Thursday, 2 August 2007

On ya Boat!

When I am asked, as all 'economic liberals' are occasionally: 'why don't you p*ss off and join the Tories?' My answer usually is 'immigration.' It makes a mockery of their claim to be the supporters of ambition, enterprise and the market.

To see just how badly a belief in the need for immigration controls fits with the values they are supposed to uphold consider the phrase that has come to sum up one of the Conservative parties most controversial politcians: 'On ya Bike.'

In the aftermath of the Brixton riots Norman Tebbit made a speech Legend has it that in this speech he told the unemployed to get on their bikes. This is actually a misrepresentation of what he said. He was not telling the unemployed to get lost but to look for work. The full quote is:

"I grew up in the 1930s with an unemployed father. He did not riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he went on looking until he found it."

The issue this raises for me, is why then does Tebbitt condemn those migrants who get on a boat or plane and come looking for work here in the UK. Surely these are exactly the kind of hard working, entrepreneurial people that Conservatives would want in this country.

I imagine that Lord Tebbitts response to this argument would probably be to claim that immigrants do not come here to work but to claim benefits. But this is simply not the case. Immigrants are generally speaking of working age and are excluded from claiming many benefits, so far from being a drain on British taxpayers they are infact net contributers to the treasury's coffers.

This is not the only way we gain from immigration. The newcomers are likely to bring with them new skills and new ideas that will enrich the nation they are arriving in. This is not just an economic phenomenon: there is a strong link between cultural diversity and cultural dynamism. If it were not for immigrants cities like London and New York would be far less interesting places.

Immigration controls reduce opportunities for migrants and their potential destinations are poorer for their absense. We should lament their existense not demand their stengthening. They are one of the great injustices of our time and they need to go.

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