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Labour’s Hopeless Immigration Quandary

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The Labour Party is doomed to break apart on the issue of immigration because the Metro-Left has become so ideologically insulated and closed-minded that they can no longer speak the same emotional language as half of their own voters (and the country)

Martin Kettle has some advice for the Labour Party as it wrestles to come up with a compromise between the blithe open borders attitude of the Corbynites and the suddenly nativist instinct of Midlands and Northern MPs whose seats may be in jeopardy unless the party moves convincingly on the issue of immigration.

Kettle lays out the issue in the Guardian:

After the issue of Brexit itself, voters think immigration is the most important question facing the country. But Labour’s poll ratings on immigration are terrible. Only 11% of voters in the most recent YouGov poll think Labour is the best party on immigration, with only 29% of Labour voters from the 2015 election – which Labour lost badly – agreeing. A mere 5% of leave voters think Labour is best on immigration.

If Labour’s priority is to re-secure its core voters on the issue, that is a very bad place to start from. Latest research by Chris Hanretty of the University of East Anglia suggests that 64% of Labour’s 232 parliamentary seats voted leave in June. So if it is correct that immigration control was the decisive issue in the leave win, Labour MPs are right to demand that, at the very least, their party says something about immigration that engages with that stark reality.

And suggests a solution based on dubious historical precedent:

There’s a framework for this. For most of the last half-century Labour’s policy was that managed migration made community integration and mutual trust possible. The policy had periods of success and failure. It was too repressive in the 1970s and it was too insouciant in the early 2000s, after EU enlargement. But until recently it worked reasonably, and won electoral consent.

Labour’s challenge in 2017 is to renew that same approach around the realities of Brexit. It won’t be easy, and it will involve compromises of the sort that Crossman expressed half a century ago. The policy cannot be based solely on liberal principles. But it cannot be based solely on ignoring those principles either.

It has to place intervention in the labour market to ensure fair treatment, alongside an unsentimental approach to immigration control. If Labour’s factions can at least agree to start from there, there’s just a chance that enough of the rest will fall into place.

But there can be no agreement between Labour’s factions. One faction – the metropolitan Regressive Left faction, incorporating everybody from leftists like Jeremy Corbyn to virtue signalling centrists – hold it as an article of faith that to even question whether everybody who wants to come to Britain should immediately be allowed to do so constitutes damning evidence of racism. The other faction – call them Old Labour, rooted in the party’s historic Northern, industrial and post-industrial heartlands – have not yet sacrificed patriotism and a belief in the uniqueness of British values and culture on the altar of globalisation, and fail to understand why immigration controls such as those imposed by countries like the United States or Australia are somehow racist.

These two sides simply cannot reconcile – certainly not so long as the metropolitan Regressive Left continues to arrogantly insult agnostics and sceptics, either accusing them of moral deficiency for failing to meekly toe the party line or ignoring their arguments altogether. In fact, with immigration currently a high priority political issue, one can argue convincingly that there is no longer any place for the two factions within the same political party, and that Labour must split (and probably should have done so some time ago).

Kettle, however, would have Labour look back to 1965 for a solution to their dilemma:

Yet the disagreement is not a new one, and Labour has succeeded in managing it before. Back in the summer of 1965, Harold Wilson’s Labour government published a radically restrictive white paper on immigration from the British commonwealth that shocked even cabinet ministers. “This has been one of the most difficult and unpleasant jobs the government has had to do,” the housing minister Richard Crossman wrote in his diaries. “We have become illiberal,” he mourned. “This will confirm the feeling that ours is not a socialist government.”

Nevertheless Crossman was absolutely sure that the controls were necessary. “I am convinced that if we hadn’t done all this we would have been faced with certain electoral defeat in the West Midlands and the south-east,” he went on. “Politically, fear of immigration is the most powerful undertow today … We felt we had to out-trump the Tories by doing what they would have done … I fear we were right.” Antisemitism and racism were endemic in Britain, Crossman suspected. “One has to deal with them by controlling immigration when it gets beyond a certain level.”

The fact that left-wing politicians and commentators would turn to the overtly racially tinged 1965 White Paper Immigration from the Commonwealth as a blueprint for dealing with Brexit and present-day immigration concerns only goes to show how little they understand the totally different present day context or appreciate the different public attitudes toward immigration in 2016.

The regressive leftist mind is seemingly unable to compute the idea that objections to unlimited immigration could be based upon anything other than racism. And perhaps this is partly understandable, when historically racism has formed one of the key objections to immigration. But no longer. Racism is now, thankfully, a fringe issue in Britain (despite the continual efforts of SJWs and others whose livelihoods depend on representing official victim classes to inflate the problem). Today’s concerns centre around integration and assimilation into society, and the affect on employment, infrastructure and public services.

