Støtte fra uventet hold

Den britiske forsvarsministeren Michael Fallon (Tory) har vært i hardt vær etter uttalelsene om at noen byer i England blir «oversvømmet» av innvandrere og føler seg «beleiret med et stort antall arbeidsinnvandrere og folk som krever velferdsytelser». Ordene falt etter at den tyske kansleren Angela Merkel avviste statsminister David Camerons…

Den britiske forsvarsministeren Michael Fallon (Tory) har vært i hardt vær etter uttalelsene om at noen byer i England blir «oversvømmet» av innvandrere og føler seg «beleiret med et stort antall arbeidsinnvandrere og folk som krever velferdsytelser». Ordene falt etter at den tyske kansleren Angela Merkel avviste statsminister David Camerons forsøk på en reforhandling av EUs prinsipp om den frie bevegelse og dermed enhver utsikt til å fremforhandle radikale endringer i EUs nåværende innvandringspolitikk.

Fallon told Sky News: “The Germans haven’t seen our proposals yet and we haven’t seen our proposals yet, and that’s still being worked on at the moment to see what we can do to prevent whole towns and communities being swamped by huge numbers of migrants.

“In some areas of the UK, down the east coast, towns do feel under siege, [with] large numbers of migrant workers and people claiming benefits, and it’s quite right we look at that,” he said.

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His comments were immediately condemned by his cabinet colleague Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat energy secretary, who said he disagreed with Fallon’s language on the same programme. “When we talk about immigration we need to be responsible in the words that we use,” he said.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said Fallon’s remarks reflected “the desperation of the Conservative Party”.

“You have got to be responsible always in the language that you use around issues of immigration.

“Of course there are challenges, I recognise that, but I think that embodies part of the problem at the moment.

Selv UKIPs innvandringspolitiske talsmann, Steven Woolfe, kritiserte bemerkningene. – Vi forsøker å ha en seriøs debatt om problemet med intern masseinnvandring og dens effekt på lavtlønte, lavutdannede arbeidsfolk. I mellomtiden tyr regjeringen til ubehersket språk. Kan du forestille deg hva som hadde blitt sagt hvis vi hadde sagt noe sånt?

Fallon ba kort etter om unnskyldning for sine dårlig valgte ord.

Nå får han imidlertid støtte fra uventet hold – og som så ofte før, av en politiker som ikke lenger er i maktposisjon – tidligere innenriksminister for Labour, David Blunkett.

– Noen deler av England blir virkelig «oversvømmet» av innvandrere – og vi politikere må våge å fortelle sannheten, skriver han i en artikkel i Daily Mail.

Han mener at de som eventuelt fornekter vanskelighetene masseinnvandring medfører, lever i et fantasi-land.

Blunkett, som selv brukte ordet «oversvømmet» i forbindelse med en debatt om asylsøkere for 12 år siden, mener Fallon gjorde rett i å «sette ord på ordinære velgeres bekymringer» og at det ikke var nødvendig med en unnskyldning, bare en klargjøring.

Yes, specific parts of Britain ARE being ‘swamped’ by migrants – and we politicians must dare to tell the truth

As concern over immigration mounts, public debate on the subject becomes ever more sensitive and controversial. Passions are inflamed, positions entrenched, tensions are palpable.

So whenever politicians speak out on this issue, they are treading in a minefield.

That is certainly what the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon found when he said in a television interview over the weekend that some towns in the East of England now feel ‘swamped’ and ‘under siege’ because of continuing high levels of immigration.

Inevitably, his remarks provoked a political outcry.

His Coalition colleague Ed Davey from the Liberal Democrats declared that all of us ‘need to be responsible in the words we use’ about immigration, while Labour front-bencher Douglas Alexander said that Fallon’s statement showed ‘the desperation of the

Conservative Party’ in trying to appeal to disillusioned voters now turning to the UK Independence Party.

All of this may well be true, but it does not address fundamental worries.

So explosive was the row that Fallon was even pressurised by Downing Street into issuing a retraction.

– Stormen mot Fallon gjenspeiler den erfaringen jeg fikk for 12 år siden, da også jeg brukte ordet «oversvømmet» for å beskrive nervøsiteten folk som sto overfor bosettingen av store antall asylsøkere i deres egne, hardt pressede lokalmiljøer i Nord-England. På den tiden ble deres frykt næret av det fomidable presset som ble lagt på vitale offentlige tjenester som legekontorer, lokale skoler og sosiale boliger.

– Akkurat som i dag forårsaket ordet «oversvømmet» en bitter krangel, fortsetter Blunkett.

In contrast to Michael Fallon’s case, I was not told by Downing Street to use different words — but the then PM Tony Blair’s office did distance itself from my language.

Moreover, I was subjected to a barrage of criticism from right across the political spectrum.

In one vivid, if highly unfair attack, the Hackney MP Diane Abbott said my use of the word ‘swamped’ was ‘unfortunate’, adding that ‘we are talking about children here, not raw sewage’.

