Out of the blue, into the black

by Chris Bertram on July 19, 2011

Just when British Labour Ed Miliband leader is on a roll, along comes Maurice Glasman to spoil things. I’ve been willing to give Glasman the benefit of the doubt up to now, despite feeling somewhat uncomfortable at some of the things he’s had to say on immigration. After all, Labour lost the last election and we do need some proper discussions about how to connect with a somewhat alienated working-class base. Glasman, with his talk of community and his Polanyi-inspired scepticism about the capacity of the market to ensure genuine well-being seemed a voice worth hearing. Well the mask hasn’t just slipped, it has fallen off, and I think the “blue Labour” project has come to a halt with his latest pronouncements. Intra-left polemics have been marked by too much moralizing denunciation in the past, at the expense of genuine dialogue and understanding. But there is a time for denunciation, and it is now.

Today’s Daily Express “front page”:http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/259756 (Headline “Britain Must Ban Migrants”):

bq. Lord Glasman, Ed Miliband’s chief policy guru, wants a temporary halt to immigration to ensure British people are first in the queue for jobs. The Labour peer also urged the Government to renegotiate EU rules allowing the free movement of migrant workers in a decisive break with the open door policy of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. “The people who live here are the highest priority. We’ve got to listen and be with them. They’re in the right place – it’s us who are not,” he said.

UPDATE: Sir Andrew Green, who heads-up the rabidly anti-immigration group MigrationWatch, “describes”:http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2015979/Freeze-UK-immigration-British-people-says-Ed-Milibands-policy-guru.html Glasman’s latest pronouncements as “over the top. It is simply not practicable”. That’s pretty extraordinary.



Paul Sagar 07.19.11 at 12:47 pm

I saw Glasman perform at a conference in Oxford last April. He was distinctly unimpressive (and a particularly embarrassing moment occurred when he told Patricia Williams that Bernard Williams had been a silly liberal simply because he never got over his first marriage to Shirley….)

Unfortunately, I get the feeling that Glasman has these views on immigration not because he is mendacious, but because he is the sort of person that simply ignores the evidence that economic immigration is actually beneficial to indigenous working people, because he simply knows I’m his head that his own opinions trump statistical evidence.

I’d actually be less worried if Glasman was simple conniving. What really puts me off about him is that on various things his thinking is at best muddled and his sense of self-assurance at least over-blown.


The Raven 07.19.11 at 1:12 pm

“his thinking is at best muddled and his sense of self-assurance at least over-blown.”

High office looms.


shah8 07.19.11 at 1:30 pm

/me is with The Raven.

Food fight over immigration is pretty auspicious for certain people.


Daragh McDowell 07.19.11 at 1:39 pm

For some reason the more I read about ‘Blue Labour’ it just strikes me as some kind of creepy left-Gaullism. I’m still not sure I get it entirely, but it strikes me as seeking to amplify the two qualities in Labour I’ve always found most repellent – the tendency to centralise state power and aggressively interfere with individual rights, and the tendency to dismiss bigotry and prejudice as natural, or even righteous, when spewed by someone labelled ‘working class.’

And while Glasman’s little outburst is both bizarre and disgusting, post the election and post Gillian Duffy, more than a few Old and Nu Lab figures have been calling for a ‘bash the immigrants’ strategy, so its not like he was swimming against the current.

Wow a Chris Bertram post I thoroughly agree with… Better go lie down.


bjk 07.19.11 at 1:52 pm

If the UK Labour party won’t support UK labor, then who will exactly? Nationalism – it still works!


Chris Williams 07.19.11 at 2:12 pm

Blimey, I agree with Darragh there. That’s a first.
Mind you, I’ve always thought that a clever Strasserite party would be guaranteed about 20% of the UK vote. It would then permanently top out, since in order to get that 20% it would have had to adopt positions which would have decisively alienated the other 80%.


Daragh McDowell 07.19.11 at 2:31 pm


Yeah the internets are getting weird. Yesterday there was an outbreak of total agreement amongst five of my Twitter followers. Not sure I like this outbreak of harmony.

As for the Strasserite party (I’m assuming that’s reference to Grefor?) I think 20% is low balling it. Daily Mail for one would give it its immediate support.


Pete 07.19.11 at 3:06 pm

http://politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2011/07/19/hacking-barely-registers-in-the-latest-ipsos-mori-issues-index/ suggests that “race relations/immigration” is the third most important issue in the UK today, behind only the perennials of jobs and the economy. I don’t think you can entirely blame the newspapers for that, and I don’t think that entirely ruling out discussion of any opposition to immigration as racist is a good idea.


