Blair is un-Blairite on free movement of EU workers
I agree with Ed Miliband and disagree with Tony Blair about Europe in my column for The Independent on Sunday today.
Here is a graph that shows the relative success of Miliband and Yvette Cooper’s approach to the question of immigration. YouGov regularly asks: “Which political party [do] you think would handle [asylum and immigration] best?” The chart plots the six-monthly averages for Conservatives and Labour.
You could argue that there is no necessary contradiction between the Miliband-Cooper restrictive approach to immigration and Blair’s urging that Labour should “confront” UKIP.
But I think Blair went too far on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme last week when he said:
The answer to the white, working class unemployed youth in alienated communities in Britain is not to tell them their problems would be solved if there were fewer Polish people working in the UK … It actually holds them back by giving them a grievance and not a chance.
I do not think anyone should assume that most people are mistaken to think that they have been adversely affected by free movement of EU workers.
I know all about the lump-of-labour fallacy, and that immigration is a symptom of success and a cause of further economic success. I know that there is no evidence that jobs have been lost and limited evidence that unskilled wages depressed in areas of high immigration. But none of that is quite the same as saying that people on low incomes are better off than if EU migration had been damped as much as possible.
If most voters say that there has been too much immigration in too short a time it is only democratic to assume that they know what they are talking about.
Once upon a time, Blair understood this.
This by Peter Kellner on the politics of immigration is thoughtful, but I think his conclusion leans too much to the neo-Blairite view that we should ignore what the majority think if we disagree with it:
Tagged in: ed miliband, eu, euroscepticism, free movement of workers, tony blair, ukip, Yvette Cooper
All three main parties should stop worrying about what voters think about immigration. Instead, they should work out what is right for Britain: for its economy and its society. They should do this honestly and openly, admitting that the task is complex, and that the problems are real and will take time to solve. They should stop chasing voters who hold fierce and simple views on the issue, on either side. Their votes are either locked up or lost. What the voters who have yet to make up their minds are looking for are parties and leaders with the right character. On this, as on so many other things, authenticity and moral courage tends to be more attractive than cowardice and self-cynical populism.
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