannot take 200K + each year Simple

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th Mar '15 - 5:16pm

    Simon, your post is clearly dripping with sarcasm. Tell me, why do you waste so much time posting on a Liberal Democrat site? And John, frankly, when you see the bully and his crowd making some poor creature’s life a misery, my instinct is to back the person under attack, not join the crowd of bullies just because it’s fashionable.

    The nasty anti-immigration rhetoric we see from the likes of Farage and the Tory right needs challenging and if you don’t like it being done, frankly, I don’t care.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Mar '15 - 5:34pm

    Good for you, Caron.

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Mar '15 - 5:41pm

    Well said Caron. I have been alarmed by some of the examples I have read about the treatment of non-European spouses.

    I think the public is too far to the right on immigration, but given where they are I think Farage is onto a short-term winner.

  • Yes,.. those Australians,.. bullies each and every one of them?

  • Farage is merely tapping into the ongoing ‘blame somebody’ school of thought….His anti EU/Immigrant stance is little different than the Tory ‘benefit scroungers’….
    He is equally wrong but, as we all know, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating …etc….” He should be challenged ( even if it costs us votes) but, sadly, this is a band wagon which the right wing press have been fuelling for years and one whose ‘time’ appears to have come…Stand firm, weather the storm and, like every ‘single issue’ party, UKIP will lose popularity when their quick fix is shown to be just smoke and mirrors…

  • Philip Thomas 4th Mar '15 - 6:26pm

    Well, that policy would get my vote anyway: it needs to be properly set out and developed though

    As for the result in May 2014, this election has different issues, a different franchise, more people will bother voting. I’m guessing we’ll see a different result, and the polls agree with me because no one is thinking there will be a UKIP landslide.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Mar '15 - 6:43pm

    ‘Tell me why you waste so much time posting on a Liberal Democrat site?’

    Well I can’t be sure, but I think this site is a more comfortable site for them than a UKIP site now that Nigel ( I make it up as I go along) Farage has dropped the 50,000 cap on immigration. But never fear, the anti quango party si going to set up a new quango.

    In the latest poll 47% of people say it is not a credible party, 11 points up since last year.

  • Little Jackie Paper 4th Mar '15 - 7:20pm

    Caron – Do you hold out the possibility that it is possible to want a lower level of migration and not be a screaming racist?

    I say this not to get at you personally (quite the opposite in fact). What I am saying however is that the appropriate response to some of the more unpalatable elements in political debate is not necessarily to pretend that there are no reasonable concerns of any sort. If any debate needs nuance, this is it – but if there is too much anti-immigration sentiment out there then simply putting on the rose tints doesn’t do much for nuance either.

    Cameron and May got themselves into a mess on this one and will almost certainly pay a political price. UKIP’s announcement is pretty much them avoiding the same trap. With the amnesty nonsense, the LDP found the limits too. So having seen that absolutism carries little more than political cost, is it not possible to move beyond polarisation on immigration?

    Anyway, I’ll sit back and take my pasting now.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 4th Mar '15 - 7:25pm

    Do you know, LJP, someone has to make the liberal case. Nobody else is – and I’m going to do it clearly and unambiguously. Most people who have concerns about immigration may not be racists but they say racist things and believe racist things. They also believe things that simply aren’t true because there is clear evidence to refute them.

    The entirety of the right wing press is anti immigrant. This post ,like many on this site, is going to give the positives and challenge the nonsense coming from Farage.

  • jedibeeftrix 4th Mar '15 - 7:44pm

    “Uncontrolled mass immigration, Nigel? You must be joking.”

    I think the point is that it was, and this is the prism through which the debate is now conducted. And will be, until we reach a new point of ‘stability’.

    Immigration under the later labour years had two problems, that combined created the popular rejection today:
    1. It was uncontrolled, and at a rate that was too high for the areas it accumulated in.
    2. It came without an expectation of assimilation to british social norms.

    This isn’t a problem for me, because:
    1. I’m well educated and in a technical and specialised field of employment.
    2. I’m relatively young, with no dependents, and with little current need for the medical and social services upon which others depend.
    3. I live in a geographically isolated part of the country that sees little evidence of our extra millions.
    4. I’m advantaged enough that i can live happily largely independent from my ‘community’.
    5. I’m arrogant enough in my relative advantage not to feel threatened by an influx of new people.

    For me, living in a rural university town, immigration is all great fun; i get to make friends with interesting people from foreign parts, who usually are highly educated interesting and well traveled people that are sparkling good fun to be around. For me it’s all rosy, but i’m not the norm.

    How about for people of little advantage; often living in sink estates with low incomes, few qualifications and little experience, young children, and very little in the way of opportunities to move to better prospects. These are people for whom ‘community’ means a great deal. Community for these people is what makes a difficult life bearable. Community is the families they grew up with over generations, people on whom they’ve grown to depend on and trust in. And where do immigrants end up? The leafy suburbs of middle-class-ville, or the sink estates?

    So, what do they see:
    1. endless threats to their way of life
    2. the relentless erosion of the community they depend upon

    Lib-demmery tends to be very middle-class, is it any wonder you’re somewhat starry eyed about immigration.

  • Little Jackie Paper 4th Mar '15 - 8:00pm

    Ms Lindsay – ‘Most people who have concerns about immigration may not be racists but they say racist things and believe racist things.’

    This is possibly the most staggering remark I’ve come across in all my days.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Mar '15 - 8:13pm

    @ Little Jackie Paper,
    When is a u turn not a u turn? The UKIP immigration spokesman Stephen Wolfe has said on several occasions, including in February this year, that there will be a cap on immigration. It now seems that Nigel Farage, not for the first time, has embarrassed at best, humiliated at worst one of his leading men in a radio interview. ( shades of the manifesto is ‘drivel’ comments on an earlier programme).

    Why are people harsher on mainstream politicians when they do this sort of thing than they are on Mr Farage? It is double standards.

  • Immigration is out of control. We are unable to control the numbers entering this country. Surely the logic of this is beyond dispute.

    The current rate of increase is not sustainable and is now starting to degrade all infrastructure services. I refer to the NHS, housing, education, welfare and many other public services. We do not have the resources to cater for increases the size of a large city each and every year. Uncontrolled immigration will also change the cultural identity and fabric of this country. You may welcome such change but there is also a risk of serious social resistance in some areas.

    Those who take offence at every mention of immigration and see it as a racially motivated attack on vulnerable, innocent people should really question their rationality. Ideological political correctness should not be allowed to become delusional.

    Immigration is a serious problem faced by many countries. To pretend that it is a blessing and to smear those who are concerned about it is an irresponsible attitude for any political party.

  • John Roffey 4th Mar '15 - 8:55pm

    Caron Lindsay 4th Mar ’15 – 7:25pm

    “The entirety of the right wing press is anti immigrant. This post ,like many on this site, is going to give the positives and challenge the nonsense coming from Farage.”

    UKIP’s policy on immigration is the most popular of all of the parties – and I suspect the latest revision will make it even more popular since it is more objective.

    Caron, I think you should try to stand back from this issue and attempt a degree of objectivity yourself because you are beginning to sound unhinged. No nation that has millions wishing to live in their territory can afford to have an unrestricted immigration policy.

    It might help if you to achieve objectivity if you considered the rights of the indigenous population.

  • “Anyone who knows anything about the immigration system knows how difficult it is to get into this country.”
    Is it? Given that (according to ONS): 583,000 people immigrated to the UK in year ending June 2014 (effectively 1% of the total UK population) and this was up from the previous year’s figure of 502,000, and the numbers arriving have been in the hundreds of thousands for all years since circa 1997, I find that hard to believe.

  • Jedi,
    The big problem with your argument is that it isn’t really people on estates or in disadvantaged areas who are most concerned about immigration. UKIP actually score bigger in suburban/ rural areas and around 72% of the population believe immigration is too high. They can’t all be living on sink estates There’s a slight dishonesty about the immigration debate because a lot of people pushing for stricter controls are trying to counter act charges of racism. But lets be honest, the editors of the Daily Mail aren’t on low wages or uneducated and nor are most UKIPers. The arguments for stricter immigration control are based in cultural and in some sense tribal instincts rather than economics. The other reality is that we liberals hold a minority view not just here in Britain but right across Europe and America because mass immigration has never been popular with the general public. It’s right that we make the case for the positive effects immigration, However it’s probably a vote loser.

  • “Most people who have concerns about immigration may not be racists but they say racist things and believe racist things.”

    Er, no. That’s a racist. Unless this is some Calvinist theory of racism where God has determined that some who act, speak and believe like racists are decreed not to be. Which I think the vast majority of mankind would take issue with.

  • I entirely agree, Caron. It’s good to see someone making the argument at least.

    But I don’t see how the Lib Dems can look back on their record in government and say they’ve done well on Immigration. 60,000 Indian students a year driven off by coalition policies, policies introduced by Theresa May that mean that British citizens have left right to have their spouse here than anyone else in the EU and so on. All of it done with either the assistance or the acquiescence of the Liberal Democrats.

  • Philip Thomas 4th Mar '15 - 10:31pm

    Racism and xenophobia are different things (although often linked)- and people can be proponents of immigration control without being either racist or xenophobic. For one thing, there is a law against entering the United Kingdom unlawfully: you don’t have to be a racist xenophobe to think people shouldn’t break the law. Even when I think a law ought to be repealed, I still think people ought to obey it while it lasts (unless it is clearly utterly abhorrent).

    That said, it is important someone makes the liberal case, which is also sometimes the voice of common sense. For example, what on earth is the point of the Home Office spending resources removing driving licenses from people with no right to be in the UK: why don’t they just remove those people from the UK? (Or, if they can’t remove them, give them a right to stay). It isn’t as if someone losing their driving license is suddenly going to make them decide that life was better in North Korea after all! (Similar remarks may be made about the government’s recent changes designed to exclude immigrants from studying hard sciences at university without Home Office permission).

  • Anyone who knows anything about the immigration system knows how difficult it is to get into this country

    I think people need to remember that there is not one ‘immigration system’.

    If you are not from the EU, then yes, it is very difficult to get into this country.

    If you are from the EU, then there are no barriers at all to coming into this country.

    It is utterly stupid and futile to respond to someone who says ‘My street is now full of people from the poorer EU countries’ by saying ‘But it is very very hard for an American or a South African to come and settle here’.

    Because what you have said is true, but completely irrelevant to the point they were making. You are quite literally talking about completely different things.

    And as a result both of you come away thinking the other is stupid and doesn’t understand the facts.

  • Philip Thomas 4th Mar '15 - 11:00pm

    @Tim- very true. Which is why the Conservatives’ solution to the “problem” of increasing net immigration – that is to say, increasing the level of difficulty for non-Europeans to come here (and making life less pleasant for those here already), which was already high- has failed so dramatically: it does nothing to address European immigration and serves only to make people’s lives more miserable (witness the Britcits campaigns by British citizens with foreign spouses). It is a pity we have acquiesced in this solution. But UKIP’s solution of exit from the European Union is a counsel of despair: the results would be ruinous for our economy and society. The true answer lies in recognising that there isn’t really a problem at all, any more than a sudden surge in the birth rate would be a problem: just an opportunity to be managed and planned for.

  • Little Jackie Paper 4th Mar '15 - 11:39pm

    Glenn – ‘The arguments for stricter immigration control are based in cultural and in some sense tribal instincts rather than economics.’

    I simply don’t buy that. High levels of concern about immigration are a symptom of problems, not the cause. Culture, economics the reasons are varied, but they don’t matter if you fail to see the root cause. I don’t agree 100% with jedibeeftrix, but I think he’s more right than wrong. The root cause here is a brand of what is called, ‘open,’ that’s great for some but most certainly not everyone.

    Maybe there is benefit in economic terms from immigration. But if you are not seeing that benefit the question very simply is, ‘so what.’ Granny selling her bubble priced house to a French banker is getting a great deal, as are the estate agencies of London. The chap having his job outsourced to Latvia is not on the good end. An open economy and all it implies, including open borders needs reciprocity. Do we have that in the EU – doubtful. It is, of course the greatest irony of our politics. What would finish UKIP is MORE free movement. If 3m young unemployed all headed to Poland/Estonia/Romania tomorrow UKIP would be redundant.

    I’m not naïve – of course there is racism out there. But to say that if you disagree with large scale migration then you are racist is not only offensive but it obliterates the nuance that should be central to a well thought out openness and meaningful liberalism.

    There is much more to immigration than economics and culture. But immigration is merely a reflection of the politics and government that conditions it. Openness politics has thrown up winners and losers, and if the losers wish to make a statement about open at the ballot box then so be it. Ms Lindsay, to my mind, is simply not giving the public at large enough credit. And that public, it should be noted, includes recent immigrants.