Metatone 07.19.11 at 3:29 pm

I’m in favour of immigration in various forms, I’ve personally benefitted from being able to work around the EU despite being born in the UK & indeed my father is an immigrant to the UK.

To add to Pete @8

Still, I think Paul Sagar’s characterisation of the economic evidence lacks nuance. The vast preponderance of the evidence deals in averages and of the few academic studies I’ve seen that decompose most show definite patterns of “winners and losers.” Further, our modern economy and increasingly strained welfare system (don’t forget Tory austerity) provide less and less of a safety net for the losers.

Thus it should not surprise that many people feel it is an issue, even if it personally touches them lightly – like crime, it’s more about people we know who are suffering than our own hurts…


Hidari 07.19.11 at 3:30 pm


john b 07.19.11 at 3:31 pm

On the one hand, the Express have stitched Glasman up a bit. They didn’t interview him, they just sexed up his Telegraph interview in a way that does misrepresent his position. On the other hand, his actual position according to the Telegraph interview is bad enough that nobody should be even slightly comfortable with him coming within a million miles of the Labour party.

I don’t think that entirely ruling out discussion of any opposition to immigration as racist is a good idea.

Sure, it’s *true*, but it’s not strategically convenient. Welcome to the Glasman club. Meanwhile, in real life, yes, it’s shameful that a lot of ignorant Brits are racists. This is why it’s good we have a representative democracy.


nick s 07.19.11 at 3:49 pm

Sunder Katwala, who is setting up an immigration thinktank post-Fabians, has a good and lengthy response, noting the rhetorical bomb-throwing that seems to be the hallmark of ‘Blue Labour, which in this context is too eager to adopt the posture of debating whether it’s possible to have a debate:

So what to do about an uneven pattern of winners and losers? Glasman’s approach is to reject the moderate economic gains of immigration (too intangible to be worth having?) in order to protect the interests of those who lose out. An alternative would be to promote a political renegotiation of how the gains are distributed, by challenging those who have an economic interest in liberal immigration policy to gain public consent for openness, including by paying more attention to compensating losers, or addressing anxieties. This might, for example, be another reason to campaign for living wages, and to promote other policies to reduce social inequalities of income and wealth. Levels of inequality are a product of collective social and political choices; not simply a function of policies on trade or immigration.


Chris Williams 07.19.11 at 4:01 pm

“Open door, closed shop, tax land value.” would work just fine for me, and for most of the people who lose out from immigration.

How long can the right keep criticising immigration by saying “Oooh, those leftsies are stopping me from having an honest debate about immigration by calling me a racist”?News for Glasman: the UK government has a manifesto promise to impose an immigration cap. There has been a discussion on immigration already, already.

You know what the problem is? It’s those rightsies: every time I try to start a debate about the closed shop, or Georgist taxation, they call me a racist. Shame on them! <-see how easy this is?


Josh G. 07.19.11 at 4:07 pm

Not living in the UK, I’m not quite clear on what Chris Bertram’s argument is. Is he contending that Glasman’s statements will be politically counterproductive and might prevent a resurgence of Labor? Or does he think Glasman’s views are just morally problematic? (I am completely unconvinced that the latter is true. Many liberals feel uncomfortable with nationalism, but this is why we’ve gotten our asses kicked over the past 30 years.)


john b 07.19.11 at 5:08 pm

Josh: do all foreigners deserve to rot, or just the ones who hate America? If the latter, then sure, impose loyalty tests for green cards and citizenship. If the former, you’re inherently a bigot.


Josh G. 07.19.11 at 5:17 pm

America? I was under the impression we were talking about the UK.
I believe that the purpose of government is to protect the interests of its citizens. This means that the UK government should prioritize the interests of UK citizens over foreigners, the US government should prioritize the interests of US citizens over foreigners, and so forth. Foreigners do not have the same stake in a society’s success that citizens do, and they have their own governments which are supposed to be looking out for their interests.


christian_h 07.19.11 at 5:29 pm

Josh: the problem is that “British jobs for British workers”, a variant of which Glasman propounds here, is not only racist crap (because it’s of course dog whistle politics – it will be understood as “British jobs for whites” and Glasman is surely smart enough to know this), it also suggests wrongly that if only immigrants didn’t take so many jobs British workers would be just fine, and it serves to divide workers against each other at a time they have been under sustained attack by capital for decades.

