Category Archives: Mass Immigration

The consequences of the Grenfell Tower tragedy could be profound

I have a strong feeling that the atrocity at Grenfell Tower this week (and my sympathies are with those affected) will prove to be both another nail in the neoliberal coffin and the beginning of a sweeping Labour revival.

This I have thought not for a very long time, but the longer I ponder the prospect, the more convinced I am that it is correct. At least, this is what the signs point us to.

There is something going on in Britain. Sections of the population are mobilising in profound ways, workers are demanding action where their voices were once muffled.

Who knows where this renewed energy will lead? I hope not towards the violence we saw at Kensington Town Hall. The poor know better and can get their messages across in more constructive ways.

Corporate failure to provide suitable, non-flammable cladding has sparked intense anger. But the emotion provoked is about more than just that. It is being more widely aimed at four decades of neoliberalism.

Public mistrust of the private sector was certainly aroused in 2008 after the financial meltdown. There came a turning point for the west, which I believe has swayed slightly to a more Left-wing, interventionist economic consensus.

The neoliberal agenda is treated by the working classes with understandable disdain. It promotes individualism over the maintenance of a social conscience and has represented a sustained attack on democracy.

There is also an interesting parallel at play here. When Margaret Thatcher was in power and she introduced ‘right to buy’ (a form of housing privatisation), homelessness right across rural England soared.

This has been recorded quite brilliantly by my friend Anthony Clavane in his new book A Yorkshire Tragedy. Though Grenfell Tower is a wholly separate problem, it does reflect a certain disregard for the housing needs of the country’s poorest.

I noted yesterday, also, the scurried way in which Mrs May climbed into her convoy 4×4, choosing, perhaps understandably, to avoid the baying crowds demanding both answers and leadership.

I can of course imagine that such a situation would be nerve-wrackingly intimidating. Local residents, bereaved families and angry demonstrators do not make for the ideal public meeting after such a painful week.

There was, though, something slightly symbolic about the Prime Minister’s forced departure from Kensington yesterday. Mrs May appears weak and biding her time, and this crisis could be the beginning of her end.

That is not to say that Grenfell Tower’s blaze was her fault. I think there have been very cynical attempts by hard leftists to associate her with the deaths of, at the time of writing, an estimated 58 people.

The idea that Mrs May ought to be blamed for the fire is fanciful and unhelpful nonsense. Leftists who have genuine (and I think reasonable) grievances with corporate ineptitude will undermine their cause by engaging in this useless finger-wagging.

I have defended the importance of protest at this blog as an important avenue of expression in any democracy. But there can be no excuse for ensuing demonstrations to erupt into savage carnivals of violence.

I also believe that the Labour Party will win the next General Election, whenever it is called. If contemporary British politics tells us anything, it could be as soon as this autumn. There are a few reasons why I think this.

The first is that the myth and fakery of Tory strength and stability has been left helplessly exposed, both by the party’s incompetent leader and their throwing away of 21-point polling leads in one of the worst political campaigns in modern history.

The second is its potentially disastrous dealings with the Democratic Unionist Party, which could completely hollow out Tory support in more urbanised, metropolitan areas of the country.

Social and moral conservatism, but for occasional stirrings, has been more or less wiped out in Britain. The Conservatives have instead presented a more liberal agenda for many years.

This has been because they have no alternative. The Tories are electable if they mouth conservative sentiments but advocate liberalising policy. They are able to tap in to a wide range of the electorate this way.

Of course, there are setbacks. The popularity of UKIP over the last three years (though now decaying again) was a result of Conservative Party failure to address problems caused by mass immigration and Brussels-imposed attacks on our sovereignty.

Theresa May tried to pose as the rescuer of the party; the woman to restore the winning ways of the 1980s, but her personality-centric campaign only managed to reveal her fatal weaknesses.

The mess she now finds herself in, combined with negotiations with the DUP, who don’t subscribe to the Tories’ more liberal agenda, will cost her party dearly at the next election.

More progressive Tory members, voters and activists have already begun questioning their support for the party. LGBT Tories, many of whom I know, will be particularly uneasy with this unfortunate (and thoroughly unnecessary) alliance.

There is also the question of Jeremy Corbyn, whose stock has changed significantly since last Thursday. He now looks the part, talks the part and oozes refreshing confidence.

Something resembling stability has returned to Labour over the last week. I am also convinced that Mr Corbyn’s party would have garnered many more votes from the electorate on June 8th had people genuinely thought he was within a chance of winning.

He should, though, refrain from overtly politicising tragedies of the kind we have seen this week. I don’t think he should, for instance, spend two minutes on Sky News berating cuts to local authority budgets and fire services without the causes of the fire being properly established.

If the election were held tomorrow, Labour would undoubtedly outperform themselves. Nobody believes that the Tories are adequately prepared for governing.

And nor are they in a strong enough position to negotiate our withdrawal from the European Union effectively. No wonder there is such anger.

 


Confession: I think the EU referendum was a mistake

I now think that holding a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union was a mistake. I have, I fear, reached this conclusion far too slowly.

I suspect it was the glamour of it all; the honour of working at the heart of a history-making political campaign that clouded my judgement.

