Britain’s “Historic Mistake”

Opinion in Britain is turning against immigration. David Goodhart, a London journalist and head of the leftish Demos think-tank, is for a bit more restriction.

I have recently ploughed through a lot of the economic work on recent immigration to Britain (for a book I have just written on the subject) and the conclusion of almost all the analysis on wages, employment, fiscal benefit, economic growth and so on is that despite the very large numbers the impact on the existing population has been very small, except for some negative effect for those at the bottom.

We have now had 15 years of historically unprecedented immigration and the evidence is simply not there [for any benefit]. And while there clearly have been some benefits it has also exacerbated some of Britain’s historic socio-economic weaknesses: low productivity, lack of training, high inequality.

Other costs Goodhart mentions include competition for jobs and services and rapid and unwelcome change to neighbourhoods.

Labour made

a historic mistake in opening the door so wide to large scale immigration. The party has now decisively lost the argument and half apologised. The national debate has moved on and there is a clear and settled will that immigration has been much too high in recent years and must come down.

But EU rules allow free entry from Romania and Bulgaria beginning Jan 1, 2014.

He does not have an explanation of why Labour made that “historic mistake” other than it arose from:

a certain “irrational exuberance” about large-scale immigration, a kind of middle class progressive prejudice, common in the late 20th century, that did enormous damage to Labour.

Not a very satisfactory explanation.



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2 responses to “Britain’s “Historic Mistake”

  1. New Labour were committed neo-liberals, many of its key architects having made a painful transition from the left during the party’s 1980s ‘wilderness years’. Neo-liberals are keen on the free movement of all economic factors, based on standard econ 101 arguments. Being centre-left neo-liberals, they believed post-hoc (mildly) redistributive taxation would ensure that liberalisation would always be Pareto optimal.

    • Yes, Blair and Co. seem to have embraced globalization, cosmopolitanism, humanitarian interventionism, anti-nationalism – as “modern” and “progressive” as did quite a few people at the time.

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