Nick Lowles' blog

Ed's speech shoots wide

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Friday, 22 June 2012, 13:46

I didn't see Ed Miliband's speech and can only go on the press reports but there are a number of things that come to mind which concern me.

Firstly, you can't deal with immigration in isolation. I have long argued that the Labour Party needs to discuss immigration and the impact it has on the communities least capable to cope but this cannot be done as a race to the bottom. It has to be dealt with in the wider context of economic, social and public policy.

Why do people migrate? What is attractive about Britain to people who live in other countries? Why is there the demand for overseas workers? Are concerns over the impact of rapidly changing communities genuine or a cover for racial prejudice?

These are complex and sometimes difficult issues that too many have been slow to discuss. There is also a need for a clear and honest debate on the issue but this goes as much for those demanding a tightening of immigration policy as it does for those who refuse it discuss it.

Ed Miliband comes up with a list of suggestions which he believes can limit immigration and protect British workers. But what he omits from the list is more significant than what he includes. There is no discussion about the failure of successive governments to develop an effective education and training system that properly equips young people with the skills that Eastern Europeans often come to fill.

He talks about naming (and shaming?) companies which have more than 25% non-British workforce but says nothing of raising employment rights for all workers which will help stop companies from hiring overseas workers to lower wages and conditions to undercut other workers.

He talks about preventing people from the next group of countries to join the EU from working here for seven years but says nothing of his vision for a modern Europe and the relationship between countries and its people.

More importantly, he raises the whole issue without any reference to the data which repeatedly shows that the adverse impact of East European workers is much lower than popular mythology.

Labour needs to discuss immigration and changing communities but it has to be done in a wider context of overhauling its economic and public policy. Labour needs to address the contradictions of supporting globalisation whilst many of their own supporters feel they are losing out. They need to address a training system that doesn't do enough to equip young people with the skills for work. They need to address a democratic deficit that has led to so many people turning off mainstream parties, with some going off to the far right.

The debate about immigration needs to be had but it cannot be had in isolation and simplified with a list of bland goals. It has to be honest and based on facts, and a reality of what is achievable in the context of the changing world economy. Most importantly, it needs to be dealt with in the context of a vision of a better tomorrow for all the people of Britain.

 Posted: 22 Jun 2012 | There are 9 comments


Comment 1 | From: lesley ainsworth | Date: 22 June 2012, 13:57

One huge problem is the 16 hour rule ,we pathetically call 16 hours work a week full time and unless you have children if your only working these few hours a week in most circumstances you cant get housing beneifit so cant afford to keep a roof over your head and as most of these so called fulltime vacancys you have to be so flexible to do its hard if not impossible to link a few part time jobs together.A lot of immigrants come into the country in small groups so even if they are living in very over crowded conditions they can keep a roof over there heads .Affordable rents and proper fulltime jobs for unskilled workers need to be sorted out before we start blaming immigrants for coming here .

Comment 2 | From: Jim Monaghan | Date: 22 June 2012, 15:04

Been seraching all day for the chicken factory in Doncaster that paid workers £4ph and housed workers 19/20 to a room and/or the union that "sorted" it. Can anyone help with details of the story Ed quotes?

Comment 3 | From: supplied | Date: 23 June 2012, 09:37

Debate also needs to be held with ALL parties concerned, including the BNP.With more than a million votes they have earned the right to speak, no matter what you may think of them

Comment 4 | From: anthony langan | Date: 23 June 2012, 11:06

no mention of how many British work in Europe which i am to believe is more than Europeans working here,he is an opportunist and a waste of space

Comment 5 | From: Peter Donnelly | Date: 23 June 2012, 11:12

Dispatches : Britain's Secret Slaves Investigating the plight of overseas domestic workers in Britain who are kept locked up by their employers and subjected to sexual, physical and psychological abuse. Contains images that may distress some viewers.

