Not Ed Miliband’s speech on immigration

Now a lot of people have asked me how Labour should respond to UKIP.

I have thought about it a lot, and I tell you this: I will not cede the issue of immigration to those offering fear or falsehood.

I promise, we will listen to what people tell us on the doorstep. Not just if those people are called Gareth. We do listen. And we do understand. We hear many things that people say about immigration – and about many other things. About poverty. About jobs. About the cost of social security. About the NHS. About housing. And we understand when people seem to make links between immigration and those other things – but we have to be clear about whether those links are true or not. Where they are true, we have to be bold, and strong – but when they are not true, we have to be bold and strong too.

So when people say that they are worried about the NHS, and the strain being put on the NHS by immigration, we will say that we are worried about the NHS too, and that we will do everything we can to make sure the NHS is properly funded. That we have doctors and nurses that are looked after and supported. That we will not allow the NHS to be driven down into despair so that it can be sold off – but we will also be clear that immigrants and immigration is not putting a strain on the NHS: quite the opposite. Immigrants do not come over here to use our health service – they come over here to work in our health service. The contribution made by immigrants as doctors, as nurses, as support staff of all kinds, is critical to the health service. And immigrants use health services less than most people. They’re not a drain on the health service. They support it. Immigration is good for the NHS. What is bad for the NHS is the creeping privatisation – and we’re sorry that we in the Labour Party made the wrong moves in initiating Public Finance Initiatives. We will prevent any future privatisation – and ensure proper funding for the NHS.

And when people say they are worried that about housing, and that immigration is putting a strain on housing, we will say that we are worried about housing too, and will be ensuring that more affordable – and by that we mean genuinely affordable – houses are build. We will look at ways to make the currently dysfunctional housing market work better for everyone – but it needs to be entirely clear that it is the housing market that is the problem, not immigration. It’s not the immigrants but the unscrupulous landlords who cause the problems in the housing market – and we will make sure that tenants have proper protection, and that rents are kept at affordable levels.

And when people tell us that they are worried about the amounts we have to pay for social security, we will say that we understand – and we do – but we will also make it entirely clear that the idea of ‘benefits tourism’ is also a myth. Immigrants do not place a burden on the benefits system any more than they do on the health service. Indeed, they pay more in tax than they receive in benefits. Immigration does not cost money – it contributes, and those who suggest otherwise whilst knowing the real figures are doing so to mislead, to confuse, and to try to make people blame those who are not to blame.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about jobs, and about unemployment. It’s a common suggestion – one made by UKIP at the European elections – that people from Europe are coming here to take your jobs. That to is a damaging and disturbing myth, one often deliberately intended to spread fear and division. Overall, immigration – and immigration from Europe in particular – creates more jobs than it takes. Now unemployment is a problem – and low wages are a problem – but they’re not caused by immigration, and to suggest so is disingenuous at best. We need to be quite clear about that. It is true, however, that particularly at the lower end of the wage scale immigration can put pressure on, and in some particular local areas it can put pressure on – in the short term. We will address this directly – by raising the minimum wage, by enforcing that minimum wage, by clamping down on those manipulative and unscrupulous employers who take advantage of both British and immigrant workers – and by providing a social security system that supports those in need rather than stigmatising them and demonising them.

Now it’s important to understand that there are those who would use immigration as a scapegoat for the problems we face. I could have mentioned education – some suggest, falsely, that immigration puts pressure on our education system – or crime, which is also falsely blamed on immigration. It’s easy to blame immigrants – but it’s wrong, and it’s damaging. It means that the people who are really responsible for these problems – the dodgy landlords, the unscrupulous employers, those who actually caused the financial problems we face – are let off the hook. What’s more, it means we don’t do what is really needed to sort out our problems. We don’t address the dysfunctional housing market. We don’t provide proper funding for our health and education systems. We don’t sort out our social security system in a way that really works – all we do is find people to punish.

For that reason, I won’t be announcing punitive new measures on benefits for immigrants. I won’t be announcing figures to limit immigration.  Instead, I’ll be dealing with the real problems, not basing policy on lies.

Because they are lies – and we will fight those lies, because the lies hurt. They hurt immigrants. They hurt you. They create division and damage, foster hatred and ignorance. They hurt the country. They hurt us all.


…but of course he won’t say any of that, because it’s too late. They’ve let the lies go unchallenged for so long that it’s too hard to fight. So instead, on goes the damage, on goes the hatred, and the problems remain unsolved…. and instead they fester, like a sore.

