Monday, October 31, 2011

David Blunkett on immigration policy

A timely op-ed from the former Home Secretary. Blunkett's essay can be found here - an excerpt:

"[. . .] It is not simply that Maurice (now Lord) Glasman has made remarks that he then sought to clarify. We all do that. No, it is the underlying message that is now emerging. It is exactly the accusation that was made by some on the left against the Labour government between 1997 and 2010. Namely, that you can't outdo the Conservatives in relation to immigration.

That is exactly how I feel now about the trend that extends beyond the awful phrase "Blue Labour" to talk as though any influx from abroad is both dangerous politically and unwise socially. This is not racism. That is why I use the term xenophobia. It has moved from a perfectly reasonable desire to ensure that we have tough border controls – sensible and rigorous policies that don't allow individuals or families to exploit immigration rules – into a situation where some people seem to be saying that Britain is full.
The government's policy is frankly bonkers. It seeks to reduce net migration below 100,000 by 2015. Net migration, of course, is about outflows as well as inflows. The best way of achieving their policy (and they are going about it in terms of the austerity programme) is to encourage people, including those born in Britain, to leave. [. . .]"

It is hardly surprising that some have argued that fewer immigrants should be permitted into the UK so that there is less competition for what few jobs have been available. But this is bad economics and bad policy. A key factor in reviving the British economy is to make it more competitive - and the new skills and international connections of new immigrants can further this goal. Moreover, we as a country are more greatly enriched economically and culturally.

It is high time politicians began to make a robust counterargument to the scare tactics of tabloid newspapers on immigration. This is not a call for open borders, but for the economic and social benefits of immigration. There is a strong case to make. I hope this is the beginning of a new - long overdue - debate.

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