Immigration is not just a Daily Mail issue

23rd August, 2010 1:07 pm

ImmigrationBy Richard Darlington

It’s very disconcerting when you inspire a Daily Mail leader by publishing research. As with most Daily Mail leaders, the facts are squeezed to fit the frame and support the editorial line. So for the record, let’s be clear, there is nothing in the polling evidence published by Demos today to suggest that a cap on immigration is supported by the public.

What is does show is that immigration was a real concern for a small but significant number of voters who deserted Labour at the last election. More than a third (36%) of voters that Labour lost at the last election agreed that ‘Britain should limit the number of people coming from other countries to live and work here because, on balance, they damage our economy and society’, compared with just over one in four (28%) voters who stayed loyal to Labour.

While Labour lost voters because of immigration it’s important to stress that the poll also shows that voters remain moderate in their desire for border controls and are more concerned about immigrants making a fair contribution.

The poll suggests Labour failed to explain its ‘points based’ immigration policy. The majority (49%) of voters agree that immigrants should contribute before accessing the benefits of citizenship. But only one in three (34%) agreed that economic migrants ‘damage our economy and society’, while just one in ten (11%) voters said people should be allowed to come because they benefit the economy and British society. On this basis, Labour had the right policy but voters did not credit Labour for it.

Voters concerned about globalisation and Britain’s national pride were strongly correlated with attitudes to immigration. But moderate views on British national pride were the strongest of all, suggesting that Labour should think twice about toughening their stance and appearing closed to immigration or globalisation. The overwhelming majority of voters (66%) support globalisation if it doesn’t come at the expense of pride in Britain and think immigrants should be able to live and work in Britain but only be granted benefits if they have contributed.

Perhaps most importantly, the poll supports the suggestion that immigration is a “class issue” with social class showing the strongest correlation to concern over immigration. Voters in the lowest social class (E) were almost twice as likely as the highest (46% to 25%) to want restriction on economic migrants. The government is likely to find that the Tory policy of capping non-EU migration is not going to address the wider issues that are causing lower social class voters concern.

New Labour’s embrace of globalisation gave the impression that any opposition to it was heresy. Labour became disconnected from the insecurity felt by those on low wages and with fragile, casual and vulnerable employment status. Labour’s narrative on the advantages of a flexible labour market was insufficiently tempered by a story of how the most vulnerable could be protected. The perceived competition for benefits, social housing, jobs and downward pressure on low wages during the recession crystallised into immigration concerns.

Labour’s next leader must not duck this issue. While Labour need to address voters’ perceptions on immigration, that does not mean Labour needs stronger border control policies. Instead, Labour needs to make sure they position policies on housing, welfare, wages and employment rights in the context of the debates voters themselves are having about immigration. If immigration becomes a ‘no go area’ for Labour, they will remain disconnected from the electorate at large.

Richard Darlington is Head of the Open Left project at Demos.

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment Featured To win in 2020, we need to beat UKIP in the south as well as the north

    To win in 2020, we need to beat UKIP in the south as well as the north

    We know that we’ve got our work cut out to win a Labour majority government in 2020. Without a major recovery in Scotland we’ll need to win around 100 additional seats in England and Wales in less than 5 years’ time on an average swing of around 10%. We must take almost all these constituencies from the Conservatives because there are next to no Lib Dem seats left to squeeze. And, as I’ve set out before, we can’t tackle the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Defeat doesn’t make us defunct

    Defeat doesn’t make us defunct

    It’s frustrating when protests and demonstrations are shrugged of as a meaningless waste of time and those who pick up a placard and participate are faced with accusations of ‘disillusionment’ and of being ‘sore losers’. The thousands of people who took to the streets of London (and in cities across the country) on June 20th had every right to do so. Yes, Labour suffered a cataclysmic defeat at the ballot box resulting in the Conservatives prevailing as the ‘winning’ party […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured The EU Referendum could do to Labour in England what the independence referendum did in Scotland

    The EU Referendum could do to Labour in England what the independence referendum did in Scotland

    The issue of Europe rarely stirs Labour’s soul. The current attitude of ‘we’re moderately pro mainly because the antis come across as a bunch of swivel-eyed fruitcakes’, has not served Labour badly, partly because it chimes with the majority view. Despite two decades of daily derision and drip-feed EU hostility from a small group of mostly foreign media-owning billionaires, poll after poll has shown a majority in favour of staying. But while leadership contenders tiptoe cautiously round this subject, in […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Yvette Cooper launches child poverty petition

    Yvette Cooper launches child poverty petition

    Yvette Cooper is launching a child poverty petition, which calls on the government to rethink plans to cut tax credits. She says these plans will push thousands more children into poverty. Cooper is one of four people in the running to be Labour’s next leader. Today at a leadership hustings in Swindon she will say 4 million children are living in poverty in the UK, 500,000 more than when David Cameron first became Prime Minister. She will point out that in the […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Cutting the public health grant would be a cut to the NHS

    Cutting the public health grant would be a cut to the NHS

    Amidst the chaos of the coalition’s NHS reforms a few years ago responsibility for public health services moved from primary care trusts to local authorities. Credit where it is due, this is the one move of those controversial reforms that presented a positive opportunity. Public health’s relationship with local government is a historic one and many in local government stood ready to drive forward a progressive public health agenda once again, aiming to tackle alarming health trends and health inequalities. […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit