Labour and immigration: the debate continues

More voices speak out against a lurch to the right.

There's an excellent post over at Next Left by the Smith Institute's David Coats, on why calls for Labour to take an even "tougher" line on immigration are misguided. Coats stresses how new arrivals from eastern Europe over the past decade have benefited Britain's economy:

The best evidence suggests that there was no negative impact on the employment prospects of "native" British workers and no downward pressure on wages either. Some may find this conclusion counter-intuitive and will draw attention to anecdotes involving job loss and wage cuts. But public policy has to be driven by social science, not by what somebody in the pub or at the school gates has told you.

A strong case can be made that the arrival of large number of Poles and Lithuanians helped the economy to grow more rapidly than would otherwise have been the case. Labour shortages were avoided, interest rates remained low and inflation was subdued. At the same time, of course, the National Minimum Wage was rising faster than average earnings, which guaranteed a firm floor in the labour market. These are hallmarks of policy success, not failure.

He links New Labour's immigration rhetoric (as I did last week) to a wider problem with addressing the concerns of working-class Britons. This is a point also raised at the weekend by the Guardian's John Harris, who consequently takes a dim view of the front-runners in the Labour leadership contest:

Some Labour people seem to have come to a truly stupid conclusion: that the Con-Dem coalition has to be outflanked on the right, because the proles demand it. This takes us to what might prove the biggest problem of all: that four ex-wonks with limited life experience may not be the best people to divine what exactly it is that the fabled white working class is after.

Daniel Trilling is the Editor of New Humanist magazine. He was formerly an Assistant Editor at the New Statesman.

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Political video has come full circle in Obama and Clinton’s mockumentary-style films

Political campaign videos are increasingly mimicking the specific styles of filmmaking created to mock them.

This week, Hillary Clinton released a campaign video featuring Barack Obama, in an attempt to persuade her supporters to vote early. It revolved around Obama’s self-professed earliness. “I’m always early,” he tells us, cheerily. Aides chip in to explain this irritating habit, which becomes progressively more exaggerated, his approach to timing absurd. “You know how you beat LeBron James one-on-one? Get there 45 minutes early. Then it’s one-on-none.” A former staffer sighs. “You try telling the President of the United States there’s no such thing as a one-on-none.”

This is an instantly recognisable mockumentary style – deliberately shakey camerawork, complete with lots of zooming in and out, as absurd corporate behaviour is interspersed with incredulous talking heads and voiceover. It has its roots in the Office UK, taking the States by storm with The Office US, 30 Rock and Modern Family, and developing a political subgenre in The Thick of It, In the Loop and, most recently, Parks and Recreation. (Vague comparisons between Clinton and Poehler’s Leslie Knope abound.)

The content, too, seems familiar – a politician talks to camera about a personality quirk that is broadly a strength for someone in government, but exaggerates it to create a geeky, optimistic goofball, and a pretty likeable character. Take Leslie Knope on never smoking weed:

In terms of style and content, they’re fairly indistinguishable. And this not the only Clinton campaign video influenced by mockumentary and comedy tropes . In March, the Clinton campaigned released a “mean tweets” video with Senator Al Franken in the style of a Jimmy Kimmel Live talking head. Three days ago, a video campaign starring “Fake Lawyer” Josh Charles, an actor on The Good Wife, was released. It borrows heavily from mockumentary styles as well as self-mocking celebrity cameos in advertising. Even some non-comic videos, like this lighthearted one about Clinton’s granddaughter, have the exaggerated camerawork of the genre.

Of course, we can trace these campaign videos back to Obama again. His campaigns have always been heavily video based, and he’s taken the piss out of himself for Buzzfeed to promote campaigns. But the White House’s official channels are also in on the joke. In 2013, they released a mockumentary starring Steven Spielberg and 30 Rock’s Tracey Morgan, in which Obama plays Daniel Day Lewis playing Obama.

Earlier this year, the channel released another mini mockumentary, featuring Obama preparing for the end of his time as president. (The film even ridicules a less self-aware style of video – Obama posts a misjudged Snapchat about Obamacare, and asks “Did it get a lot of views at least?”)

A politician whose ideal evening consists of children’s movie marathons with colleagues? Where have we seen that before? Yes, political video has come full circle. Personally, I’m waiting on the Hillary Clinton break dancing clip

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.