The Fabians are wrong. Labour’s policy on immigration must be about principle, not just doorstep tactics

by Ranjit Sidhu

The Fabian society recently released Revolt on the Left, a document that professionally and exhaustively went through the reason why UKIP was a threat to Labour and what the practical responses should be.

That the Fabian Society, home once to the thinkers that shaped modern society, would create a document on “saleable doorstep policy” to reassure voters that Labour, like UKIP, would be hard on immigration and immigrants getting housing, instead of ideologically battling with the frankly racist lies that UKIP pedal to demonise a disenfranchised groups in society,  is a sad bellwether of how Labour has changed: Labour’s very soul, it’s very DNA, since the nineteenth century was to stand up for these demonised and voiceless groups.

The facts on immigration show clearly that it has an overall positive effect on our economy. However, we know it is the perception of immigration being out of control that needs to be combated and that by its nature is a battle of ideas. As the Fabian report so clearly illustrates it is a battle Labour seems prepared to lose when faced with the anti-immigrant populism that currently pervades our country.

That immigration is an issue of perception was again proven in the recent EU elections, where UKIP gains were highest where immigration was low and lowest in areas of high immigration.  This further proved the point made by an Migration Observation study  when it asked if people thought the UK had a “very big problem” with immigration and whether they thought their own community had a “very big problem” with immigration. Over five times as many people (38 per cent to 7 per cent) thought the UK generally had a problem but not their own community. By accepting the narrative of UKIP, our country loses Labour as the bulwark against the politics of fear –  the bogyman of immigration is allowed to grow unchallenged.

It not a New versus Old Labour argument, it an argument of facts and what are the values of the country we want to live in should be. Imagine for a moment, how much poorer this country would have been if Labour had pandered to the very, popular view of the 1970s that “Commonwealth immigration ” was a tide that would destroy our society. Labour, on principle, stood beside these victimised communities then and it should now.

Indeed, we have been here many times, be it  the Irish in the 1850s,  Jewish immigration at the turn of the century or the Commonwealth immigration in the 1960s and 70s. Every time the benefits have been massive for our country. History is on our side.

In 1973, Michael Foot in a debate with Enoch Powell on Commonwealth immigration was asked why he was supporting immigration even though it was so unpopular in the country at that time, his reply was:

“.. they are entitled to express an opinion as am I; the job of a politicians is to say what they believe is good for the people, the country and the world in general as clearly as they can, if they only search for the popular will they will never find it. Public opinions polls alone cannot influence me on this at all”

With hindsight we can see at the time the majority were wrong and Michael Foot was right. It is a valid question to ask  how will history judge our approach now?

Labour politicians must be prepared to be unpopular, gaining power at the cost of your soul is a Faustian deal that never works out well…..just ask the Liberal Democrats.

Ranjit Sidhu is Director and Founder of SiD, Statistics into Decisions ( and blogs on tumblr here

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17 Responses to “The Fabians are wrong. Labour’s policy on immigration must be about principle, not just doorstep tactics”

  1. MK says:

    Politicians do not have to align themselves with the public opinion. But if the public opinion is not represented by any (electable) party, people get angry. Perhaps the biggest reason for the rise of UKIP is that the main parties ignored people’s overwhelming support for a reduction in the massive number of immigrants coming in in the Blair/Brown years and opposition to “multiculturalism”.

    Polls show immigration is the first or second most important issue to voters. Continuing to ignore this issue or deny that people’s worries are valid will just cause more to leave LibLabCon and go to UKIP.

    The left both promotes open-door immigration and multiculturalism – no wonder, with both, natives feel very alienated from their new neighbors!

  2. Madasafish says:

    Labour politicians must be prepared to be unpopular, gaining power at the cost of your soul is a Faustian deal that never works out well…

    Hmm.. I think you will find in reality being unpopular means you don’t form a Government and hence achieve anything.

    And quoting Michael Foot is risible. In 1983 Labour recorded its worst performance since 1918 under Mr Foot…Tony Benn lost his seat..,_1983

  3. Michael Worcs says:

    This report states ‘the benefits (for immigration) have been massive for our country’ however that was in the past, now it costs us 15million pounds a day

    see for the facts

    Non-EU migration by marriage, of which a significant portion are economically inactive, is especially costly however Cooper said at conference that Labour will remove the target for family migration

    Does Labour think the new minimum income rule for immigration by marriage of the low or no-skill non-EU citizens is the right thing to do or doesn’t labour not agree with these rules and will therefore scrap them?

