It’s Labour dogma that will lose us our place in Europe.
OK, so not everyone values that place as much as they might. But it would be good if the arguments for and against were properly addressed by the main political parties. The ‘Remain’ campaigners are probably winning the economic argument. But they’re failing over the tricky issue of immigration. This is where the ‘Leave’ campaigners are ahead, with some polls suggesting they have an overall lead. The problem is that many is the ‘Remain’ camp seem unable to either understand, or accept, the issues associated with the high-levels of immigration we’ve seen over the past few years.
When he was Prime Minister, Gordon Brown was famously embarrassed by being overhead referring to a member of the public, who had just been telling him her concerns over immigration, as a ‘bigoted woman’. He was forced into an embarrassing apology, but there was no sign of him giving her concerns any serious consideration. In Gordon’s case, I suspect the poor old darling just lacked the wit to properly think through the issues. Others miss the point with wilful determination. It’s ironic that Iain Duncan-Smith should be the one to tell us that net immigration has the effect of reducing our chances of getting work, and pushing down wages and conditions. Ironic, because the Tories, despite their weasel words, have consistently used immigration to do just that. By their own capitalist logic, labour is as subject to the laws of supply and demand as any other cost of production. Increase supply (through immigration) and you reduce the price (i.e. wages). And when so many of the people who come to Britain to work have much lower expectations of earnings than us, the effect is magnified.
You would expect the Conservatives to be rather keen on this nifty little Monetarist tool for reducing business costs. But what of Labour, whose supposed role is to represent the rights of working people? Well, those on the right of the party – the so-called Blairites – are liars and cheats, who have always been in the wrong party. For them, socialism is a dirty word; their hidden agenda is to work for the benefit of their rich friends in the business world (like Rupert Murdoch). So it’s no surprise they won’t have a word said against immigration. But the left; well, they’re so detached from the people they are supposed to represent, and so blinded by trendy liberal dogma, that they can’t accept the truth. They’ve blindly accepted the assumption that to think of immigration in negative terms is to think of immigrants negatively, which must therefore be racist (even though immigrants come in all races). So taken are they by this dogma, that they are even happy to accept the overtly derogatory idea that we need immigrants to ‘do the jobs we don’t want to do’. Which is really saying, ‘Why should a British worker with no experience or qualifications demean themselves by taking a low-grade job when we can get an experienced, highly-qualified, highly intelligent worker from Poland or Romania to do it?’ Of course, working people are very used to being betrayed by the party that was created to support their interests.
So, ‘Remainers’ from both sides of the political spectrum do nothing but repeat the mantra that immigration is good for Britain, leaving it to the ‘Leavers’ to state what working people already know – because they have experienced it for themselves – which is that immigration reduces job opportunities and pushes down wages and conditions. No surprise then, that working people are drawn to the ‘Leave’ campaign. Forget IDS, Boris, Dave, George and Nigel – they all want us to leave or remain according to the opportunities each thinks it will give them to make themselves and their friends richer still – whether or not we stay in Europe is in the hands of the Labour party. We need Labour to clearly accept that immigration is having a seriously detrimental effect on the people they represent, and propose a way to counteract this which doesn’t involve leaving the EU. This might well involve taking a firmer position with the EU, perhaps imposing a temporary unilateral ban on immigration. There are other countries who would support this position. And even Germany’s insistence on freedom of movement as a fundamental principle of the European project is beginning to waver in the light of the problems they have experienced. Without a move away from uncontrolled freedom of movement, the EU will most likely collapse anyway, whether the UK decides to stay or to go, so there’s nothing to lose. By taking a stronger position, and stating it clearly and forcefully in the few days left before the referendum, Labour should be able to persuade enough people to vote to remain. And they might just manage to save the Europe Union into the bargain (which will be in our best interests, whether we’re in or out).