One of the most wrongheaded posts I have ever read

“So few blogs tackle this subject area. Good stuff” “Hallejah. This subject tackled factually for once.” “Let’s hope that the Conservative Leadership read this blog piece and these suggestions make it into the manifesto.” “One of the best blog posts I have read on immigration. Hat tipped”

All comments on this blog post from Matthew Jeffer of TrueBlueBlood.

I rarely stray into the Tory blogosphere and when I do read right wing blogs they tend to be Libertarians or classical liberals like Devil’s Kitchen, Tim Worstall or the blogs of the writers of the Economist. Neither am I particularly keen to start a flame war or to start using the ad hominem style sheet of Harry’s place.

However, since Thomas Byrne linked to my post on the non-problem of a 70 million population I found this post titled The shocking truth about immigration… THE subject politicians don’t want to debate! and had to comment too.

Yes.  I am raising the one topic that Politicians don’t want to discuss….apart from the BNP!

And no….Immigration is not about race/colour/nationality……it is….a purely economic issue.  Yes.  ECONOMIC!

Immigration is the great taboo subject. The moment it is mentioned, the race card is immediately played.  Speak about restricting immigration into our nation and the ‘left’ immediately invoke the term ‘racist’ and reference someone as being a card carrying member of the BNP.  Hence, real debate is immediately stifled! We deserve better than this.

And yes, immigration is hard to discuss for Conservatives without having the spectre of Enoch Powell’s ’Rivers of Blood speech’, being submitted as a battering ram against any sensible discussion or argument.

So this blog article is looking at immigration and how sustainable UK entry levels are in a recession, with a strangling, cancerous level of public debt, spiraling unemployment and massively overstretched public services….. and presenting facts for your thoughtful reflection.

and so on… Perhaps I’ve been reading Jamie Sport‘s output for too long but I assumed this was a parody from the outset. From THE hyperbolic title to the Littlejohnesque fear of the “race card” it was all there.

However as I moved on I realised that this was not a parody but merely one of the least accurate and most misleading blogposts I had read in some time.

This post contains a litany of errors on migration and yet it appears to have garnered enough attention to warrant 8 comments (not all positive however).

Sadly it is not rare to find so many untruths, misleading statistics written on the subject of immigration, but it is rare to find so many in one place.

First of all Matthew wants us to believe that this is a subject no politician wants to speak about. This is a meme propagated by some quarters of our press and is utterly devoid of truth.

New Labour have passed a huge swathe of legislation, creating 1000s of new offences. However passing five acts on migration is a fairly good indicator that it has not been the one topic that politicians do not want to discuss. When Gordon Brown demanded “British Jobs for British Workers” he was of course talking about immigration and one look at Michael Howard’s 2005 manifesto will illustrate just how central immigration is to our politics and our politicians.

The claim is also repeated with respect to blogs. Its a funny time to make a claim like this when Liberal Conspiracy are in the middle of a series of posts on just this subject.

Matthew argues that we should not “sleepwalk to 70 million people in the UK.” I have one very simple reason to ask, why not? He argues that our public services struggle with 56 million people and yet a big reason for this was more than two decades of underinvestment by the Tories, not just migration. As I’ve argued here, the increase of our population doesn’t have to mean crowding, or the creation of 7 Birmingham.

Bullet points are his preferred style which luckily for me, and unluckily for him, makes critiquing his post so much easier.

