Vince tells Andrew Marr: Immigration panic does damage – politicians should give facts, not resort to harmful populism

Vince Cable went on the Andrew Marr Show this morning and echoed what Nick Clegg had said about the Tory immigration plans to cap EU migration. Here are some of the highlights.

Nick Clegg is saying what absolutely has to be said. The 75000 cap is illegal and impossible to implement in any event. The Conservatives are in a panic about UKIP , reacting in the way they are. It’s not going to help them politically but it’s doing a great deal of damage…

The responsibility of politicians in this situation is to look at the facts. The simple point is that there is very little evidence of benefit tourism from Eastern Europe and that they put far more into the economy in terms of tax than they take out in benefit…

There’s a bigger picture here. We periodically get these immigration panics in the UK. I remember going back to Enoch Powell and rivers of blood. In the previous century there was panic over Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. The responsibility of politicians when people are getting anxious is to give facts not to panic and resort to populist measures which do harm…

You can watch him here.

The BBC has helpfully split his interview into two clips. The other half of the interview was on the economy. Vince talked about the fairness that the Liberal Democrats had brought to the government and the issues around raising interest rates (doing so might take the heat out of areas where there is a boom developing, like London, but would harm areas where it hadn’t really got under way yet.) He said that the government needed to look at the Help to Buy scheme again, suggesting that a credit rating agency was looking again at the UK’s AAA rating.

He said that there was no reason to change the top rate of taxation, but we need to tax wealth more. He said that his Mansion tax would be “a very, very appropriate thing to do.”

You can watch that segment here.


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  • Alisdair McGregor 22nd Dec '13 - 5:32pm

    This headline is very odd.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Dec '13 - 6:20pm

    Vince made the Conservatives look silly.

  • @ Eddie Sammon

    I think you should look at the vast numbers of votes given to comments on this BBC forum to see what a large swathe of the UK public thinks. It’s not about benefits, which is a token issue, it’s about immigration full stop.

    Of course the Tories can’t implement this because it would mean tearing up our EU membership card. But that doesn’t stop them playing to the mood music. It’s like Ed Miliband’s stupid energy ideas. They can’t be done, but merely mentioning them makes you look like you care.

    The Tories are setting us up to look weak on immigration and by taking a stand like this we are walking straight into the trap. We are setting ourselves up to lose not just our Labour-facing constituencies, but also our Tory-facing ones as well.

    The Lib Dems are going to be seen as the party that wants more immigration. This will make us unelectable and is a disaster in the making for 2015.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Dec '13 - 6:56pm

    Yes, some gremlin ate the headline. Now fixed. Thanks, Alisdair.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Dec '13 - 6:59pm

    RC, I was trying to be objective, I think even if you are on the right you would think that Vince Cable had a good performance. The Rivers of Blood speech is radioactive for the tories and he smeared it all over them.

    I think those comments on the BBC website are worrying. I used to have forceful views on the Lib Dems when it came to crime, immigration, defence and human rights, areas where I’ve felt in the past the Lib Dems are totally out of touch.

    At the moment I’m torn between a more liberal and a more balanced view on immigration, but I reject extremist outright and the public need to be reassured at all times that we are not open the floodgate extremists.

  • We’ve got this one all wrong. All we needed to do was to give the Tories enough rope to hang themselves on. Clearly this 75,000 cap is a massive hostage to fortune and, just like Ed Milband’s energy price cap, can’t be implemented.

    When it comes round to the fact that the Tories can’t implement their policies, we should be on the sidelines jeering and saying they’ve betrayed their promises.

    Instead we’ve got the rope the Tories were going to hang themselves on, fashioned it into a noose and put it right around our own necks.

    Well done Vince, nice one!

  • RC, you are right, there is an outspoken sway of the public that we are never going to collect votes on based on our immigration policies, just as they are vast numbers of the public who will never vote us for our economic or social welfare policies.

    Now, we could just join in the party with the other major political groups and tell these sections of the public what they want to hear, but I urge consideration before one takes such a path because:

    1 = that is fundamental betrayal of our liberal ideals and our core value of evidence base policy (in place of pandering and moral panics)

    2 = at max, statistics put it at between 60% to 70% of the people are ‘concerned’ about immigration. Whilst this is a majority, the other political parties are already trying to court this vote and if it is a race to the bottom on immigration policy that you wish to get involved in, then I can assure we, Liberal Democrats, will lose – badly!

