Wow, Labour really are pandering to UKIP, aren’t they?

Didn’t they once used to be the party that talked about international solidarity amongst workers? Didn’t they once used to at least say they stood for decent, liberal, progressive values?

Those days are gone. Look what you can buy in their shop for £5. 

Labour immigration mug

It’s one of their key pledges in this election. The way to deal with UKIP’s rise is to challenge them with evidence, not pander to them.

You can also, by the way, buy 1000 Nick Clegg Wanted posters for £35. Their arguments are pretty weak and not what you would call entirely accurate.



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  • Alisdair McGregor 28th Mar '15 - 8:36pm

    It’s already been photoshopped – see

  • Philip Thomas 28th Mar '15 - 8:44pm

    “Controls on immigration” is meaningless. Even the Green party don’t want to completely abolish immigration controls…

    However, the message sent out by making “immigration control” one of the top 5 things Labour care about is indeed sinister.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 28th Mar '15 - 8:46pm

    And still some rose-tinted-bespectacled Lib Dems yearn for a “progressive coalition”. After the AV referendum, the consistent Labour outflanking of the coalition on the authoritarian right on civil liberties and yet another display of their deep illiberalism on immigration, it is astonishing to me that anyone thinks that an LD-Labour coalition would be some kind of utopia, or indeed necessarily an easier / more liberal proposition than the current coalition.

  • Philip Thomas 28th Mar '15 - 8:58pm

    @Nick. Please see the latest Tory proposals on immigration
    Also their pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act.
    Labour may be bad, but the Tories are worse (on immigration, anyway).

  • Alex Sabine 28th Mar '15 - 9:19pm

    Absolutely, Nick.

    Philip: Indeed, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it is a blatant ‘dog whistle’ of the kind the Tories were (justifiably) accused of in the 2005 election. The implication is clearly that there are no controls on immigration currently and that a Labour government is required to restore order.

    It is also misleading and tendentious insofar as ‘controls on immigration’ is intended to give an impression of reducing numbers, since a Labour government committed to the UK remaining in the EU would no more be able to control overall numbers than the Tories in government have been able to do. In some ways, therefore, it is actually worse than UKIP’s messaging since they would at least in principle be able to fulfil their stated objective, even if doing so would not (in my view) be desirable or economically sensible.

  • Tony Dawson 28th Mar '15 - 9:21pm

    Before anyone goes too wild about this ‘pandering;, has anyone here seen the Lib Dem national first Freepost template?

  • George Orwell in his various writings in the 1940s pointed out that left wing intelligentsia had various views:-
    1. Despised physical courage.
    2. Despised patriotism.
    3. Despised the armed forces.
    4. Despised British culture but venerated foreign culture , especially the Soviet Union.
    5. Orwell stated that for him patriotism was the preference for British culture over others , without the need to impose it on others. Nationalism was the belief in the superiority of one’s culture and the desire to impose it on others.
    5. Hatred was like a plumber’s blow torch, once lit it could be directed anywhere.
    6. The intelligentsia have a totalitarian outlook.
    7. Left wing intelligentsia are only concerned with the views of their group.

    Keir Hardy was concerned that the import of Chinese workers would undermine the wages of British workers. Keir Hardy said that S Smiles book “Self Help ” was a manual for socialism

    A Labour Party of E Bevin, C Attlee , J Callaghan, D Healey, P Shore, Roy Mason and D Concannon respected physical courage, patriotism, practical common sense and Methodism and would have maintained the respect of the average white person. In fact the traditional values of most average white Britons are also those of most immigrants. When someone said to E Bevin there were too many public schoolboys were in the FO, his reply was “They did alright in the Battle of Britain”. E Bevin did not believe in class struggle , he was free from class rancour and judged people on their character. The white British people have built this country and fought for it and endured the bombing of WW2.

    The left wing middle intelligentsia which now dominates the Labour Party and progressive opinion despise the core beliefs of most average white people. The left wing liberal intelligentsia have a totalitarian outlook, invariably with a very narrow range of experiences, a self congratulatory conceited narcisstic view of their superior intellectual and moral outlook; often lacking any sense of humour and are often rather priggish.

    When the left wing liberal middle class progressive opinion respects the views of the average people who have built this country and defended it, then perhaps UKIP will disappear. UKIP are a symptom , not a cause.

  • Philip Thomas 28th Mar '15 - 10:04pm

    @Charlie: are you saying this mug was the product of the “left-wing middle intelligentsia which now dominates the Labour Party”?
    If we’re going to talk WWII and race, then it is worth remembering who we were fighting and what their views on race were.

  • Stephen Hesketh 28th Mar '15 - 10:39pm

    Nick Thornsby 28th Mar ’15 – 8:46pm
    “And still some rose-tinted-bespectacled Lib Dems yearn for a “progressive coalition”. ”

    Nick, in that case would you agree that we shouldn’t have either a rose or lavender-tinted bespectacled coalition?

  • stuart moran 28th Mar '15 - 10:44pm

    Can I just ask that if those who wrote the article believe in ‘no controls on immigration’?

    I am sensitive to the fact that we need to maintain sensible language on immigration but, apart from a few voices – yes Danczuck I an looking at you here, Labour have been far more temperate than your Coalition buddies on this subject – a fact that seems not to have prevented you going along with quite a few of their wheezes over the last few years

    I would also ask how many Lib Dem MPs are there in the poor inner-city areas where a lot of Labour voters live? I come from one and I know the views of many who live there. Unfortunately, immigration is a major issue for them and it would be irresponsible if Labour ignored the concerns of their voters surely? It may be the Lib Dems were happy to ignore their voters post 2010 but perhaps other parties think otherwise!

    Labour has to address immigration, ignoring it will not wash, and I hope that they address it in their manifesto in a sensitive and responsible way.

    A mug saying that there will be ‘Controls on Immigration’ is not one I would necessarily want to see (it isn’t) but then I am not one of those who feels threatened by immigration and under-cutting of wages – often by unscrupulous employers. The comment itself is anodyne – we will see what the actual proposals are in the upcoming manifesto and then we can actually have a proper debate.

    I would hope to see balanced proposals on immigration coming from Labour and Lib Dems – with the Tories being the ones most beholden to UKIP

  • Which is worse, the coalition hiring vans to drive around London telling immigrants to go home – which even UKIP found offensive or the Labour party selling mugs asking for immigration controls?

  • Charlie:  I share your admiration for Orwell, and indeed Ernest Bevin who was a first-rate Foreign Secretary. I am less enamoured of some of the other Labour figures you mention, although most of them had redeeming features.

    I think Callaghan gets a worse press than he deserves for his performance as prime minister: he did at least pull Britain back from the precipice that the Wilson government and the preceding Heath administration had taken the country to. But he was an abject Chancellor in 1964-67 and pretty hopeless in his other ministerial roles. A particular blot was his decision as Home Secretary to introduce emergency legislation to strip the Kenyan Asians of their British passports in the 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Bill.

    I agree with you that today’s Labour Party has a tin ear for the concerns of its traditional voters. With its current positioning on immigration it is doing the opposite of Teddy Roosevelt’s foreign policy dictum ‘speak softly, and carry a big stick’.

    In other words it implies that it wants a lower level of immigration, and agrees with UKIP (and some eminent economists) that large-scale immigration is causing wage compression, but it doesn’t know whether it should, or how it can, do anything much about it. Therefore it resorts to anti-immigration mood music as a substitute for policy action to bring the supply and demand for low-skilled labour into greater equilibrium (which is precluded by its support for EU membership on the current terms).

    This is the worst of all worlds, because it risks demonising immigrants or haranguing those who employ them while doing nothing meaningful to address the thing that it wants its traditional supporters to believe that it regards as a problem. It genuflects in the direction of the anti-immigration argument – and concedes too much ground to it – while the ineffectual policy response will inevitably disappoint its core voters and play further into UKIP’s hands.

    It seems to me that a braver, and better, approach would be to challenge the whole anti-immigration narrative, debunk the various myths about it that have gained common currency, and project a more optimistic vision of the kind of country and economy that Britain can be. Alongside this it could develop practical policies to address the challenges that high levels of immigration do bring in terms of physical infrastructure, housing and the responsiveness of public services.

    But an enlightened and liberal approach to immigration is evidently beyond the current generation of Labour politicians. Instead, like the Tories, their subliminal message appears to be ‘UKIP are right, but whatever you do, don’t vote for them’…

  • “I would also ask how many Lib Dem MPs are there in the poor inner-city areas where a lot of Labour voters live? I come from one and I know the views of many who live there. Unfortunately, immigration is a major issue for them and it would be irresponsible if Labour ignored the concerns of their voters surely?”