  • Housing (limited housing stock and depressed housing market, lack of money to build new houses) Matthew’s answer is to keep out all those Polish builders, plumbers, plasters and hard working immigrant tax payers.
  • Jobs (rising levels of unemployment, not enough jobs to go round) The Lump of Labour Fallacy, see here, or here.
  • State benefit system (already overstretched with unemployment benefit rising and depleted exchequer revenues) Migrants are not able to claim most of the benefits which UK citizens can, in fact they make a net contribution to the Exchequer. Even MigrationWatch UK don’t deny that fact.
  • Health service (stretched to the bone, not enough beds, increasing waiting times) The NHS would have collapsed in the 1950s without West Indian Nurses and it would collapse today without our highly trained and effective foreign Doctors and Nurses.
  • Education (already cuts in University funds are seeing students turned away, pressure on schools and classroom sizes) This is nonsense, foreign students in fact subsides the education of British Nationals with their exorbitant fees. There’s a post here Matthew may be interested in.
  • Travel infrastructure (Decrepit roads at a standstill with overwhelming traffic, trains creaking–need for money and public not incentivised to travel on any form of public transport as poor service and very expensive) Somewhat irrelevant from the debate on Migration but subsumed within the the “Swamping Public Services” argument. When migrants maintain roads you have to wonder if booting them out is a good idea, and you cannot blame migrants for rail privatisation.
  • Environment (building more houses in the countryside, growing pollution, more cars on the road, more wasteful emissions and wastage occurring) This is an argument for keeping the poor poor, because the poor pollute less. While correct that a migrant living in the UK will pollute more than one in rural Mozambique this is a morally repugnant argument. While trivially true this is no guide to policy in any society which wishes to think of itself as just.
  • Depleting energy resources (more people using more and more resources, speeding their depletion) See above.
  • Social Fabric (how differing cultures seamlessly blend in stressful recessionary times and live harmoniously) Given the range of untruths displayed above, I would ask Matthew to consider who is damaging the Social Fabric more, immigrants of him.
  • Net immigration has quadrupled since 1997 to 237,000 a year.  Yes New Labour have failed to get a grip on this They passed 5 acts and were the only country to not slap arbitrary restrictions on the A8  accession countries. I’m proud of our liberalism but I will concede that Labour didn’t make the case in favour of migration, but you cannot accuse them of inaction.
  • This means a migrant now arrives nearly every minute….yes every minute This is a funny way of discussing this topic, especially considering you wrote an inch above bemoaning “emotive propaganda”
  • Immigration will add 7 million to the population of England in the next 20 years – that is 7 times the population of Birmingham. See above on “emotive propaganda.” It “will” not add 7 Birmingham, it “may” add 7 million people and in an ageing society this is not inherently a bad thing. It will also not add 7 Birmingham, it will add, spread through the country, “some” people.
  • By 2008, almost one in nine British residents (6.5m) was born abroad. So? My dad was born in Venezuela, while my Capitalist Pig Dog Welsh Granddad exploited the countries bounties of oil for Shell. Without examining the figures you’re counting a lot of people who are as “British” as you or I.
  • Some estimates show that we must build a new home every six minutes for new migrants. And it is Polish Builders, Latvian Electricians and Czech Plasterers doing it. They probably help to build “British homes for British people” too.
  • Much of the increase of immigrants has come from residents of the “A8″ countries that joined the EU in May 2004 – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. And look what has happened to this migration (H/T Left Foot Forward) Yet you don’t mention this.
  • Of these, two thirds were Polish, making Poland the third most common country of birth for immigrants living in Britain, after India and the Republic of Ireland. Interesting, so?
  • The latest government household projections show that immigration will account for 39% of all new households in the next 20 years. Again, so?
  • England is already the most crowded country in Europe (except Malta) But we live in the UK not England. If you want to chop and change statistics feel free, but I will only point out that the German Land of North-Rhine Westphalia has a population density 33% higher than that of England.
  • To keep the population of the UK below 70 million, immigration must be reduced by 75%. So say Migration Watch UK, but you have not explained why it needs to be kept below 70 million.
  • Asylum immigration, (much loved by the tabloids), only runs at 10% of net immigration, (30,000 per year) True, and out of a global refugee population of 42 million something tells me we’re not pulling our weight.
  • There are more than 300 primary schools in which over 70% have English as a second language; this is nearly a half million children. But at what level do they speak English? Children are linguistic sponges and the statistic you quote do not prove that 70% of children who speak English as a second language speak English in a way damaging to the class as a whole.
  • In London, which has long been home to immigrants from all over the world, one in three residents was born abroad by 2007. In the boroughs of Westminster and Brent, there are more foreign-born people than Britons. So?
  • Growing level of illegal immigrants, (classed as those who enter illegally on the back of a truck, visitors and students who overstay their visas, and rejected asylum seekers who the authorities fail to remove.  In March 2009 a study by the London School of Economics suggested a central estimate of 725,000 of which 518,000 were thought to be in London. And so the argument that an amnesty be granted is all the more overwhelming, especially when we can hardly afford the £11,000 it costs to catch, try, and deport an undocumented migrant.

Citing a House of Lords document Matthew approvingly quotes: “We have found no evidence for the argument, made by the government, business and many others, that net immigration – immigration minus emigration – generates significant economic benefits for the existing UK population.” As regards the contribution of migrants to the Exchequer, they concluded that “The overall fiscal impact of immigration is likely to be small, though this masks significant variations across different immigrant groups.”

