At least someone agrees with me that austerity caused the Brexit vote – even if it is only Alistair Darling on Radio4’s ‘Westminster Hour’.
I have long been of the view that with the population increasing, yet with no investment in schools, housing, health or much else (apart from the largely useless prestige project of HS2) people would feel ignored and hard done by. From that there is an appealing if myopic logic for many to blame immigrants for the lack of school places or the fact that housing is short and rents are increasing or even that you can never get a midwife when you need one.
So austerity delivered what the majority of the Conservative Party didn’t previously want, exit from the EU. But the vote was difficult for them to rationalise.
They could hardly suggest that when you have ceased to believe that the playing field is anything approaching level then two fingers to the government of the day is an entirely logical result. Having invested so much in the austerity mantra Conservatives could not admit any problem with it, nor could they blame the economy which they’ve told us they are so good at managing. For the Tories, having tried and failed to reduce immigration on two previous occasions they found it easiest to blame their lack of performance on immigration. (They conveniently forgot that they had voted, without exception, to enlarge Europe with no immigration restrictions at all). It fitted fairly neatly because they could paint the EU as refusing to ‘improve’ the deal that Cameron had negotiated prior to the referendum. The government in conjunction with the anti EU press made common cause by saying Brexit was a vote against EU immigration.
Yet immigrants could not, of course, be taking the jobs of the great British workers as so many more people in Britain are, the Conservatives assert, employed. So immigrants must be just driving down the wages of those here already – and we all know enough economics to realise that is called the law of supply and demand.
It isn’t correct of course, but it is plausible.
So the Conservatives and their supporting press came to have the perfect knowledge that the electorate answered a matter that appeared on a few ‘Leave’ posters but certainly wasn’t on the side of the bus. Nor was the subject anywhere on the ballot paper. But they still knew that EU immigration caused the real demand for Brexit. And stopping that immigration had to be an essential.
The horrifying part is that Labour seem to support this as well. And without pointing out that slightly more than one half of immigration (from the non EU countries) was already under government control. Still less that the controls on EU countries that were available to Theresa May when Home Secretary she never bothered with. And anything that suggested EU immigrant employees had no effect on wages she never bothered with either.
Additionally we now are entwined in a situation where we citizens are required to enforce government immigration policy, so, inadequately resourced for the task as almost everyone is, we play safe. As politics.co.uk says:
“When victims or witnesses of crime are too afraid to report an offense to the police, criminals run free and can strike with impunity. When a sick person is too afraid to go to a doctor, diseases can spread without intervention and put the rest of the public at risk. When MPs’ constituents are too afraid to go to their surgeries, they lose touch with what is happening in their local area. And when a person is unable to rent a property in the usual way, they create the incentives for a burgeoning black market.
This approach to immigration enforcement also builds the infrastructure of the surveillance state in the day-to-day interactions of millions of ordinary citizens. It is in effect taking immigration enforcement out of the hands of the Home Office and putting it into the hands of everyone else – often with a requirement that they enforce it or face criminal penalties themselves. This is a political project which is turning neighbour against neighbour and degrading the trust required to keep a healthy society operating.”
It is beginning to look as though for Labour, their immigration policy is as erroneous as failing to contradict the lie that Labour crashed the economy.
Jeremy Corbyn has shown that he will not support austerity. Surely he should complete Labour’s transformation and turn round the immigration narrative. He could show that far from encouraging mutual suspicion, there is a better outcome for a government instituting proper border controls. (This should even play well with the Daily Mail set.) And once here, being inclusive is more important to the prosperity of everyone, and yes, much, much better fun, than being exclusive. It was simply the Conservative government’s total ineptitude and unwillingness to properly enforce the rules, that allows EU immigration to be quite as free as it is.
It would surely resonate if he simply resurrected Orwell’s idea that Britain is “a family with the wrong members in control.”