    I was the agent for Burnley in 2010 (where the BNP once outpolled all the parties in one local election). On polling day Labour were delivering a leaflet around the estates which voted heavily for the BNP and which said in large red letters, “Only a vote for Labour can stop the Lib Dems from making it legal for illegal immigrants to settle and work in Burnley and Padiham”

  • I posted a link to this item of merchanside on Josh Fenton-Glynn’s Facebook page thinking some of his supporters might want to help raise funds by purchasing it. He’s deleted it within a few hours!

  • Callaghan was a Sunday School teacher who served in WW2 as a Petty Officer in the RN: this type of patriotic, physically tough man, endowed with practical common sense is largely absent in the Labour Party. Callaghan’s character earned respect across the social spectrum . Healey was a beachmaster( Anzio?) and he said his wartime experience taught him more than anything else. Healey was considered the best Sec of Defence post WW2 and E Bevin was considered the best Sec of State for Foreign Affairs.

    The labour Party now comprises MPs who are largely bereft of any experience of hard manual labour or craft skills and the Armed Forces. J Beharry VC has on many occasions described his absolute contempt for G Brown for the way he has treated the armed forces and conducted himself at a service in Westminster . When a Labour PM earns the contempt of a VC holder and has the ignorance to avoid the 100th anniversary of the Scottish TAVR, then it shows how out of touch is the Labour Party with the people who are willing to die for it.. The rise of the EDL occurred because the Anglian Regiment was treated with contempt by some muslims in Luton. Th evast majority of the combat service personnel in the Armed Forces come from the white working class. When Labour supporting solicitors are dragging British soldiers through courts and appear to be lying, without any criticism from the Labour , is there any wonder why so many white working class do not support Labour? When injured British personnel are insulted by muslims in Selley Oak hospital and the senior RSM of the Armed Forces( ex Paras and SAS i believe ) has to make a complaint to the MoD , this just separates Labour from many of it’s traditional voters.

    When it comes to wages , if one is on 10x average salary ; a 33% decrease does not significantly reduce the quality of life. If one is on average salary, a 33% decrease has massive impact. Immigration has prevented wages rises during the boon years for many unskilled and semiskilled jobs in construction, agriculture and catering.

    Much of politics is about emotional connection. Part of the problem is that most Labour MPs appear to denigrate British culture and in particular respect for physical courage, patriotism, and practical common sense and veneration for all things foreign. I cannot imagine H Harman enjoying herself in a working man’s club. Kinnock recent outburst was in a Peckham wine bar, not a pub.

    If one says one views are enlightened and progressive, one is saying one is morally and intellectually superior to those one disagrees with: this is hubris which is followed by nemesis. The first loyalty of an MP should be to British people: it is the British people who have built this country, paid the taxes and defended it in time of war and shed their blood. If those in politics cannot accept this , then large numbers of British people are being treated with contempt.

  • Steve Comer 29th Mar '15 - 3:13am

    Nick. I don’t think any of us Social Liberals are as surprised as you appear to be that Labour is authoritarian on civil lliberties. We all remember the attempts to bring in ID cards, 90 day detention, finger printing of school children etc. However, the Tories would make huge cuts in welfare, including to those with disabilities, which would set us back 100 years. I’m not going to get into speculation about coalitions when we’ve no clear idea what the outcome of the General Election will be. As an activist and Agent I’m busy doing all I can to re-build our vote. But don’t dismiss Liberals on the progressive side as politics as closet Labourites – we’re anything but.

  • Charlie might have been happy in the Labour Party of the 1940s. Judging from his repeated references to “white people,” however, I think he’d have been even happier in the 1920s Labour Party of O Mosley.

  • Labour’s position on immigration, reprehensible though it is, is still more liberal than the current policy, which the Lib Dems votes for and enacted while part of the coalition.

  • From reading some of the comments am I to understand that we’ll be pushing the story that Labour are planning to be not just more extreme on immigration and human rights than the Tories but even worse than UKIP? All this from a red coffee cup……

  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 7:55am

    @Stuart Moran- of course they don’t. The Liberal Democrats were in government last year when the Immigration Act 2014 was passed, arguably (especially when taking the accompanying secondary legislation into account) the most repressive and illiberal piece of legislation on immigration ever (in the UK), although to be fair little of it had to do with “immigration control” and most of it with making life more unpleasant for everyone but especially people who can’t prove their immigration status. I think we even voted for it.

    Even I, for whom “no immigration controls” is a utopian dream, would not want to see immigration controls removed unilaterally- there has to be multilateral immigration control disarmament, and that is many decades away.

  • Stephen Hesketh 29th Mar '15 - 8:04am

    Stephen Hesketh 28th Mar ’15 – 10:39pm
    Nick Thornsby 28th Mar ’15 – 8:46pm
    “And still some rose-tinted-bespectacled Lib Dems yearn for a “progressive coalition”. ”

    Nick, in that case would you agree that we shouldn’t have either a rose or lavender-tinted bespectacled coalition?

    Nick – I do hope you are able to reply to my question as above.

    Steve Comer 29th Mar ’15 – 3:13am is right in what he states.

  • Stephen Hesketh 29th Mar '15 - 8:10am

    stuart moran 28th Mar ’15 – 10:44pm
    Can I just ask that if those who wrote the article believe in ‘no controls on immigration’?

    Stuart, I’d just like article authors to “be who you say you are.”

  • Nick Thornsby 28th Mar ’15 – 8:46pm
    “…… it is astonishing to me that anyone thinks that an LD-Labour coalition would be …   ….an easier / more liberal proposition than the current coalition.”

    To provide some context to Nick Thornsby’s statement –
    1… The Home Secretary in the current coalition has for the last 5 years been Theresa May whose public views on such matters as Nick highlights have not been out-flanked by anyone except perhaps the EDL.
    2…The only two  people elected as MPs for UKIP were two Conservative Coalition MPs for 4 of the 5 Coalition years.
    3…The people that Cameron has appointed during the Coalition years have included one Murdoch man  who was sent to prison and the Tobacco lobbyist Mr Lynton Crosby whose record in Australian politics.   This tells you more about the dominant  partner in this Coalition than I ever could.

    I agree with criticism of right-wing people in the Labour Party.    I just seek to put it into context.

  • Alex Sabine 29th Mar '15 - 9:45am

    @ expats
    Not more extreme than UKIP on numbers, obviously, since patently Labour (like the Tories) would be unable to deliver that. But there is a glaring disconnect between their diagnosis – which appears to be that unskilled/semi-skilled immigration is unfairly competing with domestic workers, undercutting wages and putting an intolerable burden on public services – and their proposed solution, which seems to be huffing and puffing about rogue employers, enforcing the minimum wage and being more bossy to immigrants.

    It is just displacement activity designed to gloss over the fact that they can’t control the supply of unskilled labour or introduce a points system for EU migrants, and that the UK is likely to continue to attract immigrants – skilled and unskilled – for as long as the economy continues to perform well. As usual they think market forces and underlying economic trends (the greater mobility of labour in a globalising economy) can be bucked by legislative activism and fulminating against employers. It is like the (possibly apocryphal) story of King Canute holding back the tide.

    Promising things they can’t deliver in order to appear to be doing something about a situation which they don’t necessarily regard as a problem but which they know concerns their (and other) voters is a feeble strategy which is only likely to fuel further cynicism about politicians and antipathy to immigration. UKIP’s approach is bone-headed and reactionary but has the virtue of honesty and there being a conncection between the perceived problem (immigration is too high) and the proposed solution (reduce numbers by issuing work permits for EU as well as non-EU migrants). Labour’s is simply futile.

    And David Cameron seems to have learned nothing from his abject failure to reduce net immigration to below 100,000 per year in this parliament. I read in the papers that he plans to renew that objective (“I hear you, I hear your concern, I get your message”). Asked whether the target has been downgraded to an ‘ambition’, he replies: “No, you can call it an ambition, you can call it a target. That is what I want to achieve.” Yet even if he gets EU agreement to further welfare-related conditionality on free movement, this is unlikely to make a big dent in the numbers. And on the latest figures, even if there was zero immigration from the EU (a ludicrous proposition) he would still be missing his target, since immigration from outside the EU – over which the British government does have control – is running above 100,000. Moreover, as Vince Cable (who is on the side of the angels on this issue) and others have often pointed out, the whole concept of a net migration target has the rather fundamental flaw that the government does not control most of the key variables.

