Andy Coulson, David Cameron and Immigration Frankenstein Monster

5:57 pm - May 30th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    

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Andy Coulson apparently has some advice for Cameron on how to deal with the rise of UKIP and public about immigration:

I’m not convinced that’s where the public are. Broadly speaking, they care less about where someone is from and more about the basic principles of fairness and in particular the impact of immigration on pubic services. And in those areas – especially around free housing and benefits – good policies are in place. The trick is to find ways of communicating them to the public more frequently.

Put aside for a moment that the Tories think they have good policies in place. What we’re seeing is the slow realisation on the Right that they’ve created an Immigration Frankenstein Monster – one that could consume them too.

James Kirkup in the Telegraph adds himself:

In other words, voters aren’t so much concerned about immigration as its consequences. That’s a point I’ve heard a few Tories — ministers included — make in private, but few, precious few, will say so publicly. I wonder if Mr Coulson’s candour will encourage others to speak up?

Others won’t speak out because the big elephant in the room is the right-wing press.

The Immigration Frankenstein Monster theory works like this:

While in opposition, the Conservatives constantly stoked up paranoia and anger about immigration by making absurd and baseless claims. The tabloid press wasn’t just a willing partner – they were pleased that senior Tories fed the conspiracy lunacy.

But with the anger stoked up, Tories are having a hard time keeping a lid on it while in power. They know it undermines growth and deprives UK of foreign student cash, but they need to please their base. Despite increasingly draconian speeches and measures, voters aren’t convinced and think the Tories can’t deliver on promises.

So some of them are moving back to Labour on the issue in disappointment.

But the voters most obsessed with immigration are moving to UKIP, which presents Cameron with a dilemma. If he ignores them then UKIP remains powerful and he gets lambasted in the right-wing press. If he reaches out to them he will lose more moderate voters but may not actually tempt many UKIP voters back (since immigration is genuinely difficult to control / predict).

Besides, there is no easy way for the Tories to ‘communicate’ they have immigration under control, as Coulson suggests.

1) They have already tried very hard with major speeches and policy announcements. You can only do this for so long before the public tunes out.

2) Tabloid coverage of immigration maintains the lunacy of the past and gives the impression that the Tories don’t have it under control. Therefore voters who are most angry about it aren’t even willing to come back.

Plus, the Tory leadership cannot credibly challenge a press mentality on immigration that they fostered in opposition.

The Frankenstein Monster of Immigration, which was once an electoral asset, is turning into a big liability. Ed Miliband has done an admirable job of avoiding the same trap so far and he should stick to it. But Cameron is in a mess of his own making – a mess that the right-wing press will only add to.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

“…and in particular the impact of immigration on pubic services.”

Oh dear, Doily Toryglyph…

2. Planeshift

This advice by Coulson is largely correct – even if you eliminated net migration to the UK, most of the ‘really really concerned about immigration’ crowd wouldn’t notice. It is something they would only notice once british born ethnic minorities started getting deported in large numbers, and they would then be pissed off at people they knew and cared about being deported in a “but I never meant him!” kind of way.

And in the meantime, attempts to ‘really address the legitimate concerns’ are tanking the UK economy, starving universities of cash and causing a major crisis in the recruitment of doctors that is leaving some services in some hospitals on the brink of collapse.

3. So Much For Subtlety

What we’re seeing is the slow realisation on the Right that they’ve created an Immigration Frankenstein Monster – one that could consume them too.

I thought this was referring to the attack in Woolwich for a moment.

I think that actually we are seeing tectonic plates shift in the UK. And those parties who wanted higher immigration to “rub British noses” in multiculturalism will have to shoulder some of the responsibility for the consequences. After all what does fairness mean? I don’t think that for many voters it means a complete inability to get rid of Abu Qatada.

Planeshift – you’re missing the point. What you’re referring to is his assessment of how voters see it (largely correct).

His actual solution is to ‘communicate this to the public effectively’ – which is a pipe dream at best.

I think this article is largely true. Tories in the press spent years promoting the type of issues that can now broadly be called the Ukip agenda. Now they are bizarrely alarmed and bemused that a big chunk of the Tory base has switched from the Tories to Ukip. Why they should be bemused is a mystery when they spent years telling their readers the issues that matter are now the issues that Ukip voters say concern them. Why vote for the Tories when they can vote for the Ukip real thing seems quite rational to me.

Beyond lip service if the Tories genuinely moved on to that agenda they only stem the losses but gain no one. Moreover, they lose a chunk of the middle. It is a classic lesson in don’t promise in opposition what you can’t deliver in government. Putting on piously serious faces and telling the electorate you understand their concerns and pandering to your base is easy in opposition. Only the ever naive activist class are not aware they are being patronised. The same thing is happening with the left being set up for disappointment from a PM Milliband.

The immigration debate has been all but lost. That much should be obvious when none of the three main parties are willing to promote a pro-immigration agenda. As someone who supports immigration I mostly blame people on the left for the majority of the country turning against immigration. When the public raised concerns about immigration instead of treating the public as adults and explaining the benefits of immigration the left smeared them. In place of arguments people were called bigots, xenophobes and racists for even raising concerns. Smearing people for disagreeing with you is not the way to win hearts and minds.