    3 = there is a sizeable minority of the public are actively opposed to the general political and media based dialogue on immigration and right now the only party actively seeking their vote is the Green party. If we are going to court any group, this seems the better one to go for.

    4 = anti-immigration pandering has over the last 30 years is what has led us into this situation (and led intelligent people, such as yourself, to say things like “immigration deprecates wages), where we have deplorable policies destroying families and potentially catastrophic policies for our economy being pushed forward as serious proposals by senior political figures. This is not to mention the damage it is doing to our international reputation.

    5 = these pandering, easy answer attacks often end up masking the real problems with immigration, such as illegal workforces and sex slave trades as these issues are ignored as too complicated and too remote for anyone to bother with. On the flip side, pantheon foes, such as the johnny foreigner living life of luxury on benefits, are blown out to be issues and such as a cloak to attack hard-working, innocent families, often the poor, but now even the rich have found themselves targeted.

    To me, giving up and joining the race to bottom may seem a tempting and easy path to take (and I know there were some in our party who wanted to take it), but as with all easy and pandering paths, this one only leads us to worse pain and suffering in the end.

  • I’m not talking about joining in with the other parties. I’m talking about actually sounding as if we give a damn about people’s concerns.

    We are seeing a very large upsurge in European workers, with the latest wave being from southern Europe, according to the latest figures on National Insurance numbers being issued. This is having a big impact on our labour market.

    We might be right in saying we can’t do anything about it because we are EU members. But what are we doing to help UK citizens affected by this? Do we even care? Because voters are getting the impression we don’t and are telling them to like it or lump it.

    But it seems on current form., we are simply looking the other way and whistling the Ode to Joy, hoping the problem will go away.

  • Max Wilkinson 22nd Dec '13 - 7:36pm

    Can somebody show me some polling that demonstrates people who rate immigration as among their top issues would ever be interested in voting for us?

    Liberal Al is right. This is a race we cannot win, and should not try to even take part in.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Dec '13 - 8:20pm

    Max, according to Ipsos Mori the country’s number two concern is immigration (the economy being number one). There is no chance of a majority for a political party that doesn’t want to address the public’s number two concern.

    If you look at it this way:

    Do you believe we should open the door to the entire global population tomorrow? Probably not.
    Do you believe we should shut the door to the entire global population tomorrow? Clearly not.

    So our views are not that far apart, the public just want to feel safe in the knowledge that we understand the pros and cons and are going to be reasonable about it. This means they can get on with their life and stop worrying! People are afraid of a lot of things and I wouldn’t underestimate the need for reassurance.

    Why I am not as worried as RC is because the public’s number one fear is the economy and their livelihood, which the evidence shows that immigration supports, so as long as we can show immigration boosts the economy and helps to keep prices down then I don’t see the need to panic about it.

    This is the war over the corn laws all over again. People want the cheap commodity abroad, but other people are afraid of it. We need to get across its benefits for keeping prices down, whilst doing what we can to help those that are worried.

  • The call to immigration, gives rise to the notion that anyone who doesn’t agree with the Lib Dem line , must by definition be wearing a four day old sweaty vest, be of low intelligence, and have a shaved head with a swastika tattooed on their forehead, and love and hate tattooed on their knuckles.
    Why can’t Lib Dems calm down, from such an abusive level of debate, and acknowledge the very real concerns that people face in their local communities?. This is not about race, it’s about numbers off, and the tensions and overstretching of services that result in many communities. It frankly doesn’t matter if your local community has grown in recent years due to an influx of Slovakian plasterers, Dutch accountants, or German physicists. What is likely however is that your children will now have to be bussed miles from the school of your choice, and that that 3 day wait for a doctor’s appointment, has now morphed into a two week wait to see ‘your’ doctor, who you have developed trust with over many years.
    In a previous thread I asked a simple question before the thread went dark, and the room emptied. But the question is still valid, still unanswered, and cannot be dodged forever if you hope to walk up the garden paths of voters, and to canvas and convince them that Lib Dems are right, and that their concerns on immigration are baseless.

    How will Lib Dems manage immigration, to avoid our already overstretched services from being overwhelmed ?

    If Lib Dems cannot answer that simple question, with a response that the voter considers credible, then you have quite simply, lost the argument.

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Dec '13 - 8:54pm

    @Max Wilkinson.
    You are so right Max.

    Many of us have agreed with Vince Cable’s view that the coalition immigration policies are ‘irrational’ when he has voiced them. but he has been like a lone voice in the wilderness to us.

    I say this as someone who thought that the argument for an amnesty for illegal immigrants, as argued by the Liberal Democrats, was a mistake . It may have been rational in that the chances of catching the long standing illegal immigrants and removing them was minimal, but it went against a common sense view that one should not reinforce unacceptable behaviour by reinforcing it with reward. The negative effect of this positive reinforcement of illegality was I believe evidenced in other countries where amnesties had been offered. This one policy didn’t stop me voting Lib Dem. The manifesto as a whole came closest to my political beliefs.

    I read a poll result , and I can’t find it. The findings were that people wanted enforcement of existing immigration policies not more and more new ones. I wish that I could find the poll which I think was taken in the past year..

    I really cannot understand how the Conservative party, or the Liberal Democrat Party can argue for remaining in the EU, and expansion of the EU when they are opposed to one of the founding principles of membership. This is hardly tinkering round the edges. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

  • “I’m not talking about joining in with the other parties. I’m talking about actually sounding as if we give a damn about people’s concerns.”

    But on matters of immigration and race, “sounding as if you give a damn about people’s concerns” is a very slippery slope indeed.

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Dec '13 - 9:22pm

    @ Eddie Sammon.
    Good evening Eddie.

    My concern is , where does this concern about immigration come from? Who has created it and why?

    There is no doubt that at the moment there is a deep anxiety about life in general. What is going to happen to us, how do we survive in a post– financial cash world etc? I would argue that this anxiety is being focussed on immigrants and immigration.

    I believe that the country needs a party that puts forward robust arguments that counter the current anti-immigrant, anti immigration narrative that is gaining ground. People shouldn’t be sold myths as though they are facts. Doing that or standing back whilst others do that, is the way that one really shows contempt for the electorate.

    Myths or misleading information needs to be countered in the most robust manner possible. We are a mature democracy, we can cope with strong political argument. I don’t believe the political Right have all the best songs, they have just been allowed to just sing their simple ditties louder.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Dec '13 - 9:50pm

    Hi Jayne,

    I think the views come from a combination of people’s experiences and the media. If the claims of the media and the political right had no resonance then they wouldn’t gain traction, so I think it is a bit of both.

    Why are these views put out there? I would say opportunism plus differences in ideologies.

    My view is basically that we should work towards a world of free trade and free migration, but we need to create this world slowly.


  • Vince did us proud today. I loved this quote:

    “There’s a bigger picture here. We periodically get these immigration panics in the UK. I remember going back to Enoch Powell and ‘Rivers of Blood’ and all that, and if you go back a century you get panics over Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe.

    The responsibility of politicians in this situation, when people are getting anxious, is to try and reassure them and give them facts, and not panic and resort to populist measures that do harm.”

  • Max Wilkinson 22nd Dec '13 - 11:01pm


    “I think the views come from a combination of people’s experiences and the media. ”

    In some places that is surely true, but in others it must just be purely the media. I live in a place with a tiny proportion of people from ethnic minorities, yet people (almost exclusively those who go on to tell me they are voting Tory, UKIP, or nobody) still tell me they are worried about immigration. Their fears can only be based on a diet of vitriol served by the press, or occasional visits to other cities.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Dec '13 - 11:15pm

    Cable’s Enoch Powell slur is on tomorrow’s front pages. I knew it was radioactive and it’s anathema to many swing voters. Good on Vince – this kind of stuff recruits people to the party.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Dec '13 - 11:21pm


    Yes, but there are people who have wanted immigration and welfare cut for years and who don’t read the right wing press. I find some on the left are surprised such people exist, but they do and the only explanation can be personal experiences.

    and please, no personal attacks against these people. Thanks.

