Frank Field is wrong on the BNP

Curbing immigration won't defeat the far right

The argument that mainstream parties should counter the BNP by adopting a hardline position on immigration was discredited long ago. But the bizarre tag team of Nicholas Soames and Frank Field can't resist making it again in today's Telegraph.

To call for harsher curbs on migrants is to perpetuate the myth that it is immigration, rather than a failed neoliberal system, that is to blame for political and social alienation. It is to divide immigrants and natives into "winners" and "losers", rather than recognise that they are all too frequently victims of the same system.

Labour does have a case to answer on immigration. The party's Faustian pact with the City entailed the cynical use of migrant labour to undercut domestic wages. But instead of fostering further division, it should adopt a non-sectarian approach that benefits all through a higher minimum wage and more social housing.

It was not, as Field and Soames suggest, Labour's "cowardice" on immigration that opened the door for the BNP, but its acceptance of an economic system that condemned much of the working class to casual labour.

The declaration that immigration has left Britain without any sense of "cohesion and identity" is particularly egregious. It is not migrants who destroy cohesion, but demagogues like Griffin and the City plutocrats.

Field and Soames do not even pause to offer token praise for migrants' economic contribution. Yet new figures show that in 2008-2009, immigrants paid 37 per cent more in taxes than they cost in welfare payments and public services.

By painting a wholly negative picture of immigration, Field and Soames do not challenge the BNP's agenda, they pander to it.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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