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Some thoughts on the immigration debate

This is a cross-post from MoreMediaNonsense

Immigration from the EU will be one of the main issues in the next election and interestingly there are signs of movement from the Liberal Left commentariat on the issue see eg John Harris here on CIF:

This year I visited Wisbech – where a third of the 30,000 population is now estimated to be from overseas – and what was happening there spoke loud truths about why free movement has become so politicised. For all that recently arrived families have started to settle, and their children are acquiring new, hybrid identities, there are still glaring problems. Young men from eastern Europe often live four or five to a room, and work impossibly long hours; with echoes of Europe’s macroeconomic asymmetries, the local labour market is divided between insufficient jobs that be can be done by people with families and mortgages, and a surfeit of opportunities for those who will work whenever they are required for a relative pittance.

This creates endless tension. There have also been inevitable problems surrounding how far schools and doctors’ surgeries have been stretched. Is anyone surprised? Moreover, even if such places represent socioeconomic extremes, similar problems surface whenever large-scale migration fuses with the more precarious parts of the economy. In modern Britain, this obviously happens often, and the under-reported consequences of austerity have hardly helped.

What passes for the modern left tends to be far too blase about all this. Perhaps those who reduce people’s worries and fears to mere bigotry should go back to first principles, and consider whether, in such laissez-faire conditions, free movement has been of most benefit to capital or labour. They might also think about the dread spectacle of people from upscale London postcodes passing judgment on people who experience large-scale migration as something real.

And (surprisingly) Paul Mason here also seems to be saying something similar :

But the most striking thing about the Ukip voters polled was their educational background: 76% finished their education between the ages of 15 and 18. No other party comes close to being so heavily concentrated among voters who didn’t go to university. It has nothing to do with “intelligence” – a large percentage of people who vote Ukip simply took a non-academic route to their current place on the income scale.

If you combine this with the fact that Ukip votes spread across all income groups, you come up with the demographic whereby the 2015 election will be won or lost: people who’ve worked their entire adult lives have been shaped by unskilled and semi-skilled hard work.

So what have such people lost from globalisation? Materially, wages. Whether east European migration really does place an extra downward pressure on low-skilled wages is disputed. What you can’t dispute is that those breaking away from the three main parties believe so from experience. On top of that, globalisation – combined with the info-tech revolution – exerts a downward pressure on incomes, “hollowing out” middle income jobs and making it harder to climb out of low pay.

Nobody in power gets to live that experience: there is nobody in parliament, or our major media organisations, or the senior civil service or the boardroom, who has recently delivered homecare in 15-minute slots, or worked in an e-commerce fulfilment centre, or ground out the tachograph hours as a self-employed haulage contractor.

Some quick discussion points on this that may be of interest :

1. No one advocates free immigration from countries outside the EU so the issue is not one of a principle of totally free movement into the UK.

It seems to me there is a basic problem for defenders of the status quo here. If free immigration from poorer EU countries is good for the country then why is free immigration from eg South America not ? If I was Farage I would use this argument all day long in the run up to the next election.

2. The main economic issue is of immigration from less economically developed EU countries where wages are far lower. This is what causes the downward pressure on wages here. Also many of the EU immigrants are younger, more motivated and more likely to be able to live cheaply. How would this not cause a downward pressure on wages especially in relatively low skilled jobs ?

3. Immigration will put pressure on resources especially in health and education. The stock answer to that from the Left seems to be that govt should give more funding. But how is the government to plan for this when it cannot tell people where to settle ? In general the govt will only be able to solve such problems after the event and this will obviously cause problems.

4. The potential “Ghettoisation” problem – if a large number of one group of immigrants choose to go and live in a particular area the govt cannot realistically stop this. This means the locals to that area will find a lots of changes and a loss of community, and again this may well be more of a problem in poorer areas. How would this not be an issue ? It will obviously be disruptive to local populations. And what could the authorities possibly do to prevent it ?

The economic advantages of mass EU immigration are obvious for employers and it could be argued for the economy in general, but there are also losers who are now increasingly looking to UKIP and causing massive political disruption. The obvious problems of EU immigration that are now coming to the fore should have been apparent when the experiment was started, indeed they are basically the reason that free immigration is not contemplated from other areas.

Sad to say I think one of the reasons the obvious issues were swept under the carpet is that there has been a refusal to face up and discuss the cons of immigration because of a fear of being called “racist” or “xenophobic”. Our political culture has become bizarrely skewed by group identity politics and a media that loves to pick on (because its so easy) anyone in the public eye who breaks social taboos on race and identity.

The appearance of the articles above in so far as they don’t mention a supposed racist angle is really quite refreshing. Does this show that finally the Liberal-Left is starting to “get it” on this issue ?