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Anti-immigrant rhetoric will only alienate young voters

Ed M in EU flagIn his first conference speech as party leader, Ed Miliband spoke of a “new generation” not bound by the fear or the ghosts of the past.

When it comes to immigration,  younger people are much more likely to welcome the benefits and opportunities provided by freedom of movement than those from older generations. Polling from YouGov towards the end of last of year showed that more people under the age of 39 supported the free movement of people within the EU than opposed it, the strongest support coming from those under 25.

This attitude is reflected in the voting intentions. Recent YouGov polling of first time voters between 17 and 21 showed that of those certain to vote just 12 per cent would support UKIP. They are clearly not attracted by a message of division and fear.

Encouragingly, Labour appears to have a consistent and commanding lead among young voters. However, what is most striking is the numbers who do not vote. The same YouGov poll on voting intensions found only around 40 per cent were likely to vote at the next general election. With the Liberal Democrat betrayal over tuition fees and coalition decision to scrap EMA it is not difficult to see why many are disillusioned by party politics. The challenge for all parties is to listen harder: and make young people a better offer.

Labour cannot therefore simply repeat the same tired rhetoric on immigration. Tellingly, the majority of those publicly urging Miliband to take a firmer line on immigration come from the older generation within the party. The voice of younger members – and indeed young voters – is not being heard. Should Miliband take the advice of those calling for an end to free movement within the EU, he risks permanently alienating the very generation he sought to inspire.


  1. John reid says:

    It’S not anti immigrant(s) it’s anti uncontrolled immigration, think you speak for the young do you?

  2. Gary Elsby says:

    Not sure how you square ‘anti uncontrolled immigration’ with ‘freedom of movement’?

    Just a thought:
    If QMV is based on weighted percentages of population, and considered the way forward, why wasn’t freedom of movement ever based on the same principle?

  3. David Pavett says:

    This way of writing about immigration is, in my opinion, unhelpful. What does taking a “firmer line” mean? Basically, anything you want it to mean.

    The issue is whether or not there is a need to regulate the number of people coming into the country on a long-term basis. It would surely be strange if the left, which is rightly believes that free market solutions do not work and that regulation is necessary should take the view that the one area where no regulation at all is required is in the movement of populations across national boundaries.

    1. John says:

      Agree I could be clearer, happy to clarify. Am predominantly talking about restriction of free movement within the EU given this is what much of the current debate within the Labour Party appears to be focusing on.

      You raise an interesting point about the left and regulation. The reason I believe freedom of movement is a different case is that this is basically a restriction on the rights of working people as opposed to the rights of the banks/big business etc.

  4. Robert says:

    If we have the jobs great the fact is labour are lousy at making jobs, we get the same old crap we will make green jobs we will make thousand of jobs they never do.

    My two grandson voted UKIP and so did a lot of others for the first time in 105 years labour came third in any elections, and I suspect the next election will be so close for labour they may well lose the safest seat labour have.

    The idea that our young will go to Poland to work is laughable.

  5. Gerry says:

    David – excellent post.

    This article is laughable! The “free movement” of people in the EU has been an unalloyed disaster for working class people (of all races) in the UK…over 3 million mainly low-earning EU migrants have come into the UK since 2004, and the effects on pay, wages, services, housing, education, quality of life, overcrowding, have been uniformly negative. Fact.

    New Labour’s support for the EU, deregulation, privatisation,”flexible labour markets” etc is totally to blame for what we have now…a country that cannot/does not control its own borders is not really a free country in any sense of the word.

    And I think:if only we had won in 1983, and exited the disgusting EU and Nato, taking our country back…if only…

    1. John says:

      Disappointing that you call the article laughable then proceed to pass a number of wild claims about migration off as fact without a shred of evidence.

      This could well be because the evidence isn’t there! Research from the OECD, Migration Advisory Committee & National Institute of Economic and Social Research have debunked most of the myths which blame immigration for falling living standards.

    2. Jon Lansman says:

      Gerry: “over 3 million mainly low-earning EU migrants have come into the UK since 2004, and the effects on pay, wages, services, housing, education, quality of life, overcrowding, have been uniformly negative“: I couldn’t disagree with this more. Where pay has fallen it is not the effect of migration, it is the effect of the exploitation of migrants by greedy employers. Overcrowding and poor quality housing are the effect of the ‘right to buy’ and the failure to build council housing for the last thirty years.

      1. John reid says:

        Jon Lansman, agreeing with new labours record, well I never

        1. Gerry says:

          Yes John Reid – it is hilarious to see New Labour’s horrific record on immigration and support for the “free movement” of people defended by socialists, who really should know better: nothing undermines working class support for socialism MORE than open-door immigration, which simply pushes working class and poor people further into poverty, competing for scarcer services and resources.

          John Percival – if you let millions of Eastern Europeans into your labour market the effects on housing, education, health, overcrowding, wages etc is going to be negative. And – surprise surprise! – lots of working class voters (the main losers from open door EU immigration) turn towards parties who reject this Lab/Lib/Con neoliberal consensus.