    Is it really so unreasonable, for example to see the ICT visa as a problem for young IT workers, is it so unreasonable to ask whether in-work benefits are importing poverty? Is it so unreasonable to ask whether the housing market is opimal for our domestic population?

    Whatever the detail here the concern about immigration is symptom. The cause is that the open agenda that all (stress, all) mainstream parties have pursued has not worked for many. If you want to sweep it under the carpet of, ‘tribalism,’ then go ahead and try – but I think you will find that that approach is at best simplistic and at worst antagonistic towards good, tolerant people who have issues about the open agenda that extend some way beyond culture.

  • Little Jackie Pepper,
    Culture and tribal instincts are not nessesseraly about race, . It doesn’t men that tribalism can be swept under carpet.
    And really your missing my point. What annoys me is the tendency to couch concerns about immigration in terms of class and for mostly Conservative writers to suddenly develop a social conscious when they do it. So you see they don’t want strict immigration controls for themselves it’s because it’s bad for other people especially the poor etc. Except the same people who peddle this line are usually just a adept at describing benefits claimants as scroungers, whilst complaining the country has gone to the dogs because of hip hop, hoodies and the abandonment of traditional values and then demanding that the poor be made poorer. I think this is because they are culturally conservative and tribal. People tend to form into groups based on shared culture which is what advocates of multiculturalism were acknowledging, the idea being that you can have lots of separate cultures keeping their identity within a kind of super-culture. I guess I sometimes think we Liberals are actually merely another small tribe. Other than that UKIP like their French. European and American counterparts tend to be strong in the rural/suburban areas where the vote is already conservative so I think culture is trumping economics as the main driving force. One of the problems with the liberal notion of identity politics is that it assumes that the idea of identity only applies to groups identified as minorities.

  • @Tim “It is utterly stupid and futile to respond to someone who says ‘My street is now full of people from the poorer EU countries’ by saying ‘But it is very very hard for an American or a South African to come and settle here’. ”

    Surely the response is: and in return you get free right to live, travel and study anywhere in the EU; as 1.8 million brits currently do.

  • @jedibeeftrix:

    “state-sanctioned parallel communities”

    Could you expand on what you mean by that, and how such a situation, that you perceive, could be altered?

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Mar '15 - 9:07am

    @ Jedibeeftrix,
    I thought your post excellent and thought provoking.

    Change is challenging and often frightening to most people and the pace of change brought about by recent immigration has cause many people, people who do not have a cosmopolitan outlook to be very fearful. Whilst it is right to challenge those who exploit those fears, I also believe that one should acknowledge those fears as valid. I think that one has to be grossly insensitive to the feelings of others to carry on with a plan regardless, when that plan is not working out as expected for many people and people are trying to point that out.

    The one Lib Dem policy I disagreed with before the last election was the idea of granting an amnesty to certain illegal immigrants. It sticks in my craw and that of many others when bad behaviour is rewarded.

    I think that this will be an interesting thread because I was under the impression that we had a points system introduced in 2008 for people from outside the EU,, and there is also a paragraph regarding the health of people of potential immigrants to this country. Also short of leaving the EU, in what way can immigration be restricted from the EU when free movement is a fundamental principle? People need to know these things if there is likely to be a referendum and I certainly don’t know despite trying to follow politics more closely since the last election. I admit to being totally clueless as to whether any problem is caused by the system, or the policing of the system.

    Whilst some posters have mocked Caron for saying that there are people who are not racists but say racist things, she is absolutely correct, there are some people who do not understand the implications of what they are saying, and when it is pointed out, they are quite shocked. There are others who make racist statements because they are racists and no amount of I’m not a racist butting can cover this up.

    The power of the term racists is undermined when it is used inappropriately, but one should not be afraid to call out someone who clearly does make racist statements. Whether UKIP has now come up with a sensible policy or not, ( I actually rate Douglas Carswell), in my opinion too many people who support them have made racist or homophobic comments for them to be untainted, and therefore for this particular voter they would need to do rather a lot to persuade me that they were trustworthy on any issue..

    I don’t think terms like ‘unhinged’ or ‘delusional’ are particularly helpful either.

  • Whilst some posters have mocked Caron for saying that there are people who are not racists but say racist things, she is absolutely correct, there are some people who do not understand the implications of what they are saying, and when it is pointed out, they are quite shocked

    ‘Most people who have concerns about immigration may not be racists but they say racist things and believe racist things’

    While someone could certainly not be a racist but say racist things accidentally, I’m finding it harder to see how someone could believe racist things (like, presumably, ‘race A is better than race B’) and not be a racist.

  • Surely the response is: and in return you get free right to live, travel and study anywhere in the EU; as 1.8 million brits currently do.

    Presumably, though, the people complaining that the neighbourhoods they have live din for generations are, and don’t want to leave, are changing, are not the ones who make use of that right, and could quite reasonably respond ‘But I never asked for that right, I don’t want it, I think it was a bad trade and I would like to cancel the contract.’

    The ‘free right to live, travel and study anywhere in the EU’ is great for people who want to do that. For people who just want to live in the same places and the same cultures and the same ways as they did when they were children, and as their parents did before them, who don’t want to up sticks and move to Portugal or Spain or Germany, it’s meaningless and hardly fair compensation for seeing their communities change.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Mar '15 - 11:20am

    I agree Dav, the example you use is clearly racist.

    However, I know people who will make what seems to be a racist statement, about an unknown abstract mass called ‘immigrants’ , or a comment about ‘there being too many of them’, but when asked do you mean people like your sister’s husband or your neighbour who dropped round flowers when you were unwell? , say, ‘Oh no, not people like them’.

    I hold up my hand to say that I am not entirely faultless, we can all be guilty of parotting what is received wisdom, but anyone who has tracked my behaviour, rather than my foot in mouth comments, will hopefully come to the conclusion that I am no racist. I think people are more perceptive than we give them credit for.

    People who conflate a concern about immigration with racism, may be correct in some instances, but in others, quite wrong.

  • However, I know people who will make what seems to be a racist statement, about an unknown abstract mass called ‘immigrants’ , or a comment about ‘there being too many of them’, but when asked do you mean people like your sister’s husband or your neighbour who dropped round flowers when you were unwell? , say, ‘Oh no, not people like them’.

    But the comment was about people who ‘believe racist things’, not just who occasionally make ‘what seems to be a racist statement’. What ‘racist things’ do those people believe?

    How can you ‘believe racist things’ and not be a racist?

    (Example of ‘believing racist things’ that i can think of include believing that there’s a Jewish conspiracy running the banking system, or believing that people with black skin are less intelligent than people with white skin, for example; it’s hard to see how someone could believe those things and not be a racist. Of course they might, if presented with evidence, stop believing those things and thus stop being a racist, but surely while they believe them, they are by definition a racist?)

  • People who conflate a concern about immigration with racism, may be correct in some instances, but in others, quite wrong

    This is of course true.

  • Jedi,
    I grew up in the suburbs where the voting norm was Conservative. In my experience these are the people who are voting UKIP, people in the 45 plus age range, home owners, not the mythical urban white working class in urban areas on sink estates. I can go and see my folks and it will be their neighbours banging on about immigration. Personally, I think, in fact I know, that a lot of them are flat out racists coz I grew up with them and heard what they said every other day. This what I think Caron is pointing out. UKIP and it’s press supporters have just leaned a few tricks about how to play identity politics.

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Mar '15 - 12:23pm

    @ Paul Walter – “@jedibeeftrix:“state-sanctioned parallel communities” Could you expand on what you mean by that, and how such a situation, that you perceive, could be altered?”

    Multiculturalism, in the normative sense (whereby the state encourages the perpetuation of foreign ethnic identities over and above the desirable expectation of gradual assimilation to the social and cultural norms of the host population), rather than in the descriptive sense (which merely is sensible recognition of facts as they are).

    @ Glenn – “I grew up in the suburbs where the voting norm was Conservative. In my experience these are the people who are voting UKIP, people in the 45 plus age range, home owners, not the mythical urban white working class in urban areas on sink estates.”

    I fear you are a good year out of date. Let’s see how much damage ukip does to the labour vote in six weeks time.

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Mar '15 - 1:02pm

    @ Paul – to answer the second part of your question.
    It is already changing, there is a growing expectation of assimilation, even if it has not been formalised as a doctrine in the way multiculturalism has. America has the melting pot, Europe has multiculturalism, I’d like Britain to find a middle ground of asymmetric assimilation.

    @ Glenn – to answer the second part of your question.
    Regarding how racism plays a part in the immigration debate in British society, first a clarification of terminology: I work strictly to the limited and closely defined wording of the Oxford dictionaries, not wider modern ‘interpretations’ where any discussion that causes offence is deemed racist. We may continue from there, or not at all.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Mar '15 - 1:07pm

    @ Dav,
    Of course people who believe those things are racist, but funnily enough, I believe that those who hold those beliefs are often too intelligent to openly admit to such beliefs, they may believe it but they don’t say it. Why? I presume that it because they know that if they did express those beliefs openly, the people of this country who are overwhelmingly decent and tolerant would reject them and block any attempted path to power. We have seen examples of this in the past when small extremist groups have openly espoused racist ideology.

    Personally, I don’t believe that all people who support UKIP are racist, any more than I believe that some people who support other parties are not. I do believe that some parties will have policies which will attract more of one sort of person than another though.

  • ” People who conflate a concern about immigration with racism, may be correct in some instances, but in others, quite wrong”
    We can push that truism further. Once the mind has grasped that they are reading the comment of a Ukip supporter, they automatically assume that the comment has racist overtones, (despite no evidence), and see no reason to read further of take any note of the comment. The word immigration, is a classic example of this ‘re-packaging’ by the brain. If a Liberal Democrat uses the word immigration, its use is assumed to be very different than if used by a Ukip supporter?

  • Of course people who believe those things are racist

    Right, so how can it be true that ‘Most people who have concerns about immigration may not be racists but they say racist things and believe racist things’?

    Surely if they believe racist things they are racists, by definition?

    Racism, after all, means being prejudiced about somebody because of their race. So if you believe somebody is some way because of their race (which is presumably what ‘believ[ing] racist things’ means) then you are prejudiced about them because of their race, so you are a racist?

    What have I missed?

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Mar '15 - 3:02pm

    @ John Dunn,
    Not so. At least in your case.

    With other posters, it may not be so much an assumption but something that is borne out as true when one reads their posts. The evidence is there for all to read.

    If you say that there is a re-packaging of information so that when the word immigration is used by Liberal Democrats its use is assumed to be different to that of a UKIP supporter? Where do you think this assumption comes from? Why might people think in this way, if indeed this is the case?

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Mar '15 - 3:17pm

    @ Jedibeeftrix,
    You raise the subject of multiculturalism saying that America has a melting pot but Europe has Multi-culturalism. Trevor Philipps has attacked multiculturalism and expressed concerns about segregated communities . The BBC quoted him as saying that Britain is ‘sleep-walking’ towards segregation on a scale already seen in the USA.

    What do you mean by asymmetric assimilation?

  • “Melting pot” is not a synonym for assimilation. It means that that national ethos accepts new cultures and blends their characteristics in so that the national culture reflects their contributions. “Assimilation” means immigrants are expected to reject their native culture in toto and rigidly conform to (some bureaucrat’s idea of) a national norm.

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Mar '15 - 3:51pm

    Because Trevor Phillips say so, does not immediately negate the decades if momentum from the state establishment.
    But yes, it is changing slowly, its just that we haven’t yet replaced multiculturalism with something else.

    Re asymmetric assimilation: immigration is good because it brings new ideas and new ways of thinking into what might otherwise become a stale society to rigid and inflexible to accomdate the vissicitudes of life. There are many ways of bringing new ideas and new ways of thinking into a society, Britain is long master of most of them with its globe trotting past, but immigration is among the best of the methods.

    So, while I want and expect assimilation, my intention is not to turn every Bangladeshi and Ethiopian into a Dennis and Norma of Workington on the Wold. Society should be changed, for stasis is poison, but that is not to say that their is any moral justification for turning someone’s community upside down. Particularly care should be given to those of least advantage, for they depend on their community more than most.

  • Jedi,
    I didn’t ask a question. I made a statement based on my experiences.

  • “If a Liberal Democrat uses the word immigration, its use is assumed to be very different than if used by a Ukip supporter?”

    I agree, however, from hearing LibDem views on ‘immigration’, the baggage I now associate with may LibDem’s use of the word when extolling the virtues of ‘immigration’ is that their viewpoint is coming from La La land and not reality… And part of the problem with the immigration debate is the largely unspoken fact that many are speaking from La La land, and we now know with respect to child grooming and exploitation the blindness to reality that creates…

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Mar '15 - 8:41pm

    @ Jedibeeftrix,
    The only information I can find on asymmetrical assimilation relates to Albanian immigration into Italy. See -Italophilia meets Albanophobia.:paradoxes of asymmetrical assimilation and identity processes of Albanian immigrants in Italy, I I cannot see how you can think asymmetric assimilation as a good thing. The situation for Albanians seems dreadful.

