by Stephen Tall on March 29, 2013
Liberal Hero of the Week is chosen by Stephen Tall, Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and Research Associate at CentreForum. The series showcases those who promote any of the four liberal tenets identified in The Orange Book — economic, personal, political and social liberalism — regardless of party affiliation and from beyond Westminster. If they stick up for liberalism in some way then they’re in contention.
Bishop of Dudley, Church of England
Reason: for showing leadership with a pro-immigration stance
“There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.”
C.19th French politician, Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin (probably apocryphal, alas)
The last few weeks has witnessed a depressing race to the bottom by all three party leaders: David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have been falling over themselves in their Gadarene rush to give the appearance that each best understands the people’s “concerns” about immigration and will respond with “tough, new measures”.
In their rush to pacify the xenophobic fear-mongering of Ukip and the tabloids, they have casually trampled on the actual reality: that the UK needs to welcome immigrants not just because it’s right in principle, but because it is also the right thing for the British economy. On every measure you choose, the evidence is clear: migrants put more in than they receive back. Whether it’s the NHS or welfare or jobs or taxes: migrants are net contributors.
The UK’s politicians should be proud of this record: it is because of the policy choices made by previous governments to welcome migrants that the UK and its citizens have benefited. Yet David Cameron wants to crackdown on this successful pro-growth policy; Nick Clegg cavils at its “gross mismanagement”; and Ed Miliband regrets its success.
The reason for this refusal to face facts — or, more to the point, confront the British public with the true facts that are known only too well? They are all Ledru-Rollin mini-me’s. As David Aaronovitch argues in The Times (£), our political leaders have two choices available to them: ‘They can bravely lead or they can feebly follow. They have all opted to follow.’
Credit is due, therefore, to the one and only leader (albeit one who doesn’t depend for his position on winning a popular vote) who has this week taken a liberal stand and stuck up unabashedly for immigration — David Walker, the Anglican Bishop of Dudley:
“The tone of the current debate suggests that it is better for ten people with a legitimate reason for coming to this country to be refused entry than for one person to get in who has no good cause. It is wholly disproportionate as a response. It is especially galling in Holy Week, when Christians are remembering how Jesus himself became the scapegoat in a political battle, to see politicians vying with each other in just such a process. Studies show the vast majority of new arrivals to the UK enhance and enrich our society, both economically and culturally. The true threats to our national well-being lie not with those who come to visit or make their lives here but with the increasing gap between the rich and poor among us.”
The three political leaders may be too craven to show leadership on this issue. But they could at least make a better choice in what they choose to follow: hard facts not feckless fear; the right policies not the right-wing press; and liberal growth not authoritarian contraction.