Leading article: Pandering to myths and prejudice

Share

Unveiling the details of the Government's new immigration points system yesterday, Charles Clarke was at pains to present it as the sort of measure no reasonable person could object to. According to the Home Secretary, these proposals are all about rationalising the existing system and making it fairer.

Do not be fooled: this measure has some nasty origins. The plan was conceived in the run-up to last year's general election as part of a "bidding war" between Labour and the Tories over who could sound tougher on immigration. The main goal of these plans remains appeasing right-wing prejudices about foreign workers.

This new system discriminates shamefully against the unskilled. Not only will it be much harder for them to take up jobs in the UK; those who do will be denied the possibility of permanently settling here. Yet fruit pickers, bar workers and nannies are just as vital to our economy as doctors, economists and IT specialists.

Perhaps Mr Clarke should consider the immigrants throughout history who have gone on to make a considerable contribution to our economy. Michael Marks arrived from Russia 150 years ago as an "unskilled" refugee; and he went on to establish Marks & Spencer.

The system also threatens to be impractical. Mr Clarke proposes a highly centralised system in which a mysterious panel of experts will decide which areas of our economy are suffering from labour shortages and then recommend the issuing of work permits accordingly. But the free market is much more efficient at deciding what our economy needs. What is wrong with the present system in which employers are allowed to advertise abroad and apply for work permits for their new staff? So long as the companies in question can prove to the Home Office that no one already living in Britain is available, or willing, to do the job, where lies the harm?

There is a clue to the Government's thinking in its admission yesterday that it hopes to attract more low-skilled workers from the European Union and cut back on immigrants from the rest of the world. What explanation can exist for this preference? The truth is that these proposals have no rational underpinning. They merely pander to insidious myths about what constitute "good" immigrants.

If the Government wanted to do something that would genuinely improve our immigration system, it would allow asylum-seekers to work while their applications are being processed. This would expose the slur that refugees are all benefits scroungers. It would also help to draw some of the poison from the debate. A good start would be to explain to the public that the reason Britain attracts workers from all over the world is that we have a strong and growing economy. Judging from yesterday's proposals, however, New Labour is as terrified as ever of doing the right thing regarding immigration.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour and the Liberal Democrats would both end winter fuel allowances for pensioners with enough income to pay the 40p tax rate  

Politicians court the grey vote because pensioners, unlike the young, vote

Andrew Grice
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after agreeing a deal on carbon emissions  

Beijing must face down the perils of being big and powerful – or boom may turn to bust

Peter Popham
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable