Notes From the Margins…

Cameron Lets the Dogs Out

  • April 15, 2011
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Put yourself in David Cameron’s shoes.   May council elections are just around the corner and your Coalition government is taking a relentless political kicking.   Your cuts agenda is not only looking cruel but also incompetent, and now even the Royal College of Nursing has taken the unprecedented step of a no confidence vote in your hapless Health Secretary.

Even with Andy Coulson gone the phone hacking scandal continues to lap around your ankles like leaking sewage.   In Libya the war that you leapt into with such boyish enthusiasm is turning into a combination of mission creep and bomb n’ hope except that you are running out of things to bomb.

But you are an Etonian and a Tory.   And you know there is one issue that can always remind a certain category of voter why they should turn out for you, while simultaneously moving the public debate away from what your government is doing. That’s right, it’s time to   have an honest debate about immigration.

As you rightly put it, immigration is ‘a hugely emotive subject’ but that’s the whole point.   That’s why you make a speech that is  not so much dog whistle as a trumpet calling out the pack to hunt, even better than your recent thoughtful and nuanced intervention on the subject of multiculturalism.

And so, having dispensed with the bromides about the immigrants who are serving us food and caring for the sick and elderly,  you make sober calibrated observations such as this

Between 1997 and 2009, 2.2 million more people came to live in this country than left to live abroad.  That’s the largest influx of people Britain as ever had and it has placed real pressures on communities up and down the country.  Not just pressures on schools, housing and healthcare – though those have been serious, but social pressures too.

Or this

Real communities are bound by common experiences  forged by friendship and conversation  knitted together by all the rituals of the neighbourhood, from the school run to the chat down the pub.  And these bonds can take time.  So real integration takes time.  That’s why, when there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods  perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there, on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate, that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness.

To eliminate this ‘discomfort and disjointedness’ and prevent these recalcitrant immigrants from opting out of ‘real communities’ you insist that all foreigners  must learn English, and promise that your government will be insisting  that they do so in order to prevent ‘sham marriages’ and ‘bogus’ student applications.

Nowhere in your speech do you mention that many immigrants might want to learn English but can’t, because your own government has  cut the ESOL provision that might have helped them learn it

According to the National Audit for Adult Continuing Education (Niace), the cuts introduced by your government, such as the removal of a Learner Support Fund for poor students will have a ‘devastating impact on students, including refugees and women who are trying to integrate into British society by improving their language skills.’

As Prime Minister you probably know this, but you are also a hypocrite and an unctuous demagogue,   and you know your core audience, which is why you make connections like the following

The real issue is this: migrants are filling gaps in the labour market left wide open by a welfare system that for years has paid British people not to work.  That’s where the blame lies – at the door of our woeful welfare system, and the last government who comprehensively failed to reform it.

Yes that’s where the ‘blame’ lies: immigrants who don’t speak English, scroungers who won’t work and the Labour government who let both things happen.     And the reactions have not been long in coming.  On the BNP website today we read that

David Cameron further legitimised the British National Party and our position in politics today when he admitted that Britain has been torn apart by the biggest influx of immigrants in history.

The English Defence League also observes that ‘Cameron is right to blame unchecked immigration and an open cheque book for new immigrants on Labour’ while also noting that ‘the sell out to Islam had begun many years earlier.’

Moving away from these unsavoury characters who you promised to ‘starve…of the oxygen of public anxiety they thrive on’,  we find praise in the Daily Express, which described your speech as ‘a  vindication of the warnings the Daily Express has sounded for many years as this newspaper led the way in highlighting how mass immigration  under Labour was putting massive pressure on the country and its services.’

In the Daily Mail, there is also predictable praise from  Sir Andrew Green at Migration Watch, in an article criticising the ‘bias’ in the BBC on immigration that also hailed your speech as ‘ the most important speech on immigration of any Prime Minister for many years.’

So all in all a good day’s work.  Slightly marred perhaps, by the minor irritant of a member of your own Cabinet suggesting that your speech ‘will inflame extremism.’

But why should you care what Vince Cable says, when you have called the dogs out and all you need to do is sit back and watch them run?


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1 Comment

  1. Steve Waters

    19th Apr 2011 - 8:29 am

    So this is muscular liberalism in practice!

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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