Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Immigration as a political issue in the UK

As the US Congress debates issues surrounding immigration, the issue arises in the British campaign. In a population a fifth the size of the US population, there's more fear among some people about high levels of immigration diluting cultural traditions than in the US. And just as much racism.

On the Sceptred Isle, Immigration Is an Issue Fit for Whispers
[I]n this election, more than in any other in memory, popular anxiety about the rapid rise in immigration in the 13 years of Labour rule is the ghost at the banquet. It is a political reality strong enough, according to opinion polls, to influence votes in dozens of constituencies, but one that the major parties can afford to address only in the most modulated of keys, and then, usually, only when others raise it on the campaign trail…

Small wonder, then, that the prime ministerial contenders trod warily when a nonwhite woman in the audience raised the issue at the second of three televised election debates on Thursday.

To nobody’s surprise, each of the three emphasized the need to curb migrant inflows. Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat, urged an amnesty for the million or so illegal immigrants estimated to have lived in Britain for 10 years or more, to “get them out of the hands of criminal gangs,” balanced by stricter border controls; Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for Labour, said new identity cards for foreign residents and a points system for immigration applicants had begun to cut the numbers; David Cameron, the Conservative, advocated a cap on entrants from outside the European Union, “to get it down radically.”

But their competing policies were less notable than the care the three took to avoid any shade of prejudice. “The first thing to say,” Mr. Cameron said, “is that we have benefited from immigration; and people who come here and live legally, we should be incredibly warm and welcoming and hospitable and build a strong and integrated country. I think it’s really important to say that, first up.”…

What has given the issue new political weight is the scale of immigration during Labour rule. Extrapolations from government figures suggest that looser regulations adopted in Tony Blair’s early years as prime minister have led to a net inward migration of about two million people since 1997, with a peak of 330,000 in 2007. Many new arrivals have come legally from East European nations in the European Union, notably Poland. But by far the most non-Europeans have been Muslims, who historically have been slower to assimilate than other immigrants…

The official estimate of the foreign-born population — 11 percent — contrasts with the 1 percent historians give as the average for 1,000 years before major immigration from the Caribbean began in the 1950s...

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At 6:05 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Alan Carter wrote about the "immigration" issue from Oxford:

Hello from over here,

The UKIP view (UK Independence Party, 2nd place in last years European Parliament elections) is that it is the *enlargement* of the European Union (2007- ) to 27 states that has been the problem. Citizens of the 'new' E.U. states have the right to work anywhere in the EU (although not always automatic rights to social benefits) - so this is not strictly speaking 'immigration' as it is movement within the E.U.

'moving map' of enlargement


Personally, I agree with Simon Woolley in the Guardian article today, link below, when he says ''Using immigration in the negative to woo votes is nauseating and a step backwards'' I also think it explains some of the 'swing' to the Liberal Democrats by those who feel both Labour & Conservatives are too ready to do this...



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