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Tories “welcome immigration” shock!

by Sunny on 5th March, 2006 at 8:50 pm    

No really, it’s not a trick - the Tory minister for immigration Damian Green says so in today’s Observer.

In a previous article I mentioned that such noises may increasingly come from the party since Cameron’s election. So what are we to make of this latest shift of ‘compassionate conservatism’?

Mr Green says:

Immigration is a big political issue for millions of people, yet in recent times, the Conservative party has been pilloried for raising it. Maybe the tone has been too harsh. So let me make our position clear. We welcome immigration. It has enriched British society and widened the horizons of the whole British people to the rest of the world. It brings economic benefits and cultural diversity.

Well I’ll be damned. Not only do they love immigrants, they even accept the tone may have been ‘too harsh’. I’m liking this new Tory party policy of being honest.

Or are they? Well there always has to be a catch. He adds:

Yet there is an extraordinary lack of information and basic facts and figures on immigration, and its small subset, asylum, which accounts for 7 per cent of those arriving in this country. The government is ignorant of some of the facts and figures on which policy should be based. In two months of investigation as shadow immigration minister, I am appalled at what we can’t be told.

Here are a few things the government does not know. It cannot say how many people are living here illegally. It comes up with a figure of somewhere between 310,000 and 570,000. If the Chancellor told us he was taking somewhere between 31p and 57p in the pound in taxation and couldn’t be more accurate than that, he would be out on his ear.

In other words; we don’t mind these lovely people coming here, we just want to know how many do.

I accept there should be limits to immigration and we need to know what the numbers are, but Green makes a false analogy, as Peter Pigeon points out:

If a Chancellor told us that a particular tax was probably going to raise 440 million, but that on pessimistic assumptions the tax take might be as low as 310 Million, and on optimistic assumptions as high as 570 million (a rather better analogy, if I say so myself) then I do not think anyone would give a damn.

It’s also a shame that the new minister does not make an adequate distinction between asylum seekers and economic migrants - two very different categories (though they have roughly the same skin colour so one could be forgiven for the mistake).

It will be interesting to see if this is the new Tory policy, as Peter alludes to - don’t criticise immigrants, just criticise the lack of numbers.

But does the Tory party have a policy on how the figures may be counted? Err, no. Not according to that article, unless you take into account William Hague’s hilarious plan to put immigration sherrifs in other countries who could decide how many people to let in. What about those using illegal means to get here?

My thoughts: let a non-partisan body such as the ONS work on the stats so it does not become a political football. Then decide how many economic migrants you want every year, and figure out the criteria for asylum seekers. And for god’s sake - stop muddling the two distinct categories.

[hat tip: Peter]

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  1. Vladimir — on 5th March, 2006 at 9:45 pm  

    It’s intresting how these comments are allways made in the Observe/Guardian. There have been numerous guest columists for these papers over the last couple of months from the Conservastive party I wonder why…?

  2. Vladimir — on 5th March, 2006 at 10:01 pm  

    I just remembered that the Conservatives are the same party who tried to gain votes at the last general election with messages of “it’s not racist to impose limits on immigration”.

  3. Sunny — on 6th March, 2006 at 2:02 am  

    I know I know Vladimir, “we’d rather eat babies than vote Tory” and all that. But I think any sort of competition for the minority vote is a good thing, if it materialises. Though we are all still cynical.
    You’re right though, if this was written in the Daily Mail, it would be different.

  4. Chris Stiles — on 6th March, 2006 at 6:34 pm  

    The Tory party tends to be rather schizophrenic on this entire issue - with the ‘libertarian’ wing arguing with the ‘conservative’ wing on many issues.

    Historically, at least, some of the earliest roots of racism in Britain stemmed from within the working class community partly because they were the first to feel threatened (mostly economically). Of course, as soon as immigrants started coming over here in larger numbers it became a mass phenomena.

  5. Vladimir — on 7th March, 2006 at 12:43 pm  

    I was not drinking what the ‘creature of the night’ Michael Howard was drinking at the last general election. And nor am I going to vote for the Tories now.

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