    So both Labour and the Tories are cultivating the impression that they will be able to do something radical about immigration but based on the tools they plan to use their rhetoric is either delusional or downright cynical. The subtle-as-a-sledgehammer Labour mug (which I understand has now been withdrawn from sale?) is a rather apt symbol of that, though a red dog whistle would have been even more so…

  • Nick Thornsby thank you for the reprimand. I am sure the rose-tinted lenses have now fallen from Lib-Lab eyes like mine. I now see that it has been joy itself to be part of a government that abolished the Education Maintenance Allowance, abolished the Health in Pregnancy Grant, trebled tuition fees, brought in the bedroom tax, cut legal aid and promoted draconian tests for disabled people. Why not sign up for continued cosy cuddles with a party that favours 12 billion more welfare cuts?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Mar '15 - 10:52am

    @alex sabine – No, it’s still for sale. There are 343 left. I do hope that Lib Dems aren’t buying them up to taunt Labour candidates with at hustings:-).

  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 11:03am

    @jedibeeftrix: It is sinister because it feeds the fears of that core demographic rather than soothing them.

  • Simon McGrath 29th Mar '15 - 11:15am

    @ruth – you are correct we did support abolishing the EMA – aka pocket money bribes for potential Labour voters. happy to say that we spend far more than than on the pupil premium which might actually help poor children.

  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 11:17am

    @Simon did we support the other things Ruth mentions? Or were some of them only agreed to grudgingly?

  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 11:18am

    (Also known as, which of them would we reverse if we had the chance?)

  • What is wrong with saying that there should be controls on immigration? Even immigrants support that.

  • Will Lib Dems bring out a mug saying ‘No Immigration Controls’?

  • Caron: I stand corrected… though I gather from various people on twitter that they were briefly unavailable. According to Martin Shapland: “Labour mugs were on sale, then withdrawn, now back on sale. The firm decisive leadership Britain needs.” Perhaps they sold out and have had to restock. It doesn’t look like the Pledge 1 Mug – A Strong Economic Foundation – has had many takers.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 29th Mar '15 - 11:40am

    John, if you don’t think Yvette Cooper has been outflanking May on the authoritarian right, I suggest you have not been paying as close attention as you might to her public statements.

    Stephen, I think we might be stretching the metaphor! I don’t oppose us being in government, and I think we will ultimately have little choice about the context in which that happens. I just think that those who hold the view that a Labour-LD (“progressive” – sic) coalition would not be equally as if not more challenging when it comes to implementing liberal policies are not members of the reality-based community.

  • I’m deeply disappointed by Labour’s approach on immigration. Not only is a pretty disgusting, I believe it’s ultimately foolish to slump into this kind of race to the bottom.

    None-the-less, it’s difficult for the Lib Dems to credible speak on this kind of thing after the policies that they’ve backed in government: with ensuring British subjects have less right to bring their spouses to this country than people from France and Italy being the absolute low point.

  • It will be interesting to see what line the Lib Dems take on immigration in the election.

    Will they – as the author of this piece seems to want – promise an end to immigration controls?

    Or will they, as in 2010, be prepared to deploy the kind of UKIP-style anti-immigrant rhetoric that is despicable when said by others but apparently fair enough when said by Lib Dems? This is the kind of thing I mean :-

  • Ruth Bright 29th Mar ’15 – 10:49am . Why not sign up for continued cosy cuddles with a party that favours 12 billion more welfare cuts?
    In the interview with Iain Duncan Smith this morning, he seemed to confirm that the Conservative will only say where/who the 12 billion cuts will effect after the General Election. Fair enough, I’m waiting for Nick to put a positive spin on this……After all, dealing with Labour will be “more challenging”

  • Using words and phrases like *dog whistle*, and *pandering*, might add colour to your comments, but they add zero facts, about Ukip and the immigration debate.
    Ukip want an Australian style immigration policy. I don’t think even the most shrieking hysterical LibDem could call that a *raise the drawbridge* policy?
    It’s NOT pandering,… it’s what *voters* want. If LibDems have forgotten what a *voter* is,( and all evidence suggests you have! ), please do some research and Google [voter], to remind yourself.
    EU membership and UK immigration control, are inextricably linked. An Australian style immigration policy, and EU membership *cannot* co-exist. That is one of the (myriad of) reasons why, for UKIP, an EU referendum is not just a red line, it is a *DEEP RED* line.

  • Tony Dawson 29th Mar '15 - 1:14pm

    @Nick Thornsby:

    “And still some rose-tinted-bespectacled Lib Dems yearn for a “progressive coalition”.

    I am not massively in favour of the Lib Dems trying to be included in ANY coalition after May 7th. I would, however, prefer a ‘progressive’ coalition to the ‘regressive’ one which some appear to advocate.

  • Simon Shaw

    Do you really not understand that it is the fact that Labour want to put it as an over-simplistic message on a Labour Party mug that is the issue.

    In the grand scheme of things that’s really not much of an issue to get het up about Selling a few hundred mugs with a simplistic slogan is not even in the top 100 issues that people care about.. Besides, there’s not much room on mugs to print detailed arguments for the control of immigration without making the font so small they can’t be read.

  • @Simon Shaw
    “All parties have a policy on controlling immigration (so far as I know).”

    So what’s sinister about saying so on a mug? I wasn’t aware that mugs had such dark special powers.

  • @Simon
    I note you haven’t answered my question.

    But in answer to yours – I understand that the mug in question is one of a set of five, reflecting the five priorities on Labour’s pledge card. Since immigration regularly features as one of the top five priorities for voters (and Nick Clegg keeps telling us that we shouldn’t ignore or denigrate the voters for thinking that), why shouldn’t it feature?

  • Maybe some here would be agreeing with it if Labour had added ‘from new EU states’ to ‘Control Immigration ?

    Clegg’s speech on immigration in 2013 ” So, yes we are bringing immigration under control”

    ”Nick Clegg to call for tighter controls on immigration from new EU states”

    There’ve been a lot of things to be outraged about in the political world this week, a mug is not one of those things.
    It does seems a bit ‘ooh look a squirrel’ when the party faces possibility of police investigation over alleged donations sting & a candidate in a marginal seat has been charged with allegations of a heinous crime.

  • Simon Shaw@

    ‘Strikingly dishonest’ ?
    Have Labour put one of those infamous Lib Dem bar charts on the mug 🙂

  • If I’m not mistaken Labour have produced mugs with slogans for their 5 main policies. In doing that it would have looked silly and over defensive to miss out on the immigration control. That said as an ex LibDem who will vote Labour at the GE I do agree with Simon Shaw when he says “Can you tell me what sort of person it is that you think would buy that mug, and want to be seen drinking from it?”, Although it may help them in places like Grimsby, Rotherham, Mansfield etc where UK have massively increased their support.

  • Lighten up, Simon Shaw.

    It’s one of their pledges. It’s a mug, one of five and one of a number of things they are selling this weekend.
    Tshirts as well apparently, and in the past they had a very good Grayson Perry vote Labour designed bag.

    Most people, not just out and out racists would suggest there is a need for some form of immigration control. Clegg himself wanted to tighten up new EU state citizen immigration – isn’t that controlling immigration ?

    What do you think should be on the mug ? Scrap all immigration controls ?

    I noticed a rather nasty Lib Dem ad, deliberately picking bad photos of Ed Balls & George Osborne, do you support that sort of negative campaigning ? Or is whatever the party does ok by you ?

  • Simon Shaw@

    Calm down dear. Concentrate on the motes in the Lib Dem eye. There are many, and the voters see them.

  • It’s an absurd item, but not because it is racist (or, at least, in the current political climate, not exceptionally racist) but because it falsely implies that Labour’s policies are any different from those of other parties — including, unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats.

    I think it would be far more popular to have a mug made promoting free oxygen. Perhaps the Lib Dems could do that?

  • @Simon Shaw
    “Well I did answer your question, actually.”

    Sorry Simon, but you have not given answers to either of the two questions I’ve asked you. Do you have a post stuck in the auto-censor queue?

  • @Simon Shaw
    “Perhaps you would care to explain how a party (such as Labour) which supports remaining in the EU can be anything other than “strikingly dishonest” in putting such a simplistic three word slogan on a mug.”

    So what are we to make of Nick Clegg’s endless speeches about controlling EU immigration, such as this one from last year :-

    Is Clegg being “strikingly dishonest” in pretending that he can do things to manage EU migration?

  • Alex Sabine 29th Mar '15 - 3:20pm

    John Dunn: I explained why I saw Labour’s campaign pledge of ‘controls on immigration’ as a dog whistle. On one interpretation it is no more than an endorsement of the status quo, since the UK government does in fact operate immigration and border controls. But parties do not normally make endorsement of the status quo a campaign pledge. (Can we expect to see a mug bearing the message ‘Controls on automatic firearms’ for example?).

    Alternatively, it is intended to convey the message that immigration is not currently controlled (or inadequately controlled) and that a Labour government is required to control it. It implies that immigration is a problem and that Labour has the solution. But Labour speak with forked tongue on this subject and, when challenged on how or indeed whether they would seek to reduce the level of immigration – the numbers – they always dodge the question and start blathering on about cracking down on exploitative employers.

    The Tories have a similar problem in explaining how they would give effect to their goal of controlling immigration more strictly, and in their case they have unwisely given a hostage to fortune in the form of a numerical cap (the net migration target). As you say, John, achieving this is incompatible with EU membership.

    I think I was more than fair to UKIP. I acknowledged that they have a more intellectually coherent position on immigration than either the Tories or Labour, in that outside the EU they would be able to exert across-the-board downward pressure on numbers and implement a points-based work permit system for skilled migrants. I have no doubt that this chimes with public opinion and I suspect it has a particular resonance with the type of voters Labour used to take for granted.

    That said, I note that UKIP’s actual policy has been rather fluid, and they now seem to reject “arbitrary numerical” caps while also “aspiring” to see net immigration reduced to just 20,000 to 50,000 per year. But certainly they would be able to reduce gross immigration sharply from current levels, so to that extent they are offering a genuine choice even if it is not one I would like a British government to take up. Their position is internally consistent if open to plenty of objections on other grounds. (The rhetoric of some of their members and candidates, on the other hand, is indefensible, and does little to quell the suspicion that the “People’s Army” has some pretty dodgy militias, that there is a more sinister side to this avowedly “commonsense” agenda for immigration reform.)

  • TechnicalEphemera 29th Mar '15 - 3:24pm

    The Labour Party has a commitment to control immigration and to address the mechanisms by which low paid EU migrants are brought to this country and used to undercut local employees pay.

    They have this commitment because they represent a large constituency of people who are negatively impacted by low paid migrant workers.

    Therefore it is perfectly reasonable to have a mug with the immigration control pledge on it. In fact any Labour strategist will be delighted this has got picked up because it gets the message Labour wants immigration control out there.

  • Alex Sabine 29th Mar '15 - 3:32pm

    So there is no shortage of parties talking about immigration. Indeed they often seem to talk of nothing else. But clearly the public has noticed the gulf between the rhetoric and the reality, the emptiness of the promises. The worst response to this public disillusion is to fuel more of it with the same old recipe of fake solutions and implausible pledges. Parties should face up honestly to the implications of what they are saying.

    One option is the UKIP approach: say you want to reduce the future level of immigration, mean it, and ensure that you have the legal authority and policy instruments to do so.

    An alternative approach would be to admit to the public that overall numbers cannot be controlled, but devise policies that would enable large inflows to be better managed: this would require much more responsive public services, a higher rate of housebuilding, more effective integration etc. It could involve more contributory welfare rules but there is a wider debate to be had about means-tested versus contributory benefits; the political rhetoric on welfare can wrongly suggest that immigrants ‘come here to claim’ when all the evidence is that overwhelmingly they come here to work.

    A third approach, which I favour, would be to combine some of these technocratic reforms with a bolder positive account of the contribution immigration makes to a dynamic modern economy and an open society. This would challenge the premise that immigration is a problem by showing that many (though not all) of the claims about its negative effects are unfounded, that like other features of globalisation it has its drawbacks but overall it adds to our prosperity and the richness of our cultural life. I’m not sure how much of a market there is for this approach but it is the responsibility of a liberal party to make the case. The ‘anti’ argument should not be allowed to frame the whole debate by default. So yes I think Tony Blair is right to criticise the current Labour leadership’s weak, reactive and ineffectual stance (and not just on this issue).

  • David-1
    My experience of working on construction sites and listening to foremen and other men who would have normally voted Labour in the 1980s made me realise how things had changed. I was shocked how many foremen had contempt for Labour politicians and immigration was one of the issues. Foremen are the backbone of the country, without their expertise nothing can be built or maintained. The vast majority of Labour Party treats at best with indifference , if not contempt, the people who build, maintain and defend this country.

    The reality is that the vast majority of the combat arms of the Armed Forces come from the white working and lower middle classes. When lift wing lawyers are enabled to drag combat veterans through the courts and appear to be be able to get away with shoddy practices , then the Labour Party is disowning many Britons. Labour MPs such as Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Anne Cryer, Gisela Stuart and John Hutton have the ability to earn respect fro across the social spectrum but these are a minority. John Hutton is military historian.

  • Alex Sabine 29th Mar '15 - 4:03pm

    @ TechnicalEphemera (like the handle btw)
    I agree that employers who do not pay the minimum wage should be prosecuted. But in terms of the big picture this is a convenient distraction for Labour.

    You talk in oblique terms about “the mechanisms by which low paid EU workers are brought to this country”. The reality is that most migrant workers come here to seek a better life, and those from relatively poor eastern European countries or ailing southern eurozone economies grasp the opportunity to improve their financial circumstances by doing so.

    You can argue that the increased potential or actual labour supply relative to demand puts downward pressure on average wage rates, although the actual evidence of this is quite limited as far as I am aware. But, provided that employers are paying at least the minimum wage, it is wrong to scapegoat them for a policy decision of the British government or the European Union.

    It is also economically illiterate, since the cause of the downward pressure in that case would be the increased labour supply, yet rather than do something about that (by reducing immigration) Labour focus on the symptom (wage compression) which they imagine can be remedied by a mixture of legislative tinkering and exhortation. This failure to understand how market forces work seems to be typical of their wider approach to economic policy nowadays (cf energy price freezes, rent control etc). It would be a simple world indeed if the way to increase wages or reduce prices across the board was simply to pass laws ordaining that it should be so.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Mar '15 - 4:05pm

    Labour bash the rich, bash immigrants and bash benefit claimants, it’s not a progressive party, but one run by Ed Miliband who as nice as he is, arguably braver than Cameron, has an obsession with regulating business and seems to prioritise it above everything else.

  • Stephen Hesketh 29th Mar '15 - 4:10pm

    David-1 29th Mar ’15 – 2:47pm
    “I think it would be far more popular to have a mug made promoting free oxygen. Perhaps the Lib Dems could do that?”

    I think we should get on and do that very quickly if we are thinking about it. It’s only a matter of time before negotiations now on going in Brussels enable some global corporation to patent photosynthesis and claim the ‘IP’ on it. If companies can claim the human genome, a waste product of plant biology should present no issue at all 🙁

  • @Alex Sabine
    ” I explained why I saw Labour’s campaign pledge of ‘controls on immigration’ as a dog whistle. On one interpretation it is no more than an endorsement of the status quo, since the UK government does in fact operate immigration and border controls. But parties do not normally make endorsement of the status quo a campaign pledge. (Can we expect to see a mug bearing the message ‘Controls on automatic firearms’ for example?).”

    There is no need for you to come up with your own “interpretation” of what Labour’s pledge means, because Labour have been very explicit about what it actually does mean :-

    If you read the above page, you’ll see that “Controls on Immigration” is simply a heading for two specific proposals.

    “A third approach, which I favour, would be to combine some of these technocratic reforms with a bolder positive account of the contribution immigration makes to a dynamic modern economy and an open society… I’m not sure how much of a market there is for this approach but it is the responsibility of a liberal party to make the case.”

    I agree with a lot of what you say there, but the problem is that your suggestion should have been put in to practise several decades ago. For far too long, liberals (small l) have been far too content to lazily stifle debate by dismissing anybody who expresses concerns about immigration as “racist”. This is one of two reasons (the existence of genuine racism being the other) why the whole debate is so hopelessly poisonous and polarised now that any sort of calm, rational and unemotive discussion is all but impossible.

  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 4:30pm

    Free trade is hampered by national governments subsidising their own products. When national governments provide work-related benefits (such as JSA) to their own nationals and not to others in the national labour market, that is a subsidy, and as such a restriction on free trade. That is why equal access to work-related benefits is and remains a key party of free movement.