Comment 6 | From: John | Date: 23 June 2012, 22:36

To be fair to Ed, his intention seems not to be to limit immigration but rather to address the impacts on the lives of ordinary British people, and he does appear to address the skills gap by proposing targeted training for British citizens currently 'locked out' of the labour market, in order to create a level playing field for them. He also seems to address the issue of low pay among EU workers by proposing to vigourously enforce the National Minimum Wage, which seems both right in principle and advantageous to British workers. Good to see 'Blue Labour' back in business!

Comment 7 | From: Jonathon | Date: 25 June 2012, 00:24

Why would you write an article on a speech you've not heard? Seems like you have far more I'n common with The Daily Mail than Ed. Anyone who goes out knocking on doors knows this is an issue for Labour. Our failure to talk about it has cost us thousands of votes - maybe the last election. As Ed said, this is not about immigration per se, certainly not about immigrants. It's about how Labour government allowed a low wage economy to develop that allowed employers I'n certain industries to take advantage of immigrant workers by undercutting rates of pay and destabilising the existing labour markets. This did not happen on Islington or Hoxton. It happened In areas already decimated by Thatcher, where employment is both hard to cone by and essential for the survival of the community. The labour party had to undersand the concerns of our voters in these communities. It doesn't even have to agree - but it surely needs to talk and listen and sympahise.

Comment 8 | From: Jason Hunter | Date: 27 June 2012, 12:10

Although I agree with Jonathon that we should ideally check speeches in detail before commenting, I think we should cut Nick some slack here. In a busy life, we are all guilty at times of reacting to the headlines rather than the detail. In the end, Ed should know, when making a speech, this is what people will be discussing and remember. Nick is right to raise the concerns he did. Few people have done more than Nick Lowles, by leading the cross party Hope not Hate campaign across Britain, to incidentally help rescue Labour from total meltdown in key areas where the BNP have threatened. 51-0 against the BNP in Barking and Dagenham, says it all in an area that has been affected more than most by the 'effects' of immigration to which Ed Miliband refers. But same thing in Burnley, my town, Stoke , Oldham and many other places. Also, Nick, along with the rest of us are used to party leader after party leader trotting out muscular speeches about immigration without any real solutions, and seeing the far right say 'we were right afterall'. Ed certainly took a risk that by singling out immigration for special attention in this way of giving racists an alibi to simply say 'I was just worried about immigration'. All that said, lest others read only part of what I write, I do agree that Ed's speech is different to what we have heard from previous leaders of major parties. I believe he has opened a door for anti-fascists to press for the next Labour Government to challenge the 'race to the bottom' by tighter regulation at the lower end of the labour market. The most important line in the speech is "We need an approach....that understands that we can't solve concerns about immigration unless we change our economy". Looked at another way, Labour cannot win voters back on immigration by looking at numbers, but only by regulating the Labour market at the lower end and by creating new well paid jobs. My suspicion is if that is achieved, immigration will cease to a major issue and that Ed will stop talking about it. The onus is on Ed to prove my optimism correct, but without accepting every line of his speech, or even the manner in which he made it, I think there is much in the speech that anti-fascists should seek to build upon.

Comment 9 | From: P | Date: 30 June 2012, 12:59

supplied - the question is, are the BNP (whose support is declining and filtering to the EDL and UKIP) capable of contributing anything to a debate on immigration without racialising it?? It's pretty obvious to me. Economic migration is caused by capitalism. Bosses, with the pound signs in their eyes and fat wallets and bank accounts look towards immigration as yet another excuse to exploit people mercilessly and as working class people we should be reaching out to these immigrant labour people as some in the TUC are trying to do with absolutely no help from Daily Mail concious Son of New Labour, led by Ed Miliband. As for British workers, it is the bosses that are their enemies and not immigrant workers, who are just being used as pawns in the game of corporate chess. Of course, Nick Griffin is a fat cat himself, and every single fascist whom he has conned money out of think they can make better fat cats than he can, hence the roots of backstabbing and feuding in the BNP and indeed we are seeing the first stages of it in other far right groupings (EDL versus Infidels etc).

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