27/100: Cameron's 'Unwise' Speech

David Cameron made a speech on immigration. This was not a policy speech - there was no new announcements made - but rather a politics speech. This speech did indicate where the government stands on immigration. Everyone should have known where the government stands on immigration, but we forget that this is a coalition government. We know where the Tories stand, but Prime Minister, who is not just leading the Tories but the Government, needs to carry the coalition's vision. Indeed, his speech was far too xenophobic to be accepted by the more liberal elements of his own party, let alone his coalition partners.

Interestingly, David Cameron's objection to immigration was social, rather than economic. This is rather strange as his other policies seem to echo Thatcher's dictum: There is no such thing as society. This is also an interesting shift from Gordon Brown's 'British Jobs For British Workers' politics, almost an acknowledgement that there is a strong economic justification for immigration.

David Cameron spent a few minutes doing the usual pleasantries, talking about the contributions immigrants made. Indeed, this was as superficial as this was expected to be, and hardly accepted the fact that a modern economy needs immigrants to move forward. After a few soundbites about immigrants serving at hospitals and schools, and running high street businesses (he forgot to mention that they run Britain's IT industry, own some of the largest companies, won a few Nobel prizes etc), he immediately pounced on Labour and a figure of net migration of 2.2 million in the twelve years of Labour rule.

The figure may or may not be right - politicians are usually not to be trusted with figures - but the conclusion, that there are too many non-European migrants coming to this country, is wrong. The period, 1997 to 2009, was not just the period of Labour rule, but of four other things. First, there was something called Globalization, just in case Mr Cameron was sleepwalking through the years, where the movement of capital and people across the world accelerated in an unprecedented way. Second, this is also the time when rapid expansion of Internet led to a global cultural and expanded access to information, liberalization of aviation industry made air travel accessible to many more people and expanded international travel hugely. Third, the European project assumed a new dimension, with new countries joining in and the community moving towards even closer integration. And, finally, Britain went through a time of economic expansion, possibly the first time since its colonial cookie crumbled, expanding its need for 'workies' and attracting companies from all over the world set up shop in this island. The expression, 'too many people', may play on the seize mentality of an island nation, but out of touch and out of date from the reality of the connected age.

Further, Cameron's case for curbing immigration - that communities are under pressure because strange people are arriving in droves - is completely xenophobic. If someone in Saudi Arabia complains that his way of life is being threatened by people arriving in his country, who do not speak Arabic and are not seen in the Mosque on Friday afternoons, he would surely be branded a fundamentalist. In cities all over the world, the strange people are invading, bringing with them a strange dialect called English and love for a game called Football, and I was brought up to believe that this is a sign of progress. Not so for David Cameron, it seems, who believes that the responsibility of integration remains with the immigrant and it is okay to be a Closet Colonialist and expect everyone to speak English. Vince Cable rightly called this speech 'unwise': Cameron is playing a dangerous game of inflaming racial hatred at a time of social unrest (may be he is doing this to deflect the blame of economic hardships from himself).

In the end, this is only going to hurt Britain. The world economy would not remain where it is now, and the future of prosperity remains in openness, not behind closed doors; in connections, not in fear. Cameron just emerged as the cheerleader of a dead past, and showed why he would be incapable to lead Britain to a sustainable future.


guess every now and then an enoch powell will surface in the Uk!

excellent post.
Anonymous said…
The comparison is apt: Cameron is as cynical as Enoch Powell.

The difference is that he is the Prime Minister and that makes it quite significant.

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