Warning: article has nothing to do with novelty hip-hop from the late 90s.
The number of think-pieces floating around saying that Labour (and other liberal or left-leaning parties) should get tough on immigration is getting a bit silly. They all seem to be missing something important.
Despite their intricate policy differences, Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP all share a common attachment to liberal values. They don’t see immigration as the main threat to British society, which it isn’t, and they don’t want to abandon their principles in pursuit of socially conservative voters, which is commendable.
The latest polls suggest that these 5 parties combined are sitting on about 45% of the popular vote. Now I’m not daft, I know that’s not a “winning” score, but it’s a massive chunk of the population who clearly have liberal values. To abandon this solid voter-base in the hopes of scooping up a few floating voters would show incredible strategic ineptitude.
Trying to out-UKIP UKIP or out-Tory the Tories is never going to work. Why would significant numbers of UKIP and Tory voters defect to UKIP-lite or Tory-lite when they can have the real deal? And, in the process, you stand to lose liberal voters for whom anti-immigration rhetoric is a red-line issue.
There is a decent chunk of the population who have no fixed ideology and can be persuaded to vote for pretty much any party as long as they are offered genuine solutions to their problems. There is still a massive chunk of the population who do not vote at all. If there is a path to electoral victory, to turning 45% in the opinion polls into more than 50% in a general election, it surely lies with the non-voters and the great undecided. We need to find messages, and maybe even activities, that engage and inspire those voters – and keep our principles in tact at the same time.
So please, if you’re a journalist with an article in your drafts titled “the left must get tough on immigration”, have a good think about the consequences and maybe just move it quietly to the recycle bin.