    I think this is relevant to your assertion that certain nationalities would ‘fit in’ better then others because of an understanding of social and cultural norms of the new host nation. As far as I can tell from my skim read, for Albanians immigrating to Italy, this seems not to have been how things have worked out.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Mar '15 - 11:27pm

    @ David-1,

    The definition of ‘melting pot that you give, is the one that many of us were arguing for in in the sixties.

    Another youthful dream was encapsulated in a song that became an anthem for us, ‘Melting Pot’ by Blue Mink.You can hear it on Youtube. I am now appalled by the language of the lyrics, but not the sentiment expressed..

  • @Dav: “Presumably, though, the people complaining that the neighbourhoods they have live din for generations are, and don’t want to leave, are changing, are not the ones who make use of that right, and could quite reasonably respond ‘But I never asked for that right, I don’t want it, I think it was a bad trade and I would like to cancel the contract.’”

    But support for immigration is lowest in the areas with the lowest levels of immigration, and highest in the highest areas of immigration which suggests to me that this is not, actually, about changes that are happening to people in their communities but misdirected blame for other wrongs in their life. To be honest, I’m not even particularly interested in trying to win the argument with people who don’t won’t change – they’re always going to lose that one on one front or the other – the argument that needs to be won is with the wider body of anti-immigration sentiment in this country. It’s the mainstream, centre-ground, view of higher immigration figures as a bad thing and view of people coming over here as a negative rather than viewing it as a sign of success of our country and a welcome influx of new ideas and new talents that needs to be tackled.

  • I have mixed race members in my family, employ a lovely Ukrainian lady to care for my mother in law and another equally lovely lady from Latvia who looks after my garden. I live in a little hamlet in Lincolnshire that the multi cultural society has by passed completely and I don’t think I have a racist bone in my body. However, about once a month I have to go to Doncaster and have noticed a growing change in the make up of the population. Where only 5 yrs ago it would be rare to hear any other language but english, it is now the norm. Walking through the town centre there are groups of Romanians every where, they speak little or no English and none appear to have jobs. The local press have many stories of fly tipping, aggression, noise etc by the Romanians and UKIP now has a large support in Doncaster. Like I said previously I live in a peaceful little hamlet so it’s not really my concern, but what troubles me is that I wouldn’t like these people as my neighbours either, so why should the people of Doncaster? How do we get around the problem of open borders when this means letting in so many people who can’t support themselves, can’t speak the language and who’s normal behaviour is so different from our own.

  • malc 6th Mar ’15 – 1:13am
    Malc, your personal experiences as set out in your comment are probably similar to those of many people in the UK who live outside large cities. I think the sound of other languages is a key factor for many people who are not used to such. But is this about racism? I think it is more to do with a fear of change. I would also suggest that it might be a temporary phenomenon.
    Ordinary people are however extraordinarily adaptable and in my experience more than 95% of people are by default extraordinarily kind and tolerant. The only danger arises when demagogues and ruthless populists like Farago exploit the fears and perceptions of ordinary people.

    As for hearing a different language in the street I had an early childhood experience which is still fresh in my memory. I was a small boy living in Manchester in the 1950s and for our two weeks family holiday every year my parents would take me off to North Wales .
    In the shops and in the streets everybody spoke a language other than English. An elderly lady in one particular shop where we went for bread and milk spoke to me every day in an obviously friendly way and I did not have a clue what she was saying. It did not seem to matter at all – it was just a bit of a surprise the first couple of times it happened.

    I went back to the same place fifty years later and very little had changed although there was some disquiet reported in the local paper about the number of English speakers buying up property in the area. The complaint was that all that English being spoken in the streets was changing the character of the place. The fact is that for hundreds of years a whole different language has been spoken in Wales even though it is within easy reach of huge populations of English speakers. It does not seem to have resulted in too many serious problems. 🙂

  • Roland
    Immigration and migration are different words with different meanings.
    Currently overseas students are migrants and counted in the figures but most will return to their home countries and as such are not immigrants.

  • Jayne Mansfield 6th Mar '15 - 8:56am

    @ jedibeeftrix,
    The reason I mentioned Trevor Phillips was to pick up on a point already picked up on by Paul Walter, although Trevor Phillips has revised his views on multiculturalism he is also also expressed concern that we were sleepwalking to the levels of segregation in America which has a ‘melting pot’ philosophy.

    Also, if we look at the research, although in 2005 when Mr Phillips was propounding his views, the Royal Geographic Society found that ‘ethnic’ enclaves were growing in UK cities with the widest segregation amongst Pakistani and Bangladeshi background who are amongst our poorest groups but there is also more positive evidence from research. The BBC born abroad project with research carried out , I believe, by the Public Policy Research Institute, showed that more economically advantaged people from older more established ethnicities like Afro-Caribean and those born in India were moving away from segregated areas and settling quite easily in more mixed areas.

    My own view on immigration is that most politicians have been dishonest with the electorate. In a global economy, there is little one can do to reduce immigration of one wishes to live in a free, prosperous society. Also, David Cameron’s pledge to reduce net migration was as deceit of the first order when he must, as an Oxbridge graduate, have been able to work out that governments cannot control net migration. So for me, the question is how how to iron out the problems that immigration throws up so that people less cosmopolitan in outlook than you or I ,can feel more at ease with inevitable change.

    It is worth pointing out, given that people are being panicked by statistics on the number of people in Britain who were born abroad, and the belief that the Australian system has some sort of system that offers an answer to every anti immigration voice, that the proportion of British residents born abroad is13%, in Australia it is 27.7%. The number of people who are panicked by the proportion of Britons who will be white or non- white in the year x, are in my view, probably racist.

  • But support for immigration is lowest in the areas with the lowest levels of immigration, and highest in the highest areas of immigration

    But of course that’s what you’ll find, because people in the areas of highest immigration who dislike its effects will move out of those areas, leaving behind only immigrants and a self-selecting group of those who support immigration.

    To be honest, I’m not even particularly interested in trying to win the argument with people who don’t won’t change

    That’s fine, but don’t expect to win any elections, then, as there are a lot more people who don’t want change.

  • Paul Walter

    I’m not sure that seeing a problem where there clearly is one is the start of racism and I don’t think I have been taken in by the media, I think it’s far worse to close our eyes, pretend every thing is OK and then end up with a much bigger problem. Many immigrants add to our society and on the whole more than make up for those who don’t. However, there is a problem with the influx from one or two of the poorer eastern european countries. It’s not a case of saying all Romanians or Bulgarians are bad, that would clearly be wrong and stupid. On the other hand when you get hundreds – may be thousands- of unemployed people, with little or no skills, arriving in an area that still has mass unemployment from the pit and steel closures, there is bound to be friction. If we are going to continue to allow the poor of Romania and similar countries in then they need much more help to settle. This will of course cost money and I’m sure the idea would go down like a lead balloon in Doncaster and that doesn’t mean that the town has a racist population. The point of my ramblings was to point out that just because someone is concerned about some aspects of immigration it doesn’t mean you wish anyone any harm.

  • @Dav: If you look at national migrational trends, you’ll find that there’s nowhere near enough movement to support that interpretation of causes.

    On the issue of people who don’t want change, change WILL happen. The world is changing fast, within my adult lifetime I’ve seen the internet go from an obscure thing available in our universities to something that everyone has in their home and, increasingly, on their phone. Whole technologies have come and gone in a generation. And as for your defeatist attitude to elections, elections are won by pluralities not even majorities, you don’t need to convince all the people all the time.

  • On the issue of people who don’t want change, change WILL happen

    Now that’s a depressing thought.

  • malc

    I’m not suggesting we close our eyes to a problem. I am just suggesting that referring to “these people” and generally applying characteristics to particular nationalities or races is where racism starts. I have worked alongside Romanians and Bulgarians for many years and been extremely impressed by their intelligence and work ethic.

  • Paul Walter
    “Melting pot” to “Mosaic” will give you a better understanding of America. It has experienced its greatest wave of immigration in the last decades.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Mar '15 - 1:46pm

    I think we need to abolish the word “multiculturalism”. It’s one of those words that means whatever its user wants it to mean.

  • The problem with all sides in immigration debates is that they look at a temporary, transient situation and assume things will remain the same indefinitely.

    The fact is that assimilation happens whether anyone likes it or not. Those insular monolingual communities will, in ten or twenty years’ time, be crowded with English-speaking teenagers dressed in the latest fashions and using the most up-to-date colloquialisms. Their beliefs and values will be British — quite possibly more British than those of their contemporaries of native ancestry. And the same thing will happen to those Poles and Bulgarians and Romanians who stay to raise their families here.

    The problem is that this process, while quite fast in generational terms, is slow enough that opportunistic politicians can unscrupulously try to pit one group against another to benefit their personal rise to power.

  • Those insular monolingual communities will, in ten or twenty years’ time, be crowded with English-speaking teenagers dressed in the latest fashions and using the most up-to-date colloquialisms. Their beliefs and values will be British — quite possibly more British than those of their contemporaries of native ancestry

    Indeed. And then the third generation have a tendency to rebel against their parents by ‘rediscovering’ their roots and rejecting assimilation, often to the point of becoming quite possibly more foreign than their grandparents ever were.

    It’s just the nature of children to define themselves in opposition to their parents that causes the generation pendulum swings. Same thing as beards and skirt length.

  • @John Dunn
    “Once the mind has grasped that they are reading the comment of a Ukip supporter, they automatically assume that the comment has racist overtones, (despite no evidence), and see no reason to read further of take any note of the comment… If a Liberal Democrat uses the word immigration, its use is assumed to be very different than if used by a Ukip supporter?”

    Well that’s certainly true. I’m not aware of any UKIP policy that is more barmy and xenophobe-friendly than Nick Clegg’s 2010 election policy to keep immigrants out of the south east because – among other reasons – there wasn’t enough water to go round :-

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8468579.stm

    A few months ago, LDV printed an article attacking Ed Miliband for sympathising with people in Thurrock who were concerned that their community was changing fast because of a sudden surge in immigration. Yet Clegg had made a speech just a few months earlier in which he’d said something virtually identical.

    It isn’t actually that difficult to tell the difference between a racist and someone who is not racist but still has some concerns about immigration. Yet Caron and Paul seem to find it hard to accept that the latter category of person even exists – despite the fact (and here’s some of that “evidence” Lib Dems love so much) that around half of ethnic minorities and immigrants want immigration reduced :-

    http://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/uk-public-opinion-toward-migration-determinants-attitudes

    Either half the country’s non-white/foreign-born people have a dislike for, er, non-white/foreign-born people – or the automatic accusations of “racism” coming from Lib Dems are tosh.

    This over-keen tendency to label people “racist” is every bit as poisonous to the quality of debate as the demonising anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the shadier corners of the Right. I suspect that deep down Lib Dems realise this, but are quite happy to let the debate rumble on as an endless exchange of crude caricature rather than actually get to the heart of the issues.

  • jedibeeftrix 6th Mar '15 - 11:09pm

    Good question, Paul.

    I don’t have the answer to that, it will take a brighter mind than mine to formulate that into a coherent policy.

    let me put it another way:

    until the public feel the balance is broadly right, public support will dwindle for large-scale immigration, as will the electoral prospects of those parties that are seen to advocate it…

  • “The fact is that assimilation happens whether anyone likes it or not. Those insular monolingual communities will, in ten or twenty years’ time, be crowded with English-speaking teenagers dressed in the latest fashions and using the most up-to-date colloquialisms.”

    I’m not convinced about the extent to which this is happening among the “insular monolingual communties of 10-20 years ago” though. I don’t know how much of that is a “Mirpur factor” where you did get almost literally whole villages transplanted from Kashmir to the UK so – to an extent – the disruption of social networks you had among other migrant communities didn’t take place.

    Upthread someone was talking about multiculturalism – whilst my experience is that this is what you get in parts of London, certainly in parts of the North you have a duo-culturalism. Just because something has happened in the past doesn’t mean it will continue to happen.

  • Philip Thomas 7th Mar '15 - 8:03am

    I think the increased pressure on public services would need to be dealt with even if it was exclusively coming from people completely assimilated to British culture. But perhaps it would be less emotionally difficult to admit the obvious – that the increased pressure means we need to expand the services- if this was so.
    @Paul Walter: obedience to the law is the *minimum* expected of a good citizen. It is legal to drink yourself into a stupor- but it is not something you should do.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th Mar '15 - 11:15am

    @ jedibeeftrix,
    I agree that what the voters thinks matters. That is why some might find perplexing that despite Labour being so unpopular at the last election, the Conservatives could not gain an overall majority and that currently, he opinion polls seem to show Labour with a lead most of the time despite many many seeking to blame for the high level of immigration on Labour.

