Morning call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's newspapers

1. The plot was a flop but a revealing one none the less (Observer)

Andrew Rawnsley says that the first chapter of the long election campagn showed Conservative weakness on policy, while the delay in cabinet ministers coming out in support of Gordon Brown showed their anger with him.

2. Labour's implosion is bad news for us all (Sunday Telegraph)

The paper's leader recaps the failed coup plot, saying that a dying government is bad for the country -- not least the Conservatives, whose policies need to be tested in a proper campaign to gain true public support.

3. Be bold, Gordon Brown, and call an early election (Sunday Times)

The leading article says that calling an early election would show Brown to be a man of courage, expose the Tories as nervous and insecure, and save Labour from a decisive election defeat.

4. Putting wounded Brown out of his misery would be a disaster for the UK (Sunday Mirror)

Meanwhile, at the Mirror, the New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, gives his verdict on last week, saying that there has never been a coherent plot against Brown.

5. Of course class still matters -- it influences everything that we do (Observer)

Nobody wants to believe that our society is still class-bound, says Will Hutton, but the only way to create a fairer society is to start talking about it. The media must not shut down discussion of private education as "irrelevant".

6. A proper purpose for Chilcot (Independent on Sunday)

The appearance of Alastair Campbell at the Iraq inquiry on Tuesday will be as much a trial for John Chilcot and his colleagues as for the star witness, argues the Indie leading article.

7. Banning the burqa unveils some nasty traits in us (Sunday Times)

India Knight rehearses the arguments for and against the French burqa ban. While there are rational arguments in its favour, the legislation uncomfortably appears to be aimed firmly at one (huge) section of society, based on one skin colour and one religion.

8. Health reform, the states and Medicaid (New York Times)

As part of a series examining the policy changes and politics behind the debate over health-care reform, the NYT editorial explores Medicaid and the deficits that states funding it face.

9. Wind is the revolution needed in this country (Independent on Sunday)

Renewable power is a great environmental and economic opportunity: it could put us out of carbon dependency and into green economic growth.

10. Save the pub or let it die? It's your shout (Sunday Times)

A crackdown on supermarkets advertising cheap alcohol, coupled with lower tax for weaker beer, could turn back the clock and draw people to more civilised drinking -- down the pub, says Charles Clover.

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Today's immigration figures show why the net migration target should be scrapped

We should measure different types of migration separately and set targets that reflect their true impact.

Today’s net migration figures show, once again, that the government has raised expectations of tackling migration and failed to deliver. This is a recipe for disaster. Today’s numbers run far in excess of 300,000 – three times over what was pledged. These figures don’t yet reflect the fallout from Brexit. But they do show the government needs to change from business as usual.

It has been the current strategy, after all, that led the British public to reject the European Union regardless of the economic risks. And in the process, it is leading the government to do things which err on the side of madness. Like kicking out international students with degrees in IT, engineering or as soon as they finish their degrees. Or doubling the threshold for investor visas, and in the process bringing down the number of people willing to come to Britain to set up business and create jobs by 82 per cent. Moreover, it has hampered the UK’s ability to step up during last year’s refugee crisis - last year Britain received 60 asylum applications per 1,000 people in contrast to Sweden’s 1,667, Germany’s 587 and an EU average of 260.

The EU referendum should mark the end for business as usual. The aim should be to transition to a system whose success is gauged not on the crude basis of whether overall migration comes down, irrespective of the repercussions, but on the basis of whether those who are coming are helping Britain achieve its strategic objectives. So if there is evidence that certain forms of migration are impacting on the wages of the low paid then it is perfectly legitimate for government to put in place controls. Conversely, where flows help build prosperity, then seeing greater numbers should surely be an option.

Approaching immigration policy in this way would go with the grain of public opinion. The evidence clearly tells us that the public holds diverse views on different types of migration. Very few people are concerned about investors coming from abroad to set up companies, create jobs and growth. Few are worried about students paying to study at British universities. On the other hand, low-skilled migration causes concerns of under-cutting among the low paid and pressure on public services in parts of the country that are already struggling.

The first step in a new approach to managing migration has to be to abolish the net migration target. Rather than looking at migration in the aggregate, the aim should be to measure different types of migration separately and set targets that reflect their true impact. In the first instance, this could be as simple as separating low and high skilled migration but in the long term it could involve looking at all different forms of migration. A more ambitious strategy would be to separate the different types of migration - not just those coming to work but also those arriving as refugees, to study or be reunited with their families.

Dividing different flows would not only create space for an immigration policy which was strategic. It would also enable a better national conversation, one which could take full account of the complex trade-offs involved in immigration policy: How do we attract talent to the UK without also letting conditions for British workers suffer? Should the right to a family life override concerns about poor integration? How do we avoiding choking off employers who struggle to recruit nationally? Ultimately, are we prepared to pay those costs?

Immigration is a tough issue for politicians. It involves huge trade-offs. But the net migration target obscures this fact. Separating out different types of immigration allows the government to sell the benefits of welcoming students, the highly skilled and those who wish to invest without having to tell those concerned about low skilled immigration that they are wrong.

Getting rid of the net migration target is politically possible but only if it is done alongside new and better targets for different areas of inward migration – particularly the low-skilled. If it is, then not only does it allow for better targeted policy that will help appease those most vocally against immigration, it also allows for a better national conversation. Now is the time for a new, honest and better approach to how we reduce immigration.

Phoebe Griffith is Associate Director for Migration, Integration and Communities at IPPR