Big Debate: Do current immigration levels threaten national cohesion?

Secretary of State for Home Affairs Theresa May delivers her speech to delegates in the third day of

Secretary of State for Home Affairs Theresa May delivers her speech to delegates in the third day of the Conservative Party annual conference at Manchester Central Convention Centre. - Credit: Empics Entertainment

This week’s debate asks whether current levels of immigration threaten social cohesion

Left, Liberal Democrat communications officer for London, David Thorpe, and, right, Dan Oxley, Ukip'

Left, Liberal Democrat communications officer for London, David Thorpe, and, right, Dan Oxley, Ukip's Newham treasurer - Credit: Archant

Speaking at the Conservative Party’s annual conference, home secretary Theresa May promised immigration reform, saying that high levels of migration made a “cohesive society” impossible. The remarks have been criticised by politicians from opposing parties and her own, with longstanding Tory MP Ken Clarke telling The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday that the “tone of Theresa May’s speech was all wrong”. This week, our Big Debate asks: Was Theresa May right in claiming that current levels of immigration threaten national cohesion?

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David Thorpe, Lib Dem communication officer

Everyone has bad days at work, and when home secretary Theresa May made her speech on immigration to the Tory conference, that was hers, as evidenced by the fact those traditional supporters of her party, the Times newspaper and the Institute of Directors criticised her, finding unusual common ground with newspapers and unions more often opposed to the Conservative Party.

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The speech’s problems are many, but share a common thread, – Mrs May shows an uncanny ignorance of British history and concerning lack of insight into challenges facing Britain’s economy.

On history: May opined that, if the present levels of migration continues in the coming years, social cohesion in Britain could collapse.

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The initial nonsense implicit in May’s speech is all migrants are sinister radicals intent on destroying British values, of which the Tories see themselves as the sole guardians.

Yet the party has its origins in the work of 19th century MP Edmund Burke, credited as its founding father and an Irish emigrant.

And Sir Mancherjee Merwanjee Bhownagree, among the very first ethnic minority MPs in Britain, was a 19th century Tory.

Mrs May seeks to lecture on the future consequeneces of emigration in the UK, while being ignorant of the past contribution of emigration to the society she seeks to prolong.

As to the present, forget the rhetoric of Mrs May at conference, her party’s 2015 manifesto shows a commitment to tens of thousands of migrants coming to the UK every year.

People are living longer, and needing pensions for longer, and the country needs more young people to pay for this.

The UK and US are the only major world economies where the working age population is expanding and that is positive for the prosperity of Britain.

There are big, tough solutions required to make a migration system that works for all, but Theresa May isn’t supplying them.

Dan Oxley, Ukip’s Newham treasurer

If a clock breaks at 8.30 it doesn’t become useless – it shows the right time twice a day. The same is true of Tories like Theresa May, who say anything to get votes, saying so many contradictory things they eventually accidentally stumble on the truth.

First, they said mass immigration was great then, while saying the same, bragged how they’d reduce it, then increased it far beyond their target. Now they say it’s bad after all.

They won’t admit their views on immigration are unimportant because they don’t control it. It’s controlled by our real government, the unelected one in Brussels – the EU Commission.

There’s a difference between past immigration levels and the mass immigration Theresa May acknowledges. The former meant huge benefits from immigrants enhancing our economy and culture. Mass, uncontrolled immigration threatens cohesion, with efforts to sustain cohesion causing problems. These efforts lead to political correctness, which is seen as politeness but assaults freedom.

Uniformed soldiers shopping in Tesco are told to leave in case they offend minorities, crosses are removed from graveyards and owners of a Christian café displaying Bible verses are interviewed by police about their “behaviour” and left fearing prosecution. Much worse was seen in Rotherham’s sex abuse cases, where political correctness meant the council and police were more worried about cohesion than saving children.

Mass immigration also disturbs cohesion due to the numbers of new entrants to the UK at a time of relatively high unemployment. When I ask advocates of mass immigration why we need more (often unskilled) workers when we have unemployment, I never get a very convincing answer and often get the racist cliché about immigrants doing jobs lazy British workers won’t. If we had an Australian points-based immigration system then arrivals could be welcomed and assimilated.

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