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December 19, 2012

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Rob

"A poll (pdf) by Ipsos Mori has found that although 76% of people think immigration is a big problem in Britain, only 18% think it a big problem in their own area, and twice as many say it is not a problem at all."

Without knowing where the respondents live, this is hardly inconsistent when considering that most immigration is concentrated in a small number of areas. The 18% could be the people directly exposed to immigration, and the 76% the rest who are relatively unlikely to encounter immigrants directly. I doubt my own explanation, of course, but we lack the data to do any better than conjecture here.

Like Marxism or libertarianism, a robust defence of immigration is something that has never been tried. I'd like to see someone give it a go before assuming that nobody would be persuaded by it.

Luis Enrique

I think a referendum is in order, to choose between two bundles of policies, in which immigration policy is tied to future tax rates and pension levels and legislated retirement ages, with a side helping of pointing out the implications for house prices if the population starts to shrink.

George Carty

I wonder how people would respond to the idea that all Muslim immigration should be stopped, while immigration by non-Muslims be freely permitted.

Talk that "multiculturalism has failed" is clearly bunk, except when it comes to the very specific problem of integrating Muslims, which in large part is a result of the way in which European civilization historically defined itself against Islam.

Rahul

Luis' suggestion is intriguing. Except that everytime I've debated anyone on immigration, and recited all the facts/economic arguments in support of it, I'm told that economics is rubbish, the facts are wrong and the experts are biased. Mind you, none of those accusations apply to MigrationWatch!

I think the point on the clash of liberty and democracy is accurate and applies in all sorts of ways (re-distributive taxation being the obvious example).

Churm Rincewind

Linda Colley argues that British identity was not formed by the homogenisation of different cultures – “the cultural splits among Englishness, Irishness, Scottishness and Welshness, the gaps in experience and sympathy among different regions, social classes and religious groupings and between the sexes” – but instead inaugurated and sustained by the threat of the Other, and in particular by conflict with the Other.

If that’s true, it could be argued that antagonism to foreigners is of the essence to Britishness. If we define ourselves by what we’re not, rather than what we are, then the arrival in our midst of the Other by way of mass immigration must necessarily represent a generalised threat to our identity and sense of self. (This would help to explain why hostility to immigration has remained fairly stable over the years regardless of the actual levels and impacts involved.)

I incline to the view that British hostility to immigration has little to do with economics, the media, or politics, but is rooted primarily in our history and culture. And that isn’t going to be changed by an appeal to the facts.

P.S. These conclusions are mine, not Linda Colley’s.

paulc156

I do think that if we place far more emphasis on integrating immigrants rather than 'celebrating' their differences we will foster a less hostile attitude. That said, when you go to your local hospital in Ilford or Newham and see at least 50% of those in out-patients are of Asian origin [even if most are probably British born] as are about 25% of the doctors you are always going to have an uphill struggle explaining why immigrants don't overburden the state. When the cultural background of so many is very different it makes matters even harder.

Metatone

If you actually want to persuade people (and there's no evidence that you do) then you need to engage with their experiences. It's not an accident that the highest levels of BNP voting occur in areas where immigrants are in larger numbers and typically looking in the semi-skilled area of the job market.

As your own post further down the page indicates, this is exactly the kind of area where immigration has a locally downward effect on the wages and quality of life of the locals.

We should also note that the richer you are, the more you personally tend to benefit from immigration into the UK.

It shouldn't be rocket science to tie this together and admit that the glacially slow response of our public services to changes in population level (council funding is reviewed every two years, but raises are hard to get, the NHS formulas are even worse) along with the dedication of successive governments to undermining the welfare safety net means that there are places where immigration causes some people a real problem.

And those people are part of the "in-group" - so while you side with the immigrants and the rich, the median person is inclined to side with the "ordinary person" who is part of the in-group.

If nothing else as someone who claims an interest in Marxist analysis, this should give you some food for thought.

Metatone

Forgot to mention that of course all of this is made worse by the pressure on semiskilled wages in the globalised economy. That's actually the real source of a lot of tensions. People look for scapegoats when things are going badly.

fake

People don't like immigration, either medium or large (most people accept small).

People in power and high up push immigration on them.

When people are pushed, they feel resentment.

You have to convince people first, not second, or you will forever be wasting your time and causing resentment.

Lee

What do attitudes amongst migrants look like?

Ralph Musgrave

Personally I’m opposed to immigration because I want Britain to stay British. I’m very much like those dreadful “racist” Tibetans who object to their culture, traditions and way of life being destroyed. Or those “xenophobic” Israelis who confine immigration to people of Jewish race or religion. Or those “Neo-Nazi” Saudis who refuse citizenship to anyone apart from those born there.