On the plus side, he’s not going to get anywhere with this in the Labour party. Good riddance to his club of dressed up prettier New Labour types.


novakant 07.19.11 at 6:37 pm

What #17 said – also, without foreigners London (30% foreigner born) would collapse in a week, dragging the rest of the country with it in no time.


nick s 07.19.11 at 7:29 pm

Not living in the UK, I’m not quite clear on what Chris Bertram’s argument is.

I’m not going to speak for Chris, but I think the idea that Labour needs to engage with a supposed lost electoral base of low-income white voters by approaching the debate on immigration in terms dictated by the BNP is both politically and morally dubious. My extreme cynicism makes me wonder if some bluelabbers are gambling that a smaller Commons and fewer urban (i.e. immigrant-heavier) constituencies makes ‘fuck the Bulgarians, they can’t vote anyway’ a potential winning strategy.


Henri Vieuxtemps 07.19.11 at 7:45 pm

I’m ready to be persuaded, so would you explain it to me, please: “…they have been under sustained attack by capital for decades” – right, but doesn’t cheap immigrant labor provide one the most powerful weapons for this attack? “…without foreigners London (30% foreigner born) would collapse in a week” – does this mean “without cheap immigrant labor”? Is that a good thing?


christian_h 07.19.11 at 8:22 pm

Henri (19.): To be somewhat facetious, the same argument could be made against child birth.

More seriously, capitalism is pretty good at creating reserve armies of labour – this will not be changed through tighter regulation of immigration, and certainly not through racist political stunts like calling for a moratorium or whatever.

Real problems do exist with the way EU regulations, for example, undermine collective bargaining. But the answer isn’t to blame foreigners – it’s to fight back, in unity with workers from all over the EU (and beyond) against these attacks on the rights of workers.


Roger 07.19.11 at 8:26 pm

The only thing that can be said in Glasman’s defence is that you can’t believe a word printed in the Daily Express.

Unfortunately it does sound exactly the sort of thing he does say – and quite simply he is a second- or third-rate academic with no political sense whatsoever.

Atlee’s words to Laski ‘I can assure you there is widespread resentment in the Party at your activities and a period of silence on your part would be welcome’ come to mind and then painfully remind you how far Labour has fallen if today’s Attlee is Ed Miliband (another second rate mind who dropped the philosophy from PPE as being too difficult and thus has a second-class degree in PE) and its Laski is Maurice Glasman.

The pity is that Blue Labour did at least ask several of the right questions and if it could find some way of never letting Glasman talk directly to anyone again could have a real role in pulling Labour back to traditional social democracy.


novakant 07.19.11 at 8:49 pm

does this mean “without cheap immigrant labor”? Is that a good thing?

No, there are plenty of highly skilled foreigners working in London, there are plenty of foreign students spending money in London and there are plenty of foreign companies and rich individuals investing in London – take all of that away and London would turn into Glasgow or something. Equating immigration with poverty is part of the problem.


Glyn Morgan 07.19.11 at 8:57 pm

On the claim that MG ignores “the evidence that economic immigration is actually beneficial to indigenous working people,”

–Whether immigration is beneficial to the least well-off in the receiving country is a function of the type of immigration (professional, skilled, unskilled, age, language abilities etc.), the numbers of the immigrants, the nature of the tax and welfare system in the receiving country, the nature of the training system in the receiving country, and a whole host of other factors. There is no evidence to suggest that immigration is beneficial to the least well-off regardless of these mediating factors.


ejh 07.19.11 at 9:01 pm

take all of that away and London would turn into Glasgow or something.

Amazing the sort of thing some people will casually say.


Roger 07.19.11 at 9:58 pm

The whole problem is that both sides of the ‘debate’ talk in absolute terms as if every multivarious transaction can be aggregated together and a net benefit or cost arrived at.

Lenin’s dictum who/whom? always comes in handy here as does Thatcher’s insight that that ‘there is no such thing as society’ (at least not in the sense that centrist liberals imagine).

Generally the biggest beneficiaries are the rich who always crave cheap labour.

But a more diffuse benefit is enjoyed by the consumers of services provided by cheap immigrants as they really don’t like paying higher charges or taxes so the care assistants who clean up after their incontinent aged parents can be paid properly – and this applies at the high skill end of the market as well as more computer programmers or whatever drives the cost of computer programmes down.

