My good friend and Green New Deal colleague Colun Hines has always stood apart from the rest of that group in arguing that the UK needs to take control of its immigration policy for what (if I summarise it correctly) he thinks to be three reasons.
The first is sustainability: he sees UK resources as limited and so control is needed at any point in time to ensure change is sustainable.
Second he argues that economically migration can be a shock to the system that needs to be managed.
Third there is the social dimension of integration being a process that takes time where the capacity for change is finite.
As I say, I hope I summarise him correctly. This has never become Green New Deal policy because the rest of us were too liberal, and in particular were willing to accept the EU price of free movement of labour within it even if the corollary has been free movement of capital which none of us had much enthusiasm for.
But illiberal as it sounds does Colin have a point? Is our capacity for change finite at a point in time and is a change in policy needed if politics and the people of this country are to be realigned? This is his argument in the Guardian this morning:
At last some light at the end of the “defeat Brexit” tunnel, in the form of Ed Balls’ call in Tuesday’s Daily Mirror for the UK to vote remain, but then to “press Europe to restore proper borders, and put new controls on economic migration”. Were that message to be amplified by other key Labour remain supporters then Polly Toynbee’s truly spine-chilling description of the likely outcome of a leave vote (Brexiters have unleashed furies even they can’t control, 14 June) could be overcome. As she notes, a remain call to tighten future border controls is likely to be well received by leaders of other EU countries, given the desires of their populations and the threat these governments are under from the rise of extreme-right parties.
Such an approach could also allow Labour to redeem itself in the eyes of its traditional voters and so persuade waverers to vote to stay in. For this to succeed, they must assure such supporters that central to Labour’s “remain and reform” campaign will be working with others across Europe to enable nation states to strengthen border controls. To do so, even at this 11th hour, could help prevent us being condemned to four more years of ruthless shredding of what is left of our welfare state, by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove as prime minister and chancellor. If, however, Brexit triumphs, those politicians who remained myopically in favour of uncontrolled EU migration will have a lot to answer for.
East Twickenham, Middlesex
There can be little doubt that the zeitgeist has changed. But what does that mean? How can liberal thinking accept the notion that not all are equal in their claim? And how can it specifically justify a policy of controlling immigration that, of course, every government has in reality pursued except with regard to the EU?
It is a question that will now survive June 23 whatever happens in the referendum. It is one I face today as I consider candidates for jobs at City University, many of whom are from countries around the world and not just the EU (plus, of course, a good number already here).
What are we to do about immigration? It's a question that will no longer go away.
NB: please comment with care. I will have no hesitation in deleting any comment I consider in the remotest way racist.