None of these concerns are remotely race-based, and yet the response of the Labour Party has historically been to dismiss them all as a thin veneer covering for xenophobia. When voters plead with Labour politicians to believe them when they say that their objections are not connected with race, too often the response has been sneering dismissal. And even now, when some MPs and commentators are considering making concessions on immigration, it is done in the spirit of “we must join the British people in their racism as a matter of political survival” rather than a genuine attempt to understand legitimate public concerns.

And thus we have Martin Kettle essentially arguing that the Labour Party should hold its nose and support something which it believes to be overtly racist in order to stave off political annihilation. Why else cite the case of the 1965 White Paper, written at a time when “coloured immigration” was still openly spoken of as a specific problem?

High-minded it isn’t. But those words echo today because the essence of the argument in which Crossman’s generation participated – hard times, more migrants, native resentments, press and public prejudice, liberal principles under challenge, electoral defeats – has not altered all that much. Yet just as the Wilson Labour party was right to grasp the issue, though it could have grasped it far better, so the Corbyn party needs to grasp it in an equivalent way too.

This is the infuriating thing about leftists. They manage to be insufferable bordering on slanderous even in their attempts to be conciliatory and find compromise. Because they sincerely believe that any departure from their worldview can only be prompted by malice or grave moral failure, their attempts at dialogue with political opponents are awkward and strained as they inadvertently insult the people they are trying to flatter.

Martin Kettle has gotten it into his head that Brexit proves that the British people are having one of their funny turns and have come over all racist, just like we did in the 1960s. Unable to even consider that the Leave vote was prompted by sincere and virtuous political disagreement about the merits of EU membership, Kettle therefore suggests that the Labour Party recycle some good old fashioned racist outreach from 1965 as a kind of olive branch to persuade swivel-eyed Labour Brexiteers back into the fold.

This is the kind of clumsy gesture we have come to expect from a political elite which has become so isolated from much of the country that they can barely speak the same language. Listening to Martin Kettle try to strike up a rapport with Brexiteers would be like listening to me using Google Translate to talk to someone in Korean. The rough message might get through, but the garbled syntax would prove that I am not really speaking their language, that I do not truly understand them.

I’ve said it numerous times, and I will say it again: the Labour Party will not taste power or enjoy another general election victory until they stop giving off such strong signals that they openly despise the voters and hold more than half of the country in open disdain.

The British people do not want to be told “okay, we’ll try racism for awhile!” by an exasperated and uncomprehending Labour Party. They want to be listened to, to have their ideas and concerns heard and engaged with rather than being summarily dismissed.

This should not be a lot to ask, yet it is proving to be an almost impossible challenge for a bitterly divided Labour Party. And time is of the essence. Even assuming that the next general election takes place in 2020 and not earlier, it takes years to execute a convincing policy reversal while re-establish public credibility and familiarity.

If the Labour Party are to make a change and decide to meet the British people half way on the subject of immigration, then now is the time to do it. But with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell in charge and an increasingly London-centric party behind them, don’t bet on it happening.

 

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Top Image: Allan Warren / Wikimedia Commons

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Labour Strives To Make Itself Even More Unpopular In Scotland

Kezia Dugdale, the forgettable leader of Scottish Labour, is furious that the SNP allied with the Evil Tor-ees to block a plan to raise the top rate of income tax back up to Gordon Brown’s eye-watering 50% rate.

LabourList reports:

The leader of Scottish Labour spoke out in anger after nationalists joined forces with the Tories to block plans to raise the tax rate for top earners.

Last night, the SNP voted with the Tories against a Scottish Labour amendment which would have raised the top rate of tax to 50p in the £1 for those earning over £150,000. Scottish Labour propose this as an alternative to austerity, urging the extra funds be spent on public services like the NHS and schools.

Prior to the 2015 general election, the SNP appeared to commit to raising the highest rate of tax for the very wealthiest, as Kezia Dugdale posted on her Facebook page. Ed Miliband included the taxation pledge in Labour’s 2015 manifesto.

Commenting after the vote, Dugdale said “People will be appalled to learn that SNP ministers who campaigned against austerity have now voted with the Tories to block the introduction of a 50p top rate of tax for the richest few earning more than £150,000 a year.”

“When Nationalist ministers present the budget tomorrow they must not simply pass on Tory cuts to local services like schools and social care.”

Scottish finance secretary Derek Mackay of the SNP will be presenting his draft budget at 2.30 this afternoon.

