Posted on July 28, 2011

Immigration Restrictions Are the One Policy that Can Save the Labour Party–But They’re So Mesmerised by Diversity They Cannot See It

Ed West, Telegraph (London), July 21, 2011

Away from the main stage and today’s headline act, Maurice Glasman’s comments about immigration seemed to have done great damage to “Blue Labour”.

On Monday the Labour peer and academic told the Daily Telegraph that “Britain is not an outpost of the UN. We have to put the people in this country first”, and when asked by the Telegraph’s Mary Riddell whether he would support a temporary ban on immigration, replied: “Yes. I would add that we should be more generous and friendly in receiving those [few] who are needed. To be more generous, we have to draw the line.”

As far as any Labour people have commented on this, there has been universal condemnation. Anthony Painter called it “toxic”, writing in the Guardian:

In Blue Labour’s economic cosmology, immigration is the root of economic misery. Our economic advantage is not based on having world-class universities attractive to some of the best global minds. London and our other successful cities don’t need to attract the very best global talent. We don’t need to be in the EU to remain a location for global economic partnerships and inward investment. Our public services don’t need any highly qualified staff who aren’t British. And the economic drive of many migrants with an enormous range of skills can’t serve any purpose in an ageing society. There are a set number of jobs to go around, of course.

In the New Statesman Dan Hodges reports that:

Blue Labour, the informal Labour policy group established by Ed Miliband advisor Maurice Glasman, is to be effectively disbanded.

Labour MP Jon Cruddas and Middlesex University academic Jonathan Rutherford have both informed Lord Glasman they no longer wish to be associated with the project following an interview given by the controversial peer in which he expressed a belief that immigration to the UK should be completely halted.

A third influential supporter, Dr Marc Stears, is said by friends to be “deeply distressed” by Glasman’s comments, and is also considering his future engagement with Blue Labour.

Lord Glasman has since apologised for overstepping the mark in an email to Hodges, but it’s curious that, even if they were not prepared to go as far as him, not a single Labour figure as yet can be found to even criticise their party’s attachment to mass immigration. Yet, as I (and many others) have pointed out, mass immigration harms Labour’s traditional supporters the most. Note that Glasman is not hostile to elite migration, an altogether different thing; when Painter talks about “world-class universities” and “highly-qualified staff”, does he not realise that Britain exports more graduates than it imports, with an overall loss of roughly 200,000 people? That over 50 per cent of migrants from some countries are economically inactive? Look around any London area outside that rich blue area left of the City and you can see quite clearly that most immigrants are not members of this imagined world brains trust. The economic arguments for mass immigration are very thin.

Neither, as Painter claims, are immigration restrictions toxic. In the US attitudes towards foreigners have improved and deteriorated with immigration levels, showing upwardly positive views throughout the long pause from 1924 and 1965. In the UK race relations improved throughout the 1980s and 1990s as immigration restrictions took effect; they worsened under New Labour. Of course positive internal measures also have an impact, especially a society-wide effort to make racism unacceptable, but numbers make a crucial difference. Those two efforts–restricting immigration and delegitimising racism–are not contradictory.

Yet at some point in the 1980s the Labour Party became convinced that any opposition to increased diversity was itself a racist idea. Diversity became its new Clause 4–a social good in itself. Yet most, or at the very least a very large minority, of Labour voters are unconvinced, and have seen the downsides of mass immigration in their neighbourhoods–both economically and socially.

For those Labour supporters unfettered globalism, where people can be shipped around as easily as computer parts, seems more like a Marxist parody of capitalist cruelty than the ideology of “progressives”. But because their traditional champions have embraced wholly the millennial idea of universalism and unrestricted altruism, they find themselves like pond-dwelling fish drowning in a large and cruel sea.

Jon Cruddas once said he was a “true” conservative in that he wished to conserve communities thrown apart by housing costs and shrinking social housing sector. That is a reasonable and decent aspiration, of course, but it’s not compatible with the sort of diverse society we are becoming. Neither does that sort of society have much place for the sort of egalitarian, liberal policies which the Labour party believes in.

A glimpse of the future of British politics can be seen in a Guardian piece today, “Stop patronising poor Americans”, in which a US Democrat laments that poor people vote Republican against their economic interests. It’s an old refrain, heard often. Yet the article does not mention a crucial factor: poor whites vote Republican because in the most racially-mixed areas of the US people vote along fairly strongly-marked racial lines. In Mississippi, the most African-American state, over 80 per cent of whites vote Republican–and most aren’t rich by any means.

Labour people hate discussing this issue–it’s just so distasteful, and besides which it won’t happen here because England, is, you know, progressive and we have the BBC rather than Fox News. And yet this pattern has occured everywhere. How many working-class Ulster Protestants vote for the SDLP rather than for the less redistributionist Unionist parties? How many poor Lebanese Christians vote for Hezbollah? Who knows, maybe the grandchildren of Yorkshire miners will all vote Tory. Diverse societies are not fertile ground for progressive politics–so why is Labour horrified by the one policy, immigration restrictions, that gives the European Left any sort of a future?