    30 million voters and I would like to know the answer

  4. Mike Homfray says:

    If people want an anti-immigration party and place that as their first priority its hardly likely they would be voting Labour anyway

  5. Tafia says:

    I’ll make this simple for you. Labour’s core vote does not want to compete with migrants for social housing, for places in local schools, for places with NHS dentists, for low paid jobs. It does not want to see tax money spent on in and out of work benefits including tax credits and housing benefit. It does not want to see job adverts for doctors receptionists, teaching assistants, health workers and council workers with the caveat ‘must speak a south asian language’.

    The indiginous population must always come first – always, and when money is tight it must not be the indiginous population that suffers whilst so much as a penny goes on both EU and non-EU migrants.

    When you understand that and bring in policies to enforce it then you will be taken seriously and not before. Stop being so pointlessly middle-class.

  6. John Reid says:

    No one said it was new labour versus old, Blairites were pro immigration , Frank field being the expect ion,and Blue Labour is more old labour assuming old labour is pre 1974 old. Labour before foot and co , over took the party,

  7. John Clarke says:

    I’m surprised Labour Uncut now seems to be advocating a Michael Foot style approach to politics. I thought it was set up to avoid his sort of catastrophic defeat.

    This is another example of Labour not being able to debate this issue properly. Instead of addressing an issue that concerns people we are ‘pandering to racists’.

    The problem of course is far more complicated than the author makes out. The problem for most is quite specific. It’s related to wage levels being eroded for those at the bottom of the wage scale. If the author spent a bit more time digging around the Migration Observatory website he would have found that although immigration has grown the size of the economy overall it could be having an impact on wages.

    The author’s approach has helped contribute to a situation were three quarters of people are in favour of reducing migration to the UK.

  8. BenM says:

    @Michael Worcs

    Don’t quote rotten migrationwatch “studies” here. You won’t be taken seriously.

  9. wg says:

    For once I agree with Mike Homfray – if people are against immigration then they are not going to vote for Labour.

    Labour have to either stick to what they see as a principled agenda or they try and attract the white, working class vote by coming down on immigration.

    The white working class who are not part of Labour’s core vote will have to find another home.

  10. Ex Labour says:

    The point about Labours mass immigration policy under Blair and Brown was thats its purpose was to rub the noses of the political right in ‘diversity’.

    It backfired spectacularly, as it hurt the core Labour voter, seeing their jobs undercut, school places squeezed, doctors surgery waiting times increase etc etc.

    This is a major cause in the rise of UKIP, something which the Guardianistas dont want to hear or acknowledge. But there again who would serve them their skinny Latte in Hampstead ?

  11. Landless Peasant says:

    I’m not in the least bit concerned about immigration, and as a Commie I wouldn’t ever vote for a Fascist party like UKIP or BNP. I think it will only be a minority of thickos who do vote UKIP in the end.

  12. Tafia says:

    Don’t quote rotten migrationwatch “studies” here. You won’t be taken seriously.

    Don’t quote middle class New Labour filth here. You won’t be taken seriously. (especially not as it caused a handful of wars and helped cause an anglo-american banking crisis)

  13. Landless Peasant says:

    @ Tafia

    “Labour’s core vote does not want to compete with migrants for social housing, for places in local schools, for places with NHS dentists, for low paid jobs.”

    Then build more Social Housing, more schools, employ more NHS Dentists, and end all low-paid jobs. None of the problems you mention are the fault of immigrants. You sound more like a Tory/Ukipper troll than a Socialist.

  14. John reid says:

    Wg, o.k I dont think, Mike Homfray feels that it’s the White working class, who are the ex labour voters though,

  15. John Reid says:

    Landless peasant, Tafia, never said the things he mentioned were the fault of immigrants, it’s the fault of the last labour govt for not doing anything, and when have Tory Ukippers e er wanted the things that would make life easier for the working class

  16. Tafia says:

    Landless Peasant – The parties do not want to do your options as they require more public spending, therefore that only leaves the options of either severely restricting immigration (especially lo-skill/no-skill) or severely restricting which services and entitlements that immigrants get access to.

    So being as you can’t have your choice that means you have to have one of the other two choices or not vote – and if you don’t vote you are irrelevant.

    Tory/Ukipper troll than a Socialist Since when in the last 30 years has Labour been even remotely socialist. Socialists do not vote Labour – in fact the party would rather they f**k off and die. They find them an embarassment..

  17. Landless Peasant says:

    Well I am a far-Left Socialist, but I won’t be voting Labour, I shall vote Green again, as are many other Socialists that I know. There really is no one else to vote for (apart from perhaps SWP or Class War).

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