What Lib Dem members think about immigration (Part II)

by Stephen Tall on May 3, 2011

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 530 party members have responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

(Part I of ‘What Lib Dem members think about immigration’ is available to read here.)

LDV asked: Generally speaking, do you think that the issue of immigration has been discussed in Britain too much, too little or about the right amount over the last few years?

    36% – It has been discussed too much
    29% – It has been discussed about the right amount
    29% – It has been discussed too little
    5% – Don’t know / No opinion

A spread of opinion on this question, though (as so often with poll questions) the answers overlap more than is obvious from the headline figures: for example, a number of the 36% of respondents who answered that immigration has been discussed too much felt that was because the racist Daily Express agenda has hijacked the debate; while a number of the 29% who answered that immigration has been discussed too little felt more informed debate was needed to counteract the racist Daily Express agenda.

Here is a selection of your comments:

It has been discussed too little, but more importantly the focus has been entirely wrong. We have ceded too much ground to the closet xenophobes and little Englanders and not made a loud and strong liberal case for high levels of immigration and emigration.

It has been discussed too much — and in the wrong way! Public discourse is not about what immigrants can bring to enrich the UK – culturally and economically – but rather that the white working class are getting stuffed. What is needed is balance based on facts, not hysteria based on racism.

It has generally been discussed with the wrong tone and intentions

It is discussed ad nauseum. If I had a pound for every time someone in the right wing press screams that it is the issue we never talk about I’d be a very wealthy person.

It’s been discussed a lot, but in the wrong context. Politicians don’t seem to be able to discuss it objectively rather than from the assumption that it must be bad to begin with.

We need to be out discussing the benefits of immigration. The topic has been hijacked by far-right parties and we need to reclaim the agenda

It’s not about the amount of debate it is about the quality, which has been almost non-existent so far.

LDV then asked: Vince Cable has attacked David Cameron for making what he called “very unwise” remarks (that the Prime Minister wants to see “good immigration, not mass immigration”). Vince warned his comments “risked inflaming extremism”. Which of these statements is closest to your own view?

    70% – Vince was right to challenge David Cameron’s comments in public
    13% – Though Vince was right he should have made his criticisms in private to Mr Cameron
    9% – David Cameron is right and Vince was wrong to say his comments will “inflame extremism”
    5% – Don’t know / No opinion
    3% – Other (please specify)

Well, that’s fairly definitive: 7-in-10 Lib Dems believe Vince Cable was right to launch his broadside against the Prime Minister’s immigration speech.

Here is a selection of your comments:

We have to be grown up and learn to discuss contentious issues openly. Speaking behind closed doors makes the public think thare is something to hide

Cameron was indulging in electioneering – why else did he make his remarks a few weeks before May 5th?

The Lib Dems even in coalition need to be able to stand out and be distinctive. We need to be seen to be offering an alternative perspective

Vince is in the position he is to first and foremost represent the Lib Dem viewpoint and I imagine most LibDems would agree with his point. Cameron’s timing was calculated and politically motivated with elections coming up.

Vince ringing [the BBC’s] Laura Kuenssberg was a brilliant idea. The more of this sort of this sort of thing the better. Off the record comments when it comes to this government are ineffective.

Neither is right. “Good immigration” means despoiling poorer countries of their best talent, thereby pushing out own people out of jobs, thereby ncreasing demands on social security. Also higher demand for development aid to compensate countries despoiled as above. It’s a lose-lose!

As I understand it Vince’s viewpoint is to do with the impact of reduced immigration on the UK economy. That is an indictment of our education system i.e. we don’t seem to be able to provide the right people from within the existing population.

I don’t think that Cameron’s views did risk ‘enflaming extremism’, but it’s obvious that his comments on the number of people coming into the country (‘tens of thousands…’) were not agreed Coalition government policy, and Vince was trying to make that clear. So I agree with Vince.

Too much of the debate on immigration is presented in these terms. The real issues are how we ensure that public services in particular areas are not overwhelmed by particularly high influxes – an issue that theoretically applies to domestic movements too.

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