Speaking ahead of the publication of the draft budget, Dugdale said: “The Nationalists claim to be a progressive party. If that is the case, they will use Holyrood’s historic powers to ask those with the broadest shoulders to pay more tax to raise money to tackle Scotland’s schools crisis.”

“If Derek Mackay fails to do that, he is no better than a Tory Chancellor – and he will singlehandedly destroy any claim the SNP has to be a party of the progressive Left.”

Nice try, Kezia. But while the SNP are pretty dumb, they are not that dumb. Even through their own prodigious economic illiteracy, the Scottish nationalists have worked out that there is little to be gained from choking off economic growth with a snarling, punitive tax designed to hurt upper middle class salary-earners (not the “very wealthiest in society” as they deceitfully claim) while bringing in little if any additional revenue. No, the SNP are all about hurting people in the middle, the striving middle class, instead.

Scottish Labour, meanwhile, seem to think that prancing around accusing the SNP of being just like the Evil Tor-ees will see their recently defected voters wake up, realise the error of their ways and come crawling back with gratitude to their shrivelled, dying husk of a political party. I have my doubts. Aside from the sheer immorality of ever proposing to confiscate more than 50 per cent of anybody’s income at any income threshold, Labour have been shouting about evil Tory ideologues for years at the national level, with little effect. Voters want to see evidence of basic economic and governing competence, not virtue-signalling histrionics accusing the SNP of being “no better than a Tory”.

Scottish Labour would be better off holding the SNP to account for shamefully refusing to take powers over welfare from the UK government in Westminster, preferring to carp and moan from the sidelines despite being a supposed party of government.

But seemingly determined to make themselves as unpopular among as many segments of the population as possible (save those who really do want to live by the fruits of other people’s labour), Kezia Dugdale’s grand plan for a Scottish Labour renaissance involves wrapping her arms tight around the bloated corpse of Gordon Brown’s political career and coming at the SNP from the far left.

Good luck with that.

 

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The Virtue-Signalling Left Find Their Ideal Spokesman: A Five Year Old Girl

This five-year-old girl actually makes a better case for Corbynism than many writers at the Guardian, Left Foot Forward or LabourList. Someone give her a weekly column and a podcast!

A few years ago, US comedian Bill Maher brought to our attention a 14-year-old wannabe conservative talk radio host called Caiden Cowger, who had so thoroughly absorbed Republican talking points and mastered the Rush Limbaugh speaking style that to watch him at work was both hilarious and unnervingly realistic.

At the time, Bill Maher made this rather potent observation:

If a fourteen year old can deliver your message, it’s not because he’s gifted, it’s because intellectually you are a child.

[..] When fourteen year old boys sound exactly like you do, and can produce radio shows and books and speeches that sound exactly like yours, maybe you should rethink the shit that’s coming out of your mouth.

Remember the Republican debates we had this year? They applauded for the idea of letting a sick man without insurance die. Herman Cain got cheers for saying he’d electrify the border fence. They booed a gay man serving his country in the military. No wonder fourteen year old boys can do your act, you act exactly like fourteen year old boys. There’s no ideology here. It’s just about being a dick.

Well, now it is the turn of the British Left to produce a young child capable of ventriloquising their entire political philosophy.

Meet Brooke Blair, a five-year-old girl who has been trained by her (undoubtedly) sanctimonious, Corbynite parents to screech about inequality, use the poor as ideological weapons and advocate for ever-more government spending funded through the munificence of the Magic Money Tree.

It’s worth reproducing Brooke Blair’s diatribe in full:

Look. My name is Brooke Blair and I’m five years old. I’ve got something to say to you Theresa May.

Yesterday night I was out on the streets and I saw hundreds and millions of homeless people. I saw one with floppy ears, I saw loads.

You should be out there, Theresa May. You should be [giving] biscuits, hot chocolate, sandwiches and building houses.

Look. I’m only five years old, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m saving up money, and there’ll never be enough. You’ve got the pot of money – spend some and help people. Yes, that’s what you’ve got to do.

Because we’ve had lots of wars in this country and I do not like that Theresa May. I’m very angry!

So yesterday night a middle class, five year old girl was out on the streets (dodging the bombs and sniper fire from our many ongoing wars), keeping the company of “millions” of homeless people? Righty-ho. And we know that this is a true story because of the rich detail Blair provides, like the fact that one of them had “floppy ears” – are we sure she isn’t confusing the homeless with rabbits?

