JUST as Chancellor Rishi Sunak warns that unemployment will hit double digit percentages, David Aaronovitch, the Times’s chief Blairite, calls for more unskilled migrant labour to come to Britain. In his column this week Aaronovitch, the blokey former communist who cheer-led the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said that Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Immigration Bill, which seeks to end free movement and raise skills requirements for immigrants, was like something out of the era of Lord Salisbury and the Boer War. This rather contradicts his assertion in the article that if Britain had had Ms Patel’s Bill in 1904 (two years after the Boer War finished) his own illiterate grandparents – his description – would not have been let in when they arrived in the Port of London.
We can forgive Aaronovitch a little hysteria; his snot and tears are caused by one of the key ideas of his beloved New Labour project hitting the buffers: the free movement of people. This is a wheeze beloved by globalists of all stripes be you a tax-avoiding corporation who needs to move armies of near-slave labour round the world to work for you in a country from which you have removed most of your tax liabilities, or be you a Leftie with the aim of – common to all wings of Leftist thought – bringing about the end of the independent nation state via cultural and social fragmentation and supranational diktats. These are the reasons immigration has been uncontrolled by both major parties.
Like the BBC and the political class generally, Aaronovitch always dresses up his calls for constant mass immigration with a veneer of economic practicality: it’s good for productivity, the economy needs it, the tax money is needed, Britain is ageing, armies of staff are needed to work in hospitals and the country cannot work without it. This of course dovetails with the box-tick, positive discrimination requirements in Left-dominated public service employment procedures, which demand and prefer foreign workers. Recent Covid-19 stats from the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed that a third of all working-age black Africans are employed in key worker roles, 50 per cent more than the share of the white British population. Additionally it says Pakistani, Indian and black African men are respectively 90 per cent, 150 per cent and 310 per cent more likely to work in healthcare than white British men.
However, what lies beneath this posturing? No true Lefties give two hoots about the economy; if they did they would not have become socialists in the first place. So pretending you have economic concerns about a lack of immigration is a bit of a giveaway. A similar ruse came from Labour Remainers in the Brexit wars: after 50 years of pushing they badly wanted Britain to be finally swallowed by the EU, but they camouflaged their desires behind a façade of fiscal responsibility. Certainly large parts of the British economy have become predicated on bargain-basement labour from elsewhere, but now that the shortcomings of globalisation are becoming all too apparent, it is high time the country explored more sustainable labour provisions.
Aaronovitch snatches at a current aspect of the pandemic imbroglio: the lack of British workers who are up to the backbreaking task of fruit picking. It is a fact that farmers are struggling to get the manpower to do it because of the virus restrictions. Some have chartered planes and flown workers in. However, I do not believe that immigration – temporary or permanent – for seasonal harvesting work will ever be stopped, and the crisis shows why. In other areas the picture is more complex.
He asserts the British would not work in many lower-level jobs even if those roles had their wages bumped by 15 per cent. I think he would find that quite a few people in Britain are prepared to work – for real money though, not salaries that are attractive only to those from far poorer economies. This is where the centre-Left position on mass immigration is exposed. It wants to have only one argument about immigration, and it goes like this: if you oppose it you are a nasty oddball – if not an outright racist – and, by dint of wanting mass immigration, the Left are wonderful, consensual, liberal people. Habitually drunk on moral exhibitionism, they look down on everyone, which I sometimes think is the great secret pleasure of your average Leftie. In my experience they are simply incapable of having a grown-up, cleared-eyed conversation about it.
My particular aversion to Labour mass immigration evangelists is that the result of their beliefs has been the enrichment of corporations and a lot more hardship for ordinary working people in terms of flattened wages; areas changed beyond recognition in a few short years; huge rises in accommodation costs; greatly increased pressure on public services, education, transport etc. These people were never asked about any of this by either of the main political parties, which of course is really just one big party with blue and red shirts. About these ordinary people, the workers at the sharp end to which the Labour Party is supposedly devoted, they evidently care not a jot: if these people stand in the way of their grand abstractions, they come second. In some respects the festering problems caused by massive immigration become grist to the Left’s mill: it then complains that insufficient money is being spent on under-pressure public services and not enough houses are being erected and Jerusalem in general isn’t being built fast enough. It becomes a circular argument. Moreover, drum roll, they bleat that people from the EU work in the NHS so ipso facto all mass immigration is wonderful.
The immigration rate is massive. In the past 20 years it has been far higher than ever before and that is just the legals. According to the Office for National Statistics, in the New Labour years 1997-2010 nearly four million people arrived, under David Cameron’s blue version of New Labour it carried on at about a quarter of million a year and it has been like that ever since (it was running at about 45,000 when Tony Blair got to Number Ten). Legal immigration has pushed the population up by almost eight million in two decades.
Then there is illegal immigration. Ministers have long made the strategically convenient answer that they simply do not know how many are in Britain. According to the think-tank Migration Watch UK, no official estimate has been published since 2005 but one former head of border enforcement said about 150,000 enter illegally or fail to leave each year. If you add that up over 15 years and add it to the official total you are past ten million in over 20 years – that is more than the population of London, which is about nine million. Each year it goes up more than 200,000 – that’s like adding a new medium-sized English city every 12 months. Well worth considering the next time a media immigration evangelist is lecturing you about the crises in public services and the lack of GPs.
The inflation in accommodation costs is plain to see. According to the ONS, between 2008 and 2019 the average cost of a house in the UK rose from £184,000 to £232,000, a rise of 26 per cent. In London it moved from £290,000 to £476,000, or 64 per cent. However, in the same period average wages have fallen. In 2018 the average wage across the UK was lower than it was in 2009. In London the average weekly wage was more than 6 per cent lower than almost ten years previously. Some of this may be explained by the financial crisis of 12 years ago but a lot must be to do with rapid and artificial population growth that has made England one of the most densely populated countries in Europe.
The great irony of Aaronovitch’s globalist, Remainer view, which is the position of a large part of the new establishment, is that uncontrolled immigration was the very issue that led to the Brexit vote, which in turn put the skids under Britain’s membership of the EU. Open borders killed the political class’s golden goose, yet so many of them and their media outriders refuse to learn from the experience. However, one high profile Left-wing commentator has admitted to me he thinks immigration was the deciding factor in 2016.
In his piece Aaronovitch disputes Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s view that the Immigration Bill has to end freedom of movement because that was what people voted for in the Brexit referendum in 2016. Aaronovitch suggests that the cataclysmic vote now makes little difference as ‘it was several lifetimes ago’. How extraordinary that he holds that view yet calls himself a social democrat. The prevailing view from his side of the argument seems to be that in the current period of Left-wing forced family fun – the infantile North Korean clapping each Thursday and the NHS being the new national religion – more immigration will be met with public approval. I doubt that very much. But he should not worry. Britain’s permanent state and its blue and red teams in Parliament have no intention of sorting out immigration in any meaningful sense and will find a way round this Bill soon enough.