I was in the midst of it all a 20-year old that had been given a fantastic first job I was arguably too immature for. That is not to say that it wasn’t anything other than a modest role, but to me it meant the world.

This, combined with occasional television appearances after the result, got to my head a little too much. I should have realised sooner that simply taking part in the referendum would not be enough.

It is a matter of head versus heart. The heart looks back with fondness at the privilege of campaigning and the many friends and contacts made.

But the head is nagging me about our constitutional difficulties, ambiguous Brexit options and unstable, incompetent leadership during such a sensitive period.

I always try my utmost to allow my head to win these battles. And so in this case I must concede that referendums are not the way to exercise ground-breaking political reform.

It has been quietly obvious for a while now that the real winner of the referendum was in fact David Cameron, who was able to use the result to slip out of government in time and avoid the mess we are now in.

He and his advisors probably saw all of this coming. I predicted as the results were coming through on June 23rd that he would step down as Prime Minister, but, rather naively, did not foresee the obstacles that acting on the result has since faced.

The main problem with last year’s plebiscite was that it did not provide clarity for those like Richard North who supported both Brexit and membership of the single market.

I wish I had taken notice of researchers like him (and indeed his blog eureferendum.com) much earlier than I did. He and his son Pete, bizarrely inept at social interaction, have yielded answers to complex questions for longer than our media has been able to keep up.

Referenda are binary, usually offered to appease the electorate and are and deliberately oversimplified. The options given lack nuance, ensuring they provide exactly the fertile soil for disruption and chaos. This is why governments tend to support the status quo option. 

Our EU referendum created the inevitable problem that, in the event of a Leave vote, which became predictable weeks before polling day, ambiguity over what kind of Brexit its voters would prefer caused poisonous hostility. 

Now, a simple way of getting round this would have been to alter ballots in New Zealand-style fashion and ask those voting for Brexit a second question: “Do you think the UK should remain a member of the single market?”

Of course, we know what the answer would be if folk were well-informed. Since immigration was the largest single issue aroused by our camp, most would have opted for a single market exit too.

But that is not the point. My point is that a referendum over such a huge issue created a mandate for a policy without a policy. We were left directionless in an uphill battle.

And what made it worse was the fact that we had a government responsible for addressing the policy that did not agree with its premise in the first place. 

Despite being an exercise in direct democracy, our referendum exposed a sharp disconnect between public opinion and the preferences of those in the Westminster bubble. 

Referenda are, as I now appreciate more fully, renowned moreso for the constitutional upheaval they generate. Crimea in 2014 is perhaps a more extreme example. 

Since signalling for EU departure is the most profound democratic decision made by the British electorate arguably in history, it is no surprise that our politicians can barely organise themselves to adhere to it. 

In hindsight, a much more durable alternative to a national poll would have been a clear manifesto commitment, from either of the two major parties, to leaving.

Both Labour and the Tories have more than their fair share of voters wanting out, and any party claiming to be government material must be able to embrace the possibilities that come with legislative repatriation.

Yes, upon election, there would still have been the grave difficulties of negotiation, but at least direction and mandates would be more clearly established.

The only reason why neither party dared to do this was because they were (and still largely are) afflicted by the lingering Blairism that for so long prevented them from carrying out policies supported by faithless voters.

David Cameron certainly wouldn’t accept such an inclusion in a Tory manifesto. He is as supportive of the European project as they come.

A mutual friend of Dan Hannan and I, and notable Flexcit supporter, once told me that during his years at university, Mr Cameron donned prized cufflinks sporting the EU flag.

And the party’s current stock of leadership contenders aren’t much different, I might add. A referendum may therefore seem like an escape from this problem, but in reality caused many new ones of its own.

Had there been no referendum, significant pressure from Tory party members would have spurned their politicians into action, I am sure of it. 

I sometimes wonder what the European Commission and fellow member states think of all this. They cannot possibly consider Mrs May to be tough negotiating material.

She made far too humiliating a mess of last week’s General Election to be considered so, and only remains in Number 10 thanks to a cynical, gentleman’s agreement from the DUP (who themselves favour what we call ‘soft’ Brexit).

I must also point out here that in no way do I regret my vote or campaigning last year. I am as fervent a supporter of our secession as one can be. I just think that our means of securing that exit were profoundly flawed.

And since elections are now heavily influenced by last year’s result, as was expected given how divided we are, it may as well have been a party decision to take us out after all.

 


Jump on the May bandwagon? Count me out

The more I think about it, the more I respect the Tory campaigning strategy ahead of this General Election. The Prime Minister and her advisors have succeeded in making this campaign all about her. It’s all about her, ‘Team Theresa’, where every vote for her strengthens her hand in negotiations with the European Union.

It is, of course, a false trail. Our negotiations with the other EU states will depend largely on their mobilisation, not ours. I say I respect the personality tactic because it is effective in highlighting Jeremy Corbyn’s glaring leadership weaknesses. It pits ‘Strong and Stable’ May (she is anything but) against the hapless Labour leader. This point was made rather well by my friend Charlie Peters on Sky News this morning.

Well, I for one will not be jumping on the May bandwagon anytime soon. She is not the visionary architect of the new, third era in post-war British politics. I am particularly disturbed by the artificial and vacuous term ‘Mayism’, which as the Prime Minister rightly pointed out, is not actually a thing. Mayism is in fact the name that has been donated to the political changes forced by massive swings in public opinion over the last few years.