    People have always voted by a large majority for parties other than Ukip, for all its blustering claims that it is saying what the rest of the country is saying,

    I agree that the polls for the Liberal Democrats are dire, but is there any evidence that it is the party’s immigration policy? Has their party’s policy changed significantly since the last election when they seemed to be riding high?

    At the moment, my own main criticisms, relate to the cutbacks that have led to the chaotic administration and increased backlog of cases that have occurred since this government came to power, and that more money has not been put into areas which have been put under most strain.

  • @Paul Walter
    “But I think we should call out racist views when people say immigrants should ‘adopt our ways’. It is racist nonsense. We are a free and tolerant, open nation… People are allowed to… speak whatever language they want whenever they want”

    Was Nick Clegg talking “racist nonsense” when he said the following last year?

    “Everyone who wants to settle in Britain should speak English. There is now a big consensus around this. A common language is the glue that binds a society. The ability to communicate is essential in allowing communities to integrate… But it doesn’t happen without intervention. The Coalition has already made English language tests part of all visa applications. We’ve raised the level of English required from skilled workers as well as the husbands and wives of people coming to live and work in the UK. We’ve given Jobcentre advisers power to put people looking for work onto English language courses – and if you don’t go you lose your benefits. And we need to keep going, pulling every lever we have. So I have also now told Her Majesty’s Passport Office and the DVLA that I want them to stop subsidising translation services for people applying for passports and driving licences. [carries on for some time in a similar vein]”

    @Jayne Mansfield
    “I agree that the polls for the Liberal Democrats are dire, but is there any evidence that it is the party’s immigration policy? Has their party’s policy changed significantly since the last election when they seemed to be riding high?”

    That’s a difficult one, since nobody seems to know what Lib Dem policy is on anything at the moment, except the people who are writing the manifesto. But it’s worth noting that the Lib Dems’ 2010 sky-high ratings came at a time when senior Lib Dems were frequently deploying anti-immigrant rhetoric that could only be described as “Farage-like” :-

    http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/politics/elections/election_2010/eastleigh/news/8102360.Huhne_calls_for_immigration_clampdown_in_the_south/?ref=mac

  • @Manfarang – Manfarang “Immigration and migration are different words with different meanings.” (6th Mar ’15 – 8:36am)

    Agree there are differences and that the inclusion of students in the ONS immigration figures is open to debate. However, I think the ONS data does draw a very clear line in the sand, by only counting migrants who stay here for more than one year as immigrants. But to reinforce my original point, all of these students will have successfully navigated the UK’s immigration system in order to be able to study here.

  • Alex Sabine 7th Mar '15 - 2:27pm

    I agree with Caron that it would be refreshing to have a liberal viewpoint on immigration put as boldly and unapologetically as the more negative stances that are currently commonplace, that makes a virtue of it rather than seeks to make excuses for it. I also personally support such a liberal approach, although I think jedibeeftrix makes some valid points about who gains and loses from high levels of immigration.

    That said, we should be careful about suggesting that anyone who is concerned about immigration or wishes to see a lower level of it is somehow xenophobic, racist or otherwise morally suspect. That is not only disrespectful to millions of people in Britain, but intellectually lazy.

    There is no necessary connection between how immigrants ought to be treated and the numbers who should be admitted; if anything, given public views on the subject, it may be that tighter immigration control would improve rather than damage community relations. And it is perfectly possible to believe immigrants should be treated well and to abhor intolerance while believing that the current large inflows put too great a strain on public services or the physical infrastructure.

    Several commenters in this thread who have argued for a measure of immigration control (jedi, LJP) have demonstrated that this is perfectly consistent with humane and enlightened attitudes towards our fellow human beings.

    As I’ve pointed out before, if you really believe attempts to limit numbers are wrong in principle, then how can it be justifiable to have a points-based system for non-EU migrants while supporting open borders within the EU? Yet we do not hear many Lib Dems calling for the UK’s borders to be opened to unskilled labour from outside the EU.

    In itself the EU/non-EU disparity is discriminatory, and a policy which seeks to control numbers on the same basis regardless of the country the migrant is coming from has the advantage of being non-discriminatory irrespective of whether the numbers admitted were lower or higher than at present.

    Now, it may be that there is an overwhelming moral or economic argument (other than simply our treaty obligations as members of the EU) why we should maintain this preferential system. But if you defend the points-based system – or any other type of general immigration control – for non-EU migrants then you are by definition arguing to limit the amount of unskilled labour allowed into the UK. You are not defending a high moral principle, but an economic tenet of the EU and the single European market. That may or may not be sensible, but it is not a matter of universal principle. If it were we should not be limiting the rights of low-skilled workers from outside the EU to come here as they please. 

    What I am arguing is that we should ground the debate about immigration in rational discussion and facts rather than name-calling. And while the term “uncontrolled mass immigration” is clearly a loaded one, it is in fact true that immigration from the EU is uncontrolled, and true in general that we have had for more than a decade now a very high level of immigration by UK historical standards. Where I part company with Nigel Farage is not on these two uncontroversial points, but on his characterisation of the consequences.

    As Caron says, much of the empirical evidence dispels myths about immigration and it is important that this argument is made. There are some bad arguments against immigration that can swiftly be dealt with; but there are some more valid ones, including the points made by jedi and LJP above, and some of these pose genuine policy dilemmas (or at least trade-offs that we as a society need to make).

    There are also weak arguments for immigration, like saying it increases our GDP. This is a weak argument because it tells us nothing about prosperity or welfare, only about the size of the economy. This may be important in a geopolitical sense, but geopolitical power is not the be-all and end-all. It is no more insightful than the observation that the USA has a larger economy than Canada or Switzerland. A stronger argument is that immigration can fill skills shortages in our economy and thereby reduce inflationary bottlenecks and boost income per head, which is a better proxy for welfare/prosperity.

  • Alex Sabine 7th Mar '15 - 2:47pm

    @ Glenn
    “In my experience these are the people who are voting UKIP, people in the 45 plus range, home owners, not the mythical white working class in urban areas on sink estates.”

    No doubt there are plenty of UKIP voters who fit your  description, but in fact there is high-quality research demonstrating that – compared to the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems – support for UKIP is more concentrated among blue-collar workers, those who haven’t been to university, and those who have been economically ‘left behind’ by globalisation (including immigration). There is chapter and verse on this in Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin’s award-winning book ‘Revolt on the Right’.

    @ Caron
    “The entirety of the right-wing press is anti-immigrant.”

    To disabuse you of this view, might I suggest you read this refreshing article from Wednesday’s Telegraph extolling the virtues of immigration by Allister Heath? He begins with the inspiring words on the plaque beneath the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/11450120/Immigration-is-here-to-stay.-Our-job-is-to-make-it-work.html

    Plenty of commentators in the FT, the Economist, the Times and some of his Telegraph colleagues would find little to disagree with in that article (not that the first three are necessarily ‘right-wing’, the FT in particular certainly couldn’t be so described).

  • Paul Walter 7th Mar ’15 – 12:04am
    “…. Should people put on a pearly king outfit and sing “Boil beef and carrots” in a cockney accent? ”

    I love this suggestion.
    But I would restrict it to those people who come out with anti-immigrant (usually racist) clap trap.
    There are several regulars in LDV who should be forced to put on pearly king outfits and in addition to singing “Boil beef and carrots” they should be forced to speak in that fake cockney accent from Ealing Comedies.

    ” Boiled beef and Jedi’s, Boiled beef and Jedi’s… ….”

  • @Paul Walter
    “No Stuart. He was talking about the “ability” to speak English. That doesn’t preclude people from speaking other languages in their homes and with other people who wish to converse with them in those languages.”

    In contrast to whom? Who has ever suggested people should not be free to speak whatever language they like in their own home?

    @Alex Sabine
    Many excellent points, including this:
    “As I’ve pointed out before, if you really believe attempts to limit numbers are wrong in principle, then how can it be justifiable to have a points-based system for non-EU migrants while supporting open borders within the EU?”

    As I’ve also pointed out before, there isn’t much difference in principle between “liberal” and “conservative” views on immigration at all, since, despite the mutual caricaturisation that goes on endlessly, very few liberals believe in doing away with all immigration controls, and very few conservatives want to stop immigration entirely (not even UKIP). The only real area of disagreement is how and where we draw the lines, and how we determine what level and nature of immigration is optimal for our economy and society. It ought to be possible to discuss such things in a measured and constructive way. Sadly, that never seems to happen – and that’s as much the fault of people like Paul and Caron with their groundless accusations of “racism” as it is of UKIP stirring up anti-foreigner feelings.

    I can’t help noting (upon doing a bit of on-line research) that Caron lives in an area with a very low immigrant population (about 3.5%), which makes it very easy for her to write things like “most people who have concerns about immigration… say racist things and believe racist things”.

  • Stuart
    “.. It ought to be possible to discuss such things in a measured and constructive way..”

    I agree. Which language would you like to discuss it in?

    I have lived in Outer London for fifty and for many years worked in central London, So am I allowed to echo Caron’s statement of the obvious that — “..most people who have concerns about immigration… say racist things and believe racist things”.

    If you do not recognise that most discussions of immigration in the UK serve as a cover for racism you must have been listening to different discussions from me.

  • Alexs,
    blue collar no longer precludes home ownership. Jedi argued that it was something to do with sink estates or something. The evidence is that UKIP take conservative votes in conservative areas., mostly in rural and suburban England. Further more my main point was that the newspapers that talk UKIP up are not written by people on sink estates or by people who have been left behind by globalization. A few years back a lot of these same writers were making similar claims for the BNP were the authentic voice of disaffected white working class voters and then it was the EDL. I think this is because those writers and the newspapers they write for have trouble owning up to their own beliefs. It’s a the Jeremy Clarkson effect. Because he talks a lot borderline racist nonsense and whines about lefties all the time he is promoted as a bloke in the pub, rather than as being seen as reflective of the often filed to one side reality of lot of the educated middle classes. But aside from that please show me where UKIP have taken or really threaten seats that don’t normally return Conservatives or where their votes are in Scotland or Wales. They couldn’t even take the police commissioners post in Rotherham a couple of months after the grooming scandal broke. So they ain’t that popular with the disaffected white urban vote.

  • @John Tilley
    Please explain then why half the ethnic minority/immigrant population also have concerns about immigration (inasmuch as they want to see immigration reduced) :-

    http://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/briefings/uk-public-opinion-toward-migration-determinants-attitudes

    Can it really be that half the ethnic minority population are self-hating racists?

    I live and work in one of the most ethnically diverse parts of the country, and I meet many people daily – white and non-white alike – who have concerns about some of the effects continuing high rates of immigration are having on their communities. Few of these people seem racist to me – in fact, on a daily basis they’re doing something Caron isn’t doing – living amongst high numbers of immigrants and treating them entirely with equality and respect. So no, Caron is not stating the obvious at all.

  • Alex Sabine 7th Mar '15 - 5:10pm

    JohnTilley: De toute facon on peut continuer en francais afin de mieux comprendre les enjeux… Une economie prospere est susceptible d’attirer des immigrants. Je prefere cela a l’alternative d’une economie faible avec moins d’immigration en consequence.

    Immigrazione ha molti vantaggi economici e sociali per la Gran Bretagna. Londra e una destinazione particolarmente popolare per gli italiani, che sono per lo piu molto simpatiche…

  • Alex Sabine
    Mae’n well gen i drafod yn Gymraeg. Mae’n ar ôl yr holl iaith frodorol Prydain. Yr wyf yn cytuno â chi ynglŷn â’r vaue cadarnhaol o fewnfudo.

  • Stuart
    You ask — “..Can it really be that half the ethnic minority population are self-hating racists?”

    I don’t know about “self-hating” but it seems perfectly likely that what you describe as the “ethic minority population” are just as racist as everybody else, and possibly more so.
    Why would anyone assume anything different?

    BTW — I also do not assume that the “ethnic minority population” are all saints, geniuses, sinners or fools. Do you?

    Just for information — who are the “ethnic minority population” you speak of? Do you mean black and brown people?

    If Caron lives in Scotland virtually everyone living near her belongs to an ethnic minority — they are called Scots.

  • Philip Thomas 7th Mar '15 - 7:17pm

    The requirement to speak English cannot be enforced against EU migrants and their families, and it is therefore unfair to impose it on the families of British citizens.
    There are hundreds of thousands of people living in the United Kingdom without immigration status. Many of them are children born in the United Kingdom. Many have been in the United Kingdom for a very long time. Instead of persecuting them, as this government has done in the Immigration Act 2014, by taking away bank accounts and driving licenses and housing (alright, the Lib Dems partially blocked the last item) and charging them exorbitant fees and “health levies” if they try to regularise their status, we should consider amnesty. It has been done in other countries- notably the USA, and is the quickest and most reliable of reducing the number of people without status- far cheaper than detaining them and flying them to countries many of them have never set foot in. A large scale amnesty for those who were born here or have been here for over 10 years would free much needed resources for real border control.