Incidentally Keynes (the economist) was an out and out neo-Nazi bigot. He said "...we should encourage small political and cultural units. It would be a fine thing to have thirty or fourty capital cities in Europe, each the center of a self-governing country entirely free from national minorities (who would be dealt with my migrations where necessary).” Talk about politically incorrect.

Steve

Since the problem is plainly the wickedness of white English culture, plainly we should be attempting to destroy that culture so that the immigrant communities can build a more loving and peaceful society based on rainbows and petting bunny rabbits.

Gigglebot

I think that you need to take a tour of Leicester, Bradford and Whitechapel (aka the Silicon Valley of the UK). You will find that immigrants in these high-tech innovation hubs are creating thousands of highskilled jobs and very large multinationals set to compete with the Googles, Twitters and Intels of the world. They also have the benefit of being incredible cultural centers with safe gay populations, wonderful urban renewal projects and vibrant alternative music and club scenes.

I heard that many of the start ups in Bradford are going public and the cost of housing is going through roof just like in San Francisco. That is one reason that they call Bradford the San Francisco of Northern England.

Keith

I think the answer is to relax. There is no point worrying about opinion polls. All they reveal is that most people are irrational and inconsistent in their views about most political issues. In the USA when asked about Congress opinion is always hostile to "Congress", it is a failure, the system is broken, they are all crooks, kick the bums out etc but when asked about their own Congress man or women opinion is favorable, hes a great guy he has the right idea, he brings home the pork etc. Education is always a disaster and not so good "as in my day", but my local School and head teacher is wonderful etc Welfare has got out of hand all the bums need to get a job until that is I loose my job and need to claim etc etc Lets have cuts, but only for other people.

People evolved in small tribal groups and have a irrational aversion to difference and change in society. We had all the same ant immigrant rubbish in the seventies with the National front and street fights. And arson attacks on black station masters etc

The political ruling class should get on and lead and in time changes that seem revolutionary become the new reality. Blacks marry whites, Gays have rights, the world did not end. You cannot argue people out of irrational fears you move on past them.

Stephen Boisvert

People can't even tell who the immigrants are! I was a UK immigrant for seven years and on countless occasions had people rant to me about immigration as if I wasn't an immigrant myself. The thing is that attitudes are not towards immigration. They are towards people and the people who are 'count' as immigrants are not all of the immigrants or even necessarily immigrants. Immigration has become a dog-whistle for racism.

Mr. B

I can't believe all the racist comments on this website. I for one am in favour of welcoming as many illiterate, tribal Muslims from conservative societies as possible to our shores. How could any rational person disagree? Just look at the vibrant economic miracle that is Tower Hamlets.

Luke

I'm not sure how many of the posts above are ironic, which I find troubling. I live in an area with numerous immigrants, including my father, and no obvious resulting problems. I suspect that a real problem is that, confronted
careful statistical analysis, say of the type Mr Portes has done, many would just ignore/discount it. That's in part because the results are counterintuitive, but not entirely. I have nothing to propose.

Gigglebot

I'm pro-Muslim immigration. It makes us more diverse regardless of anything else. Diversity is the ultimate state of the human condition. This is why the economies of homogeneous societies like South Korea and Japan can't keep up with the UK.

TheProle

A good number of the posts above are indeed ironic... Particularly those regarding Bradforistan or whatever it's called these days.

Personally as an evil rightwing type, when not busy grinding the bones of the poor, sending kids up chimneys and the widows to workhouses, I'm in favour of the free movement of people (as well as most other forms of freedom).

In this I realize I am out of step with most of the country. Democracy being the least worst form of government, I'm generally willing to concede that the government should do what the people want, and thus we should limit immigration.

In terms of why people don't like immigration, I would suggest as major factors:

1) Muslims don't seem to want to integrate. TBH I see no easy cure for this.

2) The great British Worker is usually a lazy creature. Having to fight off thousands of hard working eastern Europeans has made said British workers have to work harder to retain employment. This causes resentment.

I personally think that the E. European types did is a massive favour in 2008/9 when a lot of them lost jobs and went home. I suspect this is the main reason why unemployment didn't rise nearly as much as everyone expected.

cjcjc

Why did Mr Dillow move to "vibrant" "diverse" Rutland?

Neil

"I wonder how people would respond to the idea that all Muslim immigration should be stopped, while immigration by non-Muslims be freely permitted."

They'd turn round and kick Gypsies and Jews instead.

Rob

"If that’s true, it could be argued that antagonism to foreigners is of the essence to Britishness. If we define ourselves by what we’re not, rather than what we are, then the arrival in our midst of the Other by way of mass immigration must necessarily represent a generalised threat to our identity and sense of self."