23 thoughts on “Not Ed Miliband’s speech on immigration

  1. One northern Labour MP, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: ‘If Miliband cared to ask me, I could tell him why Ukip is picking up votes in northern constituencies. It is because if a single mother with a child is in a queue for council housing, she will find that an East European family with three children can jump ahead of her.

    ‘And if she goes to the local GPs, the same East European families will have taken all the appointments. Anyone who utters that kind of sentiment is denounced as a racist. It is nothing of the sort: it is the truth.’

      1. I suspect it is not the first time the Mail has been economical with the actualite.

        I did challenge a woman at the bus stop talking about a ‘bumped’ hospital appointment. Long story short, she said you may be right, but it is my perception (her word) that migrants receive treatment ahead of non migrants in greater need …

        So I might be wrong, but …

        How do you deal with people like that?

  2. This article is closer to your position but look at the comments below it.

    And Ed Miliband did focus in his Conference Speech ( on tackling the underlying issues that ukip is blaming on migrants, but Miliband did not directly challenge that policy.

    Although, he did manage to remember the bulk of his speech that included tackling issues that concern the average voter. Unfortunately, the media ‘forgot’ the majority of the speech Miliband did deliver.

    1. I know I’m probably onto a loser here. The weight of dodgy anecdote, the pressure of the media and the failure to tackle the issue from the start makes it pretty impossible for the truth to come out now.

      1. I know.

        Even the Guardian is talking about, “They are consistent, too, in their unease about the exceptional immigration of the early 21st century.”

        Exceptional in comparison with what other waves of immigration? The Roman Occupation, the arrival of the Anglo Saxons (from whom some ukipers think they are descended in a pure bloodline …), the Norman Invasion and so on.

        You do not need me to remind you that our population was much smaller then so relatively speaking these migrations were, on balance, much higher than today and certainly much more concentrated. ukip is developing a stronghold in the East of England where most of the migrants from across the North Sea arrived, settled and predominantly stayed.

        As an aside, we are commemorating (at least we were, it seems to have gone a bit silent at the moment) the horrors of World War One. Confusingly, proprotionally more combatants and non combatants died during the English Civil Wars than during WW1. I suspect many more non combatants died any way, that being in the nature of civil wars.

        Many are still unable, for whatever reasons, to come to terms with the evolving interpretation of the past and putting events into context. Therefore, I guess it is depressingly understandable that lacking the skills and/or willingness to do that, people have a problem with interpreting the present.

        As an aside, Guardain editorial misses the point about ukip’s tax ‘cut’ for the poor. It only occurred to me on Saturday, ukip assumes no one on the highest band of the NMW works more than 40 hours per week (nor that they work any overtime). ukip seems to think that the Working Time Directive makes it possible for workers to say that they do not want to work more than 40 hours a week on average, unless they choose to. Wrong on limitations of the Directive and wrong on the hours, they are 48 not 40.

        And the Guardian says that MPs are out of touch!

  3. There was much to commend in Miliband’s article yesterday. But the fact that it was spun so far the other way suggests to me that high-up Labourites who disagree are spinning against him. Same old Labour. The truth is that Labour won’t get those angry Ukippers back, but they can start winning new voters by moving the argument onto ground where Ed does really well – fighting Mail/Murdoch, challenging energy co’s, challenging US-dictated foreign policy. Nice blog btw

    1. Yes, I wondered whether there was some counter-spinning. I saw two reports in the Guardian, one before I wrote the blog, one after – and the one after was much closer to what I would have liked, so I wondered if the first one was based on a ‘negative’ spin from an insider.

  4. I agree about everything you said except a couple of things…. I know several people, and I mean many, who have my same nationality, who came here thinking ‘well if I can’t find a job after a few months, there are benefits in UK, right?’, so benefit tourism is not a myth after all.
    However, welfare should be reformed for everybody and not just EU citizens. In many European countries, if you don’t pay for 52 or 104 weeks into the tax system you have no right to claim any benefits.

    Concerning foreigners taking jobs, that is a LEGEND, not even a myth. I have been rejected for several jobs because I am not British-born, it doesn’t eve matter being naturalised given that you can’t change the way you speak with British naturalisation.
    Ukip, Tories and Labour are clearly out of touch with the whole topic…..

    1. The stats show that though there are benefit tourists, the overall figures are so small as to be all but irrelevant to the overall budgets – and when you take into account the Brits claiming benefits outside the UK (and they do) the figures become even smaller. It’s not that it doesn’t happen – just as with health tourism – but that the idea that it’s significant in terms of the overall debate is the myth.

