Immigration, integration and Labour’s credibility crisis

Andrew Thorpe-Apps 1.48pm

In a recent speech in Tooting, Ed Miliband outlined plans to ensure that frontline staff in the state sector are able to speak ‘proficient’ English. It is part of achieving what he labelled a ‘connected nation’ rather than a ‘segregated one’.

“If we are going to build one nation, we need to start with everyone in Britain knowing how to speak English. We should expect that of people that come here. We will work together as a nation far more effectively when we can always talk together.”

The Labour leader is correct in highlighting the importance of comprehensible English. It is a sad reality that the language skills of many nurses and care workers are below par. Frequently, concerns are raised by the sick and elderly that they cannot communicate with their carers.

Language skills are crucial if new immigrants are to integrate into society. Without proficiency in English, how can you communicate with your neighbour? How can you communicate with your children’s teachers? A common language enables immigrants to advance their careers and improve their lives. A life where you can have no social interaction with the majority of people around you is surely no life at all.

Without the ability to communicate across ethnic and racial lines, separation sets in. Separation leads to isolation, and those who are isolated will have no chance at social mobility. Isolation also creates ignorance, suspicion and prejudice regarding other groups.

A good example of the dangers of segregation can be found in Tower Hamlets. Lutfur Rahman, the borough’s independent mayor, has implemented policies which see public funds diverted into Bengali-only drugs projects, arts projects and youth projects. What is more, many of these groups are merely a front for Mr Rahman’s extremist allies – the Islamic Forum of Europe. Incredibly, Tower Hamlets also pays for British-born children, who have grown up speaking English, to learn Bengali.

However, while we should applaud the main thrust of Mr Miliband’s Tooting speech, a note of caution must be urged. This is not the first time Labour have spoken about the need for immigrants to learn English. David Blunkett, speaking in 2004, said that immigrants would have to achieve a ‘minimum standard in English’. Jacqui Smith said in 2007 that immigrants must ‘integrate into our country, learn English and use our language’. As recently as 2009, Phil Woolas stated that ‘immigrants must learn English’.

Yet the last Labour government presided over increasingly segregated communities and allowed entry to vast numbers of immigrants with only rudimentary English. Today, almost one million children in Britain do not speak English as their first language at home. There are also around one million households where no one speaks English at all.

The current government inherited a shambolic immigration system which had long been abused. Net migration under the last 10 years of the Labour government was 2 million people, a figure equivalent to the combined population of Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool. Theresa May has gradually reformed the system, closing down 180 bogus colleges in the process.

Ed Miliband has admitted that the last Labour government believed integration would happen ‘automatically’. He conceded that, when in government, Labour failed to take voters’ concerns about the impact of immigration seriously. In fact, for much of Labour’s time in office, political correctness was so entrenched that anyone who mentioned immigration was open to accusations of racism.

In his speech, the Labour leader was expected to make a ‘full apology’ for Labour’s failures on immigration and tackling segregation – but apparently he ‘forgot’.

If Ed Miliband genuinely wants to make amends for Labour’s disastrous immigration record, he should drop his opposition to the government’s immigration cap and its crackdown on bogus students.

But the reality is that Labour’s open-door immigration policy was no mistake. It was a deliberate attempt to create a new constituency of grateful Labour voters. To a large extent, it has worked – roughly 80% of ethnic minority voters supported Labour at the last election.

Even if Ed Miliband is genuine in his plans, he is wrong to think that putting more money into English language courses will solve the twined problems of segregation and integration on its own. Also, if history is anything to go by, this sudden focus on the promotion of English may be little more than a tactical manoeuvre to win over disaffected white working-class voters.

Frankly, it is difficult to see how Labour can ever regain credibility in this area.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @AG_ThorpeApps

The Left: the new nasty party?

Henry Hopwood-Phillips 12.06pm

The Left has a distinguished history of pucturing the crusty authorities of the status quo ante. Thanks to Hobsbawm et al, the language of ‘debunking’ sits firmly in the lexicon of your average socialist. However, most of them are less fond of plucking the multiple motes from their own eyes. One of the biggest myths is the belief that the Left is tolerant.

A quick trawl of Google suggests otherwise. George Monbiot, using the thinnest of ‘scientific’ evidence, declares, “the other side is, on average, more stupid than our own.” Charlie Brooker, characteristically less restrained, urges that the Daily Mail comment section is “dumbogeddon…a chimp’s tea party of the damned.”

Even the more mundane pieces regularly classify dissenters as stupid unbelievers. Off the page ostracism of the transgressor is routine procedure. Police have been enabled to enforce truths on people who “offend” socialist shibboleths. All views are declared equal but some it seems are more equal than others.

A bitter and ironic pill for the Left’s opponents to swallow is that most censorship now operates under the moniker of “diversity”. The language once used to protect free speech from those who would try to close it off to others is now used to close it off in toto. The paradox of enforcing conformity to a “diverse” outlook is being lost. Like Rousseau’s minions, we shall oxymoronically be “forced” to be free.

"Truth", along with its handmaiden "language", is the real loser. "Diversity" is being divested of any meaning. It should involve toleration of a broad spectrum, not merely the swallowing of an entirely establishment narrative. The Left claims to be relativist but in reality "right and wrong" now masquerade as "appropriate" and "inappropriate", or other slippery terms. Those people who do not share in the Left’s maxims, such as "show intolerance to the intolerant", try to articulate in the vain the fact that the Left’s own narrative is ultimately arbitrary.

This self-referential Leftism is not without moral quirks. It routinely displays moral cowardice in its avoiding confrontation with the more extremist aspects of Islam, for instance. Common-sense morality barely registers on its scale of justice. And worst of all, it enforces a retrospective form of justice that begins with moral postulates such as all men being created equal - “if everyone isn’t succeeding equally, it can’t be because they made some bad decisions or have unequal abilities. It’s because we didn’t do enough”, according to Gavin McInnes.

Much of this goes unnoticed by people on the Left who still anachronistically perceive themselves to be heirs to the hippies who almost beat nuclear armaments on a diet of flowers and goodwill. Yet just as goths, in their subsitute uniformity, represent an alternative sartorial orthodoxy rather than a truly heterodox alternative, so does the Left. Their orthodoxies dominate the kulturkampf. It’s about time it was challenged.