  • Paul in Twickenham 23rd Dec '13 - 7:16am

    From today’s Daily Express (yes, I know…) A Downing Street source dismissed Mr Cable’s outburst yesterday, saying: “Vince is member of the ­Government and supports government policy. The words he chooses to do that are up to him.” Who needs Orwell when you’ve got Crosby?

    As his craven response to irrational fear and prejudice has once again confirmed, Mr. Cameron may be many things but he is not a leader.

  • RC and Eddie Sammon have an exchange at the beginning of this thread that had me hitting my head against the wall.
    So I was massively relieved to see Liberal Al 22nd Dec ’13 – 7:20pm and then others wading in with some sense.
    I particularly liked –
    Max Wilkinson 22nd Dec ’13 – 7:36pm
    Can somebody show me some polling that demonstrates people who rate immigration as among their top issues would ever be interested in voting for us?
    Liberal Al is right. This is a race we cannot win, and should not try to even take part in.

    My own view is that for any Liberal thinking for yourself is always better than running after the latest opinion poll.

    RC Who cares what comments on a BBC Forum say? What does that tell us about the price of beans?

  • Paul in Twickenham 23rd Dec '13 - 8:57am

    @John Tilley – “for any Liberal thinking for yourself is always better…”. Is that a reference to the excellent (and brief)1964 Liberal election manifesto which was called “Think for yourself”?

    The BBC Parliament channel showed the whole of the 1964 live election broadcast a few years ago: this was the election that featured the appalling Tory campaign in Birmingham Smethwick. Richard Dimbleby interviewed Jo Grimond about that campaign and Grimond’s response was unequivocal and inspiring. It is a great pleasure to see that Dr. Cable is prepared to step up and speak out now.

  • Dr Cable is right. No other comment is necessary – not even by the usual suspects (Mail, Express, Torygraph, etc).

  • So it’s all OK then to ignore any worries about the impact on the jobs market, wages and standards of living and just tell people they should like it or lump it?

    Well, go on adopting the ostrich position. See what good it does our party.

  • “Well, go on adopting the ostrich position. See what good it does our party.”

    How is it an ostrich position? Cable is putting forward a clear and principled view on immigration – exactly the right thing to do. Pandering to mistaken fears would, if anything, be more ostrichlike, not less.

  • The real issue is not about benefits or race, it is about mass immigration that has already changed the face of many towns in Britain. Our culture and heritage has already been damaged beyond repair in many areas. It is also about the infrastructure of this country, not the balance of taxes against benefits. Our health service, schools, roads and many other services which cost us a fortune are struggling to cope with the continuing mass immigration. Liberals talk about facts, but they never mention the cost of increasing the capacity of our infrastructure – they offer a very selective set of facts. The people of this country have had enough and are at long last sayings so and now have a party in UKIP that will do something about it. They will get my vote at the next election. As for Mr Cleggs comments about them all going home over night – what a ridiculous comment to make.

  • Jayne Mansfield 23rd Dec '13 - 2:54pm

    @ RC
    I don’t think that waiting until the Tories find they can’t implement their policies and then standing on the sideline jeering that they have betrayed their promises is the way to go for any Lib Dem. I really don’t.

  • Jayne Mansfield 23rd Dec '13 - 3:47pm

    @ Rob Pearce
    You have made quite a number of assertions. I look forward to the facts that underpin these assertions.

    As you say, it is not about benefits or race, so I would be interested to know in what way ‘ our culture and heritage have already been damaged beyond repair’.

    Are you saying that overall, immigrants are a drain on our economy? Roads, schools etc., do indeed cost a fortune. Are you saying that those immigrants who have arrived here are not making a contribution by working and paying taxes?

    As someone who lives in a town where the local health and care system is struggling to cope and where the only immigrants seem to be workers in the aforementioned health service and care services, plus a few ethnic restaurants and hotels , I would be interested to hear your selection of facts.

    I would also. like yourself, like to hear from Liberals about increasing the capacity of our infrastructure, increasing the number oft homes etc.

  • My point on the facts was that the Liberal leadership has only stated those related to benefits and taxes, and that when you increase the population of a country by the millions that we have in the last 10 – 15 years, it is obvious that the infrastructure must be upgraded to support that – for example schools where there are literally dozens of languages spoken – all cost money, that is never accounted for in the simple equation presented.