These changes are characterised primarily by distinct mistrust in markets and disillusionment with neoliberal capitalism (fuelled predominantly by the 2008 financial crash) and Left wing social projects like mass immigration and multiculturalism. Latching on to these sentiments, Mrs May is, if anything, an opportunist.

She is not the driver of anything. In many ways, she is in an unfortunate, subordinated position. She is seeking election on a premise that she fundamentally disagrees with, will no doubt find herself at the mercy of other European leaders and unprecedented Tory polling leads mean that she can only hope to decrease the population’s margin of support for the Conservative Party. Her legacy will not sound or look anything like the one she envisaged when she entered the political arena back in the 1990s.

And if we look, the process is already under way. Her proposed changes to the funding of social care are already frightening many pensioners into abandoning the blue corner in favour of the red one. You can hardly blame them. May has for some time appeared strikingly untrustworthy, showcased by several U-turns (which are neither strong nor stable) and her abysmal track record on issues like immigration and personal liberties.

Immigration stands as the largest blemish on her political record. She echoed conservative sentiments against mass migration at Conservative Party conference a couple of years ago, which prompted quite a backlash, but didn’t even try to do anything reasonable about it in government, refusing even to campaign for a Leave vote during the referendum campaign. May is not interested in sovereignty. But, now that she has the chance, she does want to be the Prime Minister that manages to drastically cut net migration figures (though this will more difficult to achieve than most expect).

She is a renowned opponent of free speech and has a dark authoritarian streak within her. Spiked have produced some useful compendiums of some of her political interferences with freedom of expression both here: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/theresa-may-the-new-prime-minister-grave-threat-to-freedom/18547#.WSL_Xuvyvcs and here: http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/dont-look-to-theresa-may-to-defend-freedom/19602#.WSL_8uvyvcs, detailing her barring of citizens she deemed ‘not conducive to the public good’ and providing Ofcom with powers to block any TV content it considered ‘extreme’.

This is without mentioning her overseeing of the Investigatory Powers Bill, which received Royal Assent last November and threatens our online privacy, and Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 which stands to regulate the British press through an independent body known as Impress and would no doubt have been passed by both Houses had a snap General Election not been called.

Her record as Home Secretary was also marred by her disgraceful treatment of police forces, which have been shredded beyond belief by needless austerity measures during a period that has seen massive population growth. (I wrote on this some months ago; the statistics on frontline police numbers in England and Wales alone are nothing short of remarkable: https://norgroveblog.com/2016/10/04/heres-what-really-ought-to-be-in-hammonds-autumn-statement/)

At the time, she tried to defend a policy of deep cuts by suggesting that more could be done with less, and that since crime statistics (which are hard to analyse due to changes in police action and thresholds for prosecution) were falling, more police officers were not needed. But since crime is an iceberg issue, this argument is fatuous. Lower recorded crime does not necessarily mean less crime. If there is a lower police presence on the streets, correspondingly less crime will be seen and dealt with.

Her political blunders over the years only further dispel the myth that she represents strength and stability in government. In her 10 months as Prime Minister, she has U-turned on a number of significant issues, like a rise in National Insurance contributions for self-employed workers and the holding of a snap General Election. If Mrs May has shown anything in her premiership so far, it is that we ought not to take her word for very much.

I have decided not to participate in this election, other than through this blog as an independent. I shan’t be campaigning for any party and will not cast a ballot either. Politics for me will resume once the country has parted ways with the European Union.

 

 


This election is oh so depressing

I am profoundly jealous of anybody who found an excuse not to watch yesterday’s pitiful TV debate between five of the country’s most uninspiring party leaders. I didn’t watch it expecting to be anything other than dismayed at the growing pile of political deadwood we now have in Britain.

It is made infinitely worse by how similar they all look. Tim Farron, Nicola Sturgeon, Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas are as irritating as they are indistinguishable from one another. They all, as far as I can see, have exactly the same beliefs.

They all sneer at the prospect of Britain being a self-governing, sovereign country once more. They all despise grammar schools whilst refusing to acknowledge the kinds of selection brought about by the massive and failed comprehensive experiment in education. They all support mass, uncontrolled immigration and the egalitarian wonders of multiculturalism.

But there is something else that unites them all so glaringly: none of them are even remotely electable. I am still surprised that broadcast time was allocated to them, given that the total number of MPs in England represented was 10 and neither of the two major parties took part.

Paul Nuttall, mediocre and paling in comparison to the charisma of Nigel Farage, stuck out, but that was to be expected from a UKIP candidate. It is time for their members to accept the now painfully obvious fact that they are no longer a purposeful or serious electoral force.

As always with these totally overhyped and underwhelming affairs, we were treated to two hours of spin from the Public Relations industry, whose agencies write the scripts and formulate the annoying slogans and soundbites that the live and televised audiences are showered with.

That, added to the fact that we already know which party will be victorious on June 8th, only helps to make this whole thing so utterly depressing. I now see the logic behind holding a snap General Election more clearly. The mobilisation of the non-blue parties was forced and feels so rushed and obligatory.

