Labour, Immigration and Europe, (and Jobs, it seems)

In Ed Miliband’s recent speech, which Labour’s web site entitles, “To deal with people’s concerns on immigration, we must change how our economy works”….you give massive hostage to our opponents. The headlines horrified me, so as so often during the Blair and Brown years, I return to the original text. It’s a nuanced speech on subject where nuance gets lost.

What you say is reasonable, most of your analysis of the failings of the Labour market are sound, and reading the speech, where you propose, genuinely effective border controls, enforcing the current laws on wages, introducing recruitment agency regulation, and a more responsible capitalism, I can’t complain. I also quite like this, we want,

“An economy that doesn’t leave anyone behind.

That continues to attract people from abroad who contribute their talents to our economy and society.
That offers proper wages and good conditions.

That’s the kind of economy that will enable Britain to compete with the world.

It’s an economy that works for working people.”

I believe I have summarised your policies reasonably, but this is not how it is reported. The headlines were about apologising for letting the Poles in. Perhaps its the moderation and insubstantial nature of the proposals that give the press the room to represent the speech as they did. In order to make the proposals more concrete, I’d suggest the following,

  • Join the Schengen agreement, allow UK Borders to focus on illegal entrants and share the border guard burden with our EU partners.
  • Boost/Re-establish the wages inspectorate and wages councils, abolished in 1993 by Thatcher’s Tory Government!
  • Reform Trade Union recognition law, ensure that shit employers have to recognise Unions and bargain with them! Restore benefits to the families of strikers.
  • Ban the UK’s individual opt out of the EU’s working laws directive, [ or here …] although unionisation is an answer to this problem as well; probably a better one, since the EU definition of an excessive working week is 48 hours. Not sure I want my doctors or train drivers working weeks this long; possibly not even my bankers, and certainly not myself.

Anchoring Democracy in Europe

I am deeply saddened that you apologised for not capping EU immigration from the 2004 accession countries, (Hungary, Estonia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Poland, Malta, Latvia, Lithunia, Slovakia, & Slovenia) when they joined, or more accurately apologising for not slowing the adoption of our treaty commitments. You also failed to state the Labour Government did adopt the most laggardly adoption with respect to Romania & Bulgaria, when they joined later in the decade.

I, for one, am proud that the poor and oppressed of the world want to come here to live their life in peace. I am proud that the EU, of which we are part, extended the common market, including the labour market to Spain and Portugal as they exited from decades of fascist dictatorship. In the 1970’s, Spain and Portugal exited from fascist dictatorships and turned to their opposition, the Socialist Left to lead them to democracy. (Spain also owes a debt to their Royal Family.) In eastern Europe, different routes have been followed; much of eastern Europe finds it difficult to turn to the left for obvious reasons, but Germany has been a beacon in supporting the ex-GDR’s transition to democracy and the UK has pulled its weight as Poland, the first of the Comecon countries to find a route to democracy needed European help both in politics and economics. We should be proud of the way in which we have helped Poland and its people find its way to democracy; perhaps if more had come to Britain, Cameron’s European Alliance of Bigots, Anti-Semites and Homophobes, otherwise known as the European Conservatives and Reformists would be weaker. We agreed to allow the Poles, Slovenes and Czechs to come without limit, but when Romania and Bulgaria joined we pulled down the shutters. The UK government, a Labour Government, shamefully choose to limit the new EU joiners to the minimum permitted by our treaty obligations, turning its back on these countries’ journey to democracy.

You also need to consider who we are saying this about. Who are we going to stop on the basis of this promise?

This diagram shows the growth of the EU over time, also showing those who are not members.



 

So this leaves, Iceland (320k) which might join, Croatia (4.2m) wants to join, Serbia (7m) is debating it, Turkey (74m) wants to ; but its negotiations are stalled, and unlike Groucho Marx who wouldn’t join a club that wants him, isn’t sure it wants to join a club that doesn’t want it. Norway (5m) and Switzerland (7.9m) won’t.

Emboldening the Right & Ultra Right

You can’t out flank the Tories on this issue, and any Labour Leader’s speech will be misreported. How do you think this was always going to be reported. How was it going to play in Britain’s Cities?

Economic Racism is based on lost opportunity and fear. We need more and cheaper houses so there’s no waiting list. We need better schools, and well paid fulfilling jobs, the last of which you make the centre piece of your speech, but the Tory Party’s response to a Labour Leader’s speech apologising for supporting EU immigration is to promise to stop Greeks entering the country if their economy collapses.

There’s nothing much wrong with your speech, once you hear or read it yourself but after the last Labour Governments, I am no longer interested in scouring the tea cups of our, by which I mean the Labour Party’s, Leader’s speeches, looking for clues as to what they mean, looking for hints that they plan to make it better, looking for clues that I want to support them and argue that others should too. So Ed, that’s what I need from the Labour Leader. No tea leaves, say what you mean, mean what you say! It must be unequivocal. You won the Leadership; you were the candidate most likely to move on from the Blair/Brown fights and re-establish a conversation with the Party’s members. You won’t do that by being subtle and giving space to the right on immigration. You need to question if that’s what your speech did.

ooOOOoo
In looking at the numbers of the populations of the countries of the EU, while considering who we might seriously be trying to stop, I found and quoted above, wikipedia’s page “List of countries by population”. The Population of the 2004 accession countries are, as at today, Hungary (9.9m), Estonia (1.2m), Cyprus (838k), Czech Republic (10m), Poland (38m), Malta (417k) , Latvia (2.1m), Lithuania (3.2m), Slovakia (5.4m), & Slovenia(2.0m).

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