He denounced both the Blair and Brown governments for not limiting immigration from new EU members after 2004, and stressed that those who criticized immigration could not be dismissed as “bigots” – a cutting criticism of his former boss Gordon Brown, notoriously recorded referring to a lifelong Labour voter in those endearing terms. He carefully made technically feasible promises to curb the numbers of immigrants, through employment law reform and better training for British workers – and promised to control immigration from any new EU members.
Technically feasible, but are they politically believable? Is there a scintilla of sincerity behind this speech that will earn him the hatred of the further Left?
Labour’s record on immigration since at least the 1960s does not inspire confidence, to put it charitably. Furthermore, the Conservative immigration minister today observed that under Miliband’s leadership Labour has opposed even this government’s quarter-hearted attempts at immigration limitation, and Migration Watch’s Sir Andrew Green has pointed out that between 1997 and 2010 only one in five immigrants came from the EU anyway.
So even if Miliband were entirely sincere, and took that policy into10 Downing Street, could he make much difference? The remedies, if there are remedies, are much more radical, and would be played out partly in Brussels and on the floor of the UN General Assembly. As things are, the chances of Miliband, or for that matter Cameron, facing down the combined forces of big business and big PC seem vanishingly small.
Derek Turner is a novelist, reviewer, and editor of The Brazen Head
, a quarterly journal.