And even the most grossly exploited immigrant generally has a good reason for preferring a crappy life here to an even worse one back home in Africa or Latin America.

In comparison the costs to the indigenous population (which in a country like the US and increasingly the UK is a rather elastic term) are fundamentally counterfactual in nature.

While the employer and consumer of cheap immigrant labour and the workers themselves can look at their balance sheets or bank accounts to quantify what they have gained, those who feel they are losing out can only make assumptions that if ‘the immigrants’ magically disappeared, their chance of getting a job and better pay and conditions would improve.

But this itself represents an internalisation of neo-classical economics in even the most unlikely places – that more jobs and better pay and conditions can be the result of united political action by voters and trade unions rather than being the product of the market alone seems to have been utterly expunged from the folk memory.

And this is where Glasman is being truly asinine – he is not a neo-liberal and even if he is a second rate thinker he is a first rate community activist.

He should understand that collective action can change the world of work much more effectively than central government dictats on immigration – indeed he says as much quite regularly.

So why can’t he see that the solution is a rebirth of trade union and community militancy – that if wages and conditions for everyone are improved then the benefits of importing foreign labour decline for capital as that labour ceases to be cheap.

Of course that doesn’t stop the capital from leaving the country altogether but that is another problem.


jd 07.19.11 at 9:59 pm

If I understand the “jobs for Brits” arguments correctly, the idea is that if only all those dagnab foreigners weren’t working at Pret a Manger (etc), then Brits could work there. But this implies that business models needn’t take account of the actual ability of people to do the job required to enable the business to succeed. Replace Pret’s go-getting and efficient Lithuanians and Portuguese with Brits who don’t already have better jobs and what do you get? You get a business employing a bunch of people who aren’t as good at doing the job as the people who used to do it. So customers go elsewhere. And if the competitors are doing this too, customers start making their own sandwiches at home. And so Pret goes out of business, as do many of its competitors, and the native-born Brits working in Pret (etc’s) HR dept, procurement, etc lose their jobs. Victory for the economy! Or am I missing something in my equation? Maybe a pony, or a magic pill?

All this isn’t necessarily because Brits are worse workers than Poles or Portuguese or whoever. It’s because the Brits who are available to work in Pret (etc) because they don’t already have better jobs have a strong tendency to be worse workers than the immigrants who are available to work those jobs. That’s one of the side effects of having a relatively successful economy: good workers can generally get good jobs, instead of having to do bad ones well.


adam@nope.com 07.19.11 at 10:56 pm


“Or am I missing something in my equation?”

Perhaps. You simply assumed your conclusion…

Suppose you gave their job of every citizen in the UK to a better worker from another country. The UK economy would certainly be more productive. Would the citizens of the UK be better off?


Emma in Sydney 07.19.11 at 11:55 pm

Aren’t most of the ‘foreigners’ entering Britain now citizens of other EU countries? How are they to be excluded? It has not been easy for non-EU citizens to study or work in Britain for many years now (as an Australian with no patriality, I can vouch for this). But if you are Greek or Spanish, it’s just a matter of getting a job.
Talking about ‘immigrants’ in this way is merely concentrating popular resentment on the very smallest group of incomers.


Peter Whiteford 07.20.11 at 12:14 am

As Metatone at 9 points out Paul sagar’s claim that “economic immigration is actually beneficial to indigenous working people” needs to be highly qualified.

Googling “distribution of the economic gains of immigration” yields a substantial number of results, but at least in Australia the first result is a study by Ross Garnaut (famous here for other things). He summarises the evidence for Australia and the USA as follows:

“Amongst established Australians, immigration increases average incomes most
for owners of assets that are used to produce goods and services that are not
internationally tradeable, notably urban land, especially in the large cities, and
shares in companies that produce such services, including through membership
of superannuation funds. It does least to raise the incomes of Australians who
do not own such assets and who need to purchase non-tradeable goods and services in the market.

…When immigrants on average have higher education levels than the established
population, as they have had in recent years [in Australia], immigration is more likely to raise average incomes of relatively unskilled workers relative to better educated
Australians. … immigration with a high skill component tends to raise employment and lower unemployment of lowskill established Australians.

