Saturday, 27 September 2008

Tory thinks the unthinkable - an amnesty for illegal immigrants

Anthony Browne, a director of the pro-Tory think-tank, Policy Exchange (1) has potentially doomed the Conservatives to another electoral defeat by suggesting (2) Britain needs to confront the issue of illegal immigration and the only realistic option is to offer an ongoing amnesty programme to long term illegal immigrants who haven't committed any crime other than being in the country. Basically, an illegal immigrant who has lived in the country for seven years, without being imprisoned for criminal activity, will be able to regularise their immigration status.

As Browne points out, there current situation is an exercise in denial:
At present, we have the worst of all worlds, turning a blind eye to illegal immigration, but making it impossible for illegal immigrants to regularise their status. Doing more to enforce immigration law, while accepting the reality that there are long term illegal immigrants who have settled well, would be far fairer, better for society and more economically efficient. All we need is for policy makers to accept reality. (3)
This is, of course, the sane, rational and decent response to a problem. It is also the one that neither Labour nor the Tories will support, as to do so would be electoral suicide.

The British public could be persuaded of the merits of the scheme - they are smart enough to see the difference between an illegal immigrant who works hard and lives meekly, and an Albanian gangster. That debate would never be allowed to happen, however. The Murdochite sewer press (having sunk below the level of the gutter) would run screaming, hysterical and inaccurate stories every day between now and the election in 2010.

Neither Labour or the Conservatives is likely to embrace this, any more than they did when the idea was last floated (see here and here). Last time, I argued that "this is all far to sensible to happen. Instead, it will be buried under the usual howls of "PC gone mad", wailing about "Uncontrollable immigration" and general drivel."

Sadly, I haven't seen anything to make me change that opinion. Neither party has the spine to actually stand up to the media, which is cynical and shameless enough to encourage cheap racism and xenophobic paranoia to make money.

Since Labour and the Tories are pretty much miserably similar on most issues - neither offering to do anything radically different, just promising to try to do it better than the other lot - I'd vote for whichever party had the courage to endorse this policy - even the Tories. But I expect Conservative response to be a rapid distancing from the unwisely honest Mr Browne, and perhaps some comments along the lines of "interesting idea ... seeking to start an debate ... offerring his own opinion, not party policy." If he is actually so uncouth as to make an issue out of it, it could damage the Tories, significantly.

Meanwhile, Labour will watch the discomfort of Cameron, smirking a little bit, and trying to ignore their own hypocritical failure to address the issue.

1 - Website of Policy Exchange: http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/
2 - "Why we should grant illegal immigrants an amnesty" by Anthony Browne, published in THe Independent, 26th of September, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/anthony-browne-why-we-should-grant-illegal-immigrants-an-amnesty-942761.html)
3 - As described previously on lefthandpalm:
http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/05/britain-rally-on-behalf-of-illegal.html and http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/2007/06/campaign-against-amnesty-for-illegal.html
4 - ibid.

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