Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Plantation

The Daily Mail and the Express splutter at some of the nuggets in the following article, which I reproduce in its insouciant entirety from the Evening Standard (if the latter insists, I'll delete it, of course, but to them I'd say, I am increasing your readership at no cost to you or financial benefit to myself).

What comes across to me, is how decisions with far-reaching consequences are taken, not for the country's general benefit or to help the suffering, sliding working class, but merely to spite the political opposition, or for a temporary tactical gain.

I am reminded of Henry VIII's "plantations" in Ireland - and after 400 years, they still haven't quite rubbed all the corners off each other.

Then there's Fiji, where indentured Indian labourers were imported for a minimum initial 10-year term, during which time (inevitably, and I assume, entirely foreseeably) they would marry, have children, become rooted. Would it have entered the calculations of the landowners, that such importation would also make it harder for Fiji eventually to throw off colonial rule and assume full independence? Who cared that tensions would build up, leading to coups in 1987 and 2000?

But then, the powerful elite have always treated us like the beasts of the field. Remember the Highland clearances, also. "Who cares for the future, as long as I can make a few quid and booze it up with willing lovelies?"

As a Spanish Classical scholar observes:

It seems that there existed in Greece an expression or proverbial saying which is preserved in verse in a fragment of a tragedy whose author has not been identified (Tragicorum Fragmenta Adespota, 513 Nauck):

ἐμοῦ θανόντος γαῖα μιχθήτω πυρί·
οὐδὲν μέλει μοι· τἀμὰ γὰρ καλῶς ἔχει.

When I die, let earth and fire mix:
It matters not to me, for my affairs will be unaffected.
___________________________________________________
Don't listen to the whingers - London needs immigrantsAndrew Neather

23.10.09

Amid the sound and fury over Nick Griffin, there's a sad but unnoticed fact: it has taken this fiasco to make politicians talk about the impact of immigration.

Yesterday MPs Frank Field and Nicholas Soames called for a 75 per cent cut in immigration and accused the Government of "clamping down" on any debate.

What's missing is not only a sense of the benefits of immigration but also of where it came from.
It didn't just happen: the deliberate policy of ministers from late 2000 until at least February last year, when the Government introduced a points-based system, was to open up the UK to mass migration.

Even now, most graduates with good English and a salary of £40,000 or the local equivalent abroad are more or less guaranteed enough points to settle here.

The results in London, and especially for middle-class Londoners, have been highly positive. It's not simply a question of foreign nannies, cleaners and gardeners - although frankly it's hard to see how the capital could function without them.

Their place certainly wouldn't be taken by unemployed BNP voters from Barking or Burnley - fascist au pair, anyone? Immigrants are everywhere and in all sorts of jobs, many of them skilled.

My family's east European former nannies, for example, are model migrants, going on to be a social worker and an accountant. They have integrated into London society.

But this wave of immigration has enriched us much more than that. A large part of London's attraction is its cosmopolitan nature.

It is so much more international now than, say, 15 years ago, and so much more heterogeneous than most of the provinces, that it's pretty much unimaginable for us to go back either to the past or the sticks.

Field and Soames complain about schools where English is not the first language for many pupils.
But in my children's south London primary school, the international influence is primarily the large numbers of (mostly middle-class) bilingual children, usually with one parent married to a Brit.

My children have half- or wholly Spanish, Italian, Swiss, Austrian, Croatian, Bulgarian, Congolese, Chinese and Turkish classmates.

London's role as a magnet for immigration busted wide open the stale 1990s clichés about multiculturalism: it's a question of genuine diversity now, not just tacking a few Afro-Caribbean and Bengali events on to a white British mainstream. It's one of the reasons Paris now tends to look parochial to us.

So why is it that ministers have been so very bad at communicating this? I wonder because I wrote the landmark speech given by then immigration minister Barbara Roche in September 2000, calling for a loosening of controls. It marked a major shift from the policy of previous governments: from 1971 onwards, only foreigners joining relatives already in the UK had been permitted to settle here.

That speech was based largely on a report by the Performance and Innovation Unit, Tony Blair's Cabinet Office think-tank.

The PIU's reports were legendarily tedious within Whitehall but their big immigration report was surrounded by an unusual air of both anticipation and secrecy.

Drafts were handed out in summer 2000 only with extreme reluctance: there was a paranoia about it reaching the media.

Eventually published in January 2001, the innocuously labelled "RDS Occasional Paper no. 67", "Migration: an economic and social analysis" focused heavily on the labour market case.

But the earlier drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural.

I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended - even if this wasn't its main purpose - to rub the Right's nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date. That seemed to me to be a manoeuvre too far.

Ministers were very nervous about the whole thing. For despite Roche's keenness to make her big speech and to be upfront, there was a reluctance elsewhere in government to discuss what increased immigration would mean, above all for Labour's core white working-class vote.

This shone through even in the published report: the "social outcomes" it talks about are solely those for immigrants.

And this first-term immigration policy got no mention among the platitudes on the subject in Labour's 1997 manifesto, headed Faster, Firmer, Fairer.

The results were dramatic. In 1995, 55,000 foreigners were granted the right to settle in the UK. By 2005 that had risen to 179,000; last year, with immigration falling thanks to the recession, it was 148,000.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of migrants have come from the new EU member states since 2004, most requiring neither visas nor permission to work or settle. The UK welcomed an estimated net 1.5 million immigrants in the decade to 2008.

Part by accident, part by design, the Government had created its longed-for immigration boom.
But ministers wouldn't talk about it. In part they probably realised the conservatism of their core voters: while ministers might have been passionately in favour of a more diverse society, it wasn't necessarily a debate they wanted to have in working men's clubs in Sheffield or Sunderland.

