Monday 19 May 2014

It really is all about prejudice

According to Miliband last week, he doesn’t believe that “... it is prejudiced to worry about immigration”.  Faced with the fact that immigration is a major issue on the doorstep, he has pledged that Labour will, however, ‘bear down on immigration through a six-month restriction on benefits for EU migrants and longer transitional controls for new accession countries’.  If this isn’t responding to prejudice, what is it?
Prejudice is simply ‘forming an opinion before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case’.  Given the research which has been done on the economic effects of immigration, showing that it has a net benefit to the UK economy; and the research on benefits showing that immigrants are actually less likely to be on benefits than UK citizens – effectively demolishing the most usual arguments against immigration – what is left as the basis of the concern to which Miliband is trying to respond other than prejudice?
And that prejudice isn’t uniformly directed at all immigrants either.  Farage may have been attacked for the politically unwise distinction that he drew between Romanians and Germans, but I rather suspect that his chilling response “You know what the difference is” reflects an attitude which is all too common.  In trying to generalise the issue to one of ‘immigration’, politicians are glossing over the fact that the opinions to which they are trying to pander do indeed make distinctions between different types of immigrant from different backgrounds.  Politicians like Miliband can’t or won’t acknowledge those differences because to do so would be to admit that much of the doorstep hostility to immigration is indeed based largely on prejudice.
I can understand why Miliband says that Labour should not turn its back on public concerns, but the choice he faces isn’t the binary one of ignoring those concerns or pandering to them.  The option of countering prejudice with facts doesn’t seem to be on his agenda.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think I might rather agree with you on this one. Rare indeed!

Facts are always rather useful. So too acknowledging the fact that one is always likely to be fearful of 'those who are different'. Prejudice or otherwise, we all want to be surrounded by 'those like us', be they black or white, East European or Asian, Muslim or Jewish, English speaking or otherwise.

No-one cares, just as long as they/we all adhere to the same basic code of civility and law.

Why does anyone try to make it any more complicated?