Over the weekend, there was discussion of a certain product being offered on the Labour Party website. Specifically, it was a mug in glorious Fabian red, for the princely sum of £5, bearing the words of Labour’s fourth most important policy (if we are to assume that their pledge card is ranked in order of priority): “Controls on Immigration”.
Various people, including me, commented on the unpleasantness of the mug itself. This then led of course to further discussion of the pledge, and the fact that it is a marker for quite how far the Labour Party is prepared to go in abandoning any pretence of liberalism, or, indeed, “solidarity” that extends beyond the UK’s borders. A final irony is that the other four pledges Labour are making are heavily reliant on continuing high levels of migration, so that the UK can get the workers it needs. After all, as we know, migrants (especially those from the EU) have a far more positive impact on the UK’s fiscal state than UK-born citizens.
Of course, there has been a backlash to the criticism, although it’s been relatively muted. Ed Balls has been out and about defending the policy (and the mug) today, although other senior members of the Labour Shadow Cabinet have indicated their displeasure at the merchandise.
I’ve noticed that some of the backlash has been based on the same lie as the policy itself. The very phrase “controls on immigration”, of course, implies that at the moment we don’t have any. This has been reflected in the response by some people to the Twitterati’s anger: Hugo Rifkind, for example, asking Julian Huppert whether the Lib Dem position was “that there should be no controls on immigration”. I’ve seen other people asking broadly the same question; does opposing “controls on immigration” mean supporting “open borders”?
Quite obviously, this isn’t the case. The Lib Dems are of course the only major party in the UK as a whole to talk positively about immigration on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean that the party supports open borders. For example, in government, we have been attempting to reintroduce exit checks despite the Home Office’s incompetence and intransigence.
But the wider point is more important still. What Labour are doing is simply capitulation. They have thrown in the towel and gone along with the pervasive lie that claims the UK is open to the elements and all sorts of nefarious types have come in to ruin things. This is the lie perpetrated most effectively by UKIP, and before them, the BNP.
We are now living in a country where the three parties polling highest are willing to blame our problems on immigrants. And it’s so uncontroversial that they can sell cheap tat telling you so. It’s a suggestion beloved of such people that we haven’t had a debate about immigration, but the truth is they don’t want one. Because everything’s simpler when you can blame it on someone else.