|Letter No 59 by Mike Allott: back to directory|
Immigration, EU freedoms, and Neoliberalism
There are three compelling arguments in favour of maintaining the fundamental principle of EU freedom of movement. First, a people-inflow satisfies short-term demand in an imperfect labour market, and offers a long-term solution to the actuarial uncertainties of an ageing population. Second, a people-outflow allows the opportunity for personal growth and a broader choice over quality of life. Third, a people-interflow broadens mutual understanding.
If these economic and cultural arguments are passionately articulated by our professional politicians, there is no rational, graceful counter-argument. So when John Harris panders to Ukip (Don’t dismiss public fear of migration as mere bigotry and prejudice, 22 October), he bridges the faultline that separates those supporting the principle of EU solidarity and those against.
Surely, if populism defeats our own political principles, it is primarily because our own politicians and own party manifestos seek to follow, rather than shape, such opinion. And it does not matter if John Harris presents a splinter argument that the “modern left” should challenge freedom of movement on the grounds that it primarily benefits “laissez-faire” capital. In the real world of party politics, he is presenting an invalid argument.
Remember, during the last election campaign Gordon Brown was publicly vilified for instinctively associating fears over immigration with “bigotry”. His judgment then, albeit insensitive, was intellectually reductive: we perhaps need to translate Gordon’s clunking instinct for fairness and decencies into a new, logical and more persuasive narrative