          It is truly the world turned upside down when “the Left” accepts “flexible labour markets” and “open-door EU immigration”…

    3. PoundInYourPocket says:

      It was a gross error to allow free movement between the EU8 countries and the UK as the wage-leves were so different. But you are factually mistaken with the UKIP rhetoric as others have pointed out. The stats don’t back it up, although there are always individaul cases that make the headlines. I supported the 83 manifesto and still do when I re-read it in wonder at could have been. But the world has moved on, I don’t think a socialist island britain is a realistic prospect anymore. The best we can achieve is to keep making the case for “public not private” and to keep the flame for socialism alive (as they say), as a pressure group on the left. We need support from our european friends and more than anything , we need PR. If we believe in socialism then surely its international socialism rather than little-england socialism.

      1. Gerry says:

        Pound in Your Pocket – I agree with most of your thoughtful post and reply, and yes the 1983 Labour manifesto is the basis of my lifelong rejection of the EU and Nato, nuclear weapons, and laissez-faire capitalism

        And yes I know that you are 100% right – the prospect of electoral success for socialism in the UK is negligible, as it is in Europe.

        It just saddens and sickens me when people like the author of this article blithely carry on ignoring the very real and present damage that the EU, “flexible labour markets” and open door immigration have done (and continue to do) to the very people the Labour Party was formed to help – the industrial working class, and the poor!

        1. John reid says:

          Well said Gerry.

  6. PoundInYourPocket says:

    “The challenge for all parties is to listen harder: and make young people a better offer”
    I wonder if you’ve adopted a consumerist view of politics. Do you think they are selling something and they need your custom ? In theory yes, but in practice, I don’t think so. As long as they can garner enough votes to sneek in, they’ll just ignore the rest. I wouldn’t wait around expecting them to listen to your concerns any time soon. If they can’t hear the unemployed or disabled I expect they can’t hear you either. Perhaps they just go very deaf once outside the bubble.

  7. Dave Roberts says:

    I have said this elsewhere and I’ll say it here again as many, Lansman in particular, don’t live in the real world.

    Twenty two years ago I was paying labourers £50 a day when I ran a building company based in East London. Go and stand outside any big builders merchants/ DIY store in London and you will see a hiring fair of eastern Europeans who will work for half that.

    Where are these council houses to be built? Is Labour going to nationalise privately owned land to build them on? Of course they’re not and you all know it so stop spouting empty rhetoric.

    1. Gerry says:

      Dave – you speak the truth here.

      EU migration since 2004 has directly led to more downward pressure on wages, housing, education, overcrowding esp in London, East of England, and the South pretend otherwise is to deny our lived experience in our doctors surgeries, A+Es , job centres, housing departments, tubes and buses, school admissions lists and on and on.

      It is really sad and self-defeating that John Percival and Jon Lansman simply ignore this lived experience, and deny this reality!

      1. PoundInYourPocket says:

        The problem with “lived experience” is that it is just that, it is just your narrow local experience. We all hear about the man who rails against immigration just because there’s a Romanian family on his street. But what about all the other streets that don’t have a Romanian family.
        Statistics are the answer and in the 2012 ONS population survey there were 240 thousand people from the EU8 countries living in London. This compares to a population of 6 million. So 4% of the population in London are from the EU8. Is that a significant enough proportion as you say to have all those deleterios effects on local services and wages ? Also they are known to be lower users of hospitals and the benenfit system than the indigenous population, and are net contributors to the tax system (based on factual data). So if you subtract this 4% that are already low users of the local A&E departments, do you suppose there will no longer be a problem with waiting times ? Or with schools or housing or schools. And as for buses, I expect they are driving the buses. The problems you list are as others have said, due to long term under investment and the demise of the unions. This is not just an immigration issue as UKIP would have you believe. And, if you kicked all the Polish out of London, there’d be a shortage of satff that would need to be filled by some other group of workers, northerners perhaps. So you wouldn’t have changed your population level and would still be suffering the same shortages in housing etc.
        This isn’t about immigrants, it’s about local investment.

        1. Gerry says:

          Pound In your Pocket – statistics here are definitely not the answer, and I worked for the ONS on the 2011 census! There was massive under-counting in every London borough precisely because of this EU immigration churn, and of illegal immigration in general – the figure of Poles in the capital is meant to be 250,000 alone! I have seen figures of over 1 million eastern european migrants in London in 2012, which is 14% of the population, not 4%.

          It is ancedotal, you are right, but talk to any NHS ambulance team, or GP surgery receptionist or primary school teacher or security guard and you will find that is the lived experience of most of them too…the political point is that the pressure (on services, housing, welfare, education and wages)of however-many millions of Eastern European migrants since 2004 was always going to hit the UK working class harder than any other group, competing for already scarce austerity-punished services and resources. And that is what has happened since 2004 everywhere in the UK.

          It was criminal of New Labour to allow all this EU immigration in the name of “flexible labour markets”, and cosying up to the City mafiosi!

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