Naturally, the video has gone viral, borne aloft on a cloud of smug, self-satisfied leftist clicks and shares, all delighting in the fact that this “brave” five-year-old has apparently socked it to our cruel and inhumane prime minister. And what’s not to like, from a leftist standpoint? If you believe that the state should be involved in everything and meddle in all our lives, why shouldn’t the prime minister herself be tasked with roaming the streets at night, handing out cash, biscuits and building materials to homeless people?

Throughout the one-minute video you can just hear the pinch-faced, hectoring, virtue signalling, metro-left parents articulating their own political views through their daughter. Perhaps the only honest part is when Brooke Blair declares “and I do not like Theresa May!” That much I believe. And why would she? This girl is clearly being raised by her parents to blindly and unthinkingly hate the Evil Tor-ees and look to government as the answer to every single problem, rather than one day judging for herself which political philosophy best addresses the opportunities and challenges faced by society.

Of course, Brooke Blair’s parents are free to raise her however they want. And if they want to produce a little Owen Jones Mark II then that is entirely their business. But I would be careful, if I were them. Children have a tendency to rebel against the dogmas and beliefs imposed on them at a young age, so in a decade’s time we could quite possibly be welcoming Brooke Blair into Conservatives for Liberty, where we are always happy to provide a “safe space” for people who have renounced their former socialist ways.

But for now, the British Left should rejoice. The Labour Party may be imploding, its MPs more interested in stabbing their leader in the back than actually opposing a government which is becoming pretty left-wing anyway, but at least there are five-year olds on YouTube and seven-year-olds with handmade signs who are making the case for socialism every bit as eloquently as the adults ever could.

Jeremy Corbyn can sit out the next few rounds and complete the ongoing shadow cabinet reshuffle at his leisure. Brooke Blair will take it from here.

 

Postscript: Those actually interested in alleviating the problem of homelessness rather than simply broadcasting their trendy lefty compassion credentials to the world should consider donating to Shelter or the excellent Big Issue Foundation.

 

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Submission, Part 4

In his FT column today, Janan Ganesh doffs his hat to reality:

Today, lots of people will end a romance, or stop fighting a terminal illness, or let an argumentative colleague have the last word, or fold a bad hand at the poker table. “Nobody likes a quitter” but prudent capitulation is a part of life. Junior doctors in England have saved their dignity and perhaps some lives by backing down from strike action. Would we rather they showed valour for its own sake?

Because our culture accords no honour to the act of giving up, the remaining moderates in Britain’s Labour party cannot be seen to entertain it. Jeremy Corbyn renewed his leadership over the weekend. The left is rampant. A reverse McCarthyism, with socialists doing the interrogation, is the daily lot of critical MPs. And still they will not resign the Labour whip to form a new party.

That is their decision. It is easy for commentators to will a formal breakaway that others would have to perform. But the least they could do is spare us another round of their fighting talk. They will “never surrender”, you see. The comeback “starts now”, apparently. The people who brought you Owen Smith, pallid flatterer of Mr Corbyn’s worldview and unwanted alternative to him, demand to be reckoned with.

Their plan, such as it exists, is to outnumber the left by recruiting hundreds of thousands of pragmatic voters to the party while refreshing themselves intellectually. The first of these projects seems fanciful, the second unnecessary.

The people they want tend not to join political parties. Their participation in real life gets in the way. An entirely fresh movement founded on the pro-European centre-left could, perhaps, attract those who feel dispossessed by Mr Corbyn and what is shaping up to be a hard exit from the EU. An invitation into an old, tainted party to fight ideologues who know the difference between Leninism and anarcho-syndicalism for mastery of things called the National Executive Committee is, for many people, a refusable offer.

If that is really their best idea – and Janan Ganesh is well connected, so he would know – then Labour’s centrist MPs deserve neither respect nor sympathy at this point. They already tried to pack the membership with an influx of moderates who would rise up against Jeremy Corbyn, and it didn’t work, Corbyn was re-elected by an even greater majority. And their new cunning plan is to try the same trick again?

Ganesh concludes:

If this reads like a counsel of despair, it should. There is a reasonable chance, and it becomes stronger by the day, that Gordon Brown will turn out to have been the last Labour prime minister. Even if the rebels dislodge Mr Corbyn and install one of their own, the public will remember their party as one that voted for the hard left twice in as many years. There are such things as lost causes. There is something to be said for giving up and starting again.

They will do no such thing, of course. They will insult our intelligence by talking up a mass harvest of new centrist members and fall back on the wheezing old line they always quote when their steadfastness is in doubt. In 1960, during another struggle with the left, Hugh Gaitskell, the Labour leader at the time, said he would “fight, fight and fight again to save the party we love”.

