Sometimes you just can’t win. On Monday night at UKIP’s Louth & Horncastle branch meeting, a member of the audience (not yet a member of the Party, but here’s hoping) berated the branch — and the Party — for not doing enough to stay in the headlines since Eastleigh. In particular, he said “There are so many issues that really matter to voters out there. Take immigration. It’s a key issue on the doorstep, but UKIP seems to have nothing to say about it”.
This despite the wide coverage of Godfrey Bloom’s comments on foreign aid. And I’d been on two BBC local radio stations that very morning, criticising Labour Shadow Immigration Minister Chris Bryant and his inept attack on Tesco and Next for hiring foreign workers (when it was Bryant’s own Labour government that opened the doors to mass immigration).
Then last night at a meeting of UKIP’s Gedling branch at the Longbow pub in Arnold, I was asked whether UKIP risked being seen as “A One-Issue Party” — not, as is usually the case, on the EU, but on immigration! We seem to have promoted it to the #1 issue, I was told. So there you are. Over the space of two days, we were not mentioning the key issue of immigration, and we were promoting it as our #1 issue. I think the truth is in between — that immigration is a key worry for voters, that we have to present a rational immigration policy in a robust way (which we do) but that we need (and indeed we have) a much broader policy agenda.
My interlocutor at the Longbow presented me with a copy of an e-mail from a new UKIP member, Vid Auty, expressing concern about our immigration policy. Vid has very kindly given me his permission to quote what he said.
Vid recognises that UKIP is a broadly libertarian Party. As far as possible, we’d like to see decisions left to the individual rather than taken by the State on our behalf. We hate Nanny Statism and Political Correctness. But Vid seems to want what I regard as an extreme form of libertarianism, where “economic migrants are welcome to arrive, to try to sell their labour, and to sink, or swim, or go home”. He recognises, rightly, that this approach would not work in conjunction with our welfare system, since we should simply end up paying vast sums of welfare to an unending flow of economic refugees.
But I also think that Vid is wrong in principle, quite apart from the practical issues of welfare costs. A world in which everyone was free to go everywhere would not deliver Libertarianism. It would deliver mass migration, anarchy, chaos and social unrest, and pave the way for authoritarian régimes which would be welcomed if they promised to restore order. Such a move would be a first step to despotism.
If you believe in UK Independence, as UKIP does, you must necessarily believe that the nation state is a good thing. The nation state has meaning and value only to the extent that it confers rights and benefits on its citizens which are not available to non-citizens. The right of residence in your home country is basic to this concept. This is why the EU’s “freedom of movement” fundamentally undermines the nation state.
It’s also why we get so hot under the collar when liberal judges try to accord the same rights to foreign criminals that they would accord to British citizens, and refuse to send these people back to their own countries. It is not our job to consider whether the justice system in Ruritania is adequate by our standards. It’s the foreign criminal’s country, and he must be judged in his own country by his own justice system. The duty of our judges is first and foremost to British citizens, not to foreigners. Yet these same judges will happily send British citizens, under the European Arrest Warrant, to other EU countries with lower standards of legal protection.
The moral and economic justification for the nation state is that citizens pay (rather too much, mostly) for the necessary services delivered by the state, and therefore must have the first call on state benefits. The NHS can scarcely afford to be a health service to UK citizens. It certainly can’t afford to be a health service to the world.
Vid goes on to complain that we’ve made immigration our #1 issue “in an attempt to harvest Nationalist-bordering-on-xenophobic votes”. No Vid. That’s what the Guardian and the hard left want you to believe, but it’s utterly wrong. We in UKIP want a rational and robust immigration system that works for the benefit and best interests of all British citizens. And that is exactly what our policy would deliver.
So yes. UKIP is a broadly libertarian Party. But we don’t extend that to the anarcho-Libertarian philosophy of “Let ’em all come”.