Liberal Hero of the Week #62: Institute of Directors. My Liberal Villain is the Stop the War Coalition

by Stephen Tall on March 7, 2014

Liberal Hero of the Week (and occasional Villains) is chosen by Stephen Tall, Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and Research Associate at CentreForum

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Institute of Directors

The professional body “supporting businesses and the people who run them since 1903″
Reason: for reminding politicians that the UK is an “open, trading country that benefits from the skills and ideas of migrants”.

Another week, another immigration row. This time it’s courtesy (if that’s the word) of the new Conservative immigration minister, James Brokenshire. A month into the job he has spoken out:

“For too long, the benefits of immigration went to employers who wanted an easy supply of cheap labour, or to the wealthy metropolitan elite who wanted cheap tradesmen and services – but not to the ordinary, hard-working people of this country.”

I think this speech is what would have been called “courageous” in Yes, Minister speak; “bloody stupid” to the rest of us, if you’ll pardon my French Anglo-Saxon.

It’s worth remembering that Mr Brokenshire has his job because his predecessor, Mark Harper, had to quit after discovering he employed a cleaner who turned out to be a migrant without legal permission to be in the UK.

It’s also worth remembering that the man who appointed Mr Brokenshire to his job, David Cameron, has employed nannies who come from Nepal and Australia.

Presumably, then, Mr Brokenshire was accusing both his predecessor and his boss of being members of this “wealthy metropolitan elite”?

Presumably, too, he was thinking of the NHS, a major employer of migrant labour, as one of the employers “wanting an easy supply of cheap labour”? If so, I look forward to him arguing for an increase in the NHS budget to fund its higher wage costs.

At some point, those on the Conservative right-wing who argue against immigration are going to have to work out if they believe in free markets or not. At the moment they seem to be transfixed by the ‘lump of labour fallacy’, the mistaken belief that the amount of work available is fixed.

In reality, immigration expands the economy, generating more wealth for all citizens. Immigrants contributed a net £25 billion to the UK between 2001 and 2011. And if net immigration were cut to zero tomorrow, the “scale of the public austerity facing Britain would need to be three times larger, at £46bn,” according to the Office of Budget Responsibility.

And that’s not to mention the 1-in-7 UK companies founded by migrants which have, says the Centre for Entrepreneurs, created 14% of all jobs within small- and medium-sized companies.

Small wonder then that the Institute of Directors, tiring of the incessant attacks by politicians against immigration, yesterday launched a withering attack. Here’s the IoD’s Director General:

“It is feeble and pathetic to hear yet more divisive language from politicians on immigration. The UK is an open, trading country that benefits from the skills and ideas of migrants. We will not become more prosperous by closing our borders to talented individuals and entrepreneurs from across the world. This speech seems to be more about political positioning and less about what is good for the country.”

Quite.

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‘Stop The War’ Coalition

Group established in September 2001 to campaign against what it believes are unjust wars.
Reason: for opposing any attempt by Western governments to help defend Ukraine’s self-determination.

Just over 11 years ago, I joined hundreds of thousands of others on the streets of London to protest against the Iraq war, alongside many from the ‘Stop the War Coalition’.

I wanted to register my opposition against going to war on what seemed to me then (and even more so now) a flimsy pretext; and I wanted to register my support for allowing the UN weapons inspection process to conclude.

But the ‘Stop The War Coalition’ has, perhaps inevitably, been entirely captured by a hard-left caste which see faults in the actions of all Western governments all the time, while happily turning a blind eye to the faults of autocratic regimes like Putin’s Russia.

Their statement this week on Ukraine – placing all the blame the EU and Nato for creating “tensions which are really fuelling the new cold war” – was typically myopic.

It was brilliantly ‘fisked’ by Jeremy Cliffe at The Economist, who concluded that the ‘Stop The War Coalition’:

delights in listing Western flaws (real and imagined) while unquestioningly accepting anti-Western dogma. For one who leads an organisation committed to “stopping the war”, it is a fatal error.

It’s not unreasonable to oppose any military intervention. And it’s right to hold Western governments to account and be suspicious of pro-war rhetoric.

But ‘Stop The War Coalition’ go beyond that, seemingly opposing the EU’s association agreement with Ukraine, attempts at ‘backroom’ diplomacy, and any Western statement about other nations. Their statement suggests the UK is so far in the wrong that we can do no good and should have no foreign policy.

As my CentreForum colleague Adam Corlett put it when nominating them as Liberal Villains:

“They confuse not going to war with awful regimes with George Galloway-style denial of their faults. One suspects the millions of people who marched against the Iraq War do not agree with them.”

This one certainly doesn’t.

* The ‘Liberal Heroes of the Week’ (and occasional ‘Liberal Villains’) 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. If they confound liberalism they may be named Villains. You can view our complete list of heroes and villains here. Nominations are welcome via email or Twitter.