Like Alice, many will have had to believe the impossible before breakfast when it was announced that Mr Miliband might be conceding that Labour’s policy of open door immigration was a mistake and that their efforts to stifle discussion on the subject, by casting it as racist or xenophobic, was in error. But they can only offer an apology on immigration if they realise why emigration to the UK was so attractive an offer.
Mr Miliband’s apology for Labour’s dismal track record on immigration and for cultivating fear and paranoia when it came to speaking about this subject comes as a welcome admission, at least superficially. Indeed, superficially, Mr Miliband presents himself an earnest and listening politician who prefers straight talking to rhetoric and consideration before action. The trouble is that this is just it: superficiality is all Mr Miliband is capable of (see my earlier post ‘Ed Miliband: Comprehensively Without Substance‘).
It is in the spirit of superficiality that Mr Miliband suggests he will implement the following policies if his party were to get into power: transitional controls on migration from new EU member countries; a crackdown on recruitment agencies that advertise solely for immigrant workers; an early warning system if some companies are employing a disproportionate number of foreign workers and heavier fines for employers paying beneath the minimum wage.
An ‘early warning system’? Will this take the form of flashing lights and a klaxon sounding in Whitehall?  No, that would be far too useful. Mr Miliband may be penitent, but whilst he looks to the past (which it is easy to apologise for), his policies offer no credible plans for the future. True to form, his speech was laced with emotion and soft pedalling, not substance. There are no absolutes, no guarantees, and there is no direction. And, please, let us remember, that whilst the UK is signed up to the EU, it has almost no say on who can or cannot stay in the UK.
One of Mr Miliband’s gurning lieutenants, the shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant (who claimed over £92,000 in expenses over the five years leading up to the 2009 expenses scandal. He flipped his second-home expenses twice, claimed mortgage interest expenses that started at £7,800 per year before rising (after flipping) to £12,000 per year. He also claimed £6,400 in stamp duty and other fees on his most recent purchase, and £6,000 per year in service charges ), stated that ‘too many people came [into the UK] when we were in power’ . He suggested, also, that the argument about immigration is bound up with other issues, some of which are worth considering:
- Labour’s acceleration of a dependency culture and their engorgement of the permissive society has created a generation of feckless, selfish slackers, an underclass of ‘can’t work, won’t work’ benefits addicts who, financially or otherwise, offer the impression that they are somehow owed by the society that has furnished them hitherto. When they are afforded the opportunity to work, they suggest it is beneath their dignity. It is no wonder, then, that immigrants are willing to take the jobs cast off by these layabouts.
- Similarly, were it not that New Labour had abandoned the working class and their vote and tried to substitute them with an immigrant alternative, there might have been a chance to engage and employ the disaffected. It is usually this underclass who are among the first to complain that there are no jobs for them, that vacant positions are occupied by foreigners – yet business after business, employer after employer seems to suggest the same thing: that immigrant workers are just that: workers, doing jobs they may not like or care for, but know the importance of earning money and the value of work.
Labour did not just open the UK’s borders, they created a situation which would obviously attract the poor or dispossessed from other countries, by almost completely removing the incentive for people on low incomes in the UK to work. The culture of dependency is one issue that is bound up with the question of immigration. This blog cannot adequately express nor comprehend the nexus that is the destructive legacy of Labour. Next to the space shuttle or the Large Hadron Collider, the most complicated machines ever built, Labour stands tall as social engineers of nobel-prize winning incompetence.
Even then, the remarks made above miss the point. Mr Miliband may have apologised for errors past and he may be suggesting future Labour policy will be more robust, but there has been no effort to understand immigration. How is he going to patch up the social fabric that his party destroyed? How can he talk about defending jobs for low paid, unskilled UK workers when, by the same token, he opposes almost every cut in state benefits? How can he talk about limiting immigration when he is signed up to the EU?
Questions such as these reveal what is hidden in plain sight. Mr Miliband has no intention of bringing immigration down to sensible levels any more than he intends to undo the socially destructive policies his party enacted. There will be absolutely no change. With his rhetoric, he simply aims to split the Tory vote. Regrettably, given the ConDems pathetic efforts, he cannot lose. Disaffected Tories will go to UKIP  and he will steal those to the left of the Tory party (people not unlike David Cameron) for himself. We are through the looking-glass – the Conservatives have become Labour, whilst Labour affects the posture of Conservatism.
© thepanopticonblog, 2012