In a speech to his favourite pretendy think tank* David Cameron will today
respond to last weeks news headlines, set out a long planned vision of the important need to reduce immigration plan population growth.
See the rhetorical trick there? That nice Mr Cameron isn’t concerned about dirty foreigners mucking up our country, oh no. That’s old fashioned nasty conservatism. No, serious and sober Mr Cameron is merely concerned about “population growth.”. It’s not that there’s too many immigrants, it’s just there are too many people.
Indeed, while he’s not proposing to go as far as the Chinese, he is serious about trying to stop population growth putting a strain on our infrastructure. For example, one of his major announcements will be a ban on the double McLaren buggies that clog up our pavements.
Sorry, I misread. Actually, he’s going to talk about how we need to reduce the inflow of immigration. Dammit. I was getting really excited about the whole one child per family idea.
Let’s break this down a little.
Clearly David Cameron isn’t suggesting to British people that they should have less kiddies. (“Less kids, more work” might not have the campaigning zing we’re used to from the modern Conservative party) So that’s one element of population pressure out.
Cameron is saying that he wants to encourage more families to stay together, which he will do by… bunging them £20 quid a week in tax breaks. I’m sure that is going to stop Trevor Allan from Chipping Sodbury from boinking his secretary and leaving the family home. Especially because in a couple of years Trevor and Kylie (She’s 25 now. Time moved on) will be able to claim the tax breaks for themselves. I don’t know, maybe he’s going to reform the divorce laws. No, of course he’s not.
All of that leaves us with, is, yes you guessed it, immigration.
Now, we need people to come in to the UK. Not least because 380,000 or so leave every year, so that’s the baseline. If we don’t get 380,000 we start shrinking, like a wicked witch turning into a puddle of water. This has happened. In the seventies more people left the UK than came in, mostly because there were other places people wanted to be more. The Bay City Rollers can do that to a country.
People wanting to leave is a sign of a unsuccessful country, people wanting to come is the sign of a successful one. Immigration isn’t bad, m’kay?
Fair enough, I’m biased, as you might tell from the name. As you can tell, my family are all anglo-saxon stock, and my ancestors made a series of speeches in the witan on the theme of “let us welcome out new Norman overlords” back in the day. So we’ve always been pro-immigration.
Looking at the last year for which full data was available, about 565,000 people came into the UK to stay for more than a year. Sounds a lot, no? But remember, only 11,000, the lowest for 15 years, were asylum seekers, while more than eight times as many of these “immigrants” are British citizens, so not sure if they really count. Send ’em back, I say.
But what about the rest? Here’s a pretty map from national statistics (the numbers refer to two year combined data, so they’re different to the ones I’ll quote below, but the full stats are here for those who care to look).
Roughly 70,000 are your friendly local Australian barmen, New Zealand waiters and South African au pairs. Many of these have a British grandparent, so get to stay here o matter how useless they are to the economy. My girlfriend was one of these, a while back (She’s not useless though, far from it). Can’t see Dave cracking down on her and other grandparent enabled white immigrants any time soon. Though it might be fun. Chelsy Davy, I’m looking at you.
Of the remainder, 150,000 are EU citizens taking advantage of freedom of movement. That won’t change, and rightly so.
So of the 565,000, over 300,000 are British, Old commonwealth (white), or european (also white). These groups are, I contend, unlikely to change radically under a Conservative government.
That leaves the “other foreign” and “new commonwealth” immigrants. So let’s look at those in more detail, 14,000 of these were Americans. So lets, call that a round 15k and we’re up to 325,000. So there’s a pool of immigration that is politically sensitive that is currently running at 240,000 a year.
These people, and there’s no nice way of putting this. Well, they have dark skins. They come overhelmingly from India, China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nigeria. You’ve got two options for dealing with them. The first is to make a neutral, skills based assessment of what skills the UK is likely to need, then allow everyone to apply against those criteria. If you have enough points you can come in. To be fair you should also apply this to the old commonwealth, but I doubt anyone’s going to mess with the ancestral system any time soon. In a shocking development, that’s what the Government’s doing already. Who’d have thunk it?
Still, if you don’t want to take that route, you could apply a centrally dictated quota on the number of people coming into the country, set in advance and not to be breached no matter what. Such a quota would be a nonsense because it would apply a top down approach to immigration needs, meaning that who-ever got in first, not the most qualified, would get in. No surprise then, that it’s the cornerstone of New Conservatism’s immigration policy. Oddly, it was the cornerstone of nasty old conservatism’s immigration policy too. Surely it can’t be just the rhetoric that changed?
Of course, you could point out, quite reasonably, that by setting a points based system, as the government is doing, you then have a mechanism for allowing a bottom up management of immigration numbers based on need, not on some number plucked out of the air. If you want, you could call that number a quota. Fine, lets do that. I got no problem with that. Trouble is for Cameron is that if he did it, that would mean endorsing the Government’s whole immigration policy, which would make all his rhetoric look… well utterly meaningless.
Which is, of course, the whole point. This is, after all definitely not a response to last weeks news headlines.
*isn’t it sweet how Policy Exchange are always there for him Just waiting for him to make a speech on whatever was in the papers last week. You know I think these right wing think tanks deserve a little scrutiny.