I wrote a few weeks ago that this election was a second referendum in disguise. I still hold that view, but I can’t describe myself as unsure about the result. Like readers, I know what will happen. The Conservative Party will expand on its majority, by perhaps 50 seats, the country will forget about the fraud it was proven to have committed during the 2015 General Election campaign and Theresa May will lead the country into its third post-war political era, whatever it hopes to look like.

(More on Theresa May very soon.)

The Tories, of course, don’t need to participate in meaningless debates, which I actually disagree with on the grounds that they reflect presidential systems and the UK’s localised, parliamentary format. I may not even feel it necessary to vote for them, since my constituency (Bexleyheath and Crayford) is both Leave-supporting and a relatively safe Conservative seat. After toying with this election for a few weeks, I now realise that there is simply no real need for me to vote.

For Labour, the principle target now ought to be to convince as many of its traditional voters as possible not to jump ship or abstain. Their defeat in June is inevitable, but a turnaround in the coming years (as we saw back in the 1990s) is more than possible. Much will depend upon who succeeds Mr Corbyn as leader later this year, provided of course, that he agrees to step down.

This election is a realisation of three things. Firstly, the neo-liberal consensus has been irrevocably altered. Secondly, the Conservative Party are embarking upon their second era of parliamentary dominance in the last forty years. And thirdly, that Brexit is now a Tory plaything; a policy they have total control over in Westminster and almost no yearning for in Brussels.

I left the party for a reason I am now sharply reminded of. I just can’t bring myself to trust them.


The pro-immigrant case against mass immigration

Finally, a workable, coherent plan on immigration has emerged. Lord knows that Britain has been longing for one for the last two decades. I ask readers to note that it is thanks to our leaving the European Union that it will be possible to execute one at all.

Obviously not being a part of UKIP has had a liberating effect on Steven Woolfe, whose ‘Leave means Leave’ report, published earlier, calls for a five-year ban on unskilled immigration to help bring net migration down to below 50,000 per year.

At last, the country is beginning to act as if it is sovereign again. Of course, we aren’t yet, but positive signs are beginning to show. We dare to dream once more about things we spent years having absolutely no control over.

The issue of immigration was always going to be the acid test for Brexit. Mr Farage told Faisal Islam a few months ago that it would be regaining control of our territorial waters, but I think he only said this as a reminder to the government.

Immigration was the largest single issue within the subset of arguments for leave, and for good reason. Our politicians sat idly by whilst working class communities were left bitterly divided thanks to unprecedented levels of (particularly unskilled) immigration.

The poor were more seriously affected, as with all failed policies, and men and women all over the country began to feel isolated in the towns and neighbourhoods that they once knew and loved.

This isn’t, crucially, a condemnation of the migrants who arrived. Rather, it is a critique of the notion that a historically unique sample of different peoples and cultures can peacefully and successfully be imposed upon a society and encouraged not to integrate.

But, what we don’t consider often enough are the effects on those who migrate. I believe that there is a powerful but buried pro-immigrant case for limiting immigration. It ought to be discussed more seriously.

In 2013, a British social attitudes survey revealed that 77% of the British public favoured a reduction in the level of immigration. The percentage of people who preferred the numbers to be cut had increased substantially from the late 90s, when the Blair government embarked upon its ridiculous policy of opening up the doors to most of Eastern Europe.

So the first significant impact on the country since this radical project was introduced has been to promote strong anti-migrant sentiment. Cities and demographics changed rapidly and mass immigration sparked, as it always does where tried, a burgeoning resentment.

By radically reducing the number that come (starting rationally with those less skilled), we can stem the tide of sentiment that can have a profound impact upon the quality of life of those who come here. We can also give our one million unemployed young people an even break in the jobs market.

It can’t be understated: strong borders do more to suppress racism and promote social cohesion than any government initiative, charity or think tank ever could.

By definition, strong borders allow only the highest quality immigrants to enter a society. They give settling immigrants a more positive reputation, and incentivise the existing, national population to be more tolerant and welcoming.

I mention quality of life above deliberately. It is perhaps the most crucial aspect to this whole debate. I only wish Leftist liberals could understand that it is not he who wants the highest number to come, but he who wants the best life possible for immigrants that can truly claim moral authority in this argument.

Especially (though not limited to) for those, like me, who live in the South East of England, the pressures on public services have never been more intense. For my generation, housing has floated almost comically far from affordability.

Only those born into wealth or lucky enough to have bagged a fantastic job will be unfamiliar with the struggles of getting on to the housing ladder.

Unfortunately, politicians were slow to realise that markets are about demand and supply, and that a substantial increase in the number of people entering the country equates to a substantial decrease in the chances of being able to afford the property you want.

And so this affects incoming migrants, too. Immigrants can’t escape housing bubbles, and a reduction in the numbers coming (paired with sustained building efforts) will enable more to better afford the properties that meet their housing needs.

But, there are other problems. Britain’s immigrants are not likely to appreciate the intense congestion on our roads and at our railway stations as they go about their working lives.

Getting a seat on a train, once an act of thoughtless simplicity, now resembles a circuit of Total Wipeout, as passengers weave in and out of one another hoping to stand by the seat of the next departing commuter.

