Daniel Pryor interprets Lord Ashcroft’s recent poll as a wake-up call for the advocates of immigration.
The majority of people in this country believe that immigration has produced more disadvantages than advantages. This miserable statistic was revealed in the release of Lord Ashcroft’s immigration poll, along with news that a shocking 79% of people support the Home Office’s ‘Go Home’ ad vans. The poll’s results are an immensely depressing read for any advocate of relaxing immigration controls, and provide concrete evidence that the public are largely unaware of (or unwilling to acknowledge) the overwhelming evidence for immigration’s net fiscal benefits.
I have previously written for the Adam Smith Institute on the specific case of Romanian and Bulgarian immigration, and the misconceptions surrounding migrants from these countries apply equally to immigration to the UK in general. Compared to native Britons, immigrants are less likely to strain health services, claim benefits or utilise social housing. They address labour shortages, help to make our goods cheaper, and complement native-born workers by doing the jobs that others are unwilling or unable to do. Immigrants appear to make no difference to crime levels, possess an above average grasp of entrepreneurship, and have little to no impact on wage levels (mainly due to the fact their demand for goods and services pushes up the demand for labour). These empirical facts must be stated again and again, with equal fervour to that of immigration’s opponents.
The economic case for immigration is clear, and yet examining Ashcroft’s poll, the poisonous rhetoric expounded by the Daily Mail, the Home Office and other anti-immigration organs seems to have done its job of clouding the public’s judgement. Though the odds may be stacked against those who would shun the anti-immigration lobby’s emotive populism, putting forward arguments in favour of immigration based on empirical evidence must be done if there is to be any chance of shifting the debate from the realm of fiction to that of fact. Cultural and social issues related to immigration are admittedly less clear-cut, but as Sam Leith of The Evening Standard points out:
“The less quantifiable harms immigration is held to cause don’t exist in isolation…If you are told over and over that the immigrants next door are threatening your job or your chances of getting an operation on your gippy knee, damn right you’ll see ‘community tensions’. Whereas if you think the tax they pay is funding the operation on your gippy knee…”
The economic case for immigration is clear…