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  • Andy Burnham pretends no one talks about immigration

    by Sunny
    23rd May, 2010 at 10:58 pm    

    This is simply an outright lie by Andy Burnham:

    I think our problem on immigration - and it was for me anyway clearly the biggest issue at the election - was the sense that we weren’t talking about it, so that some people felt we were either in denial or just didn’t want to talk about it.

    During all the three debates immigration came up as a major subject even though not all three were about home affairs. In fact immigration was the only subject that came up all three times during the 3 leaders debates.

    Furthermore, even before the debates, Gordon Brown made a major speech in March 2010 about immigration. Gordon Brown made another speech about immigration in November 2009 too.

    So either Andy Burnham doesn’t pay any attention to what his boss was saying or doing, or he’s a lying dirtbag who prefers to pander to Daily Mail prejudices with falsehoods. And this guy plans to revive Labour with new ideas?

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    1. damon — on 24th May, 2010 at 1:00 am  

      Seven tweets but no comment - Oh well,

      Could it be that he means that there was no meaningful discussion?

      I don’t know, I hardly know the guy - but I do know Diane Abbott and she talks crap on that issue.

    2. Sunny — on 24th May, 2010 at 1:26 am  

      What does a ‘meaningful discussion’ look like damon, given all the politicians tried bashing immigrants as much as possible throughout. Or perhaps they weren’t bashing them hard enough?

    3. PK — on 24th May, 2010 at 2:41 am  

      The ‘We didn’t have the Conversation’ sentiment is glib and illustrates how fundamentally weak Andy Burnham is as a candidate in the leadership race.

      During the European Elections last year, his argument could have held some credibility, as Labour followed a policy of denial in regard to rise of the BNP. However, as pointed out, immigration seemed to be the topic of access for all type of debate during the election campaign.

      Why not show some idealism and break-through the ‘is immigration good’ argument and project some fresh thinking in this area? Focusing on this ‘no-one speaks about it’ nonsense, ultimately allows parties such as the BNP to swoop in and engage with people on an ideas basis rather than policy (even if they are ridiculous/xenophobic).

      Expressing clearly what you stand for is a quality to be admired. However, shirking away from holding any opinion and remaining distant from a very significant issue is proof Mr Burnham is out of his depth.

    4. Napier — on 24th May, 2010 at 9:28 am  

      If you really had the courage of your convictions you’d have put this post on LibCon.

    5. Napier — on 24th May, 2010 at 9:31 am  

      Also I agree, Tweets of a link are not genuine comments.

    6. MaidMarian — on 24th May, 2010 at 10:27 am  

      Sunny - My instinct, and I may well be wrong, is that if I were David Cameron, Burnham is the Labour leader I would be most worried about the prospect of.

      Regardless, I think that you have misread his speech. He says the problem, ‘was the SENSE that we weren’t talking about it.’ What I take that as meaning is that the issue was being addressed, but not in the way that people want it to be addressed. I mentioned on another thread yesterday that there seems to be a sense that immigration is about, ‘deserving,’ and, ‘undeserving.’ That is, that people know, ‘good,’ and, ‘bad,’ immigration when they see it.

      I don’t think that this is a pander Sunny, I think that Burnham has touched on something here. He knows that there is a debate in the politico-media-talkboard bubble, but that morass is drowning out the points. The is why there is a SENSE that there is no debate. Burnham to me is probably right.

    7. damon — on 24th May, 2010 at 11:03 am  

      I don’t deny it’s a tough one and is a potential minefield. Because to suggest ”we need to talk about it” I can only guess is to say things like:
      ‘too many vork visas have been given out to import cheap labour into the country and that subsequently these workers crowd into multi occupancy homes turning once stable neighbourhoods into new bedsitland’.

      But to even say that is not going to go down well with everyone as it could be seen as a swipe of the way areas have become.

      There’s a food processing factory I visited a few times last year in north west London where nearly all the workforce of a couple of hundred or so seemed to be new workers from India and Africa and it was a grim looking place to have to work I thought.

