Ed Milliband on Immigration?
To the Royal Festival Hall this morning for a talk on Britishness and the future of the United Kingdom by leader of the opposition, Ed Milliband.
Mr Milliband gave testament to his somewhat more radical father and the hospitality the UK offered to him when fleeing the Nazi occupation of much of continental Europe. He stands proud to be a product of immigration into the UK, but also a patriotic British person.
Today’s speech was primarily aimed at influencing the debate on Scottish Independence, but the theme of Britishness is difficult to address without at least touching on the issue of immigration. Mr Milliband tried his best to avoid the subject – Labour have yet to develop any meaningful policies on the issue.
Hosted by British Future, the speech dovetailed with the arguments rehearsed in the liberal media over the past week of the need of a 'left wing patriotism' to deny the monopoly of the right on the idea of loving one's country. The Jubilee, the European Football this summer and the Olympics were all invoked as great examples of where respectable British or English patriotism can be seen as the Union Flag and the Flag of St George have been reclaimed from the extremists in the National Front or the British National Party.
The question of his own family cropped up periodically in Milliband's talk. At one point so did the story of Sarah Stevenson, an Olympic medal hope in Tae-Kwon Do, spurning the limelight in order to look after her parents who are both seriously ill.
Strange then that a question put on the issue of the coming family immigration rule changes was glossed over with the consummate skill of a seasoned politician.
“We at JCWI are particularly exercised about the proposed family immigration Rule Changes which will create a two tier immigration system. It will mean that only people earning over a certain amount – Theresa May has mentioned £25,700 – will be able to exercise their right to family reunion here in the UK. What is the Labour Party’s view on that?”
Ed Milliband answered:
“We’re looking at all the issues around immigration and some of the steps the Government has made. My argument with the Government is that they’ve set a target, i.e. net migration of tens of thousands, which they have absolutely no control over meeting. It adds to the sense that politicians aren’t engaging in a candid dialogue with people about what’s deliverable, because they cannot effect immigration within Europe, at least not within the twenty-seven and they can’t control the outflow obviously. So I feel part of the answer on this question of immigration debate should be ‘don’t set unrealistic goals that you then cannot meet – and there needs to be a degree of candour about it. That is one of the things we need to look at as part of our policy review – the impact of some of those other changes on those outside Europe. I think my view on low skilled migration from outside Europe and we moved to that in terms of the work permit system and it was right to bear down on it. Obviously there are more complicated issues about those people who have family members.”
He deftly avoided any meaningful answer on family migration, but conceded the policy review needs to look at this issue. We would urge the Labour Party to base any policy they formulate on human rights, on the decency afforded to Ed Milliband’s parents and to take a stand against the crass limitation of numbers currently used by the Coalition Government.
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