… The Australian experience with gains and distribution of costs and benefits
from immigration contrasts sharply with that of the United States. Immigrants
have less education relative to the average of the established population in the
United States than they do in Australia. Immigration to the United States tends
to depress the relative incomes of poor Americans. However, the more flexible
United States labour markets cause this tendency to be reflected in lower wages
rather than unemployment. High rates of employment assist the accretion of
economically valuable skills, and reduce the depressing effects on incomes of
low-skill workers over time…”

For the UK, Dustmann et al (2008) find that each 1 percent increase in the share of migrants in the UK-born working age population leads to a 0.6 percent decline in the wages of the 5% lowest paid workers and to an increase in the wages of higher paid workers.

I too am in favour of immigration, but I think that it is important to realise that there are potential losers as well as winners from immigration, and as a result what is needed are complementary policies that maximise the benefits for as many people as possible.


adam@nope.com 07.20.11 at 1:10 am

@Peter Whiteford

Please consider your argument in light of the “Left Neo-Liberalism and Theories of Politics” post. You’re arguing that the Left should pursue policies that harm the poor and then compensate for those policies with other policies that harm the rich.

Given that the rich are more powerful than the poor, and that it is pretty hard to build a political coalition with people you periodically screw over in the name of economic efficiency, how is this going to work in practice? What’s your theory of politics?


Sebastian H 07.20.11 at 1:40 am

This is a great counterpoint to the recent anti-Yglesias posts surrounding this post. What are you going to get if you encourage leftist populist rhetoric regarding jobs. If you aren’t super-careful, anti-immigrant rhetoric!



Peter Whiteford 07.20.11 at 1:54 am


I am simply making an empirical point – in some countries, certain types of immigration make low wage workers worse-off, while in others different types of immigration make low wage workers better-off. This reflects the types of immigrants you select, the nature of country-specific labour markets and the types of social welfare system. What one judges to be the more appropriate policy response depends on which country you are in, and which policy levers you judge can be adjusted.

However, I am not arguing that you offset policies that harm the poor by then harming the rich. I believe that the implication of my argument is that if you think there are broader grounds for a policy that has negative effects on the poor, you simultaneously need other policies that help the poor and offset the negative effects identified for the poor.

I think the parallel is in introducing apparently regressive taxes like VAT and offsetting them by using the revenue collected to fund redistributive social programmes.


adam@nope.com 07.20.11 at 2:55 am


I understand your empirical point. First, let me say that relative to the principle actors in both the US and the UK, every group you’ve described is “low-wage.” For an example of what happens when a powerful domestic interests are challenged by foreign competition, consider the Chinese attempt to purchase the American oil company Unocal. Cheveron, the low bidder for Unocal, framed the issue as one of national security, not free-market efficiency, and the Chinese backed down.

But let’s focus on the unskilled labor, the group at risk in the US. Your solution – promote other policies that help the poor and offset the negative effects identified for the poor – fails for exactly the reasons discussed in the other post (and at greater lengths in the article by Kevin Drum). Your offsetting policies will have costs. Those costs, by definition, will be borne disproportionately by those that are not poor. The immigration policies you advocate will disrupt any potential coalition that might advance these beneficial offsetting policies. Therefore they are unlikely to be implemented.

In such a situation, where there will be no offsetting legislation, the question becomes this: Do you support immigration when that immigrant makes low-wage workers worse off?


john b 07.20.11 at 4:07 am

Adam: obviously, if your premise is “no legislation will ever be passed that benefits the poor at the expense of the rich”, then you’re going to reach your conclusion. This premise may just about be true in the context of the US, but isn’t in the context of the UK (where the Labour government did precisely what you’re suggesting, in the sense of increased immigration and globalisation combined with significantly increased transfer payments to the poor to offset the effects of these things).


Peter Whiteford 07.20.11 at 4:21 am

I think John b has well answered the question directed at me.

Adam, I think your questions reflect what you see as the nature of US politics. Not living in the US, I am not well placed to make judgements about what is feasible there.

But to add to the example john b gave, in Australia the conservative (Liberal-National) government in 2000 introduced a broad-based indirect tax and provided increases in social welfare benefits and income tax cuts to offset the regressive impact.

Now you can have long and detailed arguments about whether the compensation was adequate, but the broader and more important outcome is that the future financing of the welfare state is now much more secure as a result.

Again, just a couple of weeks ago, the Labor party in Australia proposed the introduction of mildly regressive carbon pricing scheme but with offsetting compensation for low income groups, and no compensation for high income groups. While this is controversial, it is virtually guaranteed to get through the House of Representatives and the Senate.


nick s 07.20.11 at 5:08 am

Aren’t most of the ‘foreigners’ entering Britain now citizens of other EU countries? How are they to be excluded?

