This is my response to the Lib Dem immigration policy consultation paper. I have also posted it on my blog, as I believe this issue deserves a rather wider audience.
I will note first of all that I do not know if this has missed the deadline for the consultation, as the deadline given, Friday 31 March 2018, does not in fact exist, at least on my calendar. Perhaps it does in the world in which this consultation paper is fit for a party that claims to be liberal, as that world differs significantly from the one in which I find myself.
If I have missed the deadline, I apologise, but ask that I be excused on medical grounds. I suffer from hypertension, and after reading the consultation paper several weeks ago my blood pressure got so high that I have waited until 1AM on *Saturday* 31 March in order to start writing this, in the hope that I shall not actually have a fatal stroke brought on by the egregiousness of this consultation.
To start with, my credentials for writing this — I have been a Liberal Democrat party member for twelve years, and have been married to an immigrant for a few months longer than I have been a party member. I have thus seen first hand what the immigration process does to people who choose to come to this country, and the way it destroys the mental and physical health even of those, like my wife, who are in the comparatively privileged position of being white native English speakers. I cannot claim any expertise on the subject beyond that, but that still gives me more understanding of the immigration process than, say, the people who wrote this consultation paper, because I know for example that we don’t have a “citizenship test” in this country — rather we have the Life in the UK test, which needs to be passed before gaining Indefinite Leave to Remain, which is not citizenship, though it is a prerequisite for it.
In the same way, much as I am no expert on immigration but still have a better understanding than the people who framed this set of leading questions, I am also no expert on the Liberal Democrats, but unlike the people who drafted this insult to basic human decency, I have actually read the preamble to our constitution, notably the part that says “Our responsibility for justice and liberty cannot be confined by national boundaries; we are committed to fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur and to promote the free movement of ideas, people, goods and services.” Had the people who wrote this consultation had access to this document, I believe they would either have formed a very different set of questions, or perhaps have just joined a party more amenable to their views — I believe UKIP is still welcoming new members.
Either way, I suggest pointing the framers of these questions to the Lib Dem constitution preamble, which at the time of writing can be found at https://www.libdems.org.uk/constitution . There is much in it which is worthwhile, and might be taken into consideration when acting in an official capacity as a Liberal Democrat.
I shall not be answering the individual questions that have been posed, because they are not intended to be answered honestly. They are leading questions, mostly of the form “is the current system of immigration enforcement too lenient or much too lenient” and “should we make a minor tweak to the ways in which we punish people for that most unforgivable of crimes — being born outside the UK — or should we continue punishing them as we are?”.
Where the questions do acknowledge that immigration might not be *entirely* a negative, that it might not be a scourge to be wiped from existence much as smallpox was, they frame the benefits entirely from the perspective of the native-born, and entirely from the perspective of economics. At no point in the entire document is the possibility of immigration being beneficial to the immigrants themselves raised (although given that we currently have a country where even our most pro-immigration party is releasing obscenities like this I would question whether it *is* currently beneficial), and at no point are such non-economic benefits as love, or familial affection, or even friendship mentioned.
My wife being here has brought me untold benefits, even though by any purely economic cost/benefit analysis I, as principal earner in our household, am down many thousands of pounds by her presence (many of those thousands being money paid to the vicious bureaucracy that this consultation paper presupposes needs only minor tweaks). Perhaps the people in charge of this consultation believe I should send her a bill for the tens of thousands of pounds I have spent on her over the years, for which all I have received in return are love and affection and companionship and other such trivialities which affect the exchequer not one whit.
Along with these two types of question — “should we hurt immigrants a little more or a lot more?” and “should we maybe not hurt some immigrants quite so badly if they give us money?” there is a third type of question being asked here — the question of fact. Fully a third of these questions by my rough reckoning are questions about matters of fact that could be found in academic studies or from government statistics. Apparently rather than look into these things, the people putting together this policy consultation believe it would be better instead to go with the “what some bloke told me” approach. This is a novel and most interesting approach to policy-making but, again, one I think would be better suited to UKIP rather than to a party which, for all its recent decline into centrist managerialism, still has aspirations towards liberalism.
I urge that this consultation be dropped as the appalling piece of racism appeasement that it is, and that those responsible consider the idea that at a time when the country is about to go through the catastrophe that is Brexit because for the last thirty years nobody in the mainstream of politics has dared to stand up and tell racists that they might be wrong about anything rather than pandering to their so-called “legitimate concerns”, when even the economic profit and loss calculations that this consultation prizes so much more highly than human beings are being destroyed thanks to hatred of immigration, it might — it just might — be time for a political party to suggest trying something else instead?
From a purely electoral standpoint, appealing to the UKIP vote won’t work when Labour and the Tories are already on that overcrowded spot, but appealing to the votes of decent human beings might. From a practical point of view, a policy that is based on actual facts rather than kneejerk bigotry is more likely to have the desired effect. And from a point of view of basic humanity, a policy that is willing to accept the current status of immigrants as vermin to be driven out rather than as people to be welcomed is inhuman.
I urge FPC to reject the results of this consultation, and I urge the party to reject any policy that comes from it. And I urge those responsible for this squalid, foetid, mess of a paper to consider carefully whether they belong in a party whose constitution, in every sentence, opposes the implicit beliefs in every sentence of this.
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Thank you so much for writing this, Andrew. I am not going to have the time to respond to this consultation myself, as I am desperately trying to finish of a (now-overdue) work article at the moment, but I am hugely grateful that you’ve taken the time to make it really clear why this is such a complete load of old horse-shit.
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