April 19, 2010

THE POLISH PLUMBER IS THE BEST THEIR SOCIETY HAS TO OFFER:

Immigration needs a New York state of mind: Bureaucratic controls will only deny Britain the benefits it has reaped from foreign workers over the years (Bill Emmott, 4/19/10, The Times of London)

Being stuck in New York, waiting for the Icelandic ashes to stop scattering themselves in Europe’s airspace, does at least provide a bit of perspective on Britain’s election campaign. Watching from the Big Apple has told me three things. [...]

The third point, though, is the main one, and it is a deeper, longer-term reflection of New York life. It is that immigration, the issue raised in the first question of Thursday’s leaders’ debate, has been an absolutely central element of the economic, social and political success both of this city and of America itself. Immigration can be a toxic issue in US politics, too, especially outside the metropolitan North East. But there is much less need in America to make the case for liberal policies than in Britain. Immigration is an issue on which all three main British parties are on the defensive and hence illiberal.

This is an emerging tragedy for a country whose strength over the centuries has been so clearly based on trade, global business and openness to the free movement of people. Like New York, London has been culturally and economically enriched by migration, which has made it Europe’s only truly international city. Now that London has as its Mayor a man who, on his own account, is a “one-man melting pot”, with genes from Russia and Turkey, you might have thought that Boris Johnson’s party would take a positive approach to this issue. But the Conservatives do not, and nor do the other main parties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2010 6:35 AM
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