by Louise Perry
Tuesday, 20
December 2022
Debate
15:36

There’s nothing hardline about Tory immigration policy

Liberals are distracted by what the Government is saying rather than doing
by Louise Perry
Home Secretary Suella Braverman. Credit: Getty

The British public is overwhelmingly in favour of generously funded public services, as well as being overwhelmingly in favour of low rates of immigration. The consensus in Westminster is that these two desires are incompatible. We have a rapidly ageing population who expect ever greater spending on pensions and healthcare, but who are reluctant or unable to continue working into their 70s and 80s, and we have also had half a century of low native birth rates. The result is a disastrously unsustainable rise in the old age dependency ratio — that is, the number of individuals aged 65 and over per 100 people of working age. In 1950, that figure was 17.9. By 2075, it is projected to be 53. 

Importing working age people from overseas is assumed to be easier than boosting native birth rates — and, in the short term, that’s probably correct, since liberalising immigration policy is quick and simple, whereas implementing pro-natalist policy is generally slow and complex. But the problem for the Government is that voters don’t like mass migration, given the damage it does to social trust. Polling from 4th December finds that 84% of Conservative voters and 63% of all respondents consider current levels of immigration to be “too high”.


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The solution? Window dressing. That’s the take-home message from a new report published this week by the Social Market Foundation think tank, which concludes that high levels of migration are here to stay. Last year’s record-breaking figure of 1.1 million is likely to be the new normal, so this report argues, given the profound demographic problems we face. And the proposed ‘Routes to Resolution’ (the report’s title) are almost entirely rhetorical: speak less of “brain drain” than of “brain gain”, for instance, and have “conversations” with reluctant voters, rather than dismiss them as bigots (a lesson Gordon Brown learned to his cost). 

This is a rhetorical game that the Conservative Party has been playing for a long time: combine tough talk with hyper-liberal policy and hope that voters don’t notice. Even the supposedly hardline proposal to remove failed asylum seekers to Rwanda — a policy this week deemed legal by the High Court — would only reduce immigration numbers by a tiny fraction, giving the impression to voters that the Government is taking strong action, without actually obliging it to do so at scale.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s statements on immigration have been harsh enough to see her compared this week with Nigel Farage by her former colleague Nimco Ali, the government’s outgoing adviser on tackling violence against women. And the approach to immigration policy taken by Braverman’s predecessor, Priti Patel, has been condemned by (among many others) Amnesty International as expressive of “xenophobia”. The perverse reality of the situation, though, is that both of these home secretaries have overseen historically unprecedented levels of immigration. 

Immigration is one area of policy where it is just about possible to play such games, as the SMF report correctly points out. Immigration is a cumulative process, meaning that there is a time lag between the implementation of new policies and their effects becoming evident. Further, the numbers involved are often hard for the public to discern, particularly in recent years as data has been, potentially deliberately, withheld. As the SMF report details:

The decision by the UK Office for National Statistics to abandon its quarterly reporting of regular migration numbers based on the International Passenger Survey (IPS) is of huge and under-appreciated importance for UK immigration politics. Its absence has helped take debates about regular migration numbers out of media reporting and so political discourse. 
- Social Market Foundation

Supporters of liberal immigration policy are listening only to what the Government is saying, while failing to look at what they are actually doing.

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D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago

This seems to me to be the most important issue of our time. The indigenous people of Britain are to be made a minority in Britain, by sometime in the seventh decade of this century.
They will have no way to avoid this, because Labour and Conservatives both work towards the same end result.
Importing foreign labour to care for the elderly is a Ponzi scheme, because immigrants get old too, and then they need pensions and carers, too.
There was no debate, and nobody voted for this, but democracy only works when you’re given a genuine choice between alternatives. I give up.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

Democracy is not a magic pill. The land groans beneath the reign of a foolish king. In a democracy, the citizen is sovereign and the voter is king. We still suffer from tyranny, but the capricious and feckless tyrants are ourselves.The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves.

Last edited 1 month ago by Samuel Ross
D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

What does that mean?

the citizen is sovereign and the voter is king.

Really? David Cameron promised immigration in the ‘tens of thousands’ Boris Johnson promised ‘take back control of our borders’ We voted for these people.
Democracy doesn’t work if they promise one thing and then do the opposite.

julian Le Vay
julian Le Vay
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

Who are these ‘indigenous people’ whose racial purity must not be tainted by newcomers? You don’t understand your country, it is composed not of some mystic Urvolk but of wave after wave of immigrants, who settle, have children and become as ‘British’ as you or I. Sunak, Priti Patel, Braverman are all cases in point.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 month ago
Reply to  julian Le Vay

Except that many of them, for various reasons, do not wish to become as British as you or I. They wish, in many cases to transform the UK into something else while taking our money and running (in various directions).

