Ed Miliband is trying to avoid being typecast as an urban liberal with a relaxed attitude to migration numbers. So his speech was grounded in two other dimensions of his political personality – he worries about people struggling on low incomes and he wants more responsibility in how people and businesses operate in modern Britain. He brought these interests together by asking that employers think about the plight of unemployed people before hiring foreign workers. He also raised the prospect of reforms to tackle exploitation of the lowest paid, regardless of whether they are British-born or migrants. He now needs to complement these policies with ideas on the social impacts of migration at local level. Miliband will win the argument on migration when he can set out concrete plans on migrants’ responsibilities when it comes to building roots and contributing to the neighbourhoods they live in.
Andrew Harrop is general secretary of the Fabian Society.
Politicians buy votes by playing to people’s fears. But that political play stokes up more fear because it makes people think immigration is much higher than it really is. In a poll last year, people in Britain estimated the immigrant population at three times what it really is. But in the same poll, 77 per cent agreed that immigrants are hard workers, that they plug labour gaps, and that we need more foreign doctors, nurses and care workers. And we agree that second-generation immigrants integrate well, and object to immigrants being exploited in the workplace. The fact is that many of our vital industries rely on immigrant labour, brains and vitality. Our world-class universities need foreign students. And immigrants pay more in tax than they consume in public services: if welfare tourism is a problem, curb our archaic welfare state, not free movement.
Eamonn Butler is director of the Adam Smith Institute.