  • @John Tilley
    I’m not describing anybody as “ethnic minorities” – I’m quoting the research by “The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford”.

    Clearly, since we live in the UK and we’re talking about immigration, when Caron and Paul refer to people being “racist” the context tends to suggest that they’re talking about people having a dislike of non-British (or even non-White British) folks.

    If you and Caron are right, and the Oxford figures are accurate, then something like at least half of the population (including many immigrants themselves) have racist attitudes towards foreigners. That’s a pretty grim view of the people around us, and it doesn’t tally much with my own experience.

  • Alex Sabine 8th Mar '15 - 2:48am

    Glenn: I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on psephology or UKIP, so in making my comments above I’m relying quite heavily on the extensively researched evidence presented in Revolt on the Right. The authors found that:

    “UKIP’s revolt is a working-class phenomenon… UKIP are not a second home for disgruntled Tories in the shires; they are a first home for working-class Britons of all political backgrounds, who have lost faith in a political system that ceased to represent them long ago. Support for UKIP does not line up in a straightforward way with traditional notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’, but reflects a divide between a political mainstream dominated by a more financially secure and highly educated middle class, and a more insecure and precarious working class, which feels its concerns have been written out of political debate.”

    UKIP appear to draw much of their support from those who feel left behind by economic as well as social change. Ford and Goodwin observe: “Contrary to those who argue that UKIP’s voters are middle-class Tories, we actually find that their base is more working-class than any of the main parties. Blue-collar UKIP voters outnumber their white-collar counterparts by a large margin: 42% of these voters work in blue-collar jobs or do not work at all, while 30% hold professional middle-class jobs… This is consistent with our analysis of wider social trends: support for the radical right in Britain is concentrated among the ‘left behind’ social class groups while the more privileged and financially secure middle classes, whose voters dominate the three established parties as well as the Greens, are under-represented in the radical right.”

    They compile a list of the most demographically receptive seats for UKIP, ranking all the English constituencies on a measure of ‘UKIP attraction’ using data on the relative size of different social groups from the 2011 census – filtering out seats where the incumbent party has more than 45% of the vote and thereby removing constituencies where UKIP would need to achieve an extreme and unlikely swing in support to win.

    They find that the top 10 would-be target seats for UKIP are: Great Grimsby (currently held by Labour), Plymouth, Moor View (Labour), Ashfield (Labour), Walsall North (Labour), Waveney (Conservative), Hartlepool (Labour), Bishop Aukland (Labour), Blackpool South (Labour), Stoke-on-Trent North (Labour) and Great Yarmouth (Conservative).

    Seats where UKIP have moved into second place in by-elections since 2010 are Eastleigh (Lib Dem), Rotheram (Labour), South Shields (Labour), Barnsley Central (Labour) and Middlesbrough (Labour).

    Of the top 10 targets, they note that “only one seat is in the South-West, traditionally UKIP’s favoured area, but there are five in a large cluster along the east coast from Durham to Norfolk. Here, UKIP find their ideal combination of an ageing population, a large, low-skilled and traditionally blue-collar workforce, and a small population of graduates, ethnic minorities and middle-class professionals.”

    Given that they were writing before UKIP’s breakthrough with Douglas Carswell in Clacton, their next observation was prescient: “This cluster of declining and blue-collar seats on the east coast may represent the best bet for a UKIP breakthrough.”

    By all means dispute the methodology behind these assessments but, on the face of it, the analysis presented by Ford and Goodwin seems pretty compelling to me. As far as I am aware it is not disputed by other psephological/polling experts like John Curtice or Anthony Wells.

  • Alex Sabine 8th Mar '15 - 2:51am

    On a more anecdotal basis the Guardian’s John Harris found many of the same patterns, writing last November:

    “Over the past year, I have spent a lot of time talking to people who support Ukip and the same themes have come up time and time again. For millions of voters, their political views are now defined by a bundle of concerns and furies focused, chiefly, on immigration and the EU, which, to many minds, is one and the same. Crudely put, this can be illustrated as the intersection of a Venn Diagram split between left and right. Although they meet in the middle, some Ukip supporters believe Labour has lost touch with ‘the working man’ and that the certainties of post-war Britain have been ground into dust, while other, ex-Conservative, Ukip voters wonder what has happened to the kind of cast-iron Tory politics they got from Margaret Thatcher.

    “But just as many Ukip supporters float free of that analysis, favouring the party for reasons that fit no conventional left/right category. What is certain is that just about all Ukippers feel ignored and patronised, and think politicians understand nothing of their lives.

    “This is the core of the analysis offered in the watershed book Revolt on The Right, by academics Matthew Goodwin and Robert Ford. Their shorthand term for Ukip’s support base is ‘the left behind’. It denotes people not just abandoned by politics, but marginalised by the turns taken by the economy over the past three decades. In this reading, Ukip are a quintessential product of the winners-and-losers reality created by globalisation and the long-overlooked grievances produced by deindustrialisation. All this has a strong geographical dimension, reflected in Ukip’s redoubts in the English east, and its strong performances in the north of England.”

    And so far from your contention that UKIP’s rise is being fuelled by the media, Harris observes that indifference, indeed hostility, to the “mainstream media” among their supporters means they have not suffered from adverse media scrutiny (I suspect the Greens may be similarly immune to such exposure in the form of Natalie Bennett’s recent car-crash interviews on policy etc):

    “When stories emerge of some of Ukip’s more unsavoury elements, or the particularly stupid behaviour on the part of some its elected representatives, it has precious little effect on their support. The reason for this is simple: supporting Ukip is essentially an act of defiance and a hostile media is one of the forces Ukip’s most enthusiastic fans think they are resisting. Indeed, the place of the media in this story shows the rise of Ukip to be as much a cultural phenomenon as a political one.”

    So, while the reasons and nature and demographics of UKIP’s support may be complex and multi-faceted, the idea that it is a home for wealthy saloon-bar types or the pin-striped brigade seems to be wishful thinking on the part of left-wing parties whose traditional voting base has deserted them (in the case of the Labour party) or (in the case of the Lib Dems) who don’t want to accept that their views on subjects like immigration, the EU and welfare have little support among those whose interests they claim to champion.

  • Stuart

    Thank you for providing the link.   I have been reading through a little of what this group Migration Observatory have had to say recently.  I had listened to some of their people on Radio 4 previously but had not seen their website before.   

    My eye was drawn their report press released as –  ‘Gypsies, tramps and thieves’.  
    The findings of the report perhaps support my contention that there is a lot of racism and xenophobia about.

     It was published on 18th August 2014
    It reported that British tabloid newspapers repeatedly associate Romanians with criminality and anti-social behaviour.

    It provides a detailed analysis of the language used by 19 British national newspapers.

    The analysis encompasses 4,000 articles, letters and comment pieces, a total of more than 2.8 million words.

    Key findings include:

    Language used by tabloid newspapers to describe and discuss Romanians as a single group was frequently focused on crime and anti-social behavior (gang, criminal, beggar, thief, squatter). 
    It is an interesting key finding, wouldn’t you agree?

  • @John Tilley
    “It is an interesting key finding, wouldn’t you agree?”

    Not really. I wouldn’t expect tabloid newspapers to be anything other than unpleasant, which is why I never buy them.

    I was talking more about the views of ordinary people, rather than the politics/media bubble.

    I never claimed that racism does not exist so I don’t know what you’re trying to prove. The main point I’ve tried to make here is that those engaging in the immigration debate tend to deal in caricatures of absolute extremes; your posts are a good example of what I was talking about.

    @Paul Walter
    “I have not referred “to people being “racist””. I have referred to “racist views”, “racist nonsense” and “racism”. But I have not called anyone racist.”

    Isn’t a racist just someone who exhibits racism? The Oxford on-line dictionary defines a “racist” as “a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races”. How can it be possible to have “racist views” but not “show or feel discrimination or prejudice”?

    Can you give an example of someone holding racist views but not actually being racist?

    I think the Lib Dems as an overwhelmingly white party with very few non-white voters are even less qualified to lecture the public at large on “racism” than they are on feminism.

  • Stuart
    “… those engaging in the immigration debate tend to deal in caricatures of absolute extremes; your posts are a good example of what I was talking about.”

    I am at a loss to understand why you say that my comments are a good example of dealing “in caricatures of absolute extremes”.
    Does this really just mean that you disagree with me ?
    It is OK to disagree with me without exaggerating my position by saying that I only deal in absolute extremes.

  • “The only requirement on someone in the UK is for them to obey the law.”

    It doesn’t work that way in reality though. Take the case of FGM. That is against the law but up til very recently no-one has been prosecuted.

  • Alex.
    except both seats they’ve taken have bee in conservative voting areas and their and their most visible public profile confirms exactly to the stereotype. And what do you mean by Left behind? Plumbers can earn more than teachers as can builders as can anyone in a skilled blue-collar job. What I’ve noticed is that the definition of class shift according to what any given commentator is trying to prove. Sometimes it is based on earnings other times it will be based on education. It’s a very broad definition of “working class” that might includes say a shop keeper, a sales assistant, supermarket manager, builder, a boxer, a footballer, the owner of a building yard, a bus driver etc. and the unemployed. And what about say people who work in a high street bank? Do they really have much more status than someone working on a till at Tesco? In America where the term Blue Collar comes from the manager of a Taco Bell can earn more than a short haul flight airline pilot. Then define “left behind”. A lot of White Collar jobs have gone or seen their status shrink. As I said before what I find interesting about UKIP is who is talking them up. My point is that the UKIP vote is largely suburban not that it is defined by class and that most of the writers and commentators that talk them up are highly educated, just as most of the rhetoric around benefits is driven by the highly educated. People vote for what is being offered to them and who is promoting it to me is more telling than who is voting.

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 1:00pm

    @Stuart
    Overwhelmingly white party? Very few non-white voters? Not the picture I have been seeing: Liberal Democrat members and supporters are a diverse group. Of course, I haven’t been paying much attention.

  • Philip Thomas , come on now. There are a lot of good things about the Lib Dems but it’s undeniable that they are a very ‘male and pale’ party. That’s a fact. Just look at the Lib Dem cabinet positions or Lib Dem MPs, or Lib Dem spokespeople. Both the Tories and the Labour Party and even ~gasp!~ UKIP have more diversity in each of their parties.

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 2:02pm

    I just came across the Chinese Liberal Democrats Facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chinese-Liberal-Democrats/362488540651

  • @Philip Thomas
    The Lib Dems have only ever had one non-white MP – and he lasted less than ten months. At the last election, the Lib Dems got only 14% of ethnic minority votes despite polling 23% nationally.

    I’m sure there are endless excuses, just as there are for the lack of female MPs – but there’s no denying the fact that the parliamentary party is about as ethnically diverse as the audience at an Andre Rieu concert.

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 2:13pm

    14%: How many voters was that?

    I don’t deny that the majority of Liberal Democrat voters are not from ethnic minorities. I do deny that there are “very few” ethnic minority Liberal Democrat voters. Maybe I just have a different take on the meaning of “very few” (and similar remarks could be made about “overwhelmingly”). There are certainly ethnic minority PPCs standing in this election, I think one of them is standing in Brent East.

  • Stuart
    I asked you earlier if by “ethnic minority” you really meant black and brown people. Can I assume your recent comment about the Liberal Democrats only having one “non-white” MP indicates that you do confuse the term “ethnic minority” with race?

  • @Philip Thomas
    Yes, we must have a different take on it, since 14% doesn’t seem like an awful lot to me. 14% would normally be described as a very small minority.

    More to the point, with around 24% of white voters voting Lib Dem, it’s clear that a white voter is over 70% more likely to vote Lib Dem than a non-white voter.

  • Phyllis 8th Mar ’15 – 1:37pm
    Reading your comment I fear you may be falling into the same trap as Stuart in confusing ethnicity with race.

    I am the last person to defend Clegg but isn’t he half Dutch with Ukrainian/Russian ancestors and doesn’t he speak to his children in Spanish (their mother tongue). That being so it is difficult not to recognise a spot of diversity creeping in.

    It would be an odd definition of ethnicity that for example put Charles Kennedy (red haired, Roman Catholic Scot) in the same ethnic box as Lembit Opik (Estonian oddball who was once an MP in Wales).

    Nationality, cultural identity, language and other factors make up ethnicity. It is not just about race.
    There are some Od Etonians who are Conservative MPs and happen to be black. But from my perspective they are all rich posh-boys who have far more in common with David Cameron and Prince William than they do with any of my black friends.

  • Stuart 8th Mar ’15 – 2:45pm
    “….. it’s clear that a white voter is over 70% more likely to vote Lib Dem than a non-white voter.”