    So yes, my guess (I have seen no facts presented by any party) is that the mass immigration (including the large numbers of illegal immigrants) probably have been a net drain on our economy as a whole. Maybe people have forgotten the national debt that is around £1.4 Trillion, a staggering amount.

    We also have around 2.4 million unemployed people in our country, which would have been unthinkable only a few decades ago. We should have, and still should, focus on educating, training and providing jobs for British born people before bringing in millions of external workers. This was never an issue about allowing key workers into the UK as many other countries do, (few would argue with that) without having mass immigration.

    Our culture and heritage has clearly changed beyond recognition in many towns throughout Britain., where many, if not most, shops sell foreign food, where the clothes worn are of foreign origin, languages spoken are not English., and with over 1,500 mosques on our streets.

    This is not an issue about any individual or group of people, but it is an issue about mass immigration and the changing face of our towns. I found it quite ironic that a gentleman whose origins are from the sub-continent, was complaining on television news, that immigrants are coming into his area and taking over (not his exact words). He was against more immigration.

    Some immigrants have integrated into our society, but many, if not most, have not, but instead have created their own communities in our country. We do not have a multi-cutural society, even if that was a desired aim, we have multiple cultures in their own areas, whether they be Asian, African, Eastern European etc.

    It is not just a matter of cost, in increasing infrastructure capacity – the increased housing, roads, railways and other infrastructure requires more and more land, once again, changing the face of our beautiful country. Our population has increased from 51 million when I was born and is now 63.7 million, and it is still increasing. That is a massive increase in one lifetime – and I’m not dead yet!! The roads in many parts of the country are already clogged, and most trains during peak periods are jammed solid. Then there is the drain on our natural resources such as water, and the impact that water extraction is having on some rivers – this can only get worse. There is also a massive impact on our native wildlife with many species being at risk through loss of habitat.

    When will people stop and consider the impact and consequences of this mass immigration.

  • Jayne Mansfield 23rd Dec '13 - 5:51pm

    @ Rob Pearce.
    Your post deserves careful reading, but may I say that your point out that on the matter of unemployment, your memory lets you down.

    Unemployment in the 1980’s under the premiership of Margaret Thatcher reached 3.300.000 million.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Dec '13 - 6:20pm


    “RC and Eddie Sammon have an exchange at the beginning of this thread that had me hitting my head against the wall.”

    I am afraid we all can’t be radicals. 🙂

  • You are correct, however, I think those were very different times, in the sense of the massive changes to our country, and in any event, 2.4 million is still a large number of people, especially if you are one of them.

  • Jayne Mansfield 23rd Dec '13 - 7:05pm

    @ Rob Pearce.
    Your mention mosques. Could you just clarify. Are you opposing EU migration or migration that has taken place from outside the EU? I assumed , perhaps wrongly, that when you mentioned that Ukip would do something about mass immigration, you were concerned about the free movement of labour within the EU.

    I”m sorry, but I am dividing my attention between several tasks and I am interested in the Ukip argument.

  • I am against all mass immigration, wherever it comes from, but to stop mass immigration from Europe means leaving the EU – and UKIP are the only party that would take us out of Europe. I am not a UKIP member and my views are purely my own. I mentioned mosques as just one visible sign of the changes in Britain. I am not religious at all. In my view all religions are just superstition, but we do have a Christian heritage and wonderful architecture going back a 1,000 years. I would not wish to see the loss of our old churches and cathedrals. The issue at M&S that has been in the news this week is just another example of changes to our culture, along with the wearing of veils and the like. Both of these issues are causing division and real anger in our country. I really think the Lib Dems will suffer at the polls with their stance of open immigration, and the conservatives are simply tinkering at the edges of this real issue. People have had enough and this will be reflected in the ballot box and I see only one party benefitting from this. The Lib Dems should enjoy this period of power, albeit shared, because it will be their last (at least for a long time), in my opinion.

  • Jayne Mansfield 24th Dec '13 - 2:34am

    @ Rob Pearce.
    Were you once a Lib Dem voter?