These little things are easily taken for granted, but they help to form a bigger picture. Mass immigration, when prescribed for a population without its consent, dampens the quality of life of everybody but the landowners who cash in on the promise of cheap labour.

When immigrants arrive in a country, they want to feel welcomed and be presented with the opportunity to integrate and establish themselves within a community. At such a speedy rate, this is almost impossible. And society will suffer the consequences.

So I welcome tomorrow’s report calling for stern controls on immigration. Contrary to the claims of the Left, we haven’t always been a country of immigrants. For very many years there lived in Britain a settled, cohesive populace.

It is true that racial and religious demographics have been significantly altered by mass migration, but don’t fall for the idea that this has always been the case, and that because it has always been the case it must remain so.

There are sensible arguments against large-scale immigration, but the Right has often been guilty of framing the debate in terms of the population and the migrants. I think this is a false dichotomy.

Let us, from now on, criticise the policy from the point of view of those arriving in the UK. That way, we might even get the Left to listen.

 


UKIP will not pose a threat in 2020, but this may be bad for British politics

I now think that UKIP will play no considerable role at the 2020 General Election (provided, of course, that there isn’t one sooner). My conclusion is partly informed by uninspiring quarrels between its senior figures and partly by the result of last year’s referendum, which now seems so far away I can scarcely believe how time has flown.

Notice that I use the word ‘uninspiring’. Of course, squabbles in political parties – despite the fact that they can open up debate – aren’t usually very helpful, but with UKIP, matters are made worse. The party was primarily a one-issue political force, acting as a battering ram and driving home an agenda that had been forgotten or deliberately ignored for far too long.

At present, UKIP lacks purpose and direction. Its primary goal has almost (barring a few late hiccups) been achieved and it must now attach itself to other issues worth pursuing. Indeed, Michael Heaver, Nigel Farage’s former spin doctor, thinks that proportional representation and House of Lords reform are two such issues that the party can use to maintain its foothold in British politics.

This is a false trail. These areas of policy are fringe issues not capable of rallying a significant portion of the electorate. UKIP’s divisions are therefore uninspiring because neither side is offering any credible path towards long-term relevance in the current political climate. Arron Banks, who funded UKIP at the last General Election, claims that Paul Nuttall is week, but the problem is in fact much deeper.

The party has reached its sell-by date, and as the party only ever truly planned for a referendum, it is unsurprising to me that it finds itself a little hollowed out and purposeless afterwards. This is itself causing internal doubt and frustration. Being the leader, Mr Nuttall will find himself in the crosshairs, but truth be told, even Nigel Farage would struggle to keep UKIP on the map.

I do not write this gleefully by any means. I have always been fair to UKIP and stood up for the party when under unjust attack. This is because I believe that its impact on British politics has been largely productive. Its success transcends electoral representative democracy and, perhaps ironically, was aided largely by its very inconvenience to the establishment parties and their pocketed media tycoons.

UKIP’s most profound influence on British politics was to apply serious pressure on the Conservative Party to be conservative; to stop supporting Britain’s ongoing membership of the European Union, to stop imposing on the country unprecedented levels of mass immigration, to strengthen and illuminate the national culture and character. These simple premises had long ago been abandoned by a party that knew that all it had to do was mirror Blairite values and – as the Labour Party was hollowed and left demoralised in the ensuing post-Blair years – it would guarantee electability for years to come.

The Conservative Party knew that it had become New Labour. How could anybody have missed the many glaring parallels between its leader, Mr Cameron, and his now infamous predecessor? The trouble was, so too did many of its members. Its most disgruntled supporters switched their allegiances and opted instead to seek refuge in a growing party that believed and said the things conservatives had been saying vainly for so long. It is no wonder that UKIP became a force in such a short period of time.

Nigel Farage shrewdly spotted a few years ago that if he could only (but correctly) associate mass immigration with EU membership, and raise awareness to a possible referendum, his and his party’s political legacy would be secure. Though what he still does not recognise, to his discredit, is how ineffective the Leave campaign would have been had UKIP been spearheading it during the country’s referendum period. Alas, it no longer matters. Our side won it, all that remains is for departure to be negotiated and executed.

But what of the future of UKIP? I would love for my prediction to fall flat. They have been a useful kick in the backside for the Tories down south and northern Labour who, shamefully, have resisted public opinion (even that of its own voter base) and insisted on fighting – rather than listening to, UKIP. In the run up to the triggering of Article 50, backsliding on Brexit was widely suspected. But come the inevitable collapse of UKIP, a party almost too combustible for its own good, more serious backsliding may be seen.

The Tories, knowing full well that much of conservatism is damage limitation, may not see a battle worth fighting, and we could well see them revert to their old, disingenuous ways, freed of the UKIP-led electoral pressure that so many took for granted.


Brexit: the House of Lords has not let anybody down tonight

And still we are yet to trigger Article 50. This time thanks to what is actually quite a reasonable intervention from the House of Lords, who have attracted the wrath of Leave voters now agitated to get the exit process under way. Being one of them, I understand their frustrations, but tonight’s government defeat was actually an example of the Upper House at its most useful, not at its most destructive or contemptuous of democratic procedure.

