Welcome to my day: 13 March 2023 – a Byrd in the hand?

This year sees the 400th anniversary of the death of William Byrd, one of this country’s great composers. As a Catholic myself, I am reminded that he converted to Catholicism in his thirties at some personal risk given the culture of the day. It is a reminder that state-sponsored attacks on minorities and other vulnerable people is not a new concept, and that the conservative right have never been afraid to secure power through the demonisation of others.

My colleague, writing about the Lineker saga over the weekend, said:

And of course what is particularly ironic is that Tory MPs, who are usually championing the right of people to be as racist, sexist and transphobic as they like in the name of free speech, are now going after Gary Lineker.

There is a perfectly obvious reason for this, which is that not only are these people hypocrites, but they don’t care that they contradict themselves over and over again. It’s all about stirring up anger and distracting attention from their failure and incompetence. Find the smelliest, deadest cat they can find and hurl its foul carcass on the table so that we’ll talk about that rather than stick to the issues that matter.

So, for example, whilst net inward migration has rarely been higher, Conservatives distract attention from that by attacking asylum seekers. There’s never an answer to the question about how else asylum seekers might get to this country when virtually all other routes have been closed, or an admission that migration is necessary to fill vacancies that the British people won’t or can’t fill. After all, as Migration Watch, an organisation that I normally have precious little time for, point out:

  • According to the latest estimates by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), net migration from overseas to the UK in the year ending March 2020 totalled 313,000 – the highest in four years and approaching the all-time record of 331,000 in the year to March 2015.
  • Total long-term immigration by those of all citizenships (715,000), and total immigration by non-UK citizens (633,000) were both at the highest levels ever recorded.
  • Net migration to the UK from outside the EU nearly tripled since the year to March 2013 (when it was 106,000) to its highest level ever – 316,000.
  • Net migration to the UK from the EU has fallen, from 219,000 in the year to March 2015, to 58,000 in the most recent year.

You can’t imagine that the sort of people that Suella Braverman and Lee Anderson are appealing to would be impressed by their actual performance in government. And that’s because even this administration accept that, in reality, immigration is necessary across a swathe of business sectors. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they be making it harder, reducing net migration figures using the control they claim to have taken back?

When you’re failing to keep your promises, you have nothing to fall back upon but abuse, and that’s pretty much what we can expect for the next two years. Failure, followed by distraction, followed by hypocrisy. Our task is to keep pointing out their failures, their incompetence, their broken promises, offering voters an honest, liberal alternative, set in a world that people recognise.

It may feel a bit lonely, especially given that Labour’s primary response is to either dodge the question or berate the Government for not being effective enough in their persecution, but you have to be true to your values.

I hope that, in his speech to Conference, Ed Davey will offer a compassionate response to the issue of asylum seekers, based on due process and rooted in international law. Given that the sort of people who’d be angered by that are hardly likely to vote for us anyway, I suspect that we could take the hit.

* Mark Valladares is the Monday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and part of a family of migrants.

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5 Comments

  • > It is a reminder that state-sponsored attacks on minorities and other vulnerable people is not a new concept
    An odd take on the situation, given the state dominating role of the Roman Church in Europe at the time, wanting all to be supplicants to it, becoming a Catholic was understandably taken to mean you wished to overthrow the king, ie. You were a traitor. Even more so there were a range of non-church aligned religious groups, which were much closer to god than “the church”.

  • Mel Borthwaite 13th Mar '23 - 10:36am

    I do think we have to be clear in our messaging that we 100% support genuine asylum seekers but we do support open borders. That places a responsibility on us to articulate how we can speedily identify those who are not genuine asylum seekers and then speedily remove them from the country.

  • Peter Watson 13th Mar '23 - 3:31pm

    “Otherwise, why wouldn’t they be making it harder, reducing net migration figures using the control they claim to have taken back?”
    I’m a bit confused by this point: don’t the figures quoted show that they have reduced net migration for the bit they claim to have taken back control of, i.e. the EU?
    Though, politically, this has got to be a tricky thing for Lib Dems to attack the government on: complaining about high net immigration while at the same time wanting to give the impression they welcome it! It’s much easier for Labour who can use fear of immigration as ammunition in a pitch to win back “red wall” voters.

  • Mick Taylor 13th Mar '23 - 3:32pm

    I imagine Mel Borthwaite meant to write that we do NOT support open borders.
    Well, I for one, do support open borders, which is in effect what free movement within the EU meant for EU citizens.
    Open borders should surely be the preference of right wing Tories? It would allow people to move freely to where the work is. Before we had immigration control (circa 1962) there wasn’t a problem as the UK allowed first colony and then commonwealth citizens to come and go as they pleased to the benefit of the textile industry and the health service. It was the Tories in 1962 and Labour in 1968 who introduced blatantly racist immigration acts to stop black people coming to the UK, moves rightly opposed by Liberal MPs and Peers at the time.
    In this respect Ed Davey and the LibDem MPs and Peers are following our honourable predecessors when they attack the so called Illegal Migration Bill. I despair when I see the formerly compassionate and caring UK that welcomed refugees and asylum seekers from political oppression and persecution for hundreds of years, being trashed by this bunch of racist and mysogenistic Tories. It is far worse because those leading this dismantling of our proud heritage are people whose families benefited from this compassion in the past and who now want to deny it to others.
    I hope Ed Davey and his colleagues will keep up the attack.

  • Jenny Barnes 13th Mar '23 - 4:42pm

    It seems odd that on the one hand the Tories are complaining that there aren’t enough workers, and trying to encourage people who have left the workforce because childcare/ early retirement/illness/pension contributions to return to the workplace, while on the other hand demonising people who want to come to this country and work, whether or not they are refugees. Most people would prefer to stay where they live, but if they are persecuted or starving, it’s quite understandable that they would want to go somewhere else.

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