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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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The Cult Of Social Justice and Identity Politics Has No More Worlds To Conquer, Yet Still It Marches On

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There may be no more worlds for the regressive Left to conquer, but the warriors of the Social Justice Army still see enemies all around

This blog has spent some time explaining that the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is far less about helping genuinely oppressed people and far more about a small, snarling pseudo-intellectual clerisy seeking to use the often dubiously legitimate suffering of various proscribed victim groups as a means of wielding power and influence over wider society.

It follows, then, that for this cult to perpetuate itself there must be a constant stream of wronged victims at all times, on whose behalf the social justice priests and priestesses can claim to speak. When your career and entire worldview is built on the bedrock of seeking to end “oppression”, one inevitably sees oppression everywhere and in the smallest of things. To acknowledge that we actually live in an historically free and prosperous era would be to admit that their services are no longer required – that their whole raison d’être is no more.

And this is why even now, when the fruits of SJW hyper-sensitivity, snarling authoritarianism and utter contempt for ideological agnostics lie strewn across the political landscape in the form of President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-dominated Congress, that portion of the American Left which has fallen under the spell of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics cannot admit wrongdoing or overreach, and refuses to change tactics or re-examine their mission.

This is why despite having lost the White House by racking up superfluous votes in liberal enclaves while actively chasing away votes in key swing states with their out-of-touch policies and narratives, the bulk of the American Left and the Democratic Party are unable to conceive of any other possible course of action than shouting the same shrill, divisive message even louder.

Ben Shapiro captures the essence of the problem in a great piece for the National Review:

For decades, the Left consistently put front and center its vision of an America in which Republicans were victimizers: Either they were evil racists, or they were John Lithgow–in-Footloose holier-than-thou sexual prudes, or they were old-style Mad Men sexists looking to shove women back into the kitchen. Celebrities helped push these narratives through the stories they told, the movies they filmed, the books they wrote.

And Americans accepted the critiques.

Americans accepted racial equality. Americans celebrated female empowerment. Americans went libertarian on sexual behavior.

And the Left had to go searching for a new civil-rights struggle with which to cram conservatives back into their “victimizer” cubbyhole.

There was, however, one problem: All the good civil-rights issues have been dealt with already. And so the Left, which focuses all of its efforts on social issues, was relegated to pushing crime-increasing myths about the evils of cops; the celebrities were forced to pretend that men peeing next to women was the next great Martin Luther King, Jr.–style struggle; Democrats were forced to march on their next target, not merely church involvement in state, but private beliefs of churchgoers.

And herein lies the biggest problem facing the American Left: America is the most tolerant country in world history. There are no more serious civil-rights struggles for the Left to push. In fact, the Left now pushes against civil rights in its ignorant search for the new struggle: Religious bakers must be destroyed if they won’t bake a cake for a same-sex wedding; young girls must be forced to go to the same bathroom as middle-aged men, hosts on HGTV must be policed for belief in Scripture regarding sexual sin.

No wonder Americans reacted by telling the Left to shove it.

That phenomenon could very well continue. The Left has run out of aggressors to target; instead, they’ve become the aggressors, self-righteous morality police dedicated to wiping out dissenting thought. Americans aren’t up for that sort of thing. We think we’re pretty tolerant people, and, by and large, we are. Trump won, at least in part, by refusing to kowtow to the Left’s newest social crusades, in word if not in deed.

And Shapiro’s conclusion may well prove prophetic, unless the American Left change course:

In Die Hard, villain Hans Gruber misquotes Plutarch: “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” The Left will never recognize that simple fact — and so they will push ever onward, steadily encroaching on liberty and driving a blowback they cannot comprehend.

There may be no more worlds to conquer, but the Left is strangely unwilling to disband its standing army – or rather is unable to do so, knowing that their electoral coalition of competing special interests and designated victim classes is only held together so long as there is a clear Enemy Oppressor to fight.

Having helped to achieve civil rights, women’s equality and gay rights, the American Left should now be beating its swords into ploughshares, hanging up the social justice armour and generating a tide to lift the boats of all Americans (including the maligned white working class), not only their favoured interest groups.

Hint: this might have something to do with trying to solve the great political question of our time, as frequently mentioned on this blog.

But they can’t. There are too many greedy over-powerful generals to feed and reward with war spoils, and these generals (the leaders of the various social justice movements) in turn must keep their troops happy by providing them with bounty in the form of political victories, legislative accomplishments and tangible real-world perks – including those which encroach on individual freedom, as Ben Shapiro notes.

Thus the American Left has become an unstoppable social justice juggernaut, perpetually seeking out new offences to take outrage over, in order to give the troops something to do and keep the fractious coalition together a little longer.

Even if Democratic Party leaders could see the folly of their present path (and the re-election of Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader clearly shows that the vast majority still do not get it) they would be powerless to change course. The unfolding slow-motion car crash is not pleasant to watch. As Ben Shapiro notes, the fury of the American Left (and the British Left too, to a slightly lesser extent) is “driving a blowback they cannot comprehend”.

While plenty of Donald Trump supporters may spend their leisure hours percolating in an online ideological echo chamber, their necessary interaction with a broadly large-L Liberal media and culture means that they are at least constantly aware of the existence other political viewpoints. Conservative college and university students often learn how to debate, defend and refine their ideas through having them constantly challenged and disparaged on campus.

Not so for the Left. Depending on geography and occupation, it is entirely possible for many on the Left to go for long periods (interrupted only by the odd traumatic microaggression experienced when venturing beyond their safe space or carefully curated social media feeds) without ever bumping into the Other America at all. Judging by the ongoing howls of outraged incomprehension, some on the Left only ever glimpse this America once every four years, at presidential election time.

This is why the American Left is unlikely to change course, even now. When your view of the path ahead is skewed to the side so that you cannot see the iceberg field directly ahead, the first light impact may not persuade you of the need to stop or change course. Nor may the second, slightly more jarring collision with reality. And only when a massive head-on collision holes your social movement and political party beneath the waterline does the folly become truly apparent.

 

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