Hardly anyone on the left bothered to provide rational pro-immigration arguments until the issue could be ignored no longer. By then it was too late. The anyone who disagrees with us is beyond the pale strategy of the left failed. It is losers comfort to believe that it is all the fault of the rightwing press nemesis. The truth is it was a failure of the left to win arguments.

This whole immigration debate in the UK is basicly pointless and not worth engaging with really. It’s all spin – even this post too, and the idea of the Frankenstein Monster and swivel-eyed racists etc.
When someone does actually come up with something interesting to say, the left bottle it and start name calling, like they did with David Goodhart.

David Goodhart’s got a book to flog, so why won’t the Hay-on-Wye Festival let him flog it?

Btw, I was just reading this article, with lines like this: ”But the voters most obsessed with immigration …” – just after reading this article by Lee Jasper on the Operation Black Vote website, and he seems to be a bit ”obsessed” too.
Maybe he’s swivel-eyed about it – talking about alienated black youth who turn to Islam.

The reality is that the number of black young people in the UK who have been brutally murdered over the period of the last 13 years exceeds the number of British soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the same period. What many in Black communities feel is that we are often facing an internal war generated by long term poverty, alienation and unemployment.

There’s really quite a lot of things for tabloids and more serious people to actually be concerned about.

I suspect that public focus on immigration will slow down a bit once 2014 passes. My guess is that the Romanians don’t come here en masse and in the meantime the net migration numbers will move further down as recent tightening measures start to bite.

Having said that, I don’t think that public disquiet about immigration will completely fade while two specific immigrant communities – British Somalis and British Mirpuris – continue to underperform and continue to bring the wider migrant community into disrepute.

9. Man on Clapham Omnibus

There are several things that are true about immigration:

Not all immigration has a positive social impact.Some very negative.

Countries, well run, should be able to survive without population growth.

If immigration has a positive effect on this country it follows it has a negative effect on the country they’ve left.

It isnt particularly desirable for populations to geographically congregate.

There is a natural level of population in a country.

How you wish to spin the above is another matter.

10. Man on Clapham Omnibus

7. damon

‘talking about alienated black youth who turn to Islam’

thats because a lot of them are.

11. Planeshift

“If immigration has a positive effect on this country it follows it has a negative effect on the country they’ve left.”

People in the Phillipines who leave for other countries return home as heroes.

Payments sent by migrant workers to their families dwarf the levels of international aid.

Most migrant workers return home with savings that enable them to start a business locally.

Our NHS gives valuable training and experience to Doctors and nurses who return home and put the latest techniques to use.

Above is so economically illiterate that Worstall is having a heart attack as we speak.

12. Derek Hattons' Tailor

@ 11 But without the generally productive, young, skilled workforce that comprises migrants the home countries will struggle to develop. If you look at countries with long traditions of economic migration – say Ireland and Italy, they both suffered long periods of economic stagnation, falling birthrates and an ageing demographic. Locking them into a spiral of no jobs so the young leave, so no new business start so the young leave.

More generally, the left did indeed shoot themselves in the foot with the strategy of shouting down opposition as racists and worse. Migration has been a documented concern of native populations since for ever, why would it suddenly stop being so, and why would creating a more multicultural society negate anti-immigration arguments ? It is just as likely to reinforce them. How many people joined the BNP because they can’t get a job or a place on a council house queue in areas with high immigration (whether or not the two facts are connected) ? You cannot just blame the right wing press, any more than you can blame the left wing press for increases in the size of the state.
It would have been more honest to say, we have an ageing population and we can’t afford the demands they are placing on the welfare state, we therefore need more young, productive taxpayers, so we are increasing immigration. At least that is a logical argument

13. Man on Clapham Omnibus

11. Planeshift

‘Our NHS gives valuable training and experience to Doctors and nurses who return home and put the latest techniques to use.’

Most excellent. Actually in the past we robbed the Indian subcontinent of all its Doctors as they joined the NHS.

Moreover the notion of Immigration as a benign process is laughable. Anyone pointing to immigration as great for the British economy is falling into the same trap as suggesting slavery was good for the British Empire.

Nice cheap labour. Great if you can get it and still pretend ,as good socialists, you are doing them a favour.

What’s most annoying about the ”immigration/diversity debate” is just how dishonest everyone is about it and how people so dogedly stick to the PC script no matter what. A perfect example of this was on last night’s Radio 4 Any Questions programme. Everyone on the panel was just going on about how great it was that we had this wonderful moscaic of a country and that diversity was our great strength etc etc …. which is completely ignoring the facts on the ground of statistics like black young men having twice the unemployment rates of their white peers and all the stuff that Lee Jasper and people like Diane Abbott are always talking about.
And how a majority of non white people think the police are still racist etc. It’s all just swept under the carpert with platitudes.
I wish they’d stop it.
This site too is pretty awful for it.

15. Bigland Boy

Life in Britain would be much much better if we deported the bigoted children of Irish immigrants like damon.

16. Man on Clapham Omnibus

14. damon

Spot on.