    So your concern is not immigration or ethnicity but skin colour?

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 3:01pm

    @stuart 14% doesn’t sound like an awful lot to me either. But “an awful lot” is a lot bigger than “very few”: “very few” suggests to me that there are at most a few hundred Liberal Democrat voters from ethnic minorities: I’m pretty sure there are over a thousand.

  • John Tilley, yes I agree diversity is not just about skin colour but in this instance I was responding to Philip Thomas questioning that the Lib Dems are “an overwhelmingly white party”. I can’t think of anyone who is in the Cabinet or the Parliamentary party who is not white. That’s not to say there are not any but they are certainly not prominent. So from my point the LDs are undeniably “overwhelmingly white”.

    But I also agree with your points about ethnicity. Though I do think Nick Clegg is a bit of a rarity.

  • @Philip Thomas
    “‘very few’ suggests to me that there are at most a few hundred Liberal Democrat voters from ethnic minorities: I’m pretty sure there are over a thousand.”

    You’re setting the bar very low there! Let’s just agree to disagree on the meaning of “very few” then.

  • @John Tilley
    Every reference I’ve made in this thread to “ethnic minorities” or “non-white” people has been in the context of direct quotes from groups such as the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, or studies such as the Ethnic Minority British Electoral Survey (led by the universities of Oxford and Manchester).

    If you have quibbles with any definitions used – take it up with them.

    Recalling what happened in the anti-Semitism thread the other week, I would have thought you’d be anxious not to put words in other’s mouths to be honest.

  • Stuart

    I am not putting words into your mouth. I am asking you what your main concern is.

    Is your main concern immigration, ethnicity or race?

    If you answer the question in a straightforward way nobodywill be able to put words into your mouth.

  • Alex Sabine 8th Mar '15 - 4:13pm

    JohnTilley: Alternatively, we could avoid stereotyping people either according to race or according to their class background, and treat them as individuals. I believe there is even a name for such a philosophy…?

  • Phyllis 8th Mar ’15 – 3:05pm

    Phyllis, fair enough. I actually agree with you that the party is too male and too pale.
    There are of course some black and brown faces amongst the Liberal Democrats in the parliamentary party in the House of Lords.
    At local level you do not have to search very far to find very diverse groups of Liberal Democrats.
    For example in my own borough some excellent Liberal Democrats have been elected to the council with names such as Malik, Mirza, Yoganathan, Thayalan. The chair of the local party is called Kodikara. I have probably missed out lots of other names that I could have included.
    We have had Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, CofE, Baptist, Methodist, Evangelical and agnostic councillors as well as a Buddhist — but he had a Welsh name!
    In last year’s local elections one of the candidates in my ward was from a Korean background, another was Dan Falchikov who appears in LDV from time to time.
    The only two Liberal Democrats to be elected in the constituency where I live have been women.

    I know it varies around the country but there are pllenty of local Liberal Democrat parties that are just as diverse as my own.
    However, I can certainly agree with you that Nick Clegg is a rarity, for all sorts of reasons.

  • @John Tilley
    Ah, the loaded question fallacy, and not for the first time. Nowhere have I said any of those things are my “main concern” or indeed any concern – I’ve quoted some research from sensible sources who do seem to think these issues are worth exploring.

    Of course we could (as Alex suggests) just ignore these “stereotypes” altogether and put all our faith in human nature, leading inevitably to a liberal Utopia where, er, all Lib Dem MPs are white and almost all are male.

  • Alex Sabine
    Yes I agree. There is a distinct difference however. You cannot chose your race. But joining The Bullingdon Club is not complsory even for someone from Cameron’s background.

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 5:10pm

    Cameron can’t retrospectively choose not to have joined the Bullingdon Club. Class background is, for most intents and purposes, as immutable as race. We can’t choose what social class we are born in. We have a limited amount of choice over our current social class- but that doesn’t affect our class background. Once an Old Etonian, always an Old Etonian…

  • Alex Sabine 8th Mar '15 - 6:00pm

    JohnTilley: Ah, we are back to Cameron and the Bullingdon Club. I thought you were talking about “Old Etonians who are Conservative MPs and happen to be black”, and who are therefore “all rich posh-boys”.

    It reminds me of the rhetoric the Labour party indulges in from time to time, most notoriously – and unsuccessfully – in their crass ‘Tory toff’ campaign against the estimable Edward Timpson at the Crewe & Nantwich by-election in 2008. The voters there gave short shrift to such cheap class-based prejudice, and rightly so. Any party calling itself liberal will do well to steer well clear of such stereotyping, particularly as it was singularly ill-directed in the case of Edward Timpson.

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 6:10pm

    Unfortunately, our party is not immune to anti-Old Etonian stereotyping: as one of my canvassing stories demonstrates.

  • Alex Sabine
    You are correct, that was exactly what I was talking about. You then widened the subject and I responded to your comment.

    If you want to accuse me of “cheap class-based prejudice” that is up to you. I think most people of all classes would regard defending The Bullingdon Club as defending the indefensible.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Mar '15 - 7:31pm

    @ Glen,
    Yes we have seen it all before, and we have heard it all before , this talk of people from sink estates or the left behinds caused by globalisation.

    You might like to read: ‘Who voted BNP and Why. Channel 4 News’, which can be read if you type the words into google. on the internet. It shatters some myths.

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 7:53pm

    Seems (from the article Jayne references) most BNP supporters share a fear for the future: the politics of fear. This doesn’t seem very different from “the left behinds caused by globalisation”. Sure, the article shows the BNP voters were not materially worse off at time of polling- but they were frightened for the future.

  • Alex Sabine 8th Mar '15 - 8:15pm

    JohnTilley: I widened the subject because it often seems to me that class prejudice is the last acceptable form of prejudice in Britain. In my view such attitudes only serve to perpetuate the class divisions that disfigure our society. I think that whether the class prejudice is directed at ‘toffs’ or ‘chavs’ (there is another Owen Jones book which I’m sure you’d enjoy that rightly denounces the demonisation of the latter).

    As is clear from my last comment, my reference to “cheap class-based prejudice” was in the context of the Labour campaign in Crewe & Nantwich in 2008 which I cited because it was an egregious example of such.

    I did not make that accusation of you, but it does seem to me that your comment about “rich posh-boys” was at the very least a nod in this direction. Perhaps you saw it as merely descriptive rather than derogatory?

    Where did I defend the Bullingdon Club? Are you sure that the black Tory MPs you refer to were members of this unpleasant but rather trifling organisation? The obsession on the left with the Bullingdon Club seems a little oberdone to me, but I have no wish to defend what I agree is indefensible. By all means go on shooting those fish in the barrel!

  • Alex Sabine 8th Mar '15 - 8:19pm

    Glenn: ‘Left behind’ is not my term but that used by the academics Messrs Ford and Goodwin, who were trying to describe the profile and socio-economic basis of UKIP’s support, based on their extensive research and the polling evidence. They use it to denote those who have either suffered from the decline of heavy industry in some geographic areas or otherwise feel they have had a raw deal from globalisation, immigration and the greater ‘openness’ of our economy and society over the past 30-odd years. Specific criteria include things like being in less economically secure occupations, low-wage workers rather than salaried professionals, not being graduates; while UKIP’s social conservatism attracts older voters who are uncomfortable with the pace of social and cultural as well as economic change.

    In a Guardian article last year, Ford and Goodwin observed: “UKIP has virtually no support among the financially secure and the thirty- and forty-something university graduates who dominate politics and the media. Make no mistake, this is a revolt dominated by white faces, blue collars and grey hair: angry, old, white working-class men who left school at the earliest opportunity and lack the qualifications to get ahead in 21st century Britain. That UKIP’s core voters are middle-class Tories animated by the single issue of Europe is the biggest myth in Westminster. In fact, UKIP is the most working-class dominated party since Michael Foot’s Labour in 1983. They struggle financially, worry about the future, and loathe the political class, not just Cameron and the Conservatives.”

    I agree that the use of terms like ‘working-class’ and ‘blue-collar’ itself begs definitional questions, given the changing usage of those terms over time. That is a matter for sociologists and I’m not sure on the precise answer to your question as to what they mean by these. I listed the characteristics relating to income, job security and educational qualifications which they do specify.

    You may well be right that UKIP will not win many votes on ‘sink estates’: but are you sure any other political party is likely to either? The comparison Ford & Goodwin are making is with the voting base of other major parties. What is clear from their research is that what we used to call the ‘three main parties’ each have a better-off, more financially secure and more privileged voting base than does UKIP. It is a relative rather than absolute judgement.

    I don’t think that simply citing the two parliamentary seats that UKIP have gained – and observing that they were won by Tory defectors – is sufficient evidence to prove that their appeal is restricted to disaffected Tories. After all, given the nature of UKIP’s support – that is widely spread across England rather than concentrated in strongholds like that of the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems – it is unlikely that UKIP will win many seats at Westminster. Their significance lies in the damage they can do to the other parties, and the contribution they are making to the fracturing of traditional allegiances. In the short term they pose a greater threat to the Conservatives, but it is clear that they have Labour in their sights. As Ford and Goodwin argue, they “will be well-positioned to make inroads in areas once dominated by Labour by winning votes from those who will inevitably feel disappointed by what a Labour government can achieve.

    “At this point Labour will be exposed to serious and sustained competition for support in its northern, working-class fortresses. The largest concentrations of core Ukip supporters are not found in Tory seats in the shires but in Labour fiefs like Miliband’s Doncaster North. We identified the 10 most Ukip-friendly seats in the country, and eight are Labour. Strategists on the left need to ask themselves – are your local councillors and activists in these areas ready for the first serious challenge they have ever faced? They may be laughing now, as Ukip drive their Tory opponents to distraction, but after May 2015 the men with purple rosettes may be knocking on Labour’s doors.”.

  • Alex Sabine 8th Mar '15 - 8:33pm

    Ford and Goodwin acknowledge that in some ways it is surprising, even paradoxical, that UKIP should be winning support from these sources given that it is a party headed by a right-wing former stockbroker and has many activists who regard themselves as Thatcherites or even (economic) libertarians.

    But there are many such ironies in politics. The Labour party in 1983 was led by a high-minded upper-class Hampstead intellectual; many of its leading figures had similarly privileged backgrounds, led lifestyles that were far removed from those who voted for them; and its policy agenda on such issues as nuclear defence, nationalisation and penal policy bore little relation to what most Labour voters believed. Yet it still commanded a majority of working-class support, although there was increasing seepage of skilled workers to the Tories under Mrs Thatcher.

    Ford and Goodwin argue that UKIP’s popularity among less well-off voters should ring alarm bells for Labour: “In a time of falling incomes, rising inequality and spending cuts, such voters should be lining up behind the party that traditionally stood for social protection and redistribution. [Instead,] those are getting hit hardest by the crisis and austerity are turning not to Labour, but to Farage for solutions.

    “One reason for this is that for those left behind, politics is no longer about economics. These voters are not backing UKIP because of their economic concerns; they are backing the party because they see Farage as representing an identity and set of values they cherish but do not see expressed anywhere else. These voters have been left behind not just by wider trends, but the rise to dominance of a university-educated, professional middle-class elite whose priorities and outlook now define the mainstream.

    “These changes have been accompanied by a major transformation in the values that dominate the country. Across Europe it is no coincidence that radical right parties similar to Ukip win support from the same working-class voters, and accomplish this by targeting the same issues: national identity; immigration; Europe; and resentment of political and social elites. This is because there is now a deep and growing divide in the values of the left-behind and the professional middle-class mainstream.

    “The radical right in Europe is making a similar pitch, and for the same reason: the emergence of a large section of the electorate who feel the world they grew up with and valued is fading away, that what is replacing it is alien and threatening, and that no one in the mainstream understands their desire to turn back the tide of change. You cannot just ignore these voters – you need to have a conversation…”

    I am not sure about the balance (or relative influence) of the economic versus the social/cultural factors. UKIP’s pitch seems to concentrate on the latter while largely remaining committed to ‘openness’ in trade and capital markets – the polar opposite of the Green Party approach, which is economically protectionist but pro-immigration. Both will win their supporters among those discontented with globalisation and openness – UKIP’s formula seems to be more resonant among less well-off voters (who would traditionally have voted Labour but on occasions voted Conservative), while the Greens are more popular with students, ex-Lib Dems and affluent middle-class anti-globalisation types.

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 8:47pm

    “Leader of political party of higher social class than grassroots supporters” is hardly news.

