Further evidence that immigration is likely to become the key issue at the next General Election.

A new report – The Economic Impact of Immigration – by a House of Lords committee claims that record levels of immigration have had little or no impact on the economic well-being of the UK.

The peers, including several ex-Cabinet ministers and chaired by Lord Wakeham, maintain that competition from immigrants has had a negative impact on the low paid and training for young UK workers and has contributed to high house prices. They are calling for a cap on immigration levels.

Lord Wakeham sets out the arguments for the committee’s findings in The Guardian, but it is the response of Ministers, front-bench spokespeople and MPs that will be worth watching over the coming days.

The Government opposes such a cap, whilst the Conservatives are supportive of a limit. But both are still happier talking around the issue than tackling it head on.

It has been interesting to hear and read responses to the Lords committee’s report, with all sides continuing to be very measured in their choice of language yet quietly starting to set out their stall. The problem is whenever they are pressed further on their stance, they start descending into the usual torrent of political non-speaking – using lots of words withouit really saying anything.

Immigration will be the key to a General Election campaign that some believe has already subtly begun.

We can expect more stories, comments and opinions to be expressed in the coming months.

But can we expect anything close to an intelligent debate?

This has become such a contentious issue that many continue to balk from stating their case clearly and concisely. For good reason.

There appear to be certain trigger words and phrases that are immediately seized upon by pundits, opponents, columnists and bloggers that ensure any hope of debate gets lots in rhetoric, antagonism and finger-pointing.

More often than not the flamers are quick to pounce and the whole thing degenerates into a contest to see who can shout in the loudest and most obnoxious manner.

All the while we skirt around the central issue and have little hope of generating a serious, mature and open debate on immigration.

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5 responses »

  1. Ursula says:

    Well spoken Paul, and indeed you are a brave man to write on such a contentious issue, but then what is good journalism for? Immigration, a flaming subject indeed, one which I haven’t got the first clue about. Though, of course, that does not stop me from having an uninformed opinion. Maybe I slept through some history lessons at school, but I believe it to be very simple.

    It’s pay back time – the Empire ruled the world; now its grandchildren come home to roost. If anything Britain should be flattered to be so popular. Anyway, and forgive me, Paul, for this miserably unacademic slant:: How about training some of those immigrants to fill the vacancies left, for example, by British doctors who leave these shores to find “better paid” work somewhere else? Would that improve the reading of the bottom line?

    Another question, inspired by your entry: Which country do you have to stem from to qualify as an “immigrant”? I don’t believe the term is applied to citizens of, say, EU countries who move to England with intent.

    U

  2. Paul Groves says:

    Hi U,

    “Immigration, a flaming subject indeed, one which I haven’t got the first clue about.”

    A sentence which probably applies to 90% of the population – including most of our senior politicans. And that is the problem.
    It is a classic example of an issue where he/she who shouts loudest gets heard the most and the rest of us are left scrabbling around for clarity and information.

    As far as I can work it out, one of the big problems many migrants face is being unable to do the job they are already trained to do while they wait for official approval to stay in the country (this isn’t a universal truth, obviously, but does apply).
    In terms of who constitutes the label “immigrant”, this is a pefect illustration of the confusion. You might well be right regarding the EU, but the BBC chose to illustrate its coverage of the Lords report with European nationals now living in the UK. So, ummmmm….?

    Not too many answers, I’m afraid. Probably just more questions.

  3. Ursula says:

    Yes, Paul, many questions indeed. And I am glad that there are people unafraid of asking them.

    To declare my hand: I am one of those EU nationals who moved to the UK – no questions asked – 26 years ago. Have I contributed something to this country? I think so.

    The British love taking advantage of “immigrants” as long as it suits them, as long as the labour is cheap. I couldn’t help but chortle at the news that all those Polish handymen/women – oh so welcome here for their expertise and willingness the last few years – are now returning to their home country in droves.

    The whole subject is very emotive – as I realise whilst writing this. However, as you quite rightly say, a large percentage of the population doesn’t know about this, or many other subjects, instead being led by their noses like donkeys in a line.. So, the job of journalism is to stir the soup of ignorance, and serve it up steaming hot.

    U

  4. […] issue, even though the current financial crisis is dominating thoughts, providing fuel for the flamers but very few answers and common […]

  5. […] failure to have a proper debate on immigration, to the fact that we continue to fail an entire generation and remain willing to […]

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