  • My son in law found it easier to apply for and eventually obtain Australian citizenship than British when he and my daughter were living together here. They decided to emigrate to Australia because Britain is is so unwelcoming. He comes from Zimbabwe and has a PHD in something complicated to do with telecommunications and computers. We are living in a global era but our policies do not reflect this.

  • I’m not sure it’s sinister or worrying, rather a tad pathetic. If immigration controls were my key issues I would probably vote UKIP or Tory…… It’s not so I won’t…

    What I would say is that as an employer I would probably consider it inappropriate in the workplace as it could lead to offence…..

  • @ Alex Sabine
    Thanks for the reply, and a refreshing and reasonable counter argument.
    In all honesty, this notion of immigration caps, is a bit of a bear trap that,.. as you correctly point out, even Ukip have been ensnared by, to a degree.
    Let’s assume for a moment that Labour, Tory, and Ukip all nominate a cap of (say) 50,000 in the year 2016.
    For the purpose of this imaginary balance sheet, let’s say the UK needs:
    10,000 Oncologists
    5,000 Environmental Engineer/Technicians
    3,000 Social Workers
    4,000 Plasterers
    12,000 Electronics Technicians
    7,000 Unix programmers
    8.000 Chemical Engineers
    14,000 Teachers
    63,0000 Total immigrants *needed !*, in 2016
    So even if Ukip got their Australian model of immigration, up and running, even they, might find themselves a touch red faced with a restrictive 50,000 cap,… as 63,000 were deemed to be actually needed in 2016.!
    But it’s even worse for Labour and Conservatives, because our present system has a dual stream of immigration. EU immigration (no control), and Rest of World (partial control). Under *their* cap system, if 50,000 come from the EU, they have to put the brakes on immigration from the Rest of World. The risk then is that people on our *needs list*, such as Oncologists from India and Chemical Engineers from Canada are refused entry because Labour and Tories have reached their immigration limit by East Europeans, who are thoroughly nice people, but have not necessarily, brought with them the actual skills that we need in the UK?
    That’s why any talk of an immigration cap on its own, is frankly not grasping the whole picture, and *CAP*, should IMO, be replaced with *as many immigrants with the required skills as are deemed needed* by our UK economy.
    Surely you can see, that the object here, is *not* to shut out EU immigration from some ‘bloody minded’, anti foreigner perspective. Instead Ukip want to open our *needs list*, and our borders, to the whole world of potential applicants?

  • @Simon Shaw
    “I live in a part of Britain which is characterised by having relatively low pay and therefore sees people moving to other parts of the EU (including other parts of the UK) in search of better paid jobs… Are Labour going to stop that happening as well?”

    Labour are certainly not proposing to stop people moving to certain areas within the UK. Only the Lib Dems would ever propose something so absurd (see their immigration policy at the last election).

    “The issue, surely, is that of the 100 or so policies that Labour could have decided to put on a mug, they chose this one.”

    Simon, that does not even attempt to answer my question. Why is the suggestion of immigration controls on a mug any more offensive than putting it on a website – which is something the Lib Dems do, as well as Labour? What’s so special about mugs? That’s the question I asked, and you haven’t answered it.

    “It might help if you identified the part of that speech (or any other by a Lib Dem) that you think does that [i.e. be dishonest about the ability to control EU immigration]”.

    Eh? I never said Clegg was being dishonest – I asked if YOU thought he was being dishonest, since he’s saying very similar things to Miliband, who you DID say was being “dishonest”.

    My own opinion is that neither of them are dishonest (not on this narrow point, anyway!), and in fact they’re saying virtually the same things (e.g. about restricting benefits for EU immigrants). But if you think Miliband is being dishonest – and you said he was – perhaps you could provide a quote to illustrate why you think that, otherwise you’re accusation doesn’t amount to much.

  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 6:46pm
    Immigration control is as Stuart says advertised on our website, which continues to make the claim that we have reduced net immigration by a third- a claim that is not only nothing to boast about, but not even true!

    No, Phyllis, you needn’t worry about the Lib Dems abolishing immigration controls.

  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 7:02pm

    “It is only right – and I say this as a pro-European – that we reform freedom of movement to reflect these realities. It is a right to work. It was never intended as an automatic right to claim benefits, but over time the distinction has been blurred.”

    Nonsense! As I explained above, the right to claim work-related benefits was always an integral part of freedom of movement. There has been no blurring over time. What has happened is that petty xenophobia and spite against immigrants and benefit claimants has risen and politicians are more ready to pander to it.

    But I also believe that, when the EU enlarges in the future, we’ll need to be stricter and clearer on the transition controls we apply to new member states – the time between a country joining the EU and its people being able to move here

    “But I also believe that, when the EU enlarges in the future, we’ll need to be stricter and clearer on the transition controls we apply to new member states – the time between a country joining the EU and its people being able to move here”.
    If Freedom of Movement is good then it is good for it to happen swiftly. Britain benefited from the EU’s Common Market as soon as it joined: it would be unfair for Britain to exclude other latecomers from benefits as soon as they join.

  • Alex Sabine 29th Mar '15 - 7:44pm

    Philip: The problem I have with absolutist statements about ‘free movement’ is the insularity of looking at this question solely from an EU perspective. UKIP do have a point about the discriminatory nature of our current immigration system. I am not convinced there is any intrinsic reason – moral or economic – for discriminating systematically against non-EU nationals. Doing so is very much in keeping with the EU’s tendency to uphold freedoms among its members while erecting barriers to the big bad world outside. Unlike some of its fans in these parts, I do not regard the EU as a paragon of internationalism.

    As regards the right to work in the UK, our immigration system as a whole discriminates not on the basis of skills or the requirements of the labour market but on the basis of nationality (EU nationals versus non-EU). Having done this, it then issues work permits to non-EU migrants according to rather crude points-based criteria (these are loosely related to labour market requirements as determined by the government, in a quaint relic of discredited postwar central manpower planning).

    There may be sound historical, geographical and legal reasons for treating EU citizens preferentially but the economic and moral case for doing so is weak. It would be wrong to assume that the services of a skilled worker from (say) India or New Zealand are less valuable to the UK than those of their European counterparts.

    You argue that when governments provide work-related benefits to their own nationals and not to others in the domestic labour market, this constitutes a “restriction on free trade”. But accepting your premise for a moment, the British government does discriminate in precisely this way as between its own citizens and EU migrants on the one hand, and migrants from outside the EU on the other. Perhaps you object to this, but I haven’t heard many Lib Dems calling for the extension of benefits to these migrants, or producing the public expenditure costings for such a change. So it would seem this is a tenet of the single market rather than an inviolable principle.

    If the principle is that all immigrants should receive the same benefits as UK citizens, then this should apply across the board and not just to EU migrants. Alternatively, we could harmonise the arrangements so that the eligibility criteria were the same as they currently are for non-EU migrants; that way they would be different from those for UK citizens but would apply equally to all immigrants regardless of origin. In terms of non-discrimination either of these approaches would be just as equitable, and arguably more so, than the status quo.

    (A legal question that arises is whether the British government would be within its rights to change the arrangements for in-work benefits and tax credits under existing EU law, or whether it would require a treaty change. This hinges on whether particular welfare arrangements are classified as social policy or a simgle market matter. Few other member states have tax credit arrangements similar to ours; instead, access to benefits is typically dependent on a prior period of contributions.)

  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 7:56pm

    Hi Alex
    Of course I would love for the Common Market in Goods, Services and People to be worldwide. But lets be real for a moment: what we have is a Common Market in Europe and what we are fighting against are attempts to restrict that market. Complaining that non EU immigrants don’t have access to the Common market is like complaining that non-EU goods don’t have access to the Common market- it is not a sensible battle to fight today.

    By they way, I am not averse to cuts in welfare benefits. I think the idea of restricting UK child benefit to children inside the United Kingdom a sound one: so long as it applies uniformly to all children (children of British nationals included). If the government thinks people should work in the UK before being entitled to claim work-related benefits, so be it- so long as British people who have never worked in the UK are also excluded from the same benefits (Of course, there would have to be provision for some kind of protection from destitution).

  • Alex Sabine 29th Mar '15 - 9:29pm

    Hi Philip – What I support is free trade in goods, services and capital; and, if free migration is unacceptable to the electorate, then at least a rational immigration policy. In principle these goals could be pursued and delivered by the EU, by national governments striking bilateral or multilateral deals, or by pursuing liberal policies and removing controls unilaterally.