      Could it be argued that if places like that couldn’t find it’s workforce from people already here without taking on people who have come over to work on work visas, then maybe that factory shouldn’t exist in the UK? They were only making things like sandwiches and pies. We could probably live without the produce of that factory.

      The army of young mostly Indian students who were all over central London last year handing out free evening newspapers ouside tube stations were obviously getting explioited somewhere along the line and again it was a case of ”importing poverty” for not much reason at all…… perhaps.
      But again, it’s a tricky thing to say.

      And even to mention illegal immigrants might be more trouble than it’s worth, but it is an issue that effects many people when they have to share a living space with people who are living on the margins of society due to being illegal.

    8. MaidMarian — on 24th May, 2010 at 11:31 am  

      damon - There is probably more than a grain of truth in that.

      In this whole argument there seems to be this tacit assumption that were it not for cheap imported labour as you describe, then all these jobs would be taken by indiginous people who would all be paid a higher wage, and who would create a more acceptable rentier class. It may be true to a degree, though as you say I doubt that the factory in your illustration would be able to sustain itself without that ultra cheap labour.

      The problem is more of a systemic model. There is no shortage of manufacturing and export in the UK. We are something like the 6th biggest exporter. The problem is that that sector just does not employ enough people.

      We are never going to be able to compete with China and India in mass-produced stuff, so wisely have concentrated on high-tech. Just that is not labour intensive. So we have created work-arounds as time has gone on to mask the hollowing out caused by the loss of labour intensive industries.

      First we expanded the public sector, then we swelled the labour force with women, then we found oil, then we got around it by inflating property, then we imported a workforce. All to get around the lack of job creation.

      The idea that some (NOT all) of these factories could sustain themselves without cheap labour is fanciful, as is the idea that buy-to-let could be sustained without workers willing to live 10 in a five bedroom house.

      What we need is jobs, and a housing market that makes those jobs a living wage. Kicking out at immigration is to kick out at the symptoms of the hollowing out of the economy. We have had a property market and inequality where the jobs should have been.

      Incidentally, this will never fly with the eco in crowd.

      As it stands we have built a ‘coping class’ on cheap imported labour. The coping class have a far better lifestyle than did my working class grandparents, but at the moment, kicking out the immigrants would create huge economic problems and I think that everyone knows that.

      Those burka wearing imports however are a very different argument and, again, I credit Burnham for apparently recognising that, ‘immigrant,’ is not a very nuanced word.

    9. damon — on 24th May, 2010 at 12:22 pm  

      @ Sunny’s point in post 2 about bashing immigrants, I agree with the point made in MaidMarian’s post, that immigrant is not a very nuanced word.

      What is ‘immigrant bashing’ and what is fair comment .. about the situation in Calais for example or talking about the so called Faujis in Southall, should be made clearer I think.

    10. MaidMarian — on 24th May, 2010 at 12:46 pm  

      damon - absolutely. I made a similar point on the thread yesterday. I don’t really see much appetite for removing immigrant doctors/skilled workers/genuine spouses etc. The controversy seems to me to be about what could loosely be described as, ‘undeserving,’ (for want of a better term) immigrants.

      I think that what the people who spoke to Burnham had in mind was when debate overlooks the sentiment behind. That is there is a sense that debate is being had in absolutes and caricature.

    11. Cauldron — on 24th May, 2010 at 1:20 pm  

      Does the Left have the appetite for embracing a narrative that some immigrants are more deserving than others? I’d be curious as to what the Leftists on this Board think.

      There are some countries in the world that manage to combine high levels of immigration with very robust distinctions between ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ immigrants. Australia comes to mind. The most striking example is Singapore. Somehow I find it hard to imagine politicians in the UK having a conversation about immigration with its population in the same grown-up manner that Singapore does.

    12. MaidMarian — on 24th May, 2010 at 1:27 pm  

      Cauldron - Just as interesting is whether or not the right has an appetite for a, ‘deserving and undeserving,’ narrative, though like you I would be interested in a voice from the left.

      In any case, it would be nice to have this debate couched in something other than absolutes. As an aside, one reason that that Australian points system works is because the Australian government has been pretty good at facing down pressure to make the system easier/harder and saying no to interest groups. Saying no to interests was beyond New Labour and I honestly can’t see Cameron/Clegg being any more effective.

