MY RECENT SPEECH on Labour values and immigration was aimed at injecting some reason and evidence-based analysis into the debate.
The government has repeatedly promised an immigration bill. But don’t hold your breath. The Cabinet can’t agree on much. It seems that they cannot agree on Brexit - and until they agree on Brexit, they cannot reach agreement on immigration.
Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership since 2015, Labour has been clear that we will not scapegoat migrants and that we will stand by our international humanitarian duties when it comes to refugees. Now, with the Tories in disarray, Labour will put forward a different framework on immigration in line with our manifesto commitments.
That framework must be set first, not with overall numbers in mind, but with a focus on growth, jobs and prosperity. The last Labour manifesto was certainly the best manifesto on this issue since I became an MP over 30 years ago, stating that, “Labour offers fair rules and reasonable management of migration. In trade negotiations our priorities favour growth, jobs and prosperity. We make no apologies for putting these aims before bogus immigration targets.” Unlike the Tories, Labour will do nothing which harms the prosperity of the overwhelming majority of the people in this country.
The government says it wants a level playing field for all migrants post-Brexit but the clear indications are that the government wants the lowest common denominator to be the basis for this.
Labour will not play this lowest common denominator game. Instead, we want a more equal status for all migrants, and to move towards a system where we aren’t discriminating against people based on ethnicity.
The failure of the Tories is shown by the fact that we are currently turning away doctors and nurses from outside the EU, because the government has already met its monthly targets for work visa applications.
Yet the NHS crisis is caused by year after year of Tory cuts – and one of its features is a huge shortage of doctors, nurses and other workers.
This is just one of the glaringly obvious examples of the constant campaign to demonise migrants and migration - but there are many other sectors of the economy where we need people from overseas, from agriculture to astrophysics, from teaching to IT. There is a growing consensus that international students overwhelmingly benefit our economy, yet they are also demonised and included in the government’s immigration target figures.
The government’s immigration target isn’t really a policy and it’s not achievable. It isn’t even really designed to be. Instead, it is the excuse for a permanent antimigrant campaign aimed at creating a ‘hostile environment’. It is a nasty campaign that should be binned, along with the ‘Go Home’ vans and other nasty policies that have formed part of it.
is shadow Home Secretary