Glasman argues (and reiterates in a Guardian interview) that EU labour mobility needs to be renegotiated; as Sunder Katwala correctly noted, in practice that kind of ‘fundamental renegotiation’ means withdrawal.


Emma in Sydney 07.20.11 at 5:15 am

In 2009, net migration to the UK was approx 198,000, with 567,000 arrivals offset by 368,000 departures. 37% of immigrants were coming to study and 34% were coming to work, the lowest proportion of workers since 2004. 17% of these immigrants were already British citizens, and one-third of the non-British migrants were EU citizens (who have a right to work in Britain).
Source http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=260

It’s not a large amount, given Britain’s population, I’d have thought (proportionally quite a lot less than Australia, for example). Especially as all those overseas students are paying ferociously high fees, money which is a net transfer from their home countries into the British economy.


Sebastian H 07.20.11 at 6:02 am

Emma, of course it isn’t a *real* problem. He is hoping to make it a focus for populist rage–it doesn’t need to be logical.


novakant 07.20.11 at 7:56 am

Thanks Emma – the whole “debate” is nativist claptrap wrapped in bogus economics.


Henri Vieuxtemps 07.20.11 at 8:17 am

Christian_h, I find ‘why are you blaming the immigrants’ rhetoric and accusations of racism (a-la Yglesias) very unhelpful in this discussion. Take Polonophobia in the UK, for example. I just can’t imagine it to be the root cause; clearly it’s a symptom.

I’d take Roger, 26 as a first crack at a real discussion here. I would add that fragmentation created by massive migration/immigration makes “united political action by voters and trade unions” more difficult. Not impossible, but more difficult. If the phenomenon is permanent immigration, then, it seems to me, you want to integrate the newcomers, rather than see them confined to ethnic enclaves. The success of integration depends on the effort of the host, but also on the number of immigrants. And when the phenomenon is temporary economic mass-migration, that’s a whole different story.


Jonathan 07.20.11 at 9:09 am

#17 john b 07.19.11 at 3:31 pm
On the one hand, the Express have stitched Glasman up a bit. They didn’t interview him, they just sexed up his Telegraph interview in a way that does misrepresent his position.

Is Johann Hari working for the Express now?!


Emma in Sydney 07.20.11 at 9:18 am

Henri, what ‘massive migration’? The UK got a total net immigration of non-British citizens in 2009 of 168,000 or thereabouts, of whom only about 109,000 were not EU citizens. This is in a population of nearly 62 million. It’s bugger-all. Only about 11 % of people in Britain were born overseas (and at least some of those, like my son, actually hold British citizenship), which might be compared to over 25% of Australian residents.
If there is a problem, it’s a problem of baseless racism, and Labour should say so.


ajay 07.20.11 at 9:27 am

when the phenomenon is temporary economic mass-migration, that’s a whole different story.

No doubt. But the phenomenon, in Britain, right now, isn’t temporary economic mass migration. As Emma has pointed out, net immigration is pretty low. Even gross immigration isn’t huge; 567k, of which 211,000 are students.

To quote from Emma’s link, “[Gross] Immigration to the UK for work-related reasons dropped to 193,000 (from 220,000 in 2008) and is at the lowest point since before A8 accession [this means the eight central and eastern European nations joining the EU] in 2004.”


Chris Bertram 07.20.11 at 9:29 am

Glasman’s collaborators are deserting him in the light of his comments



Emma in Sydney 07.20.11 at 9:38 am

The way the UK job market seems to be going, the temporary economic mass migration could be outward. Already, UK citizens are the biggest single group of visa overstayers (ie illegal immigrants) in Australia.


Henri Vieuxtemps 07.20.11 at 10:45 am

I’m not familiar with the UK specifics. It’s just that there’s gotta be more to the story than “why do you hate immigrants, you must be a racist”. In Britain right now, in the Britain 5 years ago, in the US, and in other places.


ajay 07.20.11 at 11:19 am

46: I didn’t know that; very interesting and not at all surprising.


Roger 07.20.11 at 11:24 am

Jonathan @42 – well at least Glasman wasn’t dumb enough to talk to the Express (which for non-UK readers too lazy to google may once have been Lord Beaverbrook’s flagship but is now a not very successful London tabloid published by an actual pornographer and whose every front page calls for pogroms against immigrants) .