In part, too, it would have been just too metropolitan an argument to make in such places: London was the real model. Roche was unusual in that she was a London MP, herself of east European Jewish stock.

But Labour ministers elsewhere tend studiously to avoid ever mentioning London. Meanwhile, the capital's capacity to absorb new immigrants depends in large part on its economic vitality and variety. There's not a lot of that in, say, south Yorkshire. And so ministers lost their nerve.

I hope it's not too late now, post-Question Time, for London to make the case for migration.

Of course we're too small a country to afford an open door - but, by the same token, if the immigrants dry up, this city and this country will become a much poorer and less interesting place. Why is it so hard for Gordon Brown to say that?

4 comments:

Blissex said...

This post leaves me astonished at as it seems to me pure spin with an amazing level of obfuscation and misrepresentation...

The principal issue is that it discusses as "immigration" two very, very different things:

* «My family's east European former nannies, for example, are model migrants,» may be migrants, but in the same sense that a glaswegian moving to London is: for if they come from an EU country, they are just exercising their rights as citizens of the EU to work in any part of th EU that they choose. A right that UK people have too, and indeed many go live and work in Spain or France or other EU countries, as citizens of the EU. There is no questions of limiting or not immigration from EU countries, because there is none (with a few exceptions of EU countries that have not yet fully joined the single labour market), and in any case the single labour market is a treaty right, in the same way as the right of any UK citizen to move within the UK and indeed the whole EU.

* «Even now, most graduates with good English and a salary of £40,000 or the local equivalent abroad are more or less guaranteed enough points to settle here.» «from 1971 onwards, only foreigners joining relatives already in the UK had been permitted to settle here.»: these statements are absurd, and crassly misleading. Absolutely any foreigner coming from the EU, regardless of points or family relationships, has been able to move to live and work in the UK for decades. The rules above only apply to immigration from countries outside the EU, from which only a small part of the increase in non-UK workers in the UK has come.

Fostering a confusion between the massive amount of worker flows within the EU, where it is a right of nearly every EU citizen, and the much smaller ones from outside the EU, whee it is not, is ridiculously misleading.

The idea that a speechwriter tasked with presenting policy thinks he can get away from misrepresentations as big as "a major shift from the policy of previous governments: from 1971 onwards, only foreigners joining relatives already in the UK had been permitted to settle here" is either depressing or scary.

walex said...

«"RDS Occasional Paper no. 67", "Migration: an economic and social analysis" focused heavily on the labour market case.

But the earlier drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural.
»

That a poll-driven government decides to deliberately alter the social and cultural composition of the country without any voter demanding that, and worrying that many are hostile, sounds ludicrous to me.

Some ministers have instead stated quite clearly that mass immigration, especially from the poorer countries of the EU, and from even poorer ones outside the EU, was motivated by a desire to drive down the wages of low end workers, and some ministers said that applied in particular to NHS wages (low ones: the compensation of NHS professionals has been protected and increased), but also those of workers typically employed by the aspirational middle classes, as alluded to here:

«The results in London, and especially for middle-class Londoners, have been highly positive. It's not simply a question of foreign nannies, cleaners and gardeners»

Fostering mass immigration to the UK and in particular to South East England seems to have been motivated by the shift in Labour's core base from low wage factory workers in the North and Scotland to the affluent English aspirational middle classes (the fans of Waitrose and M&S) like the author; the people who want to moderate low end wages, because they contribute to the costs they pay (for cleaners and nannies, but also for the NHS and council services), but also want steadily increasing capital gains on their assets thanks to increasing population and in particular in renters and first time buyers.

The dream of the median "aspirational" voter seems to become a proper squire of the manor, in a rapidly appreciating large home in a classy neigbourhood, with easily found, cheap nannies and gardeners and other hired help freeing him or her to manage a rapid career in a cool professional job, or a comfortable retirement with low taxes thanks to low council and NHS wage costs.

New Labour strategists realize that, and to a very large extent the New Labour policies, from ASBOs to mass immigration from poor countries, seem to have been designed to appeal to or satisfy the interests of middle aged or pensioned, richer middle class voters, by importing lots of non voting, young, low paid outsiders to drive down their service costs ("good help is hard to find nowadays") and up the cost of accomodation.

By radically altering the bargaining powers of younger, foreign, non-voting, assetless workers and those of older, native, voting, asset rich rentiers (which includes the owners of a secure, well paid government or council sinecure) the goal of New Labour policy has been a massive income redistribution upwards (while admittely keeping the poorest happy with income tax credits).

This is a traditional English solution, previous solutions involved poor scots and irish to move to England working hard for low wages and paying high rents, to the benefit of the insider classes of professionals, businesses and rentiers.

New Labour's policy was probably as motivated by a secret desire to increase multiculturalism as that of past whig and tory governments to increase the celtic character of England by attracting lots of poor scots, irish and welsh.

Blissex said...

Oops the previous post was me again. Also wanted to expostulate a bit more:

"New Labour's policy was probably as motivated by a secret desire to increase multiculturalism"

Unless the plan is long term, and the idea is that all those immigrants will have children that will have voting rights, and will tend to vote Labour, thus recreating a Labour voting base in England (which previously consisted mostly of the descendants of the previous waves of celtic fringe "immigrants") where Labour voting had become almost only limited to the North and the celtic fringe.

But that is a long term plan, and I wonder whether long term is part of the New Labour mindset.

Thatcher did plan for long term Tory success by fostering home, car and stock ownership, and she was wildly successful (Tories now are arguably a majority of Labor's voters and politicians...), but a different mindset.

Sackerson said...

Thank you for your detailed comments, Blissex. It's outrageous that a democratic government will so grossly exceed its brief, not only in this but in the EU project. It's being messed up from the top down.