  • Mass immigration was a policy intended to increase support for the Labour Party whose voting base was being eroded as more people of working class origin drifted away to other parties as they moved to a middle class lifestyle. Most immigrants tend to support the Labour Party.
    It was also a policy which suited business as it helped to keep wage costs down and profits up and those people who lived in nice areas unaffected by immigration who benefitted from employing cheap foreign domestic staff, nannies etc, and enjoyed going to restaurants staffed by immigrants. The social costs, in terms of unemployment benefits, extra schools, overcrowded public transport and health care costs etc are borne by the taxpayers or by borrowing more money and by those who cannot afford to work for the low wages which immigrants find acceptable, and have become dependent on tax payer funded state benefits. Of course business cannot find local people to work for the low wages they wish to pay but would those people work if wages were to rise to acceptable levels ? It would be hard for them to refuse work and claim benefits if that were the case.

    The absurdity of Mr Cable’s comments about it being perverse to oppose immigration if you enjoy foreign travel or want to live in another country because you cannot bear to see your homeland changed beyond recognition should enable us to see how ridiculous his attitude to this and many other matters is.

    Many people like to bring in foreign wives and boyfriends because they find them more submisssive than local people.

    It seems that people on the left have adopted ideas and attitudes which might have been valid when they were young but are no longer so now but they cannot seem to change their outlook inspite of changed circumstances or because of their own self interest, and they put forward increasingly shrill and absurd justifications for their beliefs.

    Until the second World War the Liberal Party’s raison d’etre was a belief in absolute Free Trade despite the fact that all other countries were adopting protectionism. Now Free Trade is a wonderful thing but you cannot have that as your only policy when no one else does. In the election of 1923 the Conservatives supported protectionism and emerged as the largest party. The Liberals who enthusiastically supported Free Trade were third with 159 seats out of 600. Most of these seats were in traditional Liberal supporting areas, largely rural, where the Labour Party were not yet fully organised.At the next election the Liberals largely disappeared as a credible force, returning only 40 MPs gradually falling to 6 in 1951. Most of their remaining seats depended on either Labour or the Conservatives not standing a candiddate.

    This is what happens to parties who advocate policies which are only supported by a small minority of the voters. The collapse of Liberal Democrat support in opinion polls is more likely being caused by the greater attention given to their policies and the poor judgement of the leadership in failing to get support from other parties for things like Lords reform before pushing them forward rather than the much publicised desertion of supposedly left wing supporters to the Labour or other parties.
    What is left wing about supporting out of date and irrelevant policies which are opposed by most voters ?

  • Hi Jayne – no I have never been a Lib Dem. Once I was a Conservative, but as the major parties policies became closer and closer, I stopped voting altogether, being totally disillusioned with all of the main parties. Given the total economic mess the last labour government got us into, I did vote Conservative again at the last election. Now, I feel the only voice of reason that I here is from UKIP – the only party that is listening to the people of this country. For too long the politicians have governed on a minority (and decreasing) of the total electorate and have ignored the wishes of the people they should be representing. I for one have had enough of political correctness, and the inability to say what we feel on immigration without being branded as racist. I agree with much of the previous comment.

  • Jayne Mansfield 26th Dec '13 - 10:23pm

    Isn’t the answer to complaint about employers driving down wages by paying migrants who will accept lower wages best approached by changing employment law and enforcing the minimum wage, which in my opinion is far too low.

    Also shouldn’t employers be given sentences for employing illegal immigrants that makes them thinkvery hard about that sort of behaviour?

    Could you please state which foreign wives are more submissive than local wives? My husband of 40 plus years would be interested to know.

  • Jayne, I have never mentioned wages of wives compared to husbands.

    I think the issues are massive commpared to this, but fully understand if the Lib Dems do not want to debate the real issues.

  • Jayne Mansfield 26th Dec '13 - 11:28pm

    @Rob Pearce

    I understand why a non- believer or so called ‘cultural or historic christian’ like yourself should be concerned at the thought of our historic churches and cathedrals crumbling. Me too.

    I assume that you know how the finance is raised to maintain them. What is Ukip’s policy for the maintenance of Christian churches and cathedrals?

  • Jayne Mansfield 26th Dec '13 - 11:32pm

    @ Rob Pearce
    Are you Rob Pearce or nvelope?

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