The "antagonism to foreigners" depends heavily on your definition of "foreigners". British nationalism has always seemed, to me, to be more about geography than ethnicity. An island population is always going to perceive the existence of a boundary between "us" and "them" simply because getting "there" is so much more difficult than it would be without the Channel in the way. If "foreigners" simply mean "those from outside Britain" then we don't have a problem so long as we can recognise people living here as being "us".

Moreover, British people seem to care a lot about even hyper-local identities. You can easily identify, say, a Scouser from a Mancunian, but even within these identities there are different groups, generally based on geography. I grew up in the North West and there was a patchwork of local identities, some covering only a very small area but definitely identifiable.

Immigration is, in the short-term, destructive to these identities. Newcomers simply don't know about them, and don't understand them - they can't detect the tiny differences in accent and dialect any more than I'd be able to do the same in a country half-way across the world. I wouldn't be able to tell apart the accents and dialects of two people from opposite sides of China, even though they're much further apart than any two British people.

However, this is only a short-term problem. Given a generation or two, new identities form or existing identities adapt to incorporate the newcomers (or rather, their descendants). Before long, it becomes as if they had always been there, just as we often act as if the modern-day "British" had always been here.

gastro george

"The great British Worker is usually a lazy creature. Having to fight off thousands of hard working eastern Europeans has made said British workers have to work harder to retain employment. This causes resentment."

I think that Chris has written about this before. There is a selection bias in this comparison. Those eastern Europeans who have the drive to go and work in a different country are likely to be more motivated to be hard workers.

It's simple to turn this on it's head. I know of many hard working Brits who are prospering in Spain, taking the jobs of those lazy Spaniards. And vice versa.

J

Are you joking? Muslims integrate well with the rest of British society. I suspect that they are leading the way in liberalizing retrograde white Brits in such efforts as gay rights, women's rights, freedom of speech, etc.

I visited the UK this past summer, and I couldn't believe how much fun I had in predominately Muslim neighborhoods. Incredible bohemian feel. Just full of bookstores, cafes, clubs, beautiful liberated women. The only problems Muslims must have is too many other Brits moving into their neighborhoods and gentrifying them out!

BenSix

It's high time the correlation between critics of multiculturalism and wannabe stand up comedians was explored...

theartteacher

Love your blog, lots, but I think you've done some framing here.

"There is, though, a deeper issue here.The fact that public opinion is hugely and stably opposed to immigration suggests that there is a tension between liberty - immigration is an issue of freedom - and democracy."

What it seems you're tacitly suggesting is the mass of people are inhibiting immigrants freedom by being against it. Another argument would be that immigration incurs on the current inhabitants freedom. Another would be that democracy is a freedom. So really what is happening is that freedoms are being traded off.

The problem is this - many people who are against certain levels of immigration realise that actually this will inhibit their freedom - availability of jobs goes down, wages go down. Going back to the Windrush (and this is basically a Marxist analysis), immigration has been used as a way to bolster the reserve army of labour.

It's really (I'm not sure if I've made this phrase up, but if I have I want some kind of prize) reversed globalisation, where the jobs don't go abroad - but we bring the cheap labour here.

Am I totally wrong here?

I would also broadly agree with points made on here about 'scapegoating', and the broad observation that as conditions and security for people worsen, xenophobia and provincialism increase.

I'd also ask this - I understand that morally there can be little objection really to people going where they please - I have as much right to live in Lagos as someone else does to live in my area, or in Caracas, or Anchorage. But what would be the outcome? This partly an economics questions and partly a moral question (not that the two should be separated but...). People might flood to desirable countries and cities, sometimes wrecking them (tragedy of the commons style) but how can one find a just solution to this that doesn't involve coercion or arbitrary property right etc.

Would love to know what people think.

Gigglebot

This partly an economics questions and partly a moral question (not that the two should be separated but...). People might flood to desirable countries and cities, sometimes wrecking them (tragedy of the commons style) but how can one find a just solution to this that doesn't involve coercion or arbitrary property right etc.

There is no solution as such - if you are in favour of totally free movement, then you have to accept the "wrecking" of "desirable countries and cities". Likewise, if you do not want to accept this, then you have to be against totally free movement and thus impose limitations.

From an economics perspective, the real issue here (as is usually the case) is the huge imbalance of wealth between the West and the rest of the world, and I doubt any government can do anything about that. From a cultural perspective, well, who wants their traditional way of life to be sacrificed on the altar of diversity?

Churm Rincewind

@ Rob – Thanks for your interesting post. I certainly accept that our island status makes our situation different from most countries. I also agree that the UK comprises many local identities – indeed, we have more local dialects per head of population than any other country in the world.