The amendment, which proposed that the government commits to protecting the rights of EU citizens living in Britain within three months of triggering Article 50, defeated Mrs May’s Brexit bill by 358 votes to 256 earlier this evening. At first I sighed at what I thought would be yet another bump in the road to leaving the European Union, but then I took the time to consider a couple of things.

Firstly, the amendment (despite its lack of concern for British citizens living within the EU) is a sensible one. Being the leaving party, it is down to Britain to set the negotiating standard and settle the nerves of other member states who are concerned about damage to diplomatic ties. By enshrining in law protection for the rights of those who came to the UK legally throughout our membership, we lay the groundwork for productive talks and calm EU-born immigrants living in Britain, who in many cases will be uneasy about committing to long-term projects, like finding a mortgage or setting up a business.

Certainty, after all, was exactly what was promised in the government’s White Paper a few weeks ago. It seems to me to be reasonable, as the responsibility for this entire process lies first and foremost with us, that we take the moral high ground on this particular issue. If EU departure is organised poorly and in slapdash fashion, then Britain is the party most liable to political and economic damage. Even Nigel Farage, not known for his humility towards Brussels, agreed with me on his LBC radio show a few moments ago (or, rather, I agree with him).

Since immigration was a major factor in helping to determine the outcome of last year’s referendum, I think foreign-born citizens living in the UK will appreciate a vote of confidence in their worth to the country and support for their stay, especially given the noted rise in levels of hate crime and lingering anti-migrant sentiment after almost two decades of mass immigration from the continent. I also think that other EU member states will be more willing to engage constructively with the UK during negotiations, knowing that their citizens’ rights are to be respected.

Another cause for concern tonight has been the emotional outrage from Leave voters who have emerged in their droves to try to undermine Westminster’s second chamber in calling for its abolition. This is odd, given that most Brexit supporters self-identify as political conservatives (that’s small ‘c’). I can only deduce that they are not thinking rationally whilst their unjustifiable anger consumes them. They only tend to make noise when our Peers behave in ways that they do not personally approve of, and not usually at any other time.

The main problem with a unicameral legislature is that, due to timetabling constraints, the House of Commons simply isn’t able to oversee all legislation put before it. It must, from to time, rely on the Upper House to vote on and scrutinise bills; perhaps one of its more crucial and underappreciated functions. My suspicion is that a unicameral legislature would struggle to get to grips with the sheer wealth of legislation it would have to deal with. And to simply say: “Well, let’s pass fewer laws” seems on the face of things a little naive. It is not possible to predict the country’s future political challenges – especially after substantial constitutional change.

Secondly, as we have seen this evening, the House of Lords has consistently proved itself able to scrutinise government intelligently, reminding them of where they are going wrong and proposing amendments where necessary. This process cannot be understated. It is likely the main reason why the Upper House has remained a fixture at Westminster for such a long time, and while I disagree with the composition of Peers and the manner of their selection, I acknowledge the importance of holding the executive to account.

Those who voted for Brexit may, therefore, want to save their strength. This is not a battle worth fighting, and given the circumstances, it is hard to tell what challenges lie just around the corner.

 


Some thoughts on UKIP’s struggles, purpose and future

First, a little personal history about my involvement with the UK Independence Party:

I joined UKIP around the time of the 2015 General Election, knowing at the time very little about British politics but for the fact that the European Union wasn’t particularly democratic and that crucial powers had left the jurisdiction of Westminster for the jurisdiction of Brussels. Nigel Farage was primarily responsible for igniting my interest in Britain’s EU membership. My reasoning for joining was always to help pursue Brexit. I never really had all that much interest in the rest of the party’s manifesto. I left almost a year later, upon gaining employment with the Vote Leave campaign. To clarify, I was not asked to leave and did not feel compelled to, rather I chose to in order to focus on one campaigning avenue and set of messages.

Unlike most of UKIP’s detractors, I have actually been inside the party. This means that I know where faults lie (especially at local level) and I know where to draw the line between fair and unfair criticism. UKIP is not a party of racists and homophobes. In fact, it mostly comprises of former Labour and Tory voters, disillusioned with their former party’s messages around issues like EU membership and immigration. The oddity was that as UKIP drew more scorn from their rivals, they became more popular, as other parties began to reek of sneering, establishmentarian arrogance.

It took the main parties quite a long time to realise this, which has always surprised me. The Labour Party still makes the mistake of referring to UKIP’s message as the politics of hatred and division, despite its ongoing battle to overcome lingering internal anti-Semitism. The Conservatives, who had the most to lose from a strong Independence force, reacted a little more proactively, and ceased labelling UKIP figures and voters in uncomplimentary terms because they knew that it would backfire on them. What is even more interesting is the number of Tory youth members – of which I know many – who like UKIP and credit them for giving their party a kick up the backside across various policy areas.

It is correctly argued that UKIP does best as a radical party, but it is also worth remembering that the sheer scale of immigration for the past two decades, and the party’s ability to link it to a referendum, shaped their success. UKIP will still portray itself as a radical party, but it will not be aided in the same way going forward. Michael Heaver, Nigel Farage’s former spin doctor, believes that his party needs to get back on the offence and take the lead in policy proposals. He mentioned on the Daily Politics today that House of Lords reform or proportional representation could be areas of policy that UKIP may try to influence – but these things simply do not have the same value for them. They are not issues that unite or rally their voter base, and they are not big enough issues to attract very many swing voters. This is especially true of the country’s Remain supporters, who would sooner barbecue their own children than be pulled in by even a sentence of any UKIP manifesto.

