Making a bad situation worse - why Labour will be making a mistake if it follows Lord Glasman's line on immigration

The press is buzzing today with the news that the ‘Blue Labour’ guru, Lord Maurice Glasman, has come down decisively against virtually all forms of immigration. But isn’t this just another example of politicians wildly over-promising what can be done to limit migration, and setting up public opinion for another round of cynical disillusionment with politics?

The Daily Telegraph led on the news, and this was later picked up in the Daily Mail. Lord Glasman, if he has been reported accurately, is suggesting that the time has come for a “dramatic change” in policy and that migrants should be admitted only on a “case-by-case basis” if it can be shown that their specific skills are needed.

To achieve this objective be is prepared to push for the wholesale renegotiation of the European Union treaty with a view to ending the right of free movement for EU citizens.

In setting out his stall in this way the prominent advisor to the Labour leadership is going far further than the policies of the coalition government on this issue.  Compared to Lord Glasman, the Home Office appears to be comparatively moderate in its plans to reduce current net levels of migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ by 2015.

In reality there are immense practical problems in the way of Glasman’s proposals. The task of demanding a fundamental renegotiation of the EU treaty would not be received well by other member states whose energies at the moment are wholly taken up with combating the sovereign debt crisis and the threat it poses to the eurozone.  Any effort to end the right of free movement would effectively mean a coup de grace for structures which are already in deep crisis.

In the event that free movement rights are scrapped a British government would have to contend, amongst many other shocks and tremors caused by such a drastic move, with the more than one million British nationals who live and work in other EU countries. If the legal structures which underpin their rights to work and provide services across the continent were ended we could expect impacts which are considerably greater than the effects of the ordered migration of workers from other EU states who have come here since 2004.

Glasman appears to want to see the Labour party position itself well to the right to the coalition government on immigration, perhaps in the expectation that during the next few years it will be seen to be failing in efforts to bring about a significant reduction in net migration. However, he has to be aware that criticising the coalition on this point will require more than simply adopting a harsher, more populist rhetoric – it will require definite action.

That action will include a wholesale attack on the human rights to migrants. He appears to anticipate this in macho comments in the Telegraph piece scorning the influence of the United Nations is setting the base-line for decent humane policies. 

Much of the motivation for this type of advocacy is based on the misguided idea that by stealing the clothes of right wing anti-immigrant activists it will be possible to undermine the political appeal of these groups. 

This seems very naive. In the fullest analysis of apparent anti-immigrant sentiment yet published, Dr Rob Ford and Will Somerville have argued that the public responds less positively to blatant over-promising on the part of politicians on immigration matters than it does to a more realistic statement of the facts and the options which are really on the table for policy-makers.  This view has been taken in an article published on the Progress online by Kate Green MP this week.

Contrary to Glasman’s view that Labour should go for the hard, bottom line on migration, Green argues “Labour must be braver and more transparent in exposing the trade-offs implicit in managing migration, and in our dialogue with the voters. After all, capping the number of migrants is a race to the bottom that we simply can’t win.

This view might not be amplified quite so loudly in the Telegraph and the Mail, but Green’s advice is likely to prove sounder than Lord Glasman’s if the Labour party is to avoid making things worse by inciting people to adopt even more hardline and unrealistic positions.

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So it's not just me and what Glasman is saying makes very little sense to other as well.

My instinct would be to warn everyone in the Labour party to start distancing themselves from these truly illogical opinions, which would require more immigration in the form of "German masters to renew the guilds".

The guy is clearly stuck in a Jane Austen novel. Case closed.

"Much of the motivation for this type of advocacy is based on the misguided idea that by stealing the clothes of right wing anti-immigrant activists it will be possible to undermine the political appeal of these groups".

Exactly. Reminds me of Nick Griffin's statement that David Blunkett was the BNP's "best recruiting sergeant" after one of Blunkett's outbursts in 2006. Good to see that neither of these people has much of a political future left. But their central assumption remains: the electorate is racist/xenophobic, therefore to win their votes we must adopt racist/xenophobic policies or euphemistically "take their concerns seriously". But who takes responsibility for feeding these prejudices? Ed Milliband, author of the section of the 2010 Labour Party manifesto entitled "Crime and Immigration"? Phil Woolas playing the "Muslim extremist" card? or Blunkett's statement (with its deliberate Thatcherite echo) that GP services in Sheffield were being "swamped" by asylum seekers.

What this means in real terms? Well it is a title on the front of today's Express in big black letters: "Britain must ban migrants".

Clear and simple and let's not pretend Glasman didn't know that this is going to happen. The man makes me sick. Blue Labour is ridden with misogyny and hatred of the "other" - migrant.

Surely this is good news, no? At least from where I'm sitting, I would imagine that Maurice Glasman is yesterday's news. Can he really recover from this? I don't think so. Anyone else thinks that Labour won't stoop so low. I mean they can have their "we were wrong on migration", but saying that we should introduce, "case-by-case" treatment of migrants coming into the UK is like saying that all bank transactions from abroad need to be authorised by the Bank of England.

If money can move, so can people!

There has been a new development on this. According to the New Statesman: 

"Labour MP Jon Cruddas and Middlesex University academic Jonathan Rutherford have both informed Lord Glasman they no longer wish to be associated with the project following an interview given by the controversial peer in which he expressed a belief that immigration to the UK should be completely halted."

This could effectively be the end of the Blue Labour project. Here is the article

Glasman's email response to Dan Hodges (at the end of the linked New Statesman article) is revealing. In what Glasman intends to appear as contrition, he actually does not back down from his Express-esque stated desire for stopping immigration. We get guff about "full and total support for immigrant communities in Britain" but Glasman's proposals would stop the friends and relatives of the "immigrant communities" that he "supports" from joining their friends and families in the UK.

And, let's not forget that not long ago Glasman advocated dialogue with the proto-fascist street fighters of the English Defence League. That too was followed by an apparently contrite statement saying that he regretted having said that.

So this guy is either someone who consistently enagages his mouth before his brain is in gear -or a stalking horse for an agenda typical of the far right. Take a look at the strategy of most European far right populist/fascist parties since the early 1990's - to move the political agenda onto their territory, in particular by pulling social democratic/Labour parties to the right on issues of race, immigration and "national culture". Mind you, Glasman isn't the first - and won't be the last - to perform this role from within the Labour Party.