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By Philippe Legrain 1 COMMENT

As Britain’s pre-election fever hots up, David Davis, the Conservatives’ home affairs spokesman, has ratcheted up his party’s anti-immigration rhetoric. He said:

Unchecked immigration is not inevitable … It’s what happens when you have a failed policy… We believe that some immigration benefits the UK but not all of it. We want the right people and the right number of people… The government last week admitted that net immigration is running at 200,000 every year… Let me make it clear: under a Conservative government that figure will be substantially lower… We can control it. We must
control it and under a Conservative government we will control it.

He is wrong from start to finish.

1) Immigration into Britain is not "unchecked": while EU citizens can come to Britain freely, people from the rest of the world cannot.

2) Governments cannot possibly determine who "the right people" are. Who would have predicted, when he arrived in the US as a child, that Jerry Yang would go on to found Yahoo!? Who would have predicted that the son of a Kenyan goatherder, Barack Obama, could be the next US president? David Davis couldn’t have. How, then, can he presume to pick the "right people" for Britain?

3) Governments cannot possibly determine what "the right number of people" is. Manpower planning went out of fashion in the Seventies; how on earth does David Davis expect to second-guess the employment needs of the many thousand British businesses?

4) Governments can limit immigration, but they cannot "control" it. Draconian immigration controls do not stop immigration; they mainly drive it underground.

Those who claim that tougher measures could stop immigration are peddling a false prospectus. Even if, at huge cost, the EU built a wall along its vast eastern border, deployed an armada to patrol its southern shores, searched every arriving vehicle and vessel, denied people from developing countries visas altogether, and enforced stringent internal checks on people’s right to be here over every street corner and in every workplace, migrants would get through: documents can be forged or stolen, people smuggled, officials bribed. And by trying, at huge expense, to protect Britain from the phantom menace of immigration, they would transform Britain into a police state. 

Posted 02 Oct 2007 in Blog
  1. Graeme Kemp says:

    Oh dear, yet again the Tories are trying to stir things up over immigration…..
    Why are they so negative about humanity – and the sections of it that want to live her and contribute?
    If David Davis is worried about the impact of immigration, why not moan about how many Britons are settling in Spain? Does that involve the “right” number of the “right” people?
    Was he as concerned with how the UK occupied, changed and colonised places like Hong Kong? Or was Empire OK?
    ‘Dismal’ Davis, more like!

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