    The problem when you have open borders within one defined geographical area and a restrictive approach to the rest of the world is that you create large economic distortions. It is progress in one respect but bad in another because of the systematic discrimination.

    It is not self-evident that this is the best way to manage migration flows if they must be managed. It might well be better to have a more balanced approach as between EU and non-EU migrants (ie to be blind to distinctions based on nationality) while exercising some control in a non-discriminatory way, with the economic component of migration preferably being guided by market signals rather than bureaucratic points systems. I’m not arguing for lower overall numbers, I’m talking about how a rational system might operate since I reluctantly accept that some controls will have to stay.

    Of course what I’m suggesting are some principles of a sensible immigration policy; in practice such a redesigned system is precluded by our membership of the EU on the current terms. This is a problem not only for those who want to respond to voters’ concerns by reducing the volume of immigration, but also for those who simply want a more rational system irrespective of numbers.

    From a liberal point of view EU free movement is a bit of a curate’s egg: a great achievement yet one that skews its members’ national immigration policies in a sometimes economically perverse way. Pragmatically I agree with you that chipping away it would not lead to a corresponding liberalisation of immigration policy towards the rest of the world, but nevertheless I find the current imbalance pretty unsatisfactory. On balance I support staying in the EU but if the UK were to leave I think the current dualistic nature of immigration policy ought to be overhauled.

  • Philip Thomas 29th Mar '15 - 9:34pm

    “if free migration is unacceptable to the electorate” then we should be trying to change the electorate’s mind. A good start would be to widen the electorate to include all legal residents- this is entirely in keeping with Liberal support for civil rights.

  • A Social Liberal 29th Mar '15 - 9:52pm

    Charlie said

    “The reality is that the vast majority of the combat arms of the Armed Forces come from the white working and lower middle classes.”

    Yep, like L/Sgt Johnson Beharry VC, L/Cpl Jabron Hashmi, Captain Ibrar Ali MM? Nice bit of alternative reality there Charlie, but the forces has representatives from every strata of British society. We have even recruited from most countries in our Commonwealth. And nearly all would reject the sly insinuations you make about our forces.

    The racism you seem to be suggesting inflicts our armed forces is no longer rife as it once was. The soldiers of the household division no longer threaten mutiny if a black soldier is posted to their regiments, para sections no longer take time out to beat up young asian men. Times have changed, and so has the mindset of the vast majority of young men and women who served.

    As for the activities of the likes of Phil Shiner, your assertion that they only chase white soldiers is laughable. Two of the recent actions those shysters have undertaken heard evidence against a)the Gurkhas and b)Kenyan colonial troops.

    I think the idea of restricting UK child benefit to children inside the United Kingdom a sound one…………
    AND ALSO ……….
    If the government thinks people should work in the UK before being entitled to claim work-related benefits, so be it-
    Even reasonable, peaceful immigrates, would not object to points based immigration

    So, I what I am hearing is basically the UKIP Manifesto in these remarks.
    And a large proportion of the electorate (be they – un-educated, unemployed, low skilled, just old and silly, socially threatened, racist, fascist, nazi, neo-nazi, or just worried patriots) seem to be ‘buying’ the above Manifesto in what will prove to be a ‘closely’ contested election.

    An a European (but a from a non EU Member state) I see a lot of UKIP bashing going on (mainly on the BBC, Channel 4, SKY News, The Guardian and other papers). Yet I see that the leading 2 parties (Labour and Conservatives) and this party as well, starting to discuss these UKIP policies more openly than before.

    Do you not think, that if all these parties had started to act on the above Manifesto points 2 or 3 years ago, that this UKIP movement would not be the party gaining the loose vote at this election.

    I am interested because I am seeing a similar political process and change in France (and that is something I never thought I’d see. Ever! Believe me!)

    I’d value a UK prospective

    Thank you (an interesting debate)

  • On the welfare issue, this is clearly over-hyped by the media and the source of many of the most potent myths. I suspect that changes in welfare eligibility for EU migrants probably wouldn’t make a large difference either to the welfare bill or the scale of migration to the UK. Certainly that must be true for out-of-work benefits since so few immigrants claim them.

    Having said that, it must be recognised that the welfare state and unfettered immigration are not easy bedfellows. From a historical point of view, it is striking how the development of welfare states paralleled the proliferation of immigration controls in numerous countries. There were other contributory factors, of course – notably the rise in nationalism – but the correlation is striking.

    Martin Wolf makes some interesting observations on the link between immigration controls and other features of the emerging industrialised nation state in his book on globalisation: “Social security, for all its evident benefits, also imposed – and still imposes – a largely disregarded cost: it makes it less attractive to share the benefits of citizenship with outsiders… Universal suffrage gave the adult population the ability to vote for exclusion of immigrants from the domestic labour market. It also gave them the right to vote for parties that promised to redistribute wealth from richer members of their societies to the less successful. A widening suffrage established socialist or, at the least, radical parties in the domestic politics of advanced countries. It made control over immigration inevitable, while the nationalist ideology made such restrictions natural. Immigrants, after all, were foreigners and, as such, people who could not be trusted to share in the community of values required by citizen armies.

    “…The end of laissez-faire, liberal trade and unchecked immigration were almost inevitable consequences of the movement in the developing European countries towards the universal-suffrage, militarily mobilised, industrialised nation state. Equally inevitable were privileges for trade unions, legal protections in labour markets and the emergence of welfare states.”

    According to a paper prepared for the World Bank conference on development economics by Peter Lindert of the University of California, Davis and Jeffrey Williamson of Harvard, nearly all the convergence in real wages prior to World War I was attributable to migration (in turn reflecting falling transport costs) and hardly any to capital mobility. In contrast, from 1914 onwards migration was largely removed as a mechanism for the convergence of wages and living standards in different parts of the world. Obstacles to migration are the biggest single difference between today’s globalisation and that of the 19th century.

    While trade and some capital flows are freer and larger in relation to global economic activity than a century ago, the reverse is true for movement of people. These controls on migration create the world’s biggest economic distortion: the discrepancy in rewards to labour. Despite EU free movement, thr world’s least integrated market is that for labour. Those who criticise globalisation, and find its rewards shockingly unjust, usually fail to recognise this central underlying cause, instead pinning the blame on all kinds of other bogeymen.

    Today, real wages for an unskilled worker in the world’s poorest countries are a small fraction of the wage he or she could earn in a rich one. Whatever their other justification and political necessity, immigration controls have locked a large part of humanity into failed states and economies, with inevitably adverse consequences for their living standards and for global inequality.

  • Alex Sabine 30th Mar '15 - 3:28am

    @ Stuart
    “There is no need for you to come up with your own “interpretation” of what Labour’s pledge means, because Labour have been very explicit about what it actually does mean… If you read the above page, you’ll see that “Controls on Immigration” is simply a heading for two specific proposals.”

    Strangely enough I don’t believe political parties employ expensive spin merchants and marketing gurus and consultants for no reason (though I often wonder whether the money is well spent). Adverts and YouTube clips and, yes, three-word campaign pledges are chosen to convey a particular impression to target voters. I’m sure you’d agree that not everything a political party says – not even the Labour Party – can be taken at face value… Very often a slogan is chosen that carries a subtext or fits into a ‘narrative’ the party is trying to construct about its policy agenda and those of its opponents. The ‘controls on immigration’ mug strikes me as an obvious example of this, for reasons that I explained in some detail earlier.

    But since you invited me to look at the full pledge, let me address that point. The two proposals are exactly the kind of thing I was referring to when I said that Labour was indulging in ‘dog whistle’ tactics. The word ‘control’ must mean something. It quite obviously presupposes that the system is out of control at the moment. As I have argued, you can make this argument credibly on the basis of the high annual inflows – if you want the UK to leave the EU in order to reassert control, which Labour doesn’t. Otherwise it is so much hot air.

    The first proposal – preventing new arrivals from claiming benefits for two years – appears to be contrary to EU law insofar as it applies to EU immigrants and work-related benefits. Most non-EU immigrants (except refugees) already have no recourse to benefits until they obtain indefinite leave to remain. Extending it to cover EU immigrants might or might not be justified on the grounds of fairness, but it is hard to see how it can be a control mechanism unless you believe that immigrants are drawn here by the benefits system. Yet on other occasions Labour spokesmen have argued – apparently sincerely – that this isn’t the case, in which case migrants presumably wouldn’t be deterred by having to wait two years before being able to draw benefits. At best this sends a confused message; at worst it panders to a pervasive myth.

