Sunny Hundal ponders the issue of immigration, and what it is about migration that sends rightwingers into a kind of frenzy:
It boggles my mind that when it comes to immigration, Tories just go nuts. It’s like a red rag to a bull – they can’t physically think of anything else. The froth just comes out automatically.
I hate to break it to you, Sunny, but this is not just a Tory disease. I’ve been at bar lunches with bourgeois liberal types when the subject of migration happened to come up. The effect was dramatic – it’s as if someone had tapped a crucial pressure point. The most harmless-looking people change into shouting, red-faced table bangers. The pathology is widespread.
It’s true however that the political class is where this pathology is most gaudily displayed. Sunny links to a couple of articles by 5 Chinese Crackers that explore the rightwing commentariat at its most fevered. I cannot believe I missed this story. It is still worth reading. Sit comfortably; we shall begin.
The whole thing kicked off in October when ex-wonk Andrew Neather wrote a mild, reasonable piece in the Standard suggesting that migration may not be entirely a bad thing. Now, when Neather worked for the government, he saw a 2000 report from Blair’s Cabinet Office think tank, early drafts of which ‘included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural.’ Later, Neather protested that the main point of the report was economics: it argued that migration was necessary because of growing skills shortages in our (then) booming economy. It didn’t matter. The political right went into a frenzy – and they haven’t come down.
A successful FoI request to see the full document has led to this Daily Mail story, which begins: ‘Labour threw open the doors to mass migration in a deliberate policy to change the social make-up of the UK, secret papers suggest.’ Rent-a-moron Andrew Green of the pressure group Migration Watch adds: ‘So there was indeed a Labour conspiracy to change the nature of our society by mass immigration.’ Melanie Phillips: ‘the Labour government had engaged on a covert act of national sabotage by loosening immigration controls in order to change the ethnic makeup of the country’. You could say these are people who should know better. Except they never, ever do.
Yet we must ask: cui bono? What would Labour get out of this dastardly scheme? The motive that the pundits came up with was this: that black and Asian people tend to vote Labour – and so the governing party imported millions of obliging supporters. Stephen Glover: ‘Migrants, and to a slightly lesser extent their descendants, are much more likely to vote Labour than for any other party. It seems that one shameful motivation behind New Labour’s open-door immigration policy was to alter the social composition of this country so as to improve the chances of the party being reelected.’ Green: ‘Given that mass immigration is heavily in Labour’s electoral interest, they may have thought that they could get away with it.’ Ed West: ‘Ethnic minorities have historically tended to vote Labour; making Britain more multi-ethnic would mean more Labour voters.’ Norman Tebbit, blogging in the Torygraph: ‘All the evidence is that immigrants from the Third World are more likely to vote NuLab than Conservative. So is that what it was all about? Was it the most cynical dirty act of vote-rigging in our history.’ The conspiracy theory even made it into a notorious spoof election poster, featuring a line of migrants awaiting process with the caption: ‘I’ve never voted Labour before, but I will be soon.’
That Labour’s vote has been in freefall since 1997 doesn’t matter. That Labour had such a huge majority that they didn’t need to artificially inflate it doesn’t matter. That perhaps Labour’s biggest and most controversial decision – invading Iraq – alienated a huge chunk of the vote from immigrants and ethnic minorities, suggesting that cravenly sucking up to immigrants and ethnic minorities wasn’t a top priority, doesn’t matter.
That increasing immigration would lose the votes of some people already living here doesn’t matter. That you can’t predict how individuals vote doesn’t matter. That you don’t know how many immigrants even vote at all doesn’t matter. That a great number of immigrants can’t vote at all doesn’t matter.
That Labour have been banging on about economic benefits of immigration for years – even to the point that one of the ’social objectives’ for increasing immigration was in itself an economic argument doesn’t matter.
Because we’ve left the world of rational, evidence-based arguments and arrived in tinfoil hat land.
I wonder how anyone can take these people seriously. Clearly some of us do, because they have a good chance of calling the shots in the UK in a couple of months or so.