From the other side, the senior Tory Oliver Letwin donned the mantle of moral superiority to warn that ‘there is a terrible danger here of slipping into language that is emotive’.

Til tross for den tverrpolitiske fordømmelsen, mener Blunkett at Fallon og han gjorde rett i å si fra og sette ord på ordinære velgeres bekymringer.

– Bare fordi innvandring er dypt kontroversielt, kan ikke det innebære at vi skal unngå å snakke om det, mener han.

There are constant complaints today that politicians are ‘out of touch’, that they refuse to listen to the electorate.

There has been, mistakenly in my view, a perception that mainstream politicians have engaged in a conspiracy of silence on the immigration issue.

– Uansett hva mine kritikere påsto i 2002, var jeg ikke engang i nærheten av å være fordomsfull da jeg belyste noen av problemene lokalmiljøene i nord sto overfor som følge av omfattende sosiale endringer, fortsetter han.

– Ved å konfrontere problemene i spesielle nabolag hvor store antall nykommere fra utlandet ikke bare legger alvorlig press på den sivile infrastrukturen, men også utfordrer lokalmiljøets evne til å absorbere nykommere – som ofte har andre språk, sosiale ferdigheter og kulturer – unngår vi å leve i et fantasi-land hvor ingen av disse vanskelighetene eksisterer.

– Som politikere er vi forpliktet til å adressere dem. Vår oppgave er å finne løsninger, ikke formidler illusjoner, fortsetter Blunkett og legger til at han finner det interessant at i begge sakene, fokuserte kritikerne hovedsakelig på språkbruken, ikke på selve poenget:

If we had deployed the word ‘overwhelmed’, which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means almost exactly the same as swamped, it is unlikely that there would have been so many protests.

That is because the term ‘swamped’ is so loaded with political history.

It was famously uttered by Margaret Thatcher in a World In Action television interview in 1978, when she was still Leader of the Opposition.

In the late Seventies, there was deep anxiety about rising immigration, which, in turn, fed on a widespread anger over economic paralysis, falling living standards and a fraying social fabric. This does sound depressingly familiar!

– Ord er viktige, men så er også politisk mot, skriver Blunkett, som mener at det vi trenger fra alle politikere er ærlighet og åpenhet, ikke begjær etter å score politiske poeng og utstilling av egen selvrettferdige viktighet.

That’s why I was so angered by the audacious piece of hypocrisy from the Ukip leadership. Claiming they would never use the word ‘swamped’, they had the cheek to describe Michael Fallon’s language — and, by extension, my own in 2002 — as ‘inflammatory’.

The hypocrisy would be laughable if it were not so offensive. Ukip’s entire political stance is inflammatory, since it is based on stoking up divisions. They are the masters of scare- mongering and scapegoating.

Unfortunately their negative campaigning seems to be having an impact.

One opinion poll revealed yesterday that a third of the electorate would consider voting for Ukip if they thought the party could win in their constituency, though it should also be noted that Ukip is easily the most disliked and feared party in Britain, precisely because of its remorseless negativity.

But any attempt to turn immigration into a taboo subject just plays into Ukip’s hands. The greatest antidote to the party’s bluster is frank, rational discussion, where voters are treated with maturity.

After all, the British people have proved to be remarkably tolerant about the changes brought about by mass immigration over recent decades.

They understand that the vast majority of migrants come here to work and have not only contributed heavily to our economy, but enriched our society in every field, from the arts and sport to food and fashion.

– Likevel er det idiotisk å fornekte noen av problemene asososiert med innvandring, som jeg selv har sett i visse deler av min egen valgkrets i  Sheffield Brightside, fortsetter han:

As a result of a substantial recent influx of incomers from Eastern Europe, there has been a host of difficulties, such as a lack of interpretation services, exploitation of migrants by rogue landlords, the stress on normal waste collection because of multiple occupation of terrace housing and the gathering of large groups in the streets.

But these issues will not be resolved by attacking foreigners and creating a climate of fear, as Ukip tries to do.

What we need is, first, an honest, calm reflection on how people feel about their neighbourhoods, and then a search for practical solutions.

That means, for instance, enforcing norms of behaviour, introducing an expectation that all citizens should speak the English language, strengthening borders through agreement with other European nations and stipulating that people can claim benefits only on the basis of the contributions they have made to Britain.

That last point was, after all, one of the reasons I proposed what became known as the ID card: a verifiable register of who was in the country, who was entitled to be here, and who had the right to work and to draw on essential services.

Those who have not found work should return to their countries of origin — a requirement that is perfectly applicable within current EU rules.

In simple terms, if you come here to work, you should work, and there should be no access to social security or state housing without having built up an entitlement.
Such measures would help to lance the boil of immigration concerns and thereby restore faith in our democracy.

Hva som ikke vil fungere, er å skrike ned enhver politiker som våger å ta for seg det britiske folkets bekymringer. Denne saken er altfor alvorlig for slik posering, avslutter tidligere innenriksminister David Blunkett.