    The second proposal – “we will introduce fair rules making it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers” – is hopelessly vague, utterly marginal to any meaningful notion of ‘controlling immigration’ and economically illiterate for good measure. Dan Hodges exposed the empty posturing that this pledge amounts to after Ed Miliband unveiled it in a set-piece speech on immigration last December.

    “What counted as ‘exploitation’ in this context wasn’t explained. But we already have minimum wage legislation. We already have laws against human trafficking and modern slavery. We already have health and safety regulation.

    “Perhaps Miliband is going to toughen up on this. Who knows? But this we do know – his proposal will do nothing to stop immigration into the UK. He could have spoken for 700 minutes. If that was his solution, it was a meaningless one.

    “The overwhelming majority of migrant workers into the UK are not being exploited. Go into a Starbucks. Go into a Costa. A large proportion of the staff will be EU migrants. They are not chained to the toasting machine. They will not be turning tricks in the basement. There is no need for them to. There are plenty of jobs for them, they have the skills to work here, and the have the legal right to work here.

    “Today Miliband did the worse thing any mainstream politician can do on immigration. He talked up the problem, and then failed to provide anything that comes close to resembling a coherent solution.”

    That last paragraph is the nub of my objection to Labour’s current posturing on immigration. Flogging a mug with a jarring slogan is hardly the worst crime against common decency but it aptly symbolises the low ebb that the party’s immigration message has sunk to.

  • Alex Sabine

    Supply and demand controls wages . In the late 1980s, labourers working in Canary Wharf could earn £35K/year. The construction industry has not experienced the percentage increase in wages in the period of 1995-2007 which occurred in the boom years of the late 1980s to 1990s. Part of the problem is that though we have high levels of employment , many un and semi-skilled jobs have not risen since 2007. Many non -Britons are competing for un and semi-skilled jobs in construction, manufacturing, agriculture and hospitality. Construction is cyclic and the years of fat are needed to cover the years of lean. How many Liberals compete for un and semi-skilled jobs in manufacturing, construction, agriculture and hospitality as a career rather than short term employment?

    Alex Sabine
    Until the 1970s , 70% of the TUC comprised un and semi-skilled labour. If one looks at employment pre 1914, perhaps 80% was un and semi-skilled. Ford’s factories enabled people to migrate from agriculture to well paid unskilled industrial work. British engineers travelled all over the World building infrastructure and factories.

    When looking at immigration and mobility of labour one needs to look at those on average and below average wages. One also needs to look at how quickly can people be trained to become a craftsmen, technician or engineer and as this produces a time lag effect.

    Historically a great threat to the wages of the un and semi-skilled was scab labour: workers who would be prepared to to be employed for less. The use of scab labour was tactic used by employers to break strikes. If Governments had brought in foreign workers during strikes this would be considered as using scab labour.

    The problem in the UK is that the percentage of the economy which is high skilled value high value is much less than German. In Germany immigrants largely work in un and semi-skilled jobs , leaving the well paid high value jobs to the Germans- car workers can be on $41/hr.

    A major reason for the conflict is that Britain has been reluctant to modernise technical education and training since 1870 and we have a massive shortage of skills to expand high value high skilled employment. By keeping wages down through immigration we are delaying investment in technical training and capital investment required to move from low and medium value to high value employment. A reason why factory owners supported immigration was to keep production costs down by keeping wages down rather than investing in training and equipment to keep production costs down or move to higher value production.

  • Charlie. Why hasn’t the incentive to upskill provided by the opportunity of increased earnings led, over generations at least, to a general increase in educational attainment amongst the traditionally unskilled?

  • Tabman

    Very good question. Until the early 80s, many people could leave school on Friday and walk into unskilled employment on the following Monday. Germany had massive losses of manpower in two wars so had to invest in more advanced machinery which employed fewer people but with higher skills. British factories carried on employing large numbers of unskilled people until the 1980s and attitudes can often take a long time to change. Everyone blames Thatcher, but large areas of low value manufacturing and heavy industry in the UK were heavily over-manned with regard to un and semi-skilled employment. When Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing started to be introduced in the 1980s there was far job losses in the UK than Germany because there was far more un and semi-skilled employment. The upgrading of skills hit Coventry far more than Birmingham because the former was car assembly which is un/semiskilled wheres the latter was far more craft skill.
    Someone said different industries produced or attracted people with different attitudes. Miners were very keen on education but dockers were not. The unskilled and semi-skilled unions did not want their members to to become craftsmen as they would leave and join craft unions. The craft unions , AEU, EETPU, NACODS and power workers encourage their members to increase their skills whereas the un/ semi-skilled unions rejected new technology as it reduced employment of their members. The introduction of containers has reduced dock employment by a massive amount , probably 90%. In the 1960s , when Prescott was in the NUS , oil tankers were not more than about 50, 000T, now they can be 500,000T ; this means there is a 90% reduction in the numbers of seamen needed to transport oil across the oceans.

    I would also add cultural. Many boys and girls from un and semi-skilled backgrounds do not see how education can improve their lives: consequently they reject it( Orwell in the Road to Wigan Pier has written on this subject) . Many teachers appear middle class wimps with no experience of the tougher aspects of life. If someone was teaching physics and had been in bomb disposal or say building the Shard , explained how science was used, then many more children would see the use for knowledge. Having physically insignificant teachers who have been brought up in a comfortable suburban background , gone to university ( a big school for some kids ) does not provide the experience which will earn the respect of many kids in a rough area.

    I think the introduction of university technical colleges for people for the ages of 14-19 using teachers with industrial experience is a way to engage more people with education. One can take a horse to water but one cannot make it drink. Many teachers think obtaining a degree is important because it give them employment. Outside of teaching , character is often more important m by that I mean being innovative, having initiative , determination, fortitude, being able to face up to challenges cheerfully, being flexible, agile and being able to overcome obstacles; work individually or as part of a team. Too many youngsters lack these qualities which is in part why east europeans become employed.

    In Britain, employers, politicians, academics, voters and trade unions in un/semi-skilled industries have been failing to consider how technology and trade impact on employment since the 1870s, Germany has successful high value manufacturing because the German people understand the human qualities with regard to education, technology and attitude which is required. In Britain , since 1870s we have high high value manufacturing in spite of the system , not because of it.

  • Charlie
    I see you have been dipping into “The Boys’ Own Book of History” again.

    Your take on teachers is I assume meant to be comical.
    Statements such as –
    “.. If someone was teaching physics and had been in bomb disposal…”

    When I was in a state grammar school in the 1960s virtually all my teachers were of the generation who had fought in and been lucky enough to survive the second world war. Contrary to your suggestion there was no greater respect or admiration for those teachers.

    I did have an unspoken admiration for the one teacher who had been a conscientious objector. It struck me that his decision not to be swept along with the crowd and put on a uniform must have taken real personal courage.

  • John Tilley

    As you say you were a grammar school boy and therefore highly unlikely have had a career in industry as a labourer, operative or craftsman . My experience of working in heavy civil engineering is that most labourers and operatives had little time for education and their teachers, as they did not see it relevant to their world nor respect them. Most craftsmen and foremen considered most teachers impractical. As one friend who was a electrician quipped ” One can always spot the maths teacher when playing darts , they struggle with the sums “.

    Orwell points out that many working class boys want to work after the age of 14. One teacher pointed out that when the school leaving age was raised from 15-16 , it was bitterly resented as it deprived people of a years wages. There is a tradition in Britain of considering people can be too clever by half. If one looks at Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions , they were achieved by craftsmen developing new technologies through trial and error. Large parts of Britain consider school education irrelevant to improving their lives and the teachers impractical and unworldly. Consequently, the development of the university technical colleges , will hopefully provide young people with the technical,trade skills and relevant education.

  • Charlie. Very interesting, and I agree with a lot of what you said. My father who was a teacher believed the leaving age should be reduced to 14 as too many kids had no interest in being there. ( he had also spent 2 years in the RAF doing national service).

    There are also significant structural differences betwbetween the UK and German economies, not least the family owned businesses and small banks with long term mindsets

  • Charlie. Getting rid of the polytechnics was a massive retrograde step as they provided that intermediate between on the job training and a degree.

  • Philip Thomas 31st Mar '15 - 12:04pm

    “Reply to. I think the idea of restricting UK child benefit to children inside the United Kingdom a sound one…………
    AND ALSO ……….
    If the government thinks people should work in the UK before being entitled to claim work-related benefits, so be it-
    Even reasonable, peaceful immigrates, would not object to points based immigration”

    In the first sentences you are quoting me (although very significantly truncating the quotes!) and in the third you are not. I don’t think the third is true.