Richard Stanier
Richard Stanier
1 month ago
Reply to  julian Le Vay

We are the English, the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish, and we are growing tired of having to explain our existence.

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Stanier
D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  julian Le Vay

Where did I write ‘purity’, ‘tainted’ or ‘Urvolk’?
The English came here in the 5th century. Closely related Vikings came here in the 9th century. About 7000 Normans came later, but they were the grandsons of Vikings anyway.
Then there really wasn’t much migration for a long time. In the 17th century some Huguenots came, but they were French Protestants, so not much change there.
There has never before been mass migration of Africans, Asians, Arabs and Chinese. The English are just as much an ethnic group as the Maori, except we’ve been here much longer.
The Maori settled in NZ from about 1320 onwards.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
1 month ago
Reply to  julian Le Vay

I’m intruiged to know whether you would say the same of, say, First Nation peoples in Canada? Would you say there is no such thing as an indigenous Canadian?

alan fry
alan fry
1 month ago
Reply to  julian Le Vay

The wave of immigration in the last 30-40 years is unprecedented. Have a look at some film of the UK in the 50s 60s early 70s. Notice any difference? The claim we have always been a place of MASS immigration is a lie

Douglas H
Douglas H
1 month ago
Reply to  julian Le Vay

Yes, and when that cultural assimilation happens then there is no problem.

The problem is when (1) people are not accepted as English or Welsh or Scottish despite wanting to be accepted, something that is much less of a problem than it used to be, or when (2) immigrants and their descendants actively reject native identities – as btw Europeans did in North America. Then you get conflict – just ask the First Nations if Canada how they feel about immigrants from Europe not fitting in to their culture.

The big issue right now is that the racialised left is encouraging the descendents of immigrants in the U.K. to think of themselves as irreconcilably different from the native British. That’s potentially very dangerous, and sets us up for ethnic conflict in the future.

The worst case scenario is that the U.K. ends up as something like Lebanon, or that native Brits become a demonised minority who are forever expected to apologise to everyone else for what happened hundreds of years previously. If that happened, would they turn nasty? Who knows. Groups that feel existentially threatened are capable of just about any horror.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
1 month ago
Reply to  D Glover

Importing care staff is indeed a “Ponzi scheme” (spot on analogy). And it is geared up exponentially by chain migration of dependants.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
1 month ago

D Glover makes a very valid point about the Ponzi scheme of immigration. Totally agree.
The other side of this is simply cost. Every person in the country costs a certain amount and those who do not pay enough tax to cover this are then subsidised by those of us who pay more tax than our “cost”. At a macro-economic level what is the point of increasing the numbers of those who are a cost to society? We all get poorer surely?
Follow the money seems a good idea and with lots and lots of low wage workers, whether native or new immigrants does keep things cheap and available for those with a bit more. All those things that some take for granted, instant coffee at every corner, cheap food delivered by some poor guy on a bike, pressing a button on a phone and a car arrives within 10 minutes to take me home. Flights to some sunshine for £50, getting ratted on a Friday for £20 (some may need to spend more due to metabolism etc).
So much of what we take for granted is based on minimum wages and cheap labour. Maybe this is the place to start? Convenience costs money. We need to pay NOW for this, what is going on with low wage immigration as well as minimum wages to too many is simply asking our descendants to cough up.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andrew Buckley
Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago

If Sunak won’t implement a 100k annual cap on immigration, don’t vote for him. If his successor – PM or LOtO – won’t commit to it, don’t vote for them. Keep voting out people who won’t limit immigration numbers. Until we get someone who does.

Also object to any new development in your area. Slow down house building, road building and any new infrastructure until immigration is reduced to the tens of thousands.

No other issue is anything like as important as immigration.

Lukas Nel
Lukas Nel
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt M

Bloody xenophobe. Absurd to see what the british have been reduced too,breaking down their own development. You are aware that the complete collapse of Britain is due to such short sighted anti industrial policies? From an empire to nothing in 40 years, isn’t it nice being socialist and feather bedded?

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  Lukas Nel

Steady on, Lukas. That’s a bit much – we try to keep things civil round here.
I think Blighty will be fine. We just need to balance the numbers of immigrants we allow into the country with the country’s ability to absorb them without wrecking our public services or diluting the native culture too much.
It isn’t so hard:
Sunak has already announced plans for parliament to set the annual number of asylum seekers allowed here. 20k is the figure I heard.
Setting an annual cap of work and family reunion visas at 100k is perfectly reasonable.
Foreign students shouldn’t be limited but the universities they attend must be legit, they must not be allowed to bring dependents and must leave once their studies have ended. If they work here afterwards, they should count towards the 100k cap.

Last edited 1 month ago by Matt M
lygen lord
lygen lord
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt M

Limiting it to 100k a year would not even solve the problem. The White British population declined by 700k from the year 2011 to 2021. We will have to deport millions if you hope to make any impact.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  lygen lord

Let’s get down to 100k first and then take it from there. Up till 2021, any one of 500k Europeans could just live in England without permission. Once we are down to 100k we can start reducing the numbers

Hugh Oxford
Hugh Oxford
1 month ago

Thwart, abort and import.
Contraception, abortion, mass immigration.
An economic no brainer for a collapsing welfare state. A bonanza for the global corporations: childless native female labour, cheap foreign labour.
Every thwarted and aborted British child a welfare saving: maternity, education, health, benefits. Why raise a British child when you could import a complete adult from the developing world?
Contraception and abortion are “free”: of course they are – if you don’t have to pay for something, you’re the product.
And so many other benefits: diversity and multiculturalism: atomisation and demoralisation.
No nation states, just six billion consumers, wrapped in the rainbow flag.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 month ago

Britain has been on a unique journey regarding immigration, and I believe that by the late 1990’s a sufficient settlement had been reached across society, demonstrating what works and what doesn’t.
Walk around Dr Martin Luther King’s memorial in Washington and you will find a series of inspirational, intelligent quotes and a Britain that was in a better position than most to reach those goals. What our politicians have done since then is absolutely criminal.
As for the Liberals, the last 25 years have shown us that they are skilled at twisting the words of opponents to gain moral superiority, or demanding endless taxpayers money is hosed at something, than finding cost-effective, long-term solutions to complex problems.
Because they have little or no real world experience of an environment that demands the latter, having gorged themselves into intellectual stupor on the former.
Unfortunately, that political class is now embedded in a single uniparty system, and we have no hope of change any time soon.
Rwanda will make little impact as the author says, and anyway sterner legal challenges will be faced at home (Blair’s Supreme Court) and abroad (ECHR etc). Not a chance it will be enabled this side of the next election.
Just a reminder, HS at the time Sajid Javid declared channel crossings a “major incident” – 4 years ago this month.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dustin Needle
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 month ago

It’s all a lot more simple and clear than either the article or comments (so far) make out.
Controlled immigration, based upon a transparent policy voted for by the electorate = good.
Illegal, uncontrolled immigration, enriching those criminals who facilitate Channel-crossing and the potential entry of young men intent on criminality and no respect for the indigenous culture (or women) = bad.
Once that debate is settled, and the government of the day at least tries to get to grips with the latter, the conversation can move on and away from throwing terms like “bigot” around.
That we see yet another article which completely omits this central issue shows that intelligent debate remains at a premium.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

You can’t grow the population more quickly than the country’s infrastructure can keep up. Due to mass immigration our population has grown by about 500k per year since the start of the century. Even in our best years, we only build 200k new houses. Our health service can never keep up with demand. Ditto our schools. We need to get rid of the hard-shoulder on motorways to accommodate all the cars. Our reservoirs and drains are inadequate to the requirements of 70m people. Our prisons are bulging, our police are overstretched.

On top of all that, we need to introduce a new “lowest common denominator” culture so as not to offend any group of newcomers, even to the point of adding black and brown actors and actresses to historical dramas!

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
1 month ago

Thank you for highlighting, as many others have in certain independent forums, this disconnect between spin and action. The public can, at this point, come to only one conclusion: the elites, elected and unelected, are determined to expand immigration – legal and illegal – regardless of the wishes of the public. They are motivated by technocratic bias toward economic growth over social cohesion, and will implement whatever obfuscation and argumentation they believe will pacify the public – such as staff needs of the NHS. Also ignored, critically, is the resulting chain migration, which imports dependants requiring social services while not paying into the system.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 month ago

If Sunak follows through on parliament setting the limit on the subsequent year’s immigration every year, that could be a “democratic” game-changer. It’s a big “if”.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ian Barton
Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

If the Tories – with a big majority and the country no longer having an open border with the EU – can’t make this happen before 2024, they deserve to be kicked out.

lygen lord
lygen lord
1 month ago

The issue will never be solved as the bureaucracy ruling Britain is both completely dysfunctional and dedicated to the destruction of Britons as an ethnic-cultural group. I would guess that most do not even believe that British people really exist. It is a sad but completely inevitable that British people will become a minority in a few decades. Our cultural elite have somehow managed to convince vast swathes of the population that immigrants are saints delivered to save us from choking on our own homogeneity and that a trillion Somalis will have absolutely no effect on anything.

