Politicians have failed us on immigration concerns. Photo: Getty
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Immigration: do you want the truth or something beautiful?

This immigration debate is based on prejudice and emotion.

The anger and vitriol that runs through the politics of the immigration debate can at times feel utterly soul-destroying. Especially for someone like me. The eldest child of working-class immigrant parents who worked themselves to back-breaking extremes in order to provide a safe haven and prosperous life for their family – this is the true story of immigration in this country. 

This country has been built on the blood, sweat and backs of immigrants. This is the story of immigration in this country. It’s about time the political establishment recognised this. Not make us feel like foreigners in our own country.

The disenfranchised working classes are being whipped up over the issue and after being long abandoned by Labour are turning to Ukip.

Our country is being betrayed by politicians who are too weak and too self-serving to make the positive case for immigration. Instead it’s a testosterone fuelled race as to who can be hard, harder and hardest on immigrants.

Ukip set the tone with their refined right-wing rebranding of BNP rhetoric. A populist offering, far more sophisticated than the Tories, who have ditched the dog-whistle and have gone all Mississippi Burning with their Go Home Vans and vile grandstanding on Mediterranean search and rescue.

We have long come to expect this from the hard right establishment. So I reserve my ire for the so-called progressives.

The Parliamentary Labour Party continues to prove it stands for nothing but its own electoral survival in pandering to populist prejudices. Having lost control of Thurrock council this year, Ed Miliband visited and blamed west Africans for “changing communities fast”.

While I went on TV to condemn these comments, my Labour opponent in Brent, an Afro-Caribbean, was silent. If that were Nick Clegg, I would have plenty to say to him.

Yvette Cooper, last week's culprit, with a narrative intertwining benefits and migrants. Two weeks before that David Blunkett claimed we were being swamped when net-migration figures just released had shown a drop.

The collective amnesia at the heart of the Labour Party is something to behold. Like one massive cult their 13 years in power and failures on immigration have been brainwashed out of their consciousness.

Liberal Democrats should plant a great big Union Jack on this political territory and proudly argue for a progressive form of patriotism, leaving Labour, Ukip and Tories to be the nasty nationalists.

If this debate were based on facts we wouldn’t be talking about it every week. Every single independent bit of research points to the overwhelming economic benefit that immigrants bring. But this evidence is being airbrushed out.

This debate is based on prejudice and emotion.

It appears very few in British politics are prepared to make the positive case for immigration and immigrants vehemently, loudly and passionately.

Where immigration is concerned we are becoming increasingly backward and inward looking, economically, socially and culturally.

The politicians have failed us. They claim to listen, to understand the concerns around immigration. I don’t want them to listen, I want them to lead. I want them to be honest and frank and to argue for it with every fibre of their being.

Ukip have built themselves on a politics of division and blame. They seek to restore imaginary, golden and bygone days that don’t fit into modern 21st century Britain. It's got the Labour and Tory politicians spooked and they want some of that demographic voting for them. In some hellish concertina they sing a song of blame; let’s blame migrants not the gang masters who under cut wages; let’s blame foreigners for taking jobs we won’t do any way; let’s blame Europeans that we can’t see a doctor or our schools are full or we can’t get a house – not the politicians who’ve ducked the long term problems we have needed solving for three decades.

We can only beat that prejudice by showing leadership. Our focus should not be on punishing those who come to this country to contribute to our great nation’s success. Our focus should not be on turning away skilled workers, doctors, teachers and entrepreneurs for the sake of arbitrary political quotas to make us feel better.

As far as immigration is concerned, the truth is something beautiful.

Ibrahim Taguri is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Brent Central. He tweets @ibrahimtaguri

Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.