Well, it was right not to expect much. The full text of David Cameron’s speech on immigration is here but it can be summarised in one sentence: ‘mass migration has brought some good things, but it has also brought problems so here is some tinkering we propose.’
There are so many problems when our politicians speak on this subject. Not least is that they expect to be congratulated for saying the utterly obvious. For instance, most British people worked out a long time ago that those of us who already live here ought to have priority in housing over people who have just arrived. We also worked out some time back that an NHS which provides for the whole world is unsustainable and that if people haven’t paid into the system then the system shouldn’t pay out.
Then there is the gap between rhetoric and reality. As is par for the course, the Tory press (presumably briefed by Conservative party employees) advance-billed this as a ‘major’ speech with ‘tough’ rhetoric etc etc. In fact what Cameron turns out to be proposing – while perfectly fine in its unambitious way – will only affect a small number of people. And in that gap lies another problem. For when the electorate are promised ‘tough talk’ they think they are going to hear about illegals being sent back by the plane-load. But of course Cameron doesn’t dare to propose any such thing. What the PM’s speech showed is that the Conservative party, like the other mainstream parties, still cannot bring itself to address matters which even the left of the political spectrum outside Parliament has been mulling on for some time now.
Take, for instance, David Goodhart’s forthcoming book on Britain and immigration ‘The British Dream’ (which the Mail has serialised over recent days). Goodhart – who comes from the left of the political spectrum – addresses those questions that any honest government must address but which no European government will even touch at the moment. For instance, how long should political asylum be for? If someone flees a dictator and that dictator subsequently falls, shouldn’t that be the end of their period of asylum? Shouldn’t they be encouraged to return to help rebuild their country?
The ‘debate’ on immigration has gone on quite long enough. The British people have consistently stated their opposition to mass immigration and the parties have responded by talking tough while doing little or nothing in the hope of tricking the voters into voting for them despite the record. At some point the ‘national debate’ has to stop and the national ‘actually doing something’ has to start. Despite the fanfare, today was not that day.