  • Philip.
    define left behinds. Lots of people including it seems most Daily Mail writers as well as other newspaper columnists express fears for the future. There are entire books, documentaries etc. expressing fears for the future. This denotes a state of mind not a social class. Alex Sabine uses “left behinds” as a descriptive term for a social class and Jedibeeftrix who I was originally responding to was insistent that UKIP appealed to people on sink estates. I was merely pointing out that the same people who keep talking up UKIP as the voice of the disaffected white working classes were saying the same things in the same media outlets about the BNP and the EDL a few years ago and that maybe this says more their politics than it says about ill-defined notions of “the left behinds”. My view is that if you want stricter immigration controls or whatever you should own your own politics rather than pretending it’s about some vague “other” you can’t define. Aside from that I simply suggested that UKIPs main appeal is to social conservatives in mostly Conservative voting areas of England because that’s who stands for them in elections and that’s where they’ve taken seats.
    I’m a product of suburban provincial England. I went to university. I don’t think education or having a few pennies in your pocket is an indicator of innate liberalism.

  • Alex Sabine 8th Mar ’15 – 8:15pm

    At least we agree that The Bullingdon Club is indefensible.
    You seem to think the link between those at the top of the Conservative Party and this university club for rich drunks and thugs is coincidental and inconsequential. I think it has some significance. We will just have to disagree.

    I took your comment to be defensive of those involved, but if I was wrong I apologise.

    As for “class based prejudice” …. well in my case it is not cheap, it comes entirely free. I am probably guilty of it all the time. Or maybe I just see things more clearly than you. Or maybe I see them from a different standpoint.

  • Philip Thomas 8th Mar '15 - 9:28pm

    @Glenn, sure social conservatives are drawn to UKIP. But social conservatives weren’t necessarily Conservatives, even before the rise of UKIP. UKIP draws support from all over the place, including the wealthy and the educated, fair enough. Its stock-in-trade remains the politics of fear.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Mar '15 - 9:41pm

    @ Phillip Thomas,
    I am not sure that the average income qualifies them as left behind by globalisation, Philip. Couldn’t fear for the future just mean that they are naturally insecure people and/or pessimists, personality traits that might be manipulated for political ends? I genuinely don’t know the answer to this.

  • Alex Sabine 8th Mar '15 - 11:17pm

    @ Jayne
    I’m sure you’re right that personality traits, including the tendency to see the glass as either half-full or half-empty, have an influence over people’s political leanings. There is clearly an element in UKIP’s support that is in the nature of “the country has gone to the dogs” and looking at the 1950s through rose-tinted spectacles. Equally, I suspect an inflated faith in human nature – and a lack of scepticism about how that might be abused when allied to coercive power – animates left-wing idealists, greens and so on. But I’m not sure that tapping into this vein of (what one might call) temperamental pessimism can fully explain the rise in support for UKIP over the past few years. After all, there have always been temperamental pessimists and naive idealists.

    A number of commenters here seem to be recoiling from the implications of the evidence in the academic and psephological research about UKIP’s voting base, without convincingly challenging the methodology or the findings.

    Glenn, one thing that is clear is that UKIP voters (wrongly in my view, but that is beside the point) want stricter immigration controls, and that this view is very widely shared across the population, in particular among existing and former Labour voters. I do not believe this is principally a result of media influence or media campaigns. You seem to imagine that the media as a whole are somehow supportive of UKIP. I think this is only true in the sense that journalists are contrarian by nature and that UKIP are “good copy”. It is striking how hostile many UKIP supporters are to the media, and how immune the party is to media criticism over its’ spokesmen’s ‘gaffes’ or its lack of professionalism.

    It does not seem to me a promising argument to claim that UKIP owe their increased support to media advocacy. Quite the reverse: as Ford and Goodwin argue, the rise of UKIP contrasts with the enthusiasm surrounding the birth of the SDP in the early 1980s in that it has been a ‘grassroots’ movement, “a genuine insurgency from outside the established party system”, whereas the SDP breakaway was orchestrated by people who already sat at the top table of British politics – and, as such, was given a following wind by much of the media including the formerly Labour-supporting newspapers which explicitly backed it. I do not expect any newspaper to back UKIP in this year’s election – but that will not do them any harm, since their target voters regard the media as part of an elite which is arrogant, aloof and borderline corrupt.

    @ JohnTilley: Just to be crystal clear, I am not defending David Cameron’s membership of the Bullingdon Club 25-odd years ago, still less the antics of that puerile organisation. But I don’t think people should be defined forever by the silly things they get up to at university. Nor do I think it is particularly germane to whether he should be prime minister now, or following the 2015 general election. I’ll leave the fixation with the Bullingdon Club to people like the Mirror’s Kevin Maguire. In any case, I did not cite your reference to Cameron or the Bullingdon Club as evidence of class prejudice, but to the educational and social background of certain unnamed black Tory MPs who it is not clear had any connection to the Bullingdon Club but who seem to be “fair game” to be smeared by association on account of their having gone to Eton. In any event, I am glad we agree that the Bullingdon Club is indefensible. Since it evidently a test of political virtue, perhaps it should be added to the preamble of the Lib Dem constitution?

  • Alex,
    The fact remains UKIPs two electoral successes were both in Conservative areas. As for mass immigration it has never been popular. I think read somewhere that about 80% of the population thought immigration was too high in 1968 or so and in the nearly fifty years since with shifting demographics it’s down to about 74% or so. I don’t think “left behinds” as anything to do with it. There simply is and virtually always has been a disconnect between voters and politicians on lots of issues. And let’s be a bit more honest here. the idea that higher education makes you more liberal is basically a bit self delusional. All those Conservatives MPs and journalists demanding tougher immigration controls, bigger welfare cuts and a vote on the EU are at least as well educated as the average metropolitan liberal lefty. Most of the advocates of totalitarianism in the 20th century were also highly educated! Plus a lot of Righties say one thing on TV or in print and another in private. Britain has been in the grip of a bad economic situation since at least 2008 and the political instability reflects this. The “left behinds” just seems to me like a way of pretending that failed economic policies are really so successful they left the bewildered folk in the dust. The reality is that lots of young educated people can’t afford a house or pension plans, don’t vote at all and work for peanuts and a lot of the UKIP “left behinds” are retired home owners or self employed. So I say there’s lies, damn lies and surveys.

  • Philip Thomas 9th Mar '15 - 8:00am

    The economics of crisis has led to the politics of fear: among the group of people with the ability and inclination to vote, those who support UKIP tend to be fearful for the future.
    Because these people have the ability and inclination to vote, they are by definition not the poorest of the poor. If those excluded from the vote could do so perhaps we would not see UKIP supporters characterised as “left behind”: the truly left behind in British society have very good reason not to vote UKIP.

  • Alex Sabine,

    The Preamble to the Liberal Democrat Constitution includes these two sentences —

    ” We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

    Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality. ”

    When it comes to elite schools for the rich and privileged sons of the few, I would have to ask you which bit of “…oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.” you have difficulty understanding?

    By the way — if you read back I have made no reference to Black members of The Bullingdon Club. You have repeated this false claim a couple of times now. This is what I actually said —
    JohnTilley 8th Mar ’15 – 2:47pm
    “…Nationality, cultural identity, language and other factors make up ethnicity. It is not just about race.
    There are some Od Etonians who are Conservative MPs and happen to be black. But from my perspective they are all rich posh-boys who have far more in common with David Cameron and Prince William than they do with any of my black friends.”

    I think the confusion with conservatives MPs who happen to be black and Membership of The Club was introduced by you in your comment at –
    Alex Sabine 8th Mar ’15 – 8:15pm

    I am no expert on the traditions of The Bullingdon Club but I had assumed that if you were black you would not be invited to join, was I wrong?

  • Jedi

    A rant about Left Wing Councils (are there any in the real world?) might be more credible if it was based in fact rather than the fevered imagination of the writer.

    Like so much written by that particular person it is not based in fact. Anyone in a London Borough can get access to cable TV and can therefore watch all the “satellite” programmes they like without a satellite dish.

    But what can we expect from a man who cannot decide if he works for Telegraph Newspapers or if he is Mayor of London, or indeed if he is MP for somewhere drowned out by noise from Heathrow Airport, or one-time MP for Henley?

    To be fair he probably knows nothing at all about the practicaities of TV, satellite or cable. He probably leaves arranging TV in his houses to his servants, or to one of his wives, or maybe to someone else’s wife. He does seem to have a history of forgetting which wife is which. No doubt that is his contribution to International Womens Day.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Mar '15 - 11:06am

    @ Alex Sabine,
    Thank you.

    According to a news report, Richard Desmond has made a donation to Ukip, so can we be really sure that no newspaper will back Ukip as the election nears? In my opinion, some newspapers seem more warmly disposed to Ukip than others.

  • Alex my prediction for UKIP.
    They will hold the two seat they have and dent both Labour and Conservatives in the south, but not enough to swing anything and they will disproportionately hit the Tories in the North to the point where they may replace them as the main opposition in some seats. Labours vote will be up, but not by enough to form a government and the Conservative vote will be down on 2010 but they won’t lose that many seats meaning that they will try to rule as a minority government unless the Lib Dems are in a position to hold the balance of power in which case Cameron and Clegg will argue for continuity.

  • P.S.
    Alex
    I didn’t say that newspapers will support UKIP I was merely suggesting that a lot of them push the same agenda as UKIP and regularly talk them up as the voice of the people, probably in the hope that it will push the Conservative Party further to the Right and because they hope it will split the Labour vote. All the evidence is that UKIP disproportionally take votes from the Conservatives and that they are in fact getting a sizeable chunk of what used be called the “working class” tory vote, a much misunderstood section of electorate since at least Disraeli. Personally. I don’t like talking in terms of social class or “left behinds” because it’s not that simple. This is why I say UKIP are attracting social conservatives, but even then it’s more complex because some people are liberal on some things and conservative on others. For instance mass immigration remains unpopular but gay marriage has mostly been accepted.

  • Alex Sabine 11th Mar '15 - 3:41pm

    @ JohnTilley
    “By the way – if you read back I have made no reference to black members of The Bullingdon Club. You have repeated this false claim a couple of times now.”

    I made it clear from the outset that my objection was not to your Bullingdon Club point (in connection with David Cameron) but to your reference to black Tory MPs who were “all rich posh-boys”. I detected some class etereotyping in this remark which I felt was not a good look for a soi-disant liberal.

    You responded: “If you want to accuse me of ‘cheap class-based prejudice’ – which In point of fact I hadn’t done, I had used those words in connection with Labour’s ‘Tory toff’ by-election campaign: but I felt you were flirting with such rhetoric – that is up to you. I think most people of all classes would regard defending the Bullingdon Club as defending the indefensible.”

    You then threw in a curve ball about the difference between race, over which we have no control, and joining the Bullingdon Club, over which we do.

    This prompted me to say: “Where did I defend the Bullingdon Club? Are you sure that the black Tory MPs you refer to were members of this unpleasant but rather trifling organisation?”

    Perhaps I should have made my point in a less oblique way. I suspected that you knew perfectly well that these black Tory MPs had not been members of the Bullingdon Club. The fact they hadn’t been meant that this bogeyman could not be pressed into service to deflect my point about class prejudice. It was a smokescreen.

    “When it comes to elite schools for the rich and privileged sons of the few, I would have to ask you which bit of ‘…oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality’ you have difficulty understanding.”

    For one thing, opposing an institution (Eton in your example) is not the same as opposing the individuals who attend it. I am not religious, but Christians implore us to hate the sin but love the sinner; I think we can appreciate the distinction and accept that it has some relevance even in a secular context. And insofar as the decision to send a boy to Eton is likely to have been made by his parents, there is even less justification for holding it against him either at the time or in later life.

    Secondly, you quote some stirring rhetoric from the Preamble, but I must have missed the election at which the Lib Dems campaigned to abolish Eton, Harrow, Westminster, St Paul’s etc… It seems there is a considerable distance between “opposing” such bastions of “entrenched privilege” and sacrificing the right of free association to that end. In a free society it is as well that this should be the case. But clearly you are welcome to disagree, and to press David Laws and his colleagues (I mention Laws because he is the schools minister, and because of his longstanding role in formulating Lib Dem education policy) to include such a commitment in the education section of the coming manifesto. Or you could concentrate on proposals to improve the state school system which the vast majority of children use, and for which government has a proper responsibility.

  • Simon McGrath 11th Mar '15 - 4:10pm

    @alex – good points. What is even more absurd about John’s comment is that when he was Council leader in Kingston for many years, the LDs continued their policy of supporting the local grammar schools.

    So John really isnt in a great position to lecture others on education

  • Alex Sabine
    I wholeheartedly agree with your last sentence —
    “… concentrate on proposals to improve the state school system which the vast majority of children use, and for which government has a proper responsibility.”

    It has always been my view that we should concentrate on the 93% rather than the 7%.

    We could also campaign to remove the bogus “charitable status” from the profit making companies that run fee-paying schools as a business, thus providing more resources for state schools.

    I think both of these have been Liberal Democrat policies in the past although the second might have slipped from our manifesto under Mr Laws. Policies are of course transient and put forward at particular times in particular circumstance; the statement of basic beliefs in The Preamble is what is much more important. Members of a political party can differ on a whole range of day to day policies but it is important that they subscribe to the basic beliefs which they sign up to when they join the party .

