This piece from Ian Birrell in the Guardian this morning says mostly what can be sensibly said about our body politic’s shared attitudes to the immigration “issue”:
The overall tone is clear: foreigners are flooding over here and taking our jobs, our benefits, our houses. This is, of course, a panicky response to the rise of Ukip – but it is one utterly wrong on commercial, economic and even the narrowest of party political grounds, pandering to ill-informed prejudice rather than putting the interests of the country first. Already the immigration cap is undermining higher education, one of our few world-beating sectors. Yet Labour, going through its own masochistic contortions on this issue, is unlikely to offer resistance; shamefully, it seems determined to outflank from the right.
“The immigration measures in the Queen’s speech don’t tackle important issues on exploitation and illegal immigration.
“We support many of the measures promised though of course we will scrutinise the detail, but it appears their impact will be limited.
“The Government is still not tackling the exploitation of foreign workers leading to the undercutting of local workers. There is nothing to improve enforcement of the national minimum wage, no action on agencies recruiting only from abroad, nothing to improve training for local workers for sectors recruiting heavily from abroad, no action to extend the Gangmasters licensing legislation, and nothing to deal with slum landlords using overcrowded housing to recoup labour costs.
“The Government is also missing the opportunity to tackle illegal immigration which has got worse on their watch. There’s nothing to deal with the failure at the Home Office to deport bogus student cases, nothing to deal with loopholes in student visitor visas, and nothing to give UKBA officers who inspect colleges and workplaces the power of arrest.
“Immigration is important for Britain and needs to be controlled and managed so it is fair for all. That is why the impact on the labour market and the problem of illegal immigration need to be addressed.”
Did I say Nigel Farage? I did, of course, mean Yvette Cooper.
The problem of course is this “One Nation” terminology. For starters, it’s manifestly untrue: there are probably hundreds of nations of people who live their lives in latterday Britain. So what I want to know is why they chose the phrase “One Nation“. Why not “One State” or “One Country” – or “One Place” even? Why focus, as they have, on an emotive word such as “nation” with all its historical, colonising and excluding baggage?
Unless, of course, that’s what you mean to do. Unless, of course, you’d already analysed quite a way back that in a disintegrating social environment, and come 2015, the dynamics of the immigration “issue” would be far more important than the traditional old battle between left and right.
Is there any chance, any chance at all, that the Labour Party’s strategists have just been waiting for UKIP to rear its ugly head? That the “One Nation Labour” language was never intended to allow Labour to wrest power from the Tories come election time but, rather, more predictably, deal with what would almost certainly be the real opposition five years down the line: those ideas and dynamics, those fascist instincts for personal survival over societal support, which UKIP – and other groupings like it – best exemplifies.
Is there any chance that Labour – with its “One Nation” mantra – has all along been triangulating not for a David Cameron (II) at all but, instead, for a UKIP – in one potentially unhappy shape or another?
The resulting plan being to convince all us progressive souls to continue voting as we were – on the understanding that Labour will keep slyly hidden from the rest of the electorate until after the next election its true instincts and values.
Ingenious approach, right? Even – in the light of disagreeable 20th century history – intelligently, usefully and wisely prescient.
So just forget Cameron & Co, and hope this is the case: that One Nation Labour was always designed with a UKIP in mind.
Because if this isn’t the plan, if this isn’t the explanation for the outflanking wearily quoted in full above, I really do wonder how anyone in my dearly beloved movement expects us to believe that One Nation Labour won’t itself become that UKIP we all fear – but all on its triangulatory and ingenious lonesome.