John Greatorex
John Greatorex
1 month ago
Reply to  lygen lord

The numbers have been of the magnitude that, rather than the Somalian community becoming British, the UK becomes rather more like Somalia….and that is perfectly fine, if you are of the opinion of the ruling bureaucracy, of course.

Last edited 1 month ago by john.greatorex
Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
1 month ago

Debate on immigration has been deliberately suppressed. This has been done by the use of voodoo words such as xenophobe and racist. Things will only change when enough people stop caring about what people call them.

M. M.
M. M.
1 month ago

Louise Perry wrote, “The perverse reality of the situation, though, is that both of these home secretaries [who allegedly want to reduce immigration] have overseen historically unprecedented levels of immigration.”

The same hypocrisy exists in the United States. For decades, numerous Republican politicians have extolled the virtues of limiting immigration and deporting illegal aliens. Yet, the same Republicans voted for H-1B visas (by which South Asians flooded into the technology sector) and legislation supporting guest workers from Latin America. The borders remain open, and the flood continues unabated.

The consequence of flooding the country with anti-Western migrants is evident in the United States.

By 2040, the United States will cease being a Western nation, due to open borders. By 2040, most Americans will reject Western culture (as the American population is swelled by anti-Western migrants from primarily Latin America and secondarily South Asia), and Hispanic culture will dominate. In California, 40% of the residents are currently Hispanic. Most residents of the state already reject Western culture, and Hispanic culture dominates.

In other words, by 2040, the non-Western United States will cease being an ally of Western nations like the United Kingdom (UK). The non-Western American government will implement policies that harm the interests of the British.

The fate of the United States presages the fate of the UK unless the British immediately halt further immigration and deport illegal aliens.

Get more info about this issue.

Last edited 1 month ago by Matthew M.
Frederick Dixon
Frederick Dixon
1 month ago

When Jacqui Smith was Home Secretary some 20 years ago or thereabouts, she said (words to the effect) “we have to break the link between people coming here to work and getting to stay”.
Twenty years later we’re still waiting. Yet surely TEMPORARY immigration is the answer to squaring this circle – yes of course we need some immigration, but we should make much greater use of time limited migration, and restrict PERMANENT settlement to very low levels.
The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme is a good example of what can be done, and the Youth Mobility Scheme (where people aged between 18 and 30 can live and work in a participating country for 2 years) should be extended to the European Economic Area.
Then we should see net immigration come down to very low levels.

Fred Bloggs
Fred Bloggs
1 month ago

Productivity, anyone?

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

Author is correct – the Tory party has dined out on anti-immigrant rhetoric, but actually appreciates so much of its free market ideology actually requires it. Braverman just the latest political careerist to ride the anti-immigrant wave. Soon as she’s got 200 stuck in Rwanda, and photo-op associated, she’ll be off to do something else.
Fact is pretty much everyone wants a well-managed immigration policy. Folks may disagree on the amount of immigration beneficial/permissible/harmful but pretty much everyone recognises we need some. A more mature national discussion would help. Where we have increasing consensus is that this Govt is incompetent, has not planned ahead, and continually favours the latest slogan over sensible well delivered policy implementation.
As regards a worry that by 2070 the nature of our country will have been fundamentally changed – I doubt it. Something is solid and imperishable in our best values. We are not the same country we were 50 years ago and yet a core is still the same. It’s not the colour of skin, or our religion. It’s the values that seep into our core the longer we reside here. Perhaps our destiny is an even wider background and heritage that shares and helps radiate it out beyond our shores. The imperial journey coming full circle perhaps.  So maybe don’t worry so much, embrace it. The vast majority of people are decent and our common humanity outweighs so much other nonsense.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

It is pity you got so many down votes. The views on immigration in the comments section in Unherd tend to be quite tough (I suppose you were expecting this…). Everything is always a balance: it is never black and white (no pun intended). Cultures clashes have always existed and are the cause of much misery in the world (Africa, China, Russia, ….) . I am sure if the British culture is of such high standards it can find ways to remain positive, find solutions, regardless of the difficulties that need overcoming without handing out ‘tough statements’ to please. The whole Ruwanda history is just a sad episode. Who can believe that it will make any difference at all????
(I will get the same bad deal with downvotes now…)

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

I try not to see downvotes as a ‘badge of honour’ as one then starts chasing them!
But I much prefer to not rattle round in an echo chamber, unlike I suspect quite a few UnHerd commentariat regulars.
Appreciated you comment EDB and thanks

Last edited 1 month ago by j watson
Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

As regards a worry……………..so much other nonsense. I’de like to join you in your wonderful world – what time is the next train to Cloud-cuckoo-land?