But this is all grist to my mill. It’s exactly because the UK is unusually disparate in so many ways that Britons have looked elsewhere for ways of defining an over-arching national identity for themselves. And historically “elsewhere” as been exactly that – somewhere abroad, somewhere foreign, somewhere different, somewhere Other. But this solution has incorporated these differences only by concealing them.

Without a clear Other, and in particular a clear conflict with the Other (basically a war), the fault lines in British society reappear. That’s why, for example, the last sixty years of peace in the UK has seen a resurgence in Scottish and Welsh Nationalism, which often appears to be principally defined by a straightforward dislike of the English. In their turn too, and for the same reasons, the English have been seeking an Other for themselves, someone or something to dislike and fear in order to unite the nation. And what could be an easier target than the “Others” living amongst us – the immigrants. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Nationalist parties in England are anti-immigrant in a way that the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists are not.

Without an enemy abroad, the English have sought an enemy within, and the more different and foreign they are by way of skin colour, religion, culture, etc, the easier it becomes to blame immigrants for, well, everything. The facts have little to do with it, and are not an effective response.

john malpas

That all these comments and arguments exist shows just how lost you all are.

WTF

What's with all this unfunny sarcastic bollocks about Muslims in the UK? Did someone link to this post on UKIP's website? They read like a smug, passive-aggressive home counties sitcom version of Der Sturmer.

cybernetic ghost of christmas past from the future

@WTF

J at 10:20 kind of has a point when he sarcastically says "Muslims integrate well with the rest of British society. I suspect that they are leading the way in liberalizing retrograde white Brits in such efforts as gay rights, women's rights, freedom of speech, etc." The oppressive views of other cultures are largely ignored, because to comment on them is somehow "racist". In fact to expect them to integrate at all is somehow 'racist". To what extent do you think we should we be tolerant of intolerance?

SR819

The attitudes expressed on this comments thread are the sort of comments you read on any article about immigration, be it on the Mail, Telegraph, Independent etc. I actually hope that the Tories do get "tough" on immigration not necessarily because I agree with the policy, but it may finally stop immigration being an issue and such a toxic one at that.

Neil

*Raises hand* So now we've established that we can trust the Government to control immigration properly, can we now trust it to control capital flows? Or the production of, say, tractors and sugar beet?

Churm Rincewind

@cybernetic

Well, no, we shouldn't be tolerant of intolerance. The problem arises when all are tarred with the same brush. Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, is an enormously diverse global religion. It's easy to find repellent views amongst adherents of all three. Try reading Leviticus.

cybernetic ghost of christmas past from the future

@Churm

You are completely correct of course - but - sexism and homophobia are not fringe views within Islam. Unlike Christianity they're mainstream, and generally stronger than equivalent views within Christianity and other religions (particularly in first generation immigrants). Generally speaking, these views are not surrendered upon entering Britain. I can't see how it's good for social cohesion in the long-term to implicitly accept these views by pretending they don't exist or don't matter, especially when the white population is castigated at every turn to be more PC. More importantly, now that they're here, what can we do to address the problem?

cybernetic ghost of christmas past from the future

@Churm

Slight correction:

You are completely correct of course - but - sexism and homophobia are not fringe views within MODERATE Islam. Unlike MODERATE Christianity they're mainstream, and generally stronger than equivalent views within Christianity and other religions (particularly in first generation immigrants).

Gb

Churm: "Try reading Leviticus."

I guess a number of Christians do indeed try, but then they get bored and jump ahead to Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, not to mention the New Testament.

The point being, not many Christians or Jews really think that gays should actually be stoned. They see the Old Testament as historical books. While among Muslims such literal interpretation seems to be a lot more common, the Koran being the literal, unchangeable word of God. Not everyone thinks so, of course, but it seems to be a common progressive fallacy to deny the existence of a big difference here.

Rahul

For the person who was asking for a 'defence of immigration', look at the work done by Bryan Caplan at GMU (morality/ philosophy) or the Modelled Behaviour blog (for economics) and Jonathan Portes' work (for economics).

Stanley T

"Some party hack decreed that the people
had lost the government's confidence...
If that is the case, would it not be be simpler,if the government simply dissolved the people and imported another?"

(with apologies to Bertoldt Brecht)

Economic arguments tend to underestimate the costs of a lack of moral consensus, a fair degree of which is required to enable a modern state to function. When several millions have a "religious law" which deviates substantially from the consensus and they consider that it outranks secular law of the land, there is a major problem.

The demographic argument does not hold water, birth rates have revived in the past decade and even by 2050 the additional costs of supporting the elderly are quite bearable. Meanwhile mass immigration to this crowded isle adds to pressure on housing and services, and thus to asset bubbles.

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