There is also a longish interview with the Guardian today http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jul/19/lord-glasman-radical-traditionalist which shows Glasman in a somewhat more attractive if still hopelessly confused light.

But what he actually needs to do is stop talking to newspapers and use the long vacation and parliamentary recess (in fact given what he has to work with and on a break of several years might be in order) to think stuff through.

And thanks to Peter Whiteford for actually injecting some real data into the discussion

To me this indicates that when you start breaking down the argument from whether an entirely mythical ‘we’ lose or benefit from immigration into who amongst us loses and gains what and how, Glasman may indeed have a valid point however incapable he is personally of making it effectively.


Roger 07.20.11 at 11:37 am

The NS piece cited at #45 does indeed seem to bury the Blue Labour project as the Compass people (Cruddas and Rutherford) who are now bailing were its only supporters with real political influence.


Roger 07.20.11 at 12:21 pm

Henri @41 your point about immigration reducing the working classes ability to unify and act politically was of course made by David Goodhart in Prospect back in 2004:


And Goodhart has in fact been making similar points to Glasman with far more elegance and consistency ever since then.

I would also respond it very much depends which immigrants (and when, where and how many) you are talking about.

Mass immigration to the United States from countries with strong radical and socialist traditions had quite the opposite effect to that predicted by Goodhart in the late C19 and early c20.

I also can’t remember hearing any arguments that mass Jewish emigration to the East End of London (and to Manchester, Leeds etc) made those areas less progressive (yes it did produce pockets of working class anti-semitism which were exploited by Oswald Mosley’s fascists – but not enough for them to actually win any parliamentary elections there or to resist the left counter-mobilisation that defeated them at Cable Street).

And barring the grotesque and bizarre victory of George Galloway in Bethnal Green in 2005, postwar mass Bangladeshi immigration has turned the East End into one of the most solidly Labour areas in Britain – although one might ask how solid that is when the support of ‘community leaders’ is openly bought and sold.

However mass immigration to Israel from the former Soviet Union has been utterly catastrophic for Israel’s left.

So its not just the economic effects that need to be disaggregated by asking who is losing and who gaining but also what are the political impacts of immigration from different countries – but this is of course a real political minefield.

And this is of course further complicated when unlike the US of a century ago immigration does not rapidly lead to full citizenship or integration into a melting pot culture.

Anyway for me the answer has to be the traditional socialist one of agitating, educating and organising amongst the people we already have – however difficult ethnic and religious divisions might make that task.

And ironically Maurice Glasman was actually very good at doing precisely that through London Citizens – a community group so diverse that campaigns are being mounted against it for including open supporters of Jihadism.


jd 07.20.11 at 10:09 pm


You write: “Suppose you gave their job of every citizen in the UK to a better worker from another country. The UK economy would certainly be more productive. Would the citizens of the UK be better off?”

You pose a clearly exaggerated hypothetical. But I am trying to think about problems in the real world, in which British school leavers often make worse baristas and fruit pickers than Portuguese and Polish immigrants.

If you offered every British business the opportunity to replace all their British workers with non-Brits, those businesses would probably say a couple of things: 1) sorry, except for EU passport holders, there are laws against that; 2) sorry, for most of our jobs, workers in the UK can do the job better than the available pool of non-UK workers would, which is why we haven’t hired (legally employable) foreigners to replace them.

At the macro-economic level, I don’t think it’s remotely reasonable to assume that replacing all Brits with non-Brits would improve UK productivity.


Norwegian Guy 07.21.11 at 12:10 am

“Only about 11 % of people in Britain were born overseas (and at least some of those, like my son, actually hold British citizenship), which might be compared to over 25% of Australian residents.”

I would think Australia must be an outlier among countries in this regard.

“You pose a clearly exaggerated hypothetical. But I am trying to think about problems in the real world, in which British school leavers often make worse baristas and fruit pickers than Portuguese and Polish immigrants.”

But is it really Portuguese and Polish immigrants (some) people are complaining about? I have a hard time believing that an Afghan who barely speaks English, or a Somali illiterate, are more productive baristas than British workers. When unemployment is low, there are complaints that the immigrants aren’t working, and are therefore expensive. When unemployment is high, there are complaints that they’re “taking our jobs”. Criticism of immigration seems to be a constant, regardless of the business cycle.


adam@nope.com 07.21.11 at 12:26 am


You are arguing for the present level of immigration, but your argument isn’t tied to any particular level of immigration. By your logic, whenever an employer can replace a domestic worker with a better quality immigrant worker, they should. If you truly believed that argument you would be advocating an increase in immigration. In fact, you would advocate the government spend money to encourage immigration until the marginal cost to induce the next immigrant matches the marginal benefit acheived by displacing the next “school leaver.”