There is an automatic assumption that a diverse population is automatically an enriched one. Ok people might like to ammuse themselves with this thought but why they are doing maybe they’d like to consider why over half of the US is black. People dont come to this country because of the weather,most come because of employment opportunities. In the old days they used to herd them into ships,then they were enticed with the notion of pavements of gold (ie driving a bus).Now some pull root vegetables for a living.

Ultimately capitalism is largely responsible for the movement and uneven concentration of peoples geographically.

Biologically however, we are only programmed to live in groups of 170 so I would suggest that inherently sticking people around the globe evenly is good; fitting the world population on the Isle of Wight however is bad. Between these extremes I think most people can work out the general drift.

17. imrankhan

It is necessary to distinguish between foreign born doctors and other specialists who come to work in this country and some groups like the Somalis which have very few skills to offer and are likely to be long term unemployed, this is true of the ones that I have come across in East London where there is a very large community.

It is also wrong to assume that all immigrant communities, my father arrived from Pakistan in the sixties, are enthusiastic about continued immigration, I’m not and neither are my children. Previous generations of immigrants like my own were never a burden on the state and always worked or started business as soon they had capital.

Even allowing for the fact that there are fewer business opportunities and the regulatory systems make start ups more difficult self employment amongst the newer arrivals is very low and amongst African Caribbeans, a long arrived group, virtually non existent.

What opponents of the government always trot out is how we need immigrants, aging population etc, ignoring the fact that an Indian surgeon or a Chinese IT specialist are not refugees from the Horn of Africa or Eastern European gypsies.

I support the view concerning the latter that while their conditions are unfortunate and in the main not of their own making they are certainly not of our making. I don’t know if any of you have read ” The British Dream” by David Goodhart but it well worth the investment as it is a particularly prescient piece of writing.

So prescient in fact that it has got him banned from the Hay Festival by the PC brigade that run it. When it comes to orthodoxy the left is as bad as the right.

I read the article on Operation Black Vote’s web site by Jasper and have to agree that he is swivel eyed, he is also economical with the truth. His claims that as many young black men have died on the streets of this country as have British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq is not worth even contesting.

Interestingly he seems to think that black on black killings are the result of unemployment and deprivation. If that is the case why do they seem to be restricted to one one particular ethnic group?

Is it my imagination Sunny or have you become more mainstream of late? There is now a general acceptance across the spectrum, leaving aside the loony left and the likes of Jasper, that in fact this isn’t a bad country to live in and that most white people are prepared to live and let live as long as everyone plays by the rules. Something my father found out half a century ago.

18. Derek Hattons' Tailor

@17 I think one of the fault lines in the migration debate is class based. The most enthusiastic exponents of multiculturalism tend to be white metropolitan professionals. Their exposure to migrants is as people “just like them” (degrees, good jobs, similar lifestyles) who just happen to be recent migrants. From this perspective suspicion of migrants understandably seems irrational. But, as you say, this is not a migrant group who are necessarily representative of migrants as a whole – any more than a middle class white professional is representative of all white people. The middle class perception of migrants does not necessarily speak to wider, white working and extant migrant communities experience of recent migrants because they are more likely to be exposed, first hand, to pressure created by migration on public services (as they use them more) and/or experience greater competition for the low end work that unskilled migrants are in the market for.

19. imrankhan

Derek Hatton’s Tailor. Well put. A sound analysis.

@15, deport me?? Have I spoken out of turn or something?
Said forbidden things? That’s the way some people on the left are these days – if you can call them left. Look at the UAF idiots on Saturday, going mental because the loser BNP dared show their faces in public.

I know a lot of those people mean well, and hate racism etc, but that is toytown two dimensional politics IMO.
The lowest common denominator, and completely spun and dishonest too. Multi-culturalism is fine and can work.
But it doesn’t always work and not every aspect of it is positive. At Gloucester College which I go into sometimes, the place is reasonably diverse and it works well in that way (it looka like). It’s multi-racial – there are even one or two muslim women who wear the niqab face veil, and that’s OK because there are only a couple of them who do that. If it was many many more, and students were divided more on religious and cultural lines like can happen in other places, that wouldn’t be so good.
Or would it be just the same? If Gloucester College was more like one in the United Arab Emirates?
It’s a debate that could be had. Is there such a thing as ”too much” when you’re talking about immigration and diversity?
Not everyone will have the same view on that. But intolerant anti-facist/anti-racists like UAF and the SWP and that kind of left, will say that you can’t discuss that. It’s racist. And if people object to that dictat, they have to be shouted down and called ”Nazis”.

For thinking a little outside the box, I think that Spiked (which Sunny hates) often say some really quite interesting things. Just today they have two articles about the recent rioting in Sweden.
Here’s one of them.

Sweden’s ‘foreign’ youth: imprisoned by culture

To understand the rebellion we have to understand the suburbs – in particular the ethnically heterogeneous suburbs. Swedish politicians are terrified of admitting that the project of integration has failed miserably in Sweden. The well-meaning Swedish pluralist project is a fiasco. Pluralism is a good thing; it is good when cultures crash into each other and people mix with people who aren’t like them. But the big question is this: do cultures really meet in Sweden’s suburbs?

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