The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog


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.

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