    As to the first two, context is needed: I was saying that these things are only acceptable if applied fairly- not, as UKIP and the Tories want to apply them, if only applied to foreigners. And maybe I was wrong about the second thing being acceptable- firstly “worked in the UK” is too restrictive, it is like banning products which weren’t packaged in the UK- it should be “worked in the EU”- secondly the idea that you can’t get JSA if you have never worked is quite harsh on school leavers. As regards child benefit, that children should be provided for by the member-state they are currently resident in seems a reasonable proposition.

    None of this would placate UKIP though. As I have written elsewhere, it would take some very seriously accelerated continental drift to get Britain “out of Europe” and satisfy UKIP…

  • Charlie

    You should not make assumptions. My first full-time job was as a bricklayer’s mate.

    You mention Orwell.
    His writings from Catalonia where he fought alongside the anarchists and laughed at and despaired at the absurdities of war seem to display very different views towards the military from those that you express in LDV.

    Your reading of Orwell seems rather selective. I am a great fan of Orwell; I am currently reading The Penguin “Books v. cigarettes”. One of my favourites is “Down and out in Paris and London”. Orwell is disadvantaged by his privileged background and Eton education. He sometimes sees things through tinted lenses. His views on the working class were often idealised.

  • John Tilley

    There is a difference between working for a few months or even years in an unskilled job and the whole of one’s career. In Orwell’s essays from 1940-1950 he criticises the intelligentsia’s contempt for physical courage and patriotism. Life is absurd, not just the military. When the Late Queen Mother said she could look the East End in the eye after Buckingham House was bombed, she was acknowledging this part of London was taking the brunt of the attacks. The working class who lived in the areas which were bombed in WW2 never had their will broken. Orwell respected those who built and defended Britain. As he said in his quotes good men are protected by rough men and cultivated middle classes can only exist because working class men toil in the mines.

    I would suggest that a major disillusion by many ordinary people is that the political class and opinion formers no longer appear to respect those people who have built, made and defended Britain. When Churchill( a cousin to a Duke) has more experience of undertaking a craft when he built the brick wall around Chartwell than the combined experience of the Labour Party front bench, politics has become absurd.

    You say Orwell was disadvantaged by his Eton education. Orwell learnt 7 languages, his Burmese was fluent which was probably assisted by his knowledge of Greek. Orwell left Eton for the Burmese Police. I would suggest that his breadth of experience and his willingness to learn from lessons combined with his wide ranging reading gave him great advantages. His belief in using precise and clear language means that his writings are easy to understand. I would suggest that Orwell accepted that his physical weakness due to his bad lungs limited his ability to fight but he respected those with physical strength and courage who defended this country. Orwell respected those people who undertook physically tough and dangerous work which enabled the middle classes to lives of comfort. A Labourer is worth his salt.

    Thank you for your comments. As I have said before , removing evening and weekend education from poly’s has meant it has become almost impossible for craftsmen to become chartered engineers and scientists. German family owned business have invested in technology since WW2 which means they can operate in the advanced engineering high value market, far fewer British companies of similar size did likewise; so they went bust in the 1980s.

  • Ever since the encounter Gordon Brown had with a woman voter who asked about immigration and whom he called privately a ‘bigot’, Labour has been portrayed as being ‘soft on immigration’ and reluctant to talk about immigration controls. This mug is one of several with Labour’s policies on them and is trying to make it clear that Labour does believe in immigration controls and is not afraid to talk about it. What’s so wrong about that? The suggestion that it is pandering to racists is a case of reading too much into a very simple message that the majority of people agree with – no-one here has said they believe in ‘no immigration controls’.

    The Lib Dems could take a leaf out of their book and produce a mug saying ‘Europe is not perfect’. Ever since Clegg’s disastrous debate with Farage, people are left with the impression that there is nothing wrong with the EU and that in ten years time it will be much the same as now. Much like Labour’s image problem with immigration. Neither is true but that is people’s perception.

  • John Tilley
    Orwell’s writing and essays span from 1920 to 1950 . Any writer who bases their comments on a single essay suggests a lack of knowledge of Orwell’s writings . Orwell tended to be critical of the sort of left wing intelligentsia who wrote for The Statesman. Martin L King asked to be judged on his character not his skin colour . Orwelll judged much of the character of the left wing intelligentsia and found it wanting. At the beginning of WW2, a couple of left wing intellectuals asked the question which amongst them would fight the Nazis if there was an invasion of Britain. The only intellectual they could agree on who would fight the Nazis was Orwell.

    In my reading of Orwell he never claimed moral virtue in anything, especially clarity of writing. What he did suggest was that clear writing was a product of a clear mind. Also, censorship even in a minor area tended tended to withstrict thought. In his collected writings from 1920-1950 Orwell exhibits an honesty which I would suggest is hardly matched by any other political writer. Orwell admits to his physical weakness but admire those who posses it and willing to die for his freedom. In one essay, Orwell is particularly impressed at the sight of a unit of the RM marching past. If one looks at the left wing intelligentsia , hardly any of them volunteered to serve in combat units with the highest death rates such as flyers in the RAF, SOE, Commandos/SAS, infantry, and Merchant Navy. Orwell uses his experience of the Spanish Civil War to advise on tactics during his membership of the Home Guard. What Orwell says that in WW2 , the working class understand that the attitude “My country , right or wrong ” is essential for victory.

  • @jbt: “I’m curious as to how that mug is in [any] way racist?”

    In a discussion in which one person continually talks about “white Britons,” do you really need to ask that? It’s no secret that “immigrant” in many mouths and ears is simply a coded term for what an earlier generation would have expressed with a much more varied vocabulary, none of which can be repeated here. The notion that a discussion of immigration is always purely about numbers and costs and procedures is naïve. Dig into the anti-immigration rhetoric and you’ll find that it is not immigrants in general, but certain sorts of immigrants that trigger a reaction. I do not suppose there would ever be great concern about, say, English-speaking Canadians immigrating. No doubt your motives are pure; but that cannot be said of everyone, and it’s no use pretending that everyone enters the discussion living up to your high standards.

  • Alex Sabine 2nd Apr '15 - 3:45pm

    Agreed, jedi – the mug and Labour’s rhetoric do not reveal racial prejudice or have racist overtones. In my case the reference to “dog whistle” tactics was not about subliminal racism but the insinuation by Labour that they had heeded the message from voters that they want greater immigration control (which usually means lower numbers), whereas in fact they know perfectly well that a Labour government would have no means of achieving such control.

    Because they cannot demonstrate a credible link between their policy proposals and greater control/lower numbers, they need to gloss over such niceties and give an impression of bringing order where there is currently disorder. It is a political conjuring trick nicely symbolised by the mug and reflecting the fact that they genuinely can’t work out how to reconcile the pro-immigration instincts of their leadership (and many but not all Labour MPs) with the anti-immigration instincts of many of their traditional voters. A related difficulty is how to reconcile their pro-EU instincts with an aspiration to tighten control of immigration.

    I am not unsympathetic to these difficulties they face, but stunts like the mug (and the two flawed and largely irrelevant policy proposals it is supposedly justified by) are no substitute for hard thinking on how to resolve them; they are displacement activity dressed up as tough action. In the yawning gap between rhetoric and reality thus created, public disillusion will flourish, which is only likely to further debase the often myth-fuelled immigration debate. At the end of day the mug with its slogan is mildly distasteful as a summary of Labour’s attitude to immigration, while the policies are intellectually confused and politically schizophrenic.

    But, I agree, racism doesn’t come into it. Indeed, more generally, I don’t share David-1’s view that opposition to large-scale immigration in the Britain of 2015 (as opposed to the Commonwealth immigration of the 1950s and 1960s) is rooted in racism. A large proportion of the recent immigrants have been white Poles and other eastern Europeans, Spaniards, Italians, Greeks etc… I think it reflects concern about numbers, the pace of social change, integration v multiculturalism, the demand pressures on public services and housing, the effect on wages etc. I’m sure racist motivations play a part for some of those who oppose immigration, but my own impression is that this is true in only a small minority of cases.

    I agree with David-1 that people do have views about the desirability of different categories of immigrant, but the kind of distinctions they typically draw relate to skill levels, whether immigrants can support themselves financially, whether they are willing to learn English and ‘integrate’ etc. These might be crude and often subjective distinctions but they are not manifestations of racial prejudice.

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