So much of Labour’s internal culture is contained in that magnificent and deranged line. In the normal world, you are not meant to love a political party. It is not your family. It is a machine with a function: in Labour’s case, the material improvement of working people’s lives through parliamentary means. If it is broken, fix it. If it cannot be fixed, build a new one.

Sentimentality made Labour moderates stick with leaders they should have culled. It made them open their party to the wider left. And it keeps them in a fight they cannot win.

Gradually they come to realise what this blog has been saying for months – that New Labour is irreversibly dead and buried, and that this is Jeremy Corbyn’s party now. The centrists are not merely taking a break – they have been turfed out, just as the old-school socialists were once marginalised and frozen out by Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair.

The options are to accept that it is Jeremy Corbyn’s turn for the next four years, or do the decent thing and split from the Labour Party to form their own new party of the centre-left (while watching nervously to see what percentage of the Labour grassroots membership follows them out the door in solidarity).

Honour can be found in either submission or divorce – but please, spare us from another year of overwrought, teenage drama and soap opera shenanigans.

 

UPDATE: Read Submission Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here.

 

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In Furious Denial Over The Failure Of Leftist Economic Policy, Owen Jones Misrepresents Conservatism

Owen Jones continues to use his Guardian column to peddle lies and misrepresentations about conservative economic policy, in a Herculean effort to save British leftists from having to come to terms with their failed economic policy dogma.

In praise of John McDonnell’s unabashedly left-wing conference speech, Jones whines:

It was a speech not lacking in concrete proposals: a tax transparency and enforcement programme; a £250bn investment programme in infrastructure and clean energy; a national investment bank, backed up by regional investment banks, to support small businesses; legislation to stop the emergence of Philip Greens by reforming companies – preventing them from “taking on excessive debt to pay out dividends” and ensuring company takeovers protect workers and pensions; the promotion of cooperative and worker ownership; protection for self-employed people; plans for a universal basic income and the reintroduction of collective bargaining to stop the levelling down of wages.

The critique writes itself: Labour lost the last election because it was not trusted with the nation’s finances. How on earth do these speeches address those concerns? There are two points to make. Firstly, Labour’s failure to defend Blair and Brown’s spending record – with the Tories revising history to claim that the investment they backed was at the root of Britain’s economic woes – is critical to understanding the party’s election loss. That’s why the Tories’ line – “why hand the keys back to the driver who crashed the car?” – was so devastatingly effectively.

My emphasis in bold.

Sorry, but this is complete balderdash from Owen Jones. The conservative / small government criticism of New Labour economic policy is not that runaway government spending *caused* the economic crisis – that is clearly false, when we know that the crisis was precipitated by a bad credit-fuelled housing bubble which undermined a grasping and improperly regulated banking sector. The conservative position is that by spending money like it was going out of fashion and running budget deficits even in the good years, there was absolutely no “rainy day” fund or financial buffer available when the bottom fell out of the economy and tax revenues dried up.

That is the real reason for today’s so-called “austerity” (meaning slightly reduced increases in government spending compared to earlier baselines). Jones later goes on to charge the Tories with “the failure to eliminate the deficit as promised, a rising national debt” – well, what would his preferred spendthrift policies have done? If Owen Jones is seriously suggesting that the forsaken economic recovery resulting from continued or increased government spending from 2010-15 was so great that it would have paid for itself, eliminated the deficit and taken a chunk out of the national debt then he is treating his readers like they are stupid. And he is holding the Tories to a standard of economic miracle-working which he would never expect of his own beloved Labour Party.

The reason that nobody trust the Labour Party on the economy – the reason that Labour MPs are laughed out of town whenever they even make a claim to economic competence – is that New Labour’s remorseless cranking up of the size of the state, together with their endless expansion of government spending and determination to hook more and more people on government welfare, meant that Britain was uniquely badly positioned among advanced nations to weather the global financial crisis.

The charge is not that idiotic PPI contract-delivered hospitals and shiny new school buildings in Britain actively caused a global credit crunch and recession. The charge is that this ignorant spendthriftery weakened Britain’s financial position, meant that the slightest cuts in government spending would immediately impact public sector workers or those encouraged to be dependent on various benefits, and made our subsequent economic pain that much more brutal – the cost of which can be counted today in lost and stunted lives. This is what Labour “compassion” hath wrought.

So no, the Tories do not suggest that electing a Labour government would be akin to “handing the keys back to the driver who crashed the car.” For all their faults, Labour did not deliberately crash the vehicle. But they did set out on treacherously icy roads having previously cut the brake cables, and that is just as bad, however desperately Owen Jones tries to spin it.

 

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