I’d much rather talk about the social impact of immigration too


by Sunny Hundal    
6:11 pm - January 7th 2014

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Nigel Farage said something vaguely interesting today, on the subject of immigration into the UK:

If you said to me, would I like to see over the next ten years a further five million people come in to Britain and if that happened we’d all be slightly richer, I’d say, I’d rather we weren’t slightly richer, and I’d rather we had communities that were united and where young unemployed British people had a realistic chance of getting a job.

I think the social side of this matters more than pure market economics.

I actually agree with Nigel Farage that the social side of immigration matters more than pure economics.

In fact, what I find it frustrating when people talk about immigration solely in economic terms because it dehumanises people and reduces them to their economic value.

I suspect many lefties have traditionally ignored discussing the social impact of immigration on fears it would bring up more racism and that is a harder debate to win. They prefer pointing to the facts on the economic impact on immigration.

But, my fellow lefties, throwing facts at people (on immigration or even social security) is mostly a waste of time. And besides, a debate about economics excites no one except economists.

I’ll tell you what has changed people’s minds on immigration though. Pictures of Amir Khan (above), Linford Christie, Kelly Holmes, Mark Ramprakash, Ashley Cole and others draping themselves in the Union flag have done far more to ease fears about immigration than any reports on the economic impact of immigration.

A debate about the social impact of immigration is a debate about questions like: ‘will these people fit in to our communities?’ / ‘will they care about this country as much as we do?’ and so on.

And the undeniable fact is that on the social front, we have won the immigration debate. Of course, racism hasn’t gone away, but there’s also far less of it around now than just 20 years ago. A majority of Britons think multiculturalism has been good for Britain.

If Nigel Farage wants to debate the social impact of immigration – in fact I’d be more than happy to. That’s the real debate and it’s one we can win.

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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


Labour should steal Cameron’s broken 2010 promise and introduce an annual cap on immigration. Non-EU visas would be limited every year to the difference between the cap and the number of EU entrants.

It would be popular, but wouldn’t have to mean a cut – Canada and Australia have such caps, and they take in twice as many immigrants, per capita, as the UK. It just means we’d have reliable numbers on immigration, instead of guesstimates on ‘net migration’. The cap would be lowered sharply during a poor economy, and could be raised in a good one.

My own sense is that the UK public has only so much tolerance for different skin colours, languages etc. and non-EU immigration is going to have to take a pause for a decade or so to give them time to adjust.

I don’t think it’s either/or. I agree that the economic argument is not the only aspect of the debate, but facts do matter for an informed debate, and inevitably many of these will be economic facts – because at least we can measure that. Feelings matter, but just because we feel something doesn’t mean that it’s valid in and of itself.

Social impact does matter, I agree. But as British Future found, the “laundry list” for migrants from the public is not only variable, but an idealised version of who we want to be: http://www.britishfuture.org/articles/integration-attitudes/

“It can be difficult for migrant voices to be heard whenever the integration debate becomes framed as a question of “them and us” – especially ‘why can’t they be like us?’ – rather than the two-way street of how we work together to make the new “us” work.”

I do agree with you that the argument is won, really. The lived experience of so many in this country proves this to be the case. And some people are and always will be implacably opposed, sometimes because they don’t like change.

But I’m always wary when we want to discuss social impact without looking at all the factors that come into play, including economics – in the form of decisions about spending – on housing, schools, hospitals etc matter so much even in this side of the debate because it’s pressure on these that contribute to tensions.

The question is really about “us” and it’s give and take. Some of the discussion lately have referred to “settled migrants”. Some of them will be British citizens by now, but are still referred to as separate. When exactly do we get to enter the fold?

There can be little doubt that net inward migration is increasing the pressure on housing, school places and other public services, especially in London and SE England, the costs of which fall on local government and existing tax payers, who include settled migrants.

There can also be little doubt that settled migrants are net fiscal contributors to the national exchequer because of their relatively young age profile.

All that said, I continue to have the uneasy feeling that the migration issue is being stoked up now to distract public attention from our prevailing economic issues – after more than 5 years, Britain has not yet recovered its GDP of 2008Q1, the previous peak, and average disposable incomes in real terms are back at the level of 2004.

George Osborne, when he became Chancellor in 2010, set out his plan to pay down the Budget deficit by the end of this Parliament in 2015. He has now admitted that the deficit won’t be paid down until nearly the end of the next Parliament – providing there are a further £25 billion worth of public spending cuts.

As for stereotyping migrants, try this news report from my local press today about EU migrants:

“Five guilty of running international prostitution ring out of Surrey Street Market in Croydon

“Five Hungarian men and a woman were accused of flying more than 50 young Hungarian women into the UK and setting them up in hotels, student accommodation and residential housing.”
http://www.yourlocalguardian.co.uk/news/topstories/10919026.Five_guilty_of_running_international_prostitution_ring_out_of_Surrey_Street_Market/?ref=var_0

4. themadmullahofbricklane

I though you had packed up blocking but perhaps you find it too addictive. You have of course totally misunderstood what is going on in relation to immigration and race and the two are not necessarily related.

No one has any objections to the foreign skilled people who come to work and we need the kind of professionals who will staff the hospitals, do the IT jobs and a host of other activities that keep the country moving.

What people object to is unrestricted immigration which people like yourself have championed for years without thinking of the implications in terms of social shock, housing and education. The reality is, although people like yourself won’t admit it, is that we can do without most immigration which puts a severe strain on the infrastructure of the country.

This country and London in particular is one of the most expensive in the world for accommodation and getting more expensive by the week. Your answer Sunny is yet more people. Without the border controls that you despise so much Europe would double in size within a year. Deal with reality and stop the pius platitudes that seem to be your stock in trade.

I know plenty of Sikhs who totally disagree with you and it would do you good to talk to them instead of the Guardianista chattering classes.

As I was saying in the office today. All we need now is a premiership footballer to come out as being Romanian or Bulgarian and we’re laughing ;-)

What a load of rubbish. You’ve won the debate on the social impact of immigration? The examples you give are a few people draped in the union jack.. give me a break.

There really are public policy issues more important than immigration – such as the recovery of Britain’s economy and George Osborne’s Plan A, which has been hailed by Cameron as a success. In today’s news:

Recovery hopes were hit with a double setback today as Britain’s builders were hit with “a shocker” of a decline and the nation’s industrial sector stagnated in November.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/blow-to-economic-recovery-hopes-construction-output-slides-and-industrial-sector-stagnates-9051766.html

New economic data has cast doubt over the strength of the UK’s economic recovery, prompting warnings against an early rise in interest rates.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that manufacturing activity and broader industrial output were both flat in November, from October.

Separate figures showed construction activity fell 4%, the sharpest monthly decline since June 2012.
[BBC website 10 January 2014]

Try this news report in The Independent:

The corruption of Britain: UK’s key institutions infiltrated by criminals

The entire criminal justice system was infiltrated by organised crime gangs, according to a secret Scotland Yard report leaked to The Independent.

In 2003 Operation Tiberius found that men suspected of being Britain’s most notorious criminals had compromised multiple agencies, including HM Revenue & Customs, the Crown Prosecution Service, the City of London Police and the Prison Service, as well as pillars of the criminal justice system including juries and the legal profession.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-corruption-of-britain-uks-key-institutions-infiltrated-by-criminals-9052617.html

9. Churm Rincewind

“A debate about the social impact of immigration is a debate about questions like: ‘will these people fit in to our communities?’…If Nigel Farage wants to debate the social impact of immigration – in fact I’d be more than happy to. That’s the real debate and it’s one we can win.”

In the absence of Nigel Farage, here’s an (admittedly extreme) example of the social impact of immigration – female genital mutilation. Whether we like it or not, FGM is an important aspect of some immigrant cultures. How are we to respond? Are we to take a multicultural approach and take a non-interventionist view? Or are we to insist that immigrants subscribe unconditionally to existing UK social and cultural norms?

The fact that no-one has yet been prosecuted for the illegal practice of FGM suggests that multiculturalism has indeed won the day.

“The fact that no-one has yet been prosecuted for the illegal practice of FGM suggests that multiculturalism has indeed won the day.”

An alternative, credible explanation is the sheer practical difficulty and cost of mounting successful prosecutions for FGM when the victims at the time of that atrocity are young and vulnerable to subsequent family pressures.

IMO the legislation was intended to send out a clear message than with any real expectation of successful prosecutions. There is also the risk in going for those qualified medical practitioners involved in providing a professional service to ethnic communities from driving the practice further underground or abroad. Continuing opposition to the practice by media and ethnic peer groups will probably succeed eventually.

Recall that the Duke of Wellington, as PM, and Robert Peel, as Commons leader, had great difficulty in pushing the Catholic Emancipation Bill through Parliament in 1829. In 1780, the Gordon Riots in London were essentially an anti-Catholic pogrom. Try this on the complicated history of Emancipation of Jews in the UK – they had to wait until 1853 for similar rights extended to the Catholics in the 1829 Act: Emancipation of the Jews in the United Kingdom
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipation_of_the_Jews_in_the_United_Kingdom

Btw there are those opposed to MGM, which still continues as a regular practice in jewish and muslim communities.

The challengies of successfully prosecuting FGM, ultimately unwelcomed by the victim, connect with this news report in December:

The number of labiaplasties performed by NHS has risen five-fold since 2001
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2531620/Designer-vaginas-ruining-idea-womens-bodies-look-like-doctors-warn.html

FGM is usually inflicted on prepubescent girls, in some ethnic minority communities, and it probably takes years before the victims fully appreciate the consequences of the surgery and the intent. By that time, few in extended family systems are up to reporting their parents or the surgeon to the police.

IMO it is up to ethnic communities, where FGM is prevalent, to publicise that FGM is a criminal offence and to set up advice lines to help victims.


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