The in-fighting quite clearly isn’t helping things either. UKIP squabbles aren’t new and they most certainly aren’t surprising. But, in previous years, hostile sections of the party could put their differences aside much more easily as they knew that on the horizon lay an issue not worth dividing over. Even Farage and Douglas Carswell, who I got to meet several times during the referendum campaign and rather liked, simply ignored one another in the weeks leading to polling day, knowing full well that it was better to enter battle united that it was to entertain pointless feuding.

For the record, I believe Douglas Carswell was a little petulant in not backing a proposed Nigel Farage knighthood. I think it was quite clear why he did it. Just as it became clear that his defection from the Tories softened UKIP’s jagged voice as the referendum debate was under way. For anybody who has not yet read it and is interested, my blog on the case for knighting Mr Farage can be read at the following link:

https://norgroveblog.com/2017/02/25/why-nigel-farage-deserves-a-knighthood/

I am therefore unsurprised to learn that Arron Banks, who I’ve often thought will prove to be more useful behind the scenes in political life, is preparing to challenge Mr Carswell for his seat in Clacton. I don’t believe the UKIP donor will win the seat – in fact, come the next election, I believe it is highly likely that the Conservative Party may reclaim it…even if Douglas Carswell does re-stand for election. Between the by-election of 2014 and the General Election a year later, the Tories gained seven and a half thousand votes, and with the Leave vote now under the country’s belt, it is entirely possible that this increase will continue in 2020 (provided that another election is not called sooner).

I will always defend UKIP from unwarranted attack, and I greatly appreciate their efforts in fighting for an ‘in/out’ referendum on the question of EU membership. It was at least sincere, unlike the false promises made by former party leaders over the years (Tony Blair in 2005, David Cameron on the Lisbon Treaty in 2009). But their time as a credible political force, radical or not, has come to end in Britain. The Conservatives will soon be able to sleep easily.


Brexit: the experts proved wrong…again

Well, the experts were wrong once again. I can only hope that for their sake, they knew they’d be wrong about immigration levels after the Brexit vote. They can’t have been so fatally wrong accidentally, especially given their embarrassingly naive economic forecasts last spring. There are plenty of examples of false predictions to comb through, but I have decided only to link a few.

Here is a news story that appeared in the Remain-backing Daily Mirror, just two days after the referendum: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/brexit-cause-immigration-surge-500000-8283329 and also reported by the Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3660749/Ex-immigration-minister-warns-500-000-European-migrants-head-Britain-door-slams-Britain-s-vote-Brexit.html in which Phil Woolas (former immigration minister from 2008-10) foresaw a surge of EU migrants rushing to Britain in the many months between Brexit vote and actual withdrawal.

The Independent reported on a Home Affairs Committee prediction that there would be a significant ‘last-minute dash’ before Britain completed its European Union departure: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-news-immigration-surge-latest-migrants-eu-deportation-british-expats-europe-warning-mps-a7157541.html, in which Labour MP Keith Vaz suggested that the prospect of a ‘surge’ in immigration will rise unless the government provided some clarity over the issue of ensuring the legal right of EU citizens to remain within the UK.

This prophecy was argued consistently by ‘Britain Stronger In Europe’ campaign figures. Even David Dimbleby, who may as well have been a senior fellow, mentioned the prospect of a post-vote migratory rush from the EU to Britain. It proved to be yet another example of baseless hysteria, designed to make the ‘alt-right’ think twice about using the issue of immigration as a foundation for voting Leave. I don’t think the argument was particularly effective, as Leave voters – almost by definition – had in their minds a long-term view of the country. By contrast, I think most who voted to remain in the European Union were thinking rationally about any potential, immediate economic harm.

It proved not to be the case, as today’s immigration figures show. In the year ending September 2016, net migration to the UK was 273,000 – the first time in two years that the figure has been lower than 300,000. Gross immigration in that time period has been estimated at 596,000; of which 268,000 EU citizens, 71,000 returning British citizens and 257,000 non-EU citizens. There has been no noticeable rush of EU citizens coming to the United Kingdom before Brexit is finalised.

One possible reason for these surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly, if like me you are cynical and mistrust establishment forecasting) low migration figures, it has been argued, is the number of British people angry at the referendum result going to live on the continent in order to retain their status as an EU citizen. ONS statistics between the year ending June 2016 and the year ending September 2016 show a mere 8,000 rise in the number of people emigrating (and this is not specific to the European Union, thus it includes Britons going to live in the United States, India and Australia), from 315,000 to 323,000.

Note also that since passenger surveys are used to measure migration levels, these figures – despite being the best we have – should be taken with a pinch of salt. It is possible that seasonal fluctuation in the number of students arriving in and leaving Britain may have had an impact on today’s figures, but I doubt that it would have been significant. Net migration to the UK, after all, decreased by 62,000 between each of the last two quarterly reports.

