Monday, 11 March 2019

A Conservative wants more immigration to make Britain more diverse and open minded

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James Kirkup in Unherd asks what would have happened had Remain won the referendum but his counterfactual seems unlikely to me (a stronger Ukip and Tory splits). 

What is more interesting is that this former Political Editor of the Telegraph holds views so far from conservative. His views, though, are probably very similar to those of David Cameron and especially George Osbourne.

Of course, because he was Political Editor for years of a conservative paper does not mean Mr Kirkup is a conservative. I remember the political editor of the Evening Standard in the 1980s showing me his Labour Party membership card. 


But there is a rebuttable presumption, as the lawyers put it, that James Kirkup is a conservative. He left the Telegraph to head the Social Market Foundation think tank which is supported by Blairites, Orange Liberal Democrats and Cameroons. It is not easy to distinguish these three. Belief in the EU and the benefits of immigration from the Third World are two things that they all have in common.

In his Unherd article Mr Kirkup says
As George Osborne now admits in public, that is how Mr Cameron painted himself in a corner over the referendum. Several years of effectively telling voters ‘Ukip are right about immigration being bad but please don’t vote for them’ left him with no choice to call the vote, and then hamstrung his Remain campaign. His message then became ‘Ukip are right about Europe being rubbish but please don’t vote to leave.’
Yes, up to a point, but up to a weak point. 

Don't you understand, sir, that David Cameron had the strongest possible reasons for not arguing in favour of the benefits of immigration? 

And very strong reasons for being restrained about the benefits of EU membership? 

He knew what his voters thought and how far he could hope to carry them with him. Their hostility to both immigration and the EU was not due to their not being told about the benefits by politicians.


Voters are not blank sheets of paper on which high minded people can write.


Mr Kirkup goes on:

One of the oddities of the last couple of decades of British politics is that so few people on the Right have been prepared to make a positive case for immigration, or grasped the electoral gains to be had from doing so. Mr Osborne was hardly alone among senior Tories in understanding that an open migration policy, properly implemented and framed, delivers economic benefits and positions its authors to capture the votes of an increasingly diverse and open-minded electorate. But precious few on the Right have acted on those insights.

This passage is baffling and astonishing. 


The economic benefits of immigration are felt by the immigrants, their relatives back home and by their employers, but for Great Britain as a whole, according to a House of Lords committee stacked with economists and elder statesmen, the benefits on balance are negligible at best. 

But why is an even more diverse British electorate than that which already exists a positively good thing and why on earth do the British need to be even more open minded?

I'd say the British and most Europeans were already astonishingly open minded about so many things. More open minded by a long way than ever in their history, although not about pedophilia, 
hunting, smoking, discrimination and various other things. This is because society, as Arthur James Balfour said, is constantly persecuting. But very - compulsorily, in fact -open minded on a huge number of things.

Perhaps we should be less open minded. Open mindedness (I speak as someone who scored 100% for open mindedness in the Big Five Personality Test) is a liberal not a conservative virtue and one that can be taken much too far.

Open mindedness in the face of evil is itself an evil, obviously.


Closed mindedness is how groups and societies cohere around agreed norms.

But, whatever your view of that, I'd imagine one thing calculated to make people less open minded and more hostile to immigrants and foreigners is even more immigration.

The really interesting and important question is why, in the face of a demographic revolution which has and will inevitably continue to change Britain out of recognition, do intelligent conservatives like Mr Kirkup positively want more diversity? Not accept it is necessary or inevitable but desire it for its own sake?

I suspect that George Osborne, Dan Hodges and Matthew D'Ancona might feel the same. I hope I do those two an injustice.

There is a hidden reason, perhaps psychological, perhaps quasi-religious, why they dislike any last elements of closed mindedness, which is so close to conservatism, in their fellow countrymen. But I am blessed if I know what it is. 

If I did I would be closer to understanding the present age and our civilisation's seeming death wish.

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