Blogs by Don Flynn
It is clear that, given the current febrile state of the public mood, a lot of damage can be done by talking about immigration in ways that are insensitive to many people’s anxieties. Times are exceptionally hard for so many people - wage earners in particular are feeling the squeeze of an economy which has blocked off any rise in their living standards for most of a decade. Commonsense, that age-old foe of critical thinking, tells citizens that immigration must have something to do with this unhappy state of affairs. If there is good evidence which shows that this is not the case then we have to find the best way to get this across to the people who would benefit from knowing the true facts.
Last week’s report from academics at University College London on the fiscal impacts of migration to the UK is just the latest in a whole sequence which has made the case that, far from being a charge on the taxpayer, the migration that developed over the course of the 2000s, has brought in a cohort of net contributors.
Public debate on the crisis in the Mediterranean has this week presented a dismaying and misleading image of the people who are making desperate efforts to get to the safety of Europe. This seems to be deeply embedded in the viewpoints of government ministers who last week announced they would be abandoning future rescue efforts to save those in trouble on Europe's seas.
Just as Clacton recedes into memory so Rochester looms up as the next thing to get excited about. It brings with it the dreadful thought that the entire run-up to the 2015 general election will be made up of a series by-elections provoked by Tory defections to the UKIP insurgents, ensuring a steady draft of oxygen to keep the embers of anti-Europeanism glowing fresh and bright for months to come.
What will this mean for the public conversation on immigration policy? Funnily enough their historic victory in the Essex seaside town earlier in the month could open up some interesting tensions even within UKIP’s seemingly intransigent ranks. The victorious defector from the Conservatives, Douglas Carswell, seems to have been at pains to make the point that strident anti-immigration is not really his bag during his interview in the Guardian last week.
The crisis on the centre-right of UK politics, provoked by the rise of Nigel Farage’s UKIP, ratcheted up another notch last week. David Cameron pledged to have ‘one last go’ at limiting the right of citizens to free movement within the EU.
Mr Cameron made the promise during a visit to Kent, where local politics is gearing itself for a by-election in the Rochester and Strood constituency next month. The contest was triggered by the defection of Tory MP Mark Reckless to UKIP at the beginning of October.