I was always somewhat sceptical of the idea that there would be a substantial rush of immigration from the rest of the European Union in the period between vote and exit. I thought that, firstly, uncertainty over the rights of EU migrants – particularly those who are seeking employment – would dissuade many from making the journey, and secondly that any rise in anti-migrant sentiment and lingering frustration from certain pockets of the country (these areas tend to be poorer), especially when combined with cynical media coverage designed to blow any social division entirely out proportion, would either cause migrants already living here to leave, or to discourage those thinking about coming here from doing so.

The experts, ever candid about their wisdom and never responsible or properly questioned when their forecasts are inaccurate, have for the time being been proved wrong. There are no telling signs that a surge of migrants (they demonised those of us on the Right for using words like ‘surge’ and ‘wave’ – but were happy to use them when appealing to voters as the referendum came closer) will arrive in Britain either before or after negotiations are fully under way.

Who’d have thought it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What the BBC misses about Leave voters and immigrants 

One of the most overrated and overblown reasons for folk voting out of the European Union last summer was immigration. There existed within the Leave vote a substantial contingent that advocated retaining membership of the single market and pursuing what is called the ‘EEA option’. There was a large rural vote for Brexit based on the recovery of national sovereignty that came from areas not hugely impacted by mass immigration. There was also, believe it or not, a youth vote – much of it libertarian – that saw leaving the EU as an opportunity for profound democratisation. I am very much in the latter category.

I do not deny that immigration was a huge factor in the referendum. It was the most notorious and penetrable of each individual issue, and almost all polling placed it in the top one or two of concerns held by the British public (on both sides of the vote, no less). Nor do I deny that racists played their part in voting for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. No doubt almost every self-professed or blatantly racist individual was on our side – doubtless the most useful contribution they have made to our country.

What annoys me is not the very valid association between Brexit and immigration, but the immediacy of the implications made that Leave voters based their decision primarily, or even solely, on this issue. Especially when these hints are left by mainstream media outlets seeking to lash out at certain sections of the public for voting the way that they did or for thinking the thoughts that they think. A BBC video package and news story published two days ago left exactly this sour taste in my mouth. Please take a moment to view it, here, as you will need to check it out to grasp my analysis:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38999575

The headline ‘The Leaver reaching out to immigrants’ is extremely effective, it isn’t hard to see why the editor chose it. The trouble is that, once again, it inappropriately paints Brexit supporters with a particular brush. And there are two problems caused by this article.

The first is that, as the BBC is an extremely authoritative journalistic source (despite its many critics, I still have a lot of respect for the organisation), anybody who comes across this story will assume that ordinary Leave voters are not doing the same, or that they do not care about immigrants. The very running of this story highlights the very real disconnect that lingers between the mainstream media and ordinary Brexit voters. It falsely and presumptuously implies that Julian Thomson, the subject of the package, is an outstanding and unusual Leaver. In the video, he mentions the importance of integration and cohesion; an argument that has been perpetuated by countless commentators and politicians in Britain for the past decade. Even his reasoning for ‘reaching out’ isn’t new or interesting. He is merely offering common argumentation against large scale migratory influxes.

Secondly, where did this notion come from that those who support Brexit must be coerced into or encouraged to feel sorry for their actions? Why should Leavers be made to feel apologetic for their (very reasonable) political persuasion? There is no objective evidence that yet exists that June’s Brexit vote has made Britain a more divisive and racist society. This was an entirely media-driven agenda designed to demonise the 52% and help to construct a dialogue that will encourage dilution or a delaying of the Brexit process. In other words: make us feel bad about our choice and create an atmosphere in which we may have to reconsider. Of course, I do not deny the existence of racism in society, but I do reject continued reactionary associations between Brexit and xenophobia, even if immigration was the main issue for those who voted to leave.

The Labour Party, as was later admitted by Blair’s former speechwriter Andrew Neather, deliberately imposed on the country mass immigration from Europe without giving individuals a say or acknowledging the problems that the policy caused. Brexit, therefore, was the only viable avenue through which members of the public could express understandable dissatisfaction. And since limiting net migration could quite quickly suppress any anti-migrant sentiment across the country, a good argument can be made that Leave voters actually did immigrants living in the UK a favour. Any decrease in the frustration of British people will be welcome news for potential targets, and so by confronting the elephant in the room, Leavers may actually have helped to ease the concerns of foreign-born citizens living in Britain. I have discussed previously at this blog the ways in which limiting immigration will be of considerable benefit to migrants already here. Other examples, besides stemming the tide of resentment, could include easing the demands placed on housing and other public service systems that immigrants in Britain use and pay for. It is therefore worth looking at the bigger picture. Friday’s BBC package ignores the long-term advantages presented to Britain’s foreign-born by Brexit supporters.

The news story is also extremely condescending. Much of the UK’s post-referendum debate has been characterised by hyper-sensitivity. The BBC, in its awe-inspiring wisdom and care for the community, seems to think that migrants in Britain are either entirely unsupportive of an EU withdrawal – which they are not – or that they are incapable of dealing with upcoming political changes and continued integration into society. This proposition would seem to me to be mistaken. Immigrants are, if we remember, among the more brave and resilient members of any society, almost by definition. Certainly the BBC would do well to remember that.