If you asked a good deal of people what they most disliked about the New Labour administration which preceded the current government, you would get a good variety of responses. Some would bemoan financial incompetence, and the creation of large and unsustainable deficits, which later morphed into terrifying National Debt. Others would mention things like ‘sleaze’, or the generally anti-social manner of a certain G. Brown.
These are all valid points of view, and held by a good number of British people, but for a large number of Right-ward Tories, as well as Fleet Street commentators (such as Charles Moore and Simon Heffer) the normal bugbear is ‘mass immigration’, and the subsequent movement of a lot of new people into this country. It is a news story which never ends, because the flow of people (in and out) of this country is constant, and so commentators can continue to milk it all year round.
Even single sentences on the topic can produce spasms of outrage from socially conservative writers, like this angry offering from Richard Littlejohn, in which he proclaims ‘The truth at last! Peter Mandelson admits Labour ‘sent out search parties’ to bring migrants here after losing the votes of the working class’.
There is a lot of anti immigrant feeling around, but where can it truly originate apart from a mistrust of that which is new? All economic and social arguments against immigration do not appear organically, but do in fact derive from a simple fear of the different. The non-racist anti-immigrants may protest on the idea of social disquiet, but this is only a more sophisticated accoutrement of ‘I don’t like the foreigners coming to live here’. And that is only one step away from the rather more primitive: ‘Oh no, brown people’ from whence all of the other arguments came.
As we have seen, this can all morph quickly, and worryingly, into genuine hatred of foreigners who have chosen to live in Britain. The recent EDL marches in the aftermath of the horror in Woolwich clearly demonstrated less care for the family of a slaughtered serviceman than a desire to exploit tension to get a bit of ethnic pay back.
Opportunistic thuggary aside, the immigration debate has the propensity to get nasty very fast, as skinhead organisations use cultural flashpoints to justify vile stereotypes and assumptions. Gordon Brown, supposedly a progressive, was hit by a tidal wave of recrimination after he made his racist ‘British jobs for British workers’ remarks. Ukip, too, have managed to turn the debate about Europe into all out immigrant bashing, as their arrival may or may not have been facilitated by the EU’s policy of open borders.
There are quite a few ugly rumours surrounding immigration, and the most prevalent of these is the idea that immigrants steal jobs, commonly referred to as “ours”. The last word demonstrates a disgusting sense of entitlement from Brits, and - if anything - adds to the case for population movement; as there are a good deal of Pakistanis and Polish who do not have such a lazy and spoiled view of the world of work. If Immigrants can do a job better and cheaper than a British worker, then they should be able to do that job.
What people also fail to understand is that there is no fixed quota of jobs. As more is earned, more is spent, and more jobs are created. In this way, immigration does not take jobs, it may actually increase the numbers of jobs available, via increased spending, and the glorious “multiplier effect”. It is also odd for Free Marketeers, as many conservatives are, to support a cap or limit on immigration. It is, after all, a quota or tariff on labour, which is a resource like any other. Without the requisite amount of labour, production and output will fall, and so will growth in the long run.
We also need immigration because of our ageing population. We are now likely to hit a “population bomb” soon, where the dependency ratio (the amount of those dependent on each worker – this includes the young and elderly) will become as large as to be unsustainable. Either we crumble as a nation, or allow workers from overseas access to contribute to an economy run primarily by the “grey pound”. Japan is an example here: their economy is stagnating because of an ageing population, and in Italy, things have got so bad that there have been suggestions of a “singles tax”, to increase the production of a new ‘worker generation’.
There will be a need for work, in a much expanded health sector, for example, and also a need for new taxpayers to bankroll the massive care bills of the future. Either we start having five children per family (unlikely due to the rising cost of living, as well as recession affecting family budgets), or we rely on the economic power exhibited by foreigners. In this vain, the government’s pleasure at cutting net immigration by one third is no triumph, and any satisfaction felt in the ranks of the BNP or Ukip is misplaced. The truth is that despite ideological opposition to the movement of people into the UK, it is vital that we encourage this. It is not only a question of the rights of peoples to live wherever they wish, it is bigger than that. In the future, our nation will be on its financial knees.
With the fall in spending which an ageing population would precipitate, and the rising costs to the taxpayer and to families of the increasing numbers of elderly, we cannot afford to miss out on the energy and dynamism that the outside world can offer. Only with the support of those who are willing to live here can we beat the time-bomb of dependency. If we want a prosperous Britain, rather than a weak and anaemic Japan, then we need to put aside our natural suspicion of those who are not from ‘round here’. They may be our only hope for the future.