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Rod Liddle

Don’t blame immigrants for immigration – blame Ed Miliband

1 October 2011

12:00 AM

1 October 2011

12:00 AM

There is something attractive about Harriet Harman’s proposal that the leader of the Labour party must, by law, be a lesbian. It is only in the last couple of years that I have been able to accept that lesbians exist at all, so it will be doubly exciting for me to watch this sort of person lead the political party of which I am a member. According to Harriet, if no lesbians are available to lead Labour, the party should choose from a shortlist of endangered woodland creatures, such as pine martens or crossbills, so as to raise their profile among the wider population and ensure that their views are represented at the highest level. I have my doubts that a crossbill could carry the thing off, frankly, and I fear that their strange beaks would be a constant source of amusement for the tabloid press.

You may think that such superficialities should not matter, that we are sufficiently mature not to judge a creature by the shape of its bill, especially when it is trying to mount an opposition to the government. But we live in the real world, and there are cruel people out there. However, could a crossbill, or even a capercaillie, do worse than Ed? I think this must have been at the back of Harriet’s mind.

For blind cheek you have to give Ed credit, though. His apparent realisation that the vast levels of immigration we suffered under the last Labour government were, by and large, a bad thing represents a conversion which even the Damascene planning authorities might baulk at. Ed has said that the large numbers of immigrants — he singled out the Poles, presumably because he is a racist — had made life more difficult for the indigenous British people.

I make no apology for calling the bloke a racist, as that is exactly what he and his colleagues would have done five years ago to anyone who had made similar criticisms of his government’s ruinous policy. But his assertion was in any case a grotesque understatement — we have opened our doors to more than five million people in the last ten years, only a minority of them Poles, and they have soaked up the poorest paid jobs in the economy and, when not doing so, have been an enormous burden on our taxes, through benefits and meeting their requirements for housing, health and education. Five million! The original Treasury estimate of how many workers might come into the country was put at 13,000, by the way. And these new arrivals have driven down the wages for the very people Ed’s party was set up to protect. None of this is their fault, the immigrants, and nobody should blame them — any more than those of us who cautioned against this policy would have blamed them at the time. We knew where the blame lay: it is Ed’s fault.

Furthermore, having wrongly identified a need for low-skilled labour from abroad, the party then sought to justify its decision  by emphasising the immense social benefits vast numbers of immigrants would bring. There would be — according to a government report from 2000 published under the Freedom of Information Act — ‘a widening of consumer choice and significant cultural contributions’. And so there would, for a small number of metropolitan liberal middle-class monkeys from within whose ranks — pace Harriet — the party seems destined for ever to select its leader. As the former Labour speechwriter, Andrew Neather, put it, the policy was intended to ‘rub the right’s noses in it’ and chastise them with the massed ovine bleat of ‘raaaaaaaaacccccist’ should they possibly object. And that government paper went on to state that the long-held consensus that immigration should be limited to manageable numbers (i.e. probably not 500,000 people every year) was ‘an objective with no economic or social justification’.

I hope whoever wrote that dross is out of work right now. The same paper deliberately censored ‘emerging evidence’ of immigrants being involved in criminal gangs, fighting and mugging and begging. And as we know from the diaries of the former Labour MP for Sunderland, Chris Mullin, Labour politicians were too terrified to talk about the problems associated with immigration in case they too were met with that massed ovine bleat.

And so, as the working-class communities — the people Labour was set up to protect, just to reinforce the point — became enraged at what was happening to their communities, we saw the rise of those lumpen thugs in the British National Party. The BNP thrived precisely because the mainstream politicians, and particularly Labour, were either ideologically averse to addressing the problems caused by mass immigration, or were too frightened to talk about them. Incidentally, it is worth pointing out that the BBC toed the Labour line on this issue; never mind the European Union, if there is one subject upon which the corporation is utterly incapable of a bipartisan approach, it is immigration.

But aside from being a gobsmacking understatement, and disingenuous, Ed’s admission is also worthless, because he offered no suggestion as to how immigration might be kept within manageable limits. It seems to me to have been a vague genuflection towards that (sadly) almost forgotten notion of Blue Labour which once supposedly held him in thrall.

In place of Blue Labour we now have the Purple Book, which seems to me to represent more bien-pensant middle-class whining. One of its authors is Tristram Hunt — a nice and clever chap, but quite what the Purple Book, or indeed Tristram himself, has to offer his constituents in Stoke on Trent is a moot point.

Harriet, incidentally, did not insist that the next Labour leader must be a lesbian or a pine marten. She said the next leader or deputy leader should be a woman. I wonder what is more ‘empowering’ for British women — this sort of passé feminist grandstanding, or a commitment to preserve British women’s jobs by restricting immigration? The argument continues…

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