When people who find something disturbing about current levels of immigration express their anxiety, they often act as if in doing so they are breaking a taboo. Take for example the article written by the Labour MP Simon Danczuk in the Daily Mail entitled: “My party’s too scared to talk about migration.”
As Jeremy Cliffe – British politics corespondent for the Economist and fellow former member of the notably unsucessful Oxford University progressive politics discussion group – points out Danczuk is demanding people do what they already are:
“Labour can no longer ignore immigration”
Labour really isn’t doing that. Ed Miliband has given three big speeches on the subject. So has Yvette Cooper. The party has even made it the subject of a party political broadcast.
“It’s as though we can only talk about the positive impact of immigration.”
No it isn’t. Not even a bit. Politicians are forever alleging immigration’s “unsettling effects” on neighbourhoods, its depression of wages, its strains on public services and the like.
“There is a massive vacuum in British politics where immigration is concerned.”
No there isn’t. David Cameron bangs on about it even more than Mr Miliband.
“Ed Miliband may feel uncomfortable at talking about immigration because he’s the son of immigrants.”
In fact he rarely talks about immigration without invoking his parents, who were refugees from the Holocaust.
This does seem to me rather symptomatic of the tone of false persecution that underlines much of the immigration debate. Voters greatly overestimate the number of migrants, help fund the public services they are often derided as a pressure on and are blamed for the decline of working class communities whose economic underpinnings were shot regardless of migration.
My impression is that those of us who support migration would be happy to debate it. But contraire the likes of Danczuk, the unthinking ‘politically correct’ position is that immigration is a bad thing and the debate is not about its merits but who can be ‘tougher’ on it. Notions like the supposed pressure on public services are asserted rather than discussed. What we have wound up with is not a debate but an exchange of fallacies. In this, context the rise of UKIP is hardly surprising.
The brave politician is not the one who attacks migrants but the one who defends them.