    13. Cauldron — on 24th May, 2010 at 1:55 pm  

      MM - my guess is that Cameron (not that he’s particularly right-leaning) tries to neutralise immigration as an issue as quickly as possible as part of a general strategy to undermine UKIP. The best way to do that is to tighten up immigration policy without cranking up the rhetoric. So no, I don’t think Dave has any appetite for a deserving vs. undeserving narrative. But the details of his policy changes will be interesting, esp in regards to family (chain) migration from ‘deserving’ vs ‘undeserving’ communities.

      Interesting contrast to John Howard in Oz, who cranked up the rhetoric on immigration while not actually changing policy that much.

      By the time of the next election immigration could be a complete non-issue, which makes the current debate in the Labour Party even more bizarre.

    14. MaidMarian — on 24th May, 2010 at 2:14 pm  

      Cauldron - Firstly, for what it’s worth, I really like your comments.

      I think that you are probably right about Cameron. The problem with UKIP is that they are probably not absorbed with immigration and certainly would accept the deserving and undeserving divide. They are just latter-day Poujadists, not haters as such, though there is an undertone. I agree that the details on policy will be interesting, not least becuse the Lib Dems nailed their colours to the amnesty mast.

      Also worth adding that, ‘chain,’ migration is a phantom. There is no automatic right for a UK citizen to bring familiy to the UK, though it is common currency that such a right exists. Such a right has not existed for a long time, if it ever did. There are limited circumstances, but anyone who has married a non-EU person will be able to tell you that the, ‘chain,’ tends to consist of one link.

      There is a good chance that Cameron will be like Howard, lots of rhetoric, but not really that much change. Truthfully the recession will probably do more to stop immigration than anything the government does.

    15. Tom Johnson — on 24th May, 2010 at 2:34 pm  

      I heard Burnham speak on this, Andy Marr I think, he clearly doesn’t get where the public are on this. The gist of what he said was that, Labour were slow in dispelling the ‘myths.’ 3 million net immigrants since ’97 (ONS) is not a myth it’s an invasion to most, what if India had taken in 50-60 million over the past 10 years, proportionately the same, there would be riots all over the place. Most aren’t racists they just want the brake applied.

    16. Napier — on 24th May, 2010 at 3:11 pm  

      LOL Hundal Tweets:

      “Sorry right-wingers but there will be no Labour ‘civil war’, as I pointed out earlier”

      But Burnham is apparently “a lying dirtbag who prefers to pander to Daily Mail prejudices with falsehoods”

      Peace, man!

    17. damon — on 25th May, 2010 at 2:23 pm  

      While I would agree that the likes of the Daily Mail and Express do go in for immigrant bashing, I don’t think that it follows that to write yet another article about life in the Calais ‘jungle’ is obviously immigrant bashing.

      The young men in Calais are breaking all the rules of asylum which is legitimate to point out. That a person in Britain is supporter of those asylum seekers and thinks that they should be allowed to come here doesn’t automatically make people who disagree, racists and immigrant bashers.

      Also, on the even more contentious issue of detaining children at Yarl’s Wood prior to deportation, I think some on the left, including Diane Abbott, are being disingenuous in the way that they argue their case.
      The best place for the children is with their parents, but I can’t see why the issue is just not that the children should leave every day and go to a school outside the grounds and get to go on trips to town or to the countryside.
      But insteasd of just proposing that, they go along with this smearing of the workers there and giving a sympathetic airing to the fighting tactics of the women who are making an effort to not be deported.
      Hunger striking and accusing the workers there of calling them ”black monkeys”.

      If you support the position of not having a deportation programme then fair enough, but I hate the way the left will try to shift the debate towards one of racism and cold hearted right wingers.

      I got called a racist and banned on a leftist website for saying such things last year, so it’s bit of a sore point with me the way that the ”racism” and immigrant bashing accusations get thrown around.

      So on this discussion that Andy Burnham was talking about, I think what he is eluding to is the sense of frustration that a sizeable part of the country has with the way things are talked about.

