Ed Miliband's philistinism
I don’t know if Ed Miliband really believes that the uncontrolled EU immigration that his Government allowed was wrong. I suppose we must take him at his word. It was, however, disingenuous for him to claim that the sheer scale of inward migration from accession countries was ‘unexpected’ – only willful blindness to the advice of their own civil servants and the fears of other politicians and policy experts could seriously have led Labour to be ‘surprised’ by the numbers. But that is in the past.
Much of Miliband's speech, it must be said, is deserving of praise from those of us unashamedly concerned about immigration. Miliband is right that the flood of cheap, skilled and hardworking labour has compounded the desperation of Britain’s working class. He is right that the disastrous elevation of ‘need’ as our sole measure of entitlement – to resources from social housing to welfare – has punished our own and disproportionately catered to the newly arrived and the un-established. And he is right that to dismiss those who raise these questions as ‘bigots’ is to add literal insult to real injury.
But there was something missing from Miliband’s mea culpa. Apart from one brief, sweeping and undetailed paragraph about the ‘pace of change’, nowhere to be found was an acknowledgement of those immigration problems that are not resource based. There was no mention of the rise in segregating and alienating customs such as the wearing of the Burqa. No mention of forced marriages, open homophobia or inter-community racism. Not a word about the sometimes terrifying failure of integration that has come to define Britain’s relationship with immigration.
Of course money matters. And being unable to find a job, seeing migrants skip the housing queue and immediately claim benefits are all sources of soreness for British people. But culture matters too, it matters more to a great many people. And until Ed Miliband and his party begin to describe and understand the way in which custom, manners, practice and values impact upon people’s lives as fiercely as does economic change, they will not be able to sufficiently answer those voters still stung by their betrayal at the hands of Labour.