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Well what else were The Times, The Telegraph and the Mail going to lead with this morning? The Express’s EU-tax-plot headline is telling about their new purple allegiance (although the speech does get a small mention next to something about strawberries). Ah yes, Cameron is coming out today against immigration.
To anyone who has heard party line on immigration before, you won’t find any surprises – as Peter Hoskin points out. He wants to impose a cap reducing from ‘hundreds of thousands down to tens of thousands’, he’s going to attack Labour for branding it ‘racist’ (“bigoted”) to talk about immigration, and also for creating an incessantly dependent underclass who suckle on our welfare state. If you’re of the pessimistic view that Cameron seems to have forgotten he is a Conservative, then today he will try to rectify this. It’s almost as if there’s an election around the corner.
I agree with what he is going to say today. I believe that immigration is too high. I believe we are too dependent on our welfare state and I believe that talking about the problems of immigration should not be considered racist. But I have already heard Cameron/other senior Tories say this. In fact this speech would be wholly uninteresting if it wasn’t for UKIP.
Sam Bowman (@s8mb) wrote a much-discussed blog yesterday entitled “Immigration restrictions make us poorer.” Most interesting was the UKIP response. Not all of UKIP I should point out, but there was much excitement amongst a few of the Young Independence members on my twitterfeed yesterday:
I like that the younger members of UKIP are trying to introduce libertarian agenda into the party; it will improve their party. Yet the tweets yesterday actually astonished me. UKIP have for such a long time been known as a single issue party. The majority of their voters are with them because they will leave the EU. UKIP are doing their hardest to make sure that they don’t get branded as racist. Their new party line that we “love Europe, but hate the EU” is all well and good, but this new idea of ‘Love Europe, Hate the EU, Love Immigration’ seems a step too far. If UKIP went out canvassing telling people that immigration is a great thing, but they still want to leave the EU, they will get a lot of puzzled looks on people’s faces. UKIP-voters will be annoyed and feel even more underrepresented.
Cameron’s speech today is clearly trying to keep some people happy, it does not, however, make up for his Guardianista attack on Oxford University on Monday. I’m sure it’ll make a lot of Tories smile that they have their blue leader back, but ultimately the speech means nothing. It will be impossible to reduce net migration drastically, as long as we are still in the EU. Up until yesterday it seemed natural then that UKIP would help you out, but if (some members of) Young Independence have their way, perhaps you won’t even be able to rely on them to sort out immigration.
It’s great that the ASI has provoked some rational debate about immigration, but one problem that remains – this is a very London-centric debate. I went to school in one of the areas that had the highest levels of Polish immigration and neither the English locals nor the Polish immigrants did much to help integrate with one another. London, along with other cities were forced to go through this change sixty years ago and it resulted in mass rioting and violence. When Londoners discuss immigration, they seem to think that it should be the norm to automatically accept, when inherently one doesn’t. It takes time to adjust and the countryside has had such little exposure to immigration (or at least where I’ve lived) that it will not be solved quickly at all. It reminds me of a story my ex-flatmate told me once about his uncle’s pub in Scotland – the night his aunt first looked after the place, a fight broke out early on between two drunks, she immediately went to call the police and by the time she had got back, with the fight over, they were both hugging and downing whiskies again. Fight was over, they moved on. I am not suggesting that violence is needed to break the tension, but merely expecting integration in the countryside will not work.
Cameron’s rhetoric today is on-message but ultimately shallow. Until a points-based system gets introduced, along with our departure from the EU, I don’t think things will improve. It is clear that the current Conservatives aren’t going to offer this, but then, the future generation of UKIP aren’t either.