      1. Sorry, I had misrepresented your sentence then. Yes, for sure the number of EU citizens claiming benefits compared to the locals is quite irrelevant in the end. The main point is that it is far too easier to look at that tiny percentage of EU citizens claiming benefits than to the whole issue from another perspective.

      2. And, with regards to claiming Social Security, the costs of differentiating between grouos when determinig eligibiloity requires more staff to process claims, more staff training, more computing capacity, more fraud staff … and so on.

        Too often, means testing such payments wastes more money than it saves. Current DWP fraud activities being a case in point

  5. I agree. There was not much substance in the tougher stuff on benefits. No one seems to know about importing your rights from your home country. That reciprocation is long standing and includes EEA countries.

    And, the ideas being floated by all parties ignore fact that DWP’s current systems cannot even cope with rules for paying current claims.

    As for the language requirements, well, I would have thought having good communications was a given in jobs working with the public? If that is not being assessed as part of recruitment processes then surely everyone, not a minority, should be proving they have them? I had to have an O Level passin English before I could even start the process of being considered for the Civil Service (and I had to present my certificate, too, for authentication).

    And, if Ed is promising properly funded, vocational and social ESOL then he is making a great commitment and addressing a decades old bugbear of those working in welfare to work. ESOL has for decades been seen as a non vocational subject and as more and more of the government’s funding for training etc has become linked to attaining vocational qualifications then the money for ESOL has fallen in real terms. Similarly, funding for English speakers of English needing to enhance their skills has been reduced. Cinderella desperately needs a Prince Charming and a Fairy Godmother (come on Rachel, put some meat on your interesting, but undeveloped proposals in this area)!

    1. I have a Higher English (not Esol, English, the same exam Scottish born people get through to access university) but that has nothing to do with being rejected concerning ‘communication skills’. I speak quite an understandable English but truth is that if you have a foreign accent there is a lot of stigma about it these days. I don’t even know why UKIP is fooling people with these ideas, many employers hire foreigners only when they really have no other choice.

      1. I was relating my experience of working with people from the Indian Sub Continent, some recently arrived and some who had been living here for a while.

        I do not like using the word ghetto, but some of the people who I interviewed only lived and workied in an area a few miles square and so the need to use English was very limited. There was not even a reason to use it as a lingua franca.

        Unfortunately, when major local employers within that area either moved away or went bust, these chaps were at a disadvantage in finding work further afield. Also, how did they decide for whom to vote and what access did they have to all our society has to offer in the arts and so on.

        They had gained a peaceful bridgehead, but, in part, language barriers were preventing them from breaking out.

        You are quite right about the employer angle. There is plenty that could be done to reduce the need/desire for employers to recruit from abroad, but ukip, like most other parties to a lesser extent, shys away from criticising employers.

        Have a gander at the document linked to from this post It certainly challenges a number of issues about what employers look for when recruiting and, all others being equal, whom they take on.

        By the way, I am a labout market expert with 27 years in the field, but I do not claim, despite, what some allege (mentioning no particular name on this thread ;-D ) to have a monopoly on wisdom.

        Would it be impertinent to ask your background. I really do not know much about the Scottish educational system?

      2. No John, it is not impertinent 🙂 I’ve also a public site and blog so I am quite open to say something about my background. First, thanks for the link, I just read it! I will explore the rest of the website later 🙂 Highers are the Scottish equivalent of A levels, although in the English-Scottish educational system frame A levels seem more valuable. However, I enrolled in an English university whilst in Scottish higher education (different BA course though) so not sure about last sentence. I needed ‘English’ instead of ‘Esol English’ because that is one of the requirements if you want to apply for a BA in history, archaeology, literature and so on. Of course, my experience on the job market is evidently limited, I can only speak for people who are Italians (I was born in Italy), because I can read what they say online (blogs or social media) or because I heard my friends talking about it. The fact that there are not many ESOL English courses offered by the state, or councils if you like, seems pointing at the fact that British government doesn’t actually care if these foreigners stay in a ghetto or help them to integrate with the locals. I have an Italian friend who has been living in Germany for the last three years, she told me that at present the German state requires that foreign residents do attend language courses.

  6. Interesting that you should mention immigration and the NHS, due to the racist immigration stance of the eussr, we have to accept the people from 27 nations to the detriment of those outside, which essentially means that the people who used to add greatly to our nhs the Doctors from India and Nurses from the Carribean in particular, now find it very difficult to come here to work, out come = a shortage of frontline staff throughout the service.

  7. Well done Paul!
    Now, how can we get this posted in the Daily Drivel?
    Not to forget ‘the others’
    Great piece…I salute you 🙂

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