      I suppose we have never been able to work out exactly what is and what isn’t a racist view.

      I think that it’s perfectly understandable for there to be a bit of concern about the change and disruption that takes place in ‘first port of call immigration hotspots’. Places can change beyond all recognition in a short space of time, and they can become a completely different place to what they once were. And not everyone is going to like that. Whatever their race.

      Personally I like neighbourhoods like that (really Dalbir), but that’s because I like that vibrancy and sometimes sense of chaos that you can feel in them.

      But the neighbourhoods that are most popular with new immigrants, and particularly the hundreds of thousands of people who are here without regularised immigration status, can and do become scruffy and run down.
      That people don’t like that is perfectly understandable. One reason for a sense of alienation can be that you can feel that you are out of the loop as to what really goes on right under your nose.

      I feel like that in the north London neighbourhood of Finsbury Park for example. There’s a large Algerian community that has grown up there in just a few short years and I walk around wondering how they all got to be here, where they live or if they have legitimate jobs.
      I have no idea and it’s like no one is going to tell you (an outsider) the community’s secrets.
      You can see a large cafe/social club with dozens of young arabic men inside drinking tea and playing pool.
      It feels like a place that you can’t just walk into as it’s an exclusive place. But maybe it’s not and they openly welcome ”strangers” to come in and hang out there too.

      Then when I heard of this police raid, I didn’t know what to think. Was it a massive overraction and heavy handed of the police?

      Some of the shopkeepers thought so and put up a letter in their windows afterwads saying the police had criminalised the whole Algerian community by doing this. Check out the video in the link.

      Not everyone is going to like the way neighbourhoods like Finsbury Park have changed, although what kind of ”debate” you can have about it I’m not sure.

    18. damon — on 25th May, 2010 at 4:49 pm  

      Since writing that last post I’ve been reading some more on that Finsbury Park police raid in 2008.

      I think that this is a part of the immigration debate that gets very dificult and is perhaps the one that people get frustrated about not being able to talk about freely. (Because what can you really say about it?)

      First I came across this discussion of it on the Urban 75 forums which is a pretty progressive forum I have found.
      Locals who know it paint a picture of the neighbourhood, and while some are critical of the heavy handedness of the police operation, a picture emerges of a community that was being plauged by really nasty men who were nearly all Algerians and have not been in England very long.
      Women on the forum talked of being harrassed by these men. Here’s a link to that discussion:

      From that forum there were couple of links that took me to these other websites. This one is called and talks of tensions within the Algerian community that was leading to violence.

      And this one from 2003 from the Telegraph.

      The picture they paint is a part of a discussion about immigration where you really have to careful of what you say if you want to keep positive.
      Young men from a very different and troubled society suddenly having complete freedom to do what they like away from the conservative strictures of their communities in Algeria.
      Maybe being illegal, maybe having poor English and poor job opportunities.
      That is very much part of these immigration hotspots in my opinion. The bedsitland ghetto that builds up in places like that. And will be a reason some people have a negative view of heavily multi-cultural tansient neighbourhoods.
      How do you talk about this without sounding like Gillian Duffy?

    19. damon — on 26th May, 2010 at 5:18 pm  

      I’ve just spent a lovely sunny afternoon on Belfast’s Shankill Road.
      It’s a tribal place.. and a place I think that is outside the Pickled Politics way of talking about racist dog whistling etc.

    20. Linklater — on 27th May, 2010 at 1:10 am  

      “all the politicians tried bashing immigrants as much as possible throughout.”

      Can you give some examples of that, Sunny?

      MaidMarian, Cauldron and Damon, interesting points.


      “Kicking out at immigration is to kick out at the symptoms of the hollowing out of the economy.”

      It can be that, yes, but it’s not always and only that, is it. Sometimes it is genuinely to do with cultural concerns, and often ones which genuinely deserve listening to. The most basic one is that many British people feel an unease with religion in general and one religion in particular being given special treatment which has brought it up against a temperate but long-held British wariness of religious fervour. Most of us simply don’t like it, and, looking at how more religious societies round the world work, with good reason.

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