It is almost impossible to convincingly argue that migrants are economically detrimental. This paper explains some of the reasons why (H/T Chris Dillow).

Giovanni Peri shows (pdf), from looking across US states, that migrants are good for the economy:

We present three main findings, two of which are quite new in this literature. First, we confirm that immigrants do not crowd-out employment of (or hours worked by) natives but simply add to total employment. Second, we find that they increase total factor productivity significantly and, third, that such efficiency gains are unskilled-biased—larger, that is, for less educated workers.

Matthew also chooses to ignore that fact that while the UK population’s wealth and the UK’s Exchequer’s revenues are, at worst, unaffected, the quality of life of the migrant is massively improved.

Needless to say he blames Labour for the increase in net migration we have seen over the last two decades. I prefer to argue along different lines.

First of all as discussed here, asylum applications are closely correlated with armed conflicts. Labour could – and should – have fought less wars but there’s little they could have done to prevent the collapse of Yugoslavia.

Secondly, UK plc has been experiencing one of the longest economic booms since the war and that has produced a demand for workers, and there exists a supply only too willing to meet it.

Thirdly, the UK is a fantastic place to live. Compare your life now to that of the other 99% of humanity that came before and you will realise just how lucky you are to live in the UK right now.

When a migrant sets up home here it is a compliment, accept it, don’t write blog posts pretending they’re the cause of societies woes.

From his faulty information and flawed assumptions Matthew then goes on to provide some policy recommendations for Dave.

  • Seize the moment and seize the issue. Cameron should address immigration with a clear policy.  This will be popular amongst voters but also make a difference to the economy.  A vote winner. Same Ole Tory policies then?
  • He should propose we stabilise the current population level to what it is,  (stabilise by balancing immigration & emigration).  Not approach levels of 70 million. But you have not argued why this is a bad thing, there is no logical route from what you have written above to this policy.
  • Propose we set an agreed target range for immigration and keep to it, (much as other countries do) eg say 20,000. This will cap economic growth below its potential, in a massive recession and with a large hole in the countries coffers we really don’t need to arbitrarily limit the labour supply.
  • Propose stronger border controls and increased investment to prevent illegal immigrants. Fair enough, but remember, this will be expensive and it will reduce the potential for economic growth to pay for it.
  • Propose the UK cap the level of work permits.  And increase the number of points needed to settle here, (hence aid economic recovery). See above (Hence, your policies will not aid economic recovery).
  • Propose the UK cap the number of students immigrating in to study in the UK. Not only will this unnecesarily limit the amount of UK students who can study, it will also damage economic growth as the University Sector is somewhere where we are internationally competitive and is a big earner for the UK.
  • Whilst asylum is low in proportion, propose measures to deport those who cannot demonstrate the need for true asylum. Again, an expensive move when you are trying to limit economic growth. Roughly £11,000 a head. At circa 700,000 we are talking serious money. Also something which Labour since 1997 have been better at than the Tories were when they were in power before.
  • Propose measures to remove illegal immigrants.  Easy to say but hard to empower.  Start by massive punitive fines to employers of illegal immigrants. See above.

Unfortunately TrueBlueBlood has strayed into what Kevin Arscott of AngryMob has coined as Tabloid Blogging. In this piece there is the same over reliance on easy to understand soundbites and the same carefree disregard for the facts as you would find in The Sun or The Mail.

It is obvious that Matthew Jeffer takes the subject very seriously, and he is right when he says that “immigration is a HUGE concern to the British people” but I don’t think Matthew realises that he is partly the cause and the not solution to that concern.


4 thoughts on “One of the most wrongheaded posts I have ever read

  1. This is an excellent response. I can understand why racists try to make a big deal of immigration, but if someone isn’t a racist (or says they’re not) they need to make a clear and detailed case. The fact that the media have whipped a certain section of the population into an irrational lather about it doesn’t mean it’s a bandwagon a modern conservative should willingly jump on.

    It also never ceases to amaze me that the right like to pretend to be defenders of liberty, and to accuse the current administration of running an Orwellian state, when most of their policies seem to involve the state cracking down on important freedoms.

    1. I feel I should warn people that links to a fairly unpleasant website interested in “various issues related to the preservation of Western culture and the ethnic genetic interests (EGI) of people of European ancestry.”

      As should be obvious from the piece above I in no way endorse the views expressed on it, and in large part am repulsed by them.

      I may take a look at that piece dan as it at least looks well cited but I’m not promising a response as I’m sure you’ll concede we would largely be talking past one another rather than to one another.

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