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Why Ed Miliband is wrong to say Labour got it wrong on immigration

22nd June 2012

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Labour Party leader Ed Miliband today admitted that the Labour Party had made a mistake in allowing too many immigrants from Eastern Europe into the country during Labour's time in government.

This is a move by Miliband, and the current Labour leadership, to show that Labour recognises voters' concerns from the last time the party was in office, and that the current form of the party is making strides to change policy on such areas.

I understand completely why the party is doing this, but immigration is an area that Labour has nothing to apologise for.

Miliband has, instead, allowed himself to be praised by such figures as Nick Griffin (leader of the BNP) and Nigel Farage (leader of UKIP), both of who are staunchly anti-immigration in almost any form. Not exactly the kind of people that I would want to be praised by, or associated with.

There is a common misconception in this country over immigration, particularly over the past decade or so. That misconception is, when several Eastern European nations joined the European Union, thus allowing free movement of labour across the EU member nations, that millions of Eastern Europeans came to the UK to find employment and that we were 'flooded' with immigrants.

This is absolutely ridiculous, and is a lie which has been peddled by right-wing media outlets. The true facts are that, from June 2002 to June 2011, there was a net migration of 593,000 people to the UK. That's not exactly the 'millions' that several newspapers were predicting in such apocalyptic terms. It's roughly the same number of people that live in Glasgow, but spread across the entire country.

Miliband is also, in admitting that Labour were wrong, playing up to the age-old stereotype that immigration drives down wages for the 'natives', as they take up low-paid labour. This has, and always will, be proven to be false. To give some historical precedent, during the First World War, British trade union leaders were concerned that, by using women to replace male workers at the front, wages for male workers would be driven down. They were proven wrong, seeing as women are still paid less, on average, than men.

In addition to the cold, hard facts, there is the simple fact that the majority of people in this country are descended from immigrants at some point in their family history, and that immigration has made Britain what it is today. You might think that Britain today is some horrible multi-cultural nightmare, with plenty of non-white faces walking about the streets, but I do not share that view.

I am descended from both Irish and Italian immigrants to this country, and am proud to say so. I went to school with plenty of people who are from Asian descent, and I go to university where there are people from all sorts of backgrounds. You, the reader, probably had a similar experience to the one which I had.

Frankly, I am extremely proud of living in a nation where immigrants want to come and live, as they see it is as a welcoming and accepting country. Immigration has forged modern British culture in so many ways. The obvious influence is in our diet, where most people sixty-years ago didn't have a clue as to what a curry was, yet now it's considered the national dish. Ice cream is an Italian dish, as is pizza, yet we don't bat an eyelid over them.

Let us also not forget that Brits are historically some of the most prodigious immigrants in history. During the time of Empire, hundreds of thousands of Brits emigrated to new colonies in America, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and countless other nations. In modern times, similar numbers of Brits have moved to start new lives in Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, and so on. What makes us so different from immigrants who come to Britain?

The media complains about immigrants coming to this country with little understanding of English, yet how many Brits who have moved to Spain are equipped with conversational Spanish? Another complaint is that immigrants do little to integrate into British society, but what about the enclaves of British ex-pats in Spain, France, Australia, and other nations?

Oh, and before someone says 'they're taking all our jobs', let me just ask this: are you honestly prepared to take degrading, low-paid labour with long working hours? I thought not. The majority of jobs taken by immigrants are those which plenty of British people are too proud to take, such as farm labourers and cleaning staff.

If anything, immigrants to Britain are some of the most integrated in the world. Immigrants have enlightened this nation culturally, culinarily, and linguistically, making Britain a vastly better place to live, for all of us, in the process.

Ed Miliband is selling his soul to the Devil by being prepared to admit that Labour allowed too many immigrants into the country during its stay in office. He may be attempting to win over voters on an issue which certainly did not lose the election for the Labour Party in 2010, and which the right-wing media over-plays in terms of significance, but he is risking the heart of left-wing politics in this country and ensuring that people such as Nigel Farage and Nick Griffin are given mainstream credit for 'being right all along' on immigration.

I used to think that the Labour Party could be saved, and that the neo-liberal New Labour rhetoric had been abandoned, but clearly I was naïve and mistaken. Keep this up, Ed, and I for one will never put a cross beside the Labour Party on my ballot paper ever again.

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