Tuesday 2 May 2017

More ways to kill a cat

That was an oft-used saying when I was younger, although perhaps it isn’t entirely appropriate or politically acceptable these days.  But the underlying point is as true as ever – there is invariably more than one way of achieving the same objective.
Recently, Theresa May told us that she wanted to cut net migration to a ‘sustainable’ level.  She didn’t even attempt to define the word ‘sustainable’, but used the word to justify a figure plucked from the air.  ‘Sustainable’ has become one of those words which politicians use to justify anything and everything, but which they never feel any need to define or explain.
So, by a process of reasoning which she was unable or unwilling to elaborate, this means that net in-migration to the UK should be ‘in the tens of thousands’.  How she will achieve this, given that the same statements have been made by her and other Tories consistently over several years, was left unsaid.  The only thing that we know for certain is that leaving the EU is not the solution, because non-EU immigration is way higher than that anyway.  Still, if you’re trying to appeal to people who don’t care about the detail, who just don’t like immigrants, and who have already demonstrated themselves to be gullible, details are not required.
It’s interesting though that she was focussing on ‘net’ migration.  Personally, I’m far from convinced that ‘net’ migration is the issue that’s concerning those to whom she’s trying to appeal, most of whom simply don’t like foreigners.  But, giving her the benefit of the doubt on that one, if we assume that she’s on the ‘right’ track in terms of the target audience, let’s return to that business about killing cats: it’s possible to reduce net migration without reducing the numbers of incomers at all, because the same result occurs by the simple expedient of increasing the number of emigrants.  (Although, of course, because they’re British we must not refer to them as migrants at all, only as ex-pats; migrants are ‘other’ people, not Brits.)  Under this scenario, if she can’t reduce the number of immigrants (and she has, allegedly, been trying to do that for years), then all she needs to do is to encourage more of us to leave the country.  In numerical terms, at least, that would ‘solve’ the ‘problem’.
It would be a novel approach (and some might think that it even makes sense of some of the policies she’s pursuing - seen as an encouragement for some groups of people to leave the UK, they look a lot more logical).  The problem is, though, that her over-riding priority of leaving the EU currently seems more likely to reduce the number of emigrants than the number of immigrants, thereby making it harder to achieve her arbitrary net target.  Perhaps they just haven’t thought this one through properly.  It would hardly be the first time.

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