  • Alex Sabine 11th Mar '15 - 5:10pm

    Simon: I wasn’t aware of that. If John supports grammar schools then perhaps he feels they spread opportunity rather than entrench privilege? That would be an unusual view in Lib Dem circles but I’m all in favour of diversity of opinion!

    John: I agree about the transience of policies. It does strike me as important, though, that there should be a connection between the “basic beliefs” and the policies that purport to give effect to those beliefs. The rhetoric should have some connection to the reality if it is to amount to more than wind. Sometimes the beliefs themselves, of course, give rise to internal tensions and beg more questions than they answer when it comes to formulating policies. Often, therefore, there will be no simple litmus test that can be applied to judge whether someone is a true believer or a heretic.

    If the removal of charitable status from private schools satisfies the requirement to oppose entrenched educational privilege, then I take it there would no longer be any respectable justification for a political party to stigmatise those who attend them?

    The effects on the public purse are likely to be slightly more complicated than you indicate: it would depend how many children whose parents were previously paying privately as well as through their taxes would no longer be paying privately and instead placing extra demands on the state system. Against that there would be an Exchequer gain from extra tax revenue. The exact balance is hard to predict reliably.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Mar '15 - 5:58pm

    @ Alex Sabine,
    Some parents who were paying taxes and private school fees are already placing extra demands on the state system as the schools become ‘Free Schools’, literally.

  • Alex Sabine

    Unfortunately you have been made to look a little foolish by Simon who knows that what he said about Grammar Schools is completely untrue. If I had the patience and the inclination I would find and point you to the several times in LDV where I have corrected him im the past. The fact that today he repeats something which he knows to be untrue tells you more about him than it does about schools in Kingston. There are of course official reports and news cuttings of the politics of education on Kingston Council in the 1980a and 1990s so you do not have to believe Simon.

    You go on to say — “… It does strike me as important, though, that there should be a connection between the “basic beliefs” and the policies that purport to give effect to those beliefs. ”
    Absolutely right.
    Fortunately for me I can point you to the outcomes of putting my beliefs and my party’s policies into practice. You might like to check out the record of Liberal Democrats on Kingston Council when it came to education during my sixteen years as a councillor.
    You might like to check on the investment in and achievements of state schools, primary and secondary, in Kingston.
    You might like to check out the growth of and improvements in The University (where I was a governor for three separate stints over a period of some years).

    Or you might like to ignore the facts and be duped into saying foolish things by Simon – who as far as I am aware has no experience of ever being elected to anything and whose comments in this forum are usually restricted to negative jibes of a couple of lines. I am pretty sure that someone such as you who believes in debate and discussion and can express yourself coherently and in positive terms would prefer not to follow his example.

  • Alex Sabine 11th Mar '15 - 7:20pm

    You might notice, John, that the sentence of mine to which you took exception – and which you claim made me look foolish – was a deliberately conditional statement. I observed that IF you supported grammar schools that would be unusual for a Lib Dem. That’s all. It was perfectly open to you to inform me that you do not do so.

    I took the point about grammar schools in Kingston at face value. Since you posted a comment in this thread subsequent to Simon’s comment, and did not take the opportunity to challenge his assertion, I assumed you did not dispute it. From your most recent comment it is apparent that you do dispute it. (I’m afraid your past skirmishes with Simon on this topic must have passed me by.) I am not in a position to judge what the policy of Kingston council was on grammar schools.

    Are/were there no grammar schools or selective state in Kingston? I know there are some high-performing independent schools, and I recall reading somewhere recently that Tiffin Girls’ School (which I believe is a state-funded selective school) scored the best GCSE results of any state school in the country.

    But I make no claim to expertise on Kingston schools. Please feel free to enlighten me about whether there are/were grammar schools in Kingston and what the stance of the local authority was towards them during your time leading the council, should you have the time or inclination.

  • Alex Sabine 11th Mar '15 - 7:53pm

    Jayne: I may be misunderstanding your comment, so if I have got the wrong end of the stick please set me straight. But what you seem to be arguing is that parents who send their children to private schools are placing extra demands on the taxpayer because of the existence of charitable status. This would only be true in overall terms if the tax relief on school fees was worth more to those parents than the share of tax they paid towards the state education system. The arithmetic seems implausible, to say the least, especially since these parents are likely to be higher-rate taxpayers.

    The reality is that they pay tax like everybody else, and thus contribute to funding of the state school system, but are not using that system. They then pay private school fees out of taxed income, but the amount of those fees is somewhat reduced by the charitable status (assuming private schools pass that ‘saving’ on and it isn’t simply reflected in higher fees).

    The net effect is a saving to the public purse compared to a scenario in which many more British parents sent their children to state schools, since in this scenario there would have to be a large number of extra school places which would not be fully funded by the additional revenue from private schools. If the Treasury decided to end charitable status in order to generate the maximum amount of revenue, their hope would be that just as many parents sent their children to private schools as before, not that they would wither away – thus keeping the number of state school places requiring funding constant while bringing in revenue from private schools. To the extent that higher school fees would reduce the demand for private schools among British families, private schools would presumably become even more dependent on the custom of wealthy overseas parents, while there would be an additional public expenditure demand on the Exchequer to fund the children who have transferred to the state sector. It is the interplay between these various factors that would determine the yield/loss to the public purse.

  • Alex Sabine 11th Mar '15 - 8:09pm

    Just to be clear, I am not arguing that we should be aiming to increase the proportion of pupils at private schools in order to save the Exchequer money. That would be the wrong conclusion to draw. I am just pointing out that the fiscal implications of ending charitable status are a little more complicated than they first appear, and therefore any party proposing to do this would need to make sensible allowances for this in their sums, and be clear about what the objectives of the policy were and what behavioural assumptions they had factored into their plans.

    It is not the same as, say, removing tax relief on mortgage interest or domestic fuel, where there is no direct knock-on public expenditure cost. There is more of a parallel with the ‘deadweight cost’ issue that would arise with a policy of introducing school vouchers across the board that could be used at any existing school: the first-order effect would be to increase total education spending, since those parents who had previously been paying for private school fees entirely out of taxed income would now be entitled to their per-pupil share of the education budget. This is a practical not an ideological point.

  • Alex Sabine
    I hope this post from October 2014 answers your questions? As you will see I went to some lengths to explain the facts which can of course be checked against pubic records. Please note the comment at the end from Peter Watson.

    JohnTilley 19th Oct ’14 – 7:45pm
    Simon McGrath
    You are obviously not aware of the history of education policy in Kingston or who it was that chaired the meeting of the Education Commitee in the 1980s which took the decision to switch to a comprehensive system.
    I do know, because I was that councillor. I was in fact vice-chair of the committee standing in for the chair on that occasion.
    That was a minority Liberal Democrat administration. The switch to comprehensives was stopped when we lost two byelections and the Conservatives had a majority again.
    Six years later when we had a majority on the council, a switch to comprehensives was made all but impossible by government legislation (the Blair Labour Government). As far as I am aware no local education authority has made the switch since 1992 because of this.

    A court judgement known as ‘The Greenwich Judgement’ also had a significant impact as it forced local councils to take applications for grammar schools from anywhere else, As a direct result the two grammar schools in Kingston became dominated by children from outside the borough, with the vast majority of local children going to the cther states schools in borough. Liberal Democrat councillors rightly took the decision that it was more sensible to concentrate on improving the education of all children in the borough rather than engaging in some sort of tokenistic legal fight with the Bair Government
    Of course since 1997 further changes by the Labour Government and the Coalition Government have made the 1960s debate between Grammar and Comprehensive systems about as relevant to today as the race to be the first country to put a man on the moon.
    Now the big threat to decent state education comes from privatisation; the handover of local education assets to businesses or rich creationists or worse. Handing over schools to such dubious people may suit your political viewpoint as a member of a right wing free market faction within the Liberal Democrats but I doubt that you would ever win an election on that policy.

    You seemed in your comment to be saying that a local council with a comprehensive system is a “leftist paradise”.
    This would suggest that your knowledge of both politics and education is stuck in a time somewhere before 1980.

    JohnTilley 19th Oct ’14 – 7:50pm
    Simon Shaw
    MPs from Sutton Borough can answer perfectly well for themselves. I am guessing that as a local cuncillor you are slightly better informed about the reality of schools in 2014, see my reply to Simon McGrath.

    JohnTilley 19th Oct ’14 – 7:59pm
    Peter Watson
    You are right about the this thread drifting off but. I have tried to provide a factual response to Simon McGrath
    Whilst agreeing with you in principle on education the practicaities have long since moved on –please see my earlier comment —
    JohnTilley 19th Oct ’14 – 7:45pm

    Peter Watson 19th Oct ’14 – 8:14pm
    @JohnTilley
    I’m even happier to know that I agree with the two Simons and you that Lib Dems should have no truck with grammar schools. I suspect that I am in more agreement with you than the Simons over the other issues you raise.

  • Alex Sabine 11th Mar '15 - 8:26pm

    And John, my point about the need for a connection between beliefs and policies was not a dig at you in relation to grammar schools or your time as a council leader. I was referring to the gulf between the hostile rhetoric on Eton and elite public schools and concrete Lib Dem policies that might give effect to it. In my comment from 5.10pm, para 1 was responding to Simon’s point (the factual basis of which you have since disputed), while the other three paragraphs belong together, on the separate theme of policy towards public schools.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Mar '15 - 9:02pm

    @ Alex,
    No, What I said was probably irrelevant, but it might have some relevance to what you say in a later post.

    School fees are going up and up. School applications are going down at some of them, but the need for foreign students is somewhat negated by the fact that some of these schools applied to become free schools. In effect, the parents were released from the burden of paying fees at a time when other local schools were facing cut backs to their budgets.

    I don’t actually agree with the argument that people who have already paid taxes, some of which goes to funding education (or health,) should receive any benefit for this. They want more from the education system than what they feel the system provides , so it seems only fair to me that they pay extra for this choice that they make.

    Anyway I will leave you and John to get on with the argument about charitable status which I am reading with interest.

  • Alex Sabine 12th Mar '15 - 5:41pm

    @ Jayne
    “They want more from the education system than what they feel the system provides, so it seems only fair to me that they pay extra for this choice that they make.”

    I agree. And of course they do. I was merely pointing out that, since they are (overall) net contributors to the public purse, the ordinary taxpayer doesn’t get a bad deal out of the arrangements as they stand. They might get an even better deal if charitable status were removed, but I would like to see the calculation of the public expenditure impact as well as the revenue side to test whether this assumption is justified and what the magnitude is.

    It would need to be explained whether the change was being justified on equity grounds irrespective of the impact on the public finances; whether the aim was to raise additional net revenue, in which case the proponents of this reform would have to hope that private schools did not lead to a displacement of pupils into the state sector but continued to prosper; or whether, instead, the aim was to reduce the affordability of independent schools and the proportion of pupils going to them, ie a social objective to diminish the role of private schools in the educational landscape.These objectives might well prove to be conflicting and indeed mutually incompatible.

    I am not necessarily opposed to reviewing the charitable status of private schools, although I cannot see it making more than the most minimal difference to the overall funding and performance of state schools. The case for it would be as part of a wider agenda of root-and-branch tax reform that swept away a much larger suite of tax breaks than just the charitable status of private schools in exchange for lower tax rates across the board.

    But, if this were to be undertaken, it should not be done via a series of ad hoc raids on politically easy targets. If charitable tax breaks are deemed to be justifiable more broadly, then I think there is a perfcetly good case for independent providers of education to benefit from them. If there is abuse of the ‘public benefit’ criteria then that is an argument for tightening up the conditionality rather than removing the charitable status.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPeter Martin 8th Dec - 7:56am
    "The UK government ran quite large deficits in the 2000’s much of it kept off the books in the form of PFI contracts and student...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 8th Dec - 7:55am
    "....... taking money from people within society (non-voluntarily for taxes) creating winners and losers. That is not an “illusion” and to insist otherwise is counterproductive."...
  • User AvatarThomas 8th Dec - 2:39am
    Matthew Huntbach - "On tuition fees, the issue is that we could not have got the Tories to agree to the tax rises that would...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 8th Dec - 2:06am
    Peter, Public assets and liabilities are ultimately collective assets and liabilities of private sector households represented by currency deposits and government bonds in circulation, just...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 7th Dec - 11:11pm
    @ Joe, Our net worth is defined by the real assets in our economy. Not the financial assets and liabilities. The sectoral balances are only...
  • User AvatarMatthew Huntbach 7th Dec - 9:29pm
    Thomas Yes, I know Clegg was a pro-Tory type, I was certainly no supporter of him. I remember in one of the last party conferences...
Tue 10th Dec 2019