And why stop with the kind of jobs “school leavers” perform? Since we’re staunch Galtists, everyone should be on the block. After all, we’re not punishing the help for being insufficiently respectful, we’re advocating economic efficiency.

I think we should start with the professions. For example, the economic benefit of replacing all British doctors with their foreign betters would more than pay the importation costs. We could even establish medical colleges for foreign students overseas, to take advantage of the lower prices. Why train British medical students? They are so expensive!

Also, I think your analysis was overly restrictive. You only considered situations where hardworking immigrant employees replace indolent domestic employees at equivalent wages. Certainly you weren’t intending moral judgments to cloud your economic analysis. Perhaps we should consider the benefits of replacing hardworking, but expensive, domestic workers with their cheaper immigrant counterparts?

Certainly there would be economic benefits to replacing domestic employees with equivalent immigrant employees at lower wages. In fact, if the wages were low enough, importing immigrants of even worse character than the typical “British school leaver” might be worth it. What a brave new world awaits!


jd 07.21.11 at 8:42 am

Adam, you’re imputing lots of beliefs to me that I neither have nor have expressed, so I’ll break away from this conversation. All the best.


Roger 07.22.11 at 12:29 pm

In any case Glasman has apologised:

“I overstated the position [on immigration]. I was not talking about what should happen. I want most importantly to reiterate my full and total support for immigrant communities in Britain …

“We all make mistakes. And this is mine. I just hope that it does not detract from the energy and real goodness of the work. I will do all I can too to strengthen frayed relationships.”

But sympathetic though I am to Blue Labour this strikes me as utterly inadequate.

The actual words he’s apologising for were:

On migration, a subject to which the leader is currently giving much thought, Glasman has previously accused New Labour of lying about the extent of immigration.
Now he goes further, arguing – in terms more radical than the Conservative front bench would dare use – that Labour should renegotiate the rules on European workers and freeze inward migration for EU and non-EU citizens, except where
employers or universities make a case for a specific, skilled individual.

Labour, in his view, should not abolish the Tory immigration cap if it wins the next election. “There’s no sense of abolition,” he says, suggesting instead going further and adding that the Labour government promoted “a multiculturalism position that enshrined differences … Both legal and illegal immigration was used as an unofficial wages policy.”

Now he thinks the time has come to turn the tide. “We’ve got to re-interrogate our relationship with the EU on the movement of labour. The EU has gone from being a sort of pig farm subsidised bloc … to the free movement of labour and capital.
It’s legalistic, it’s administrative, and it’s no good. So I think we’ve got to renegotiate with the EU.”

His call is to restrict immigration to a few necessary entrants, such as highly-skilled leaders, especially in vocational skills. “We might, for example, bring in German masters, as we did in the 15th and 16th centuries to renew guilds.” But
exemptions should be made on a case-by-case basis? “Yes. We should absolutely do that … Britain is not an outpost of the UN. We have to put the people in this country first.”

And if that means stopping immigration virtually completely for a period, then so be it? “Yes. I would add that we should be more generous and friendly in receiving those
[few] who are needed. To be more generous, we have to draw the line.”

As an advocate of the toughest curbs yet mooted on immigration, presumably he has some sympathy with Iain Duncan Smith’s controversial call for British jobs for British
workers. “Completely. The people who live here are the highest priority. We’ve got to listen and be with them. They’re in the right place – it’s us who’s not.”


So if he ‘was not talking about what should happen’ WTF was he talking about.

These weren’t vague Rawlsian prognostications – they are all quite specific statements calling for a freeze on immigration and the renegotiation of our relationship with the EU (which in practical terms means withdrawal).

Did the interviewer feed him leading questions? – quite possibly – but this is a man with a peerage and a doctorate who shouldn’t just blurt out whatever is going through his head.

Miliband can’t rescind his peerage but he should certainly find some way of signalling that Glasman is no longer in any way shape or form his ‘guru’.

And I also wonder what the student body of London Met University – which is at least 22% non UK and predominantly non-white according to the 2008/9 HEIDI analysis – think of a professor who evidently believes that only the most ‘exceptional’ of non-UK citizens should be allowed to study there?

The man really is an idiot…

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