Tag Archives: UK

The young start to reclaim their future

What “strong and stable” really means…

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Last night’s election result in the UK was a victory for the young. The final results are still coming in but it seems that young voters (you need to be at least 18 to vote in UK Parliamentary elections) were a decisive part of the vote against Theresa May’s government. 16 and 17 year-olds were able to vote in the Scottish independence reference in 2014, and it is likely that if they had also been able to vote in the UK’s 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union, then the young (and the rest of us) would not now face the prospect of losing our burgundy passports, a falling pound, 2-3% inflation and a slumping economy.

The critique of the young has always been that they are passionate advocates online, they delight in witty memes but when it comes to election day – they do not walk into the church hall, community centre or sports club (or wherever the polling centre might be) and vote. The old-fashioned act of putting a pencil cross on a piece of paper was thought to be too “old school” for the young. The talk against the young was at best patronising but often much worse. Even overnight, mainstream politicians, including some members of Jeremy Corbyn’s own party, were maligning the young for falling naively for the sweet bribes of no tuition fees, ending zero hours contracts and showing reluctance to maintain nuclear weapons. “There is no magic money tree” was a favourite remark of Prime Minister May during the campaign – as if she was reading a cautionary fairy story to young people everywhere.

To get a flavour of the arrogance – read one of many commentaries in the Murdoch-owned press or the ever spiteful Daily Mail (a paper that revels in ephebiphobia and every other type of fear and prejudice, not least its front page this week basically insinuating that Jeremy Corbyn was a friend of terrorists).

But despite, and may be because of this prejudice, 72% of 18-25 year-olds voted last night, a higher percentage than the general population and they voted for their futures. They voted against a “Hard Brexit” and virtually everything else that Theresa May represented, from the return to selective education (“Grammar Schools”) to her recent threats to undermine our nation’s commitment to internationally-recognised human rights.

Theresa May’s minority government is likely to limp on for the months ahead with the support of Unionists in Northern Ireland. Her government is in no position to negotiate on Brexit and in many ways she has lost her mandate to do so. David Cameron’s referendum on EU membership was self-serving, as was this recent unneeded and premature election. On both occasions, they have been called out by the electorate.

The young will now have a more powerful voice in British politics and they will need to be listened to more attentively by all the political parties. This is perhaps what “strong and stable” really means. The recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London Bridge were in large part an attack against the young. Their response is not one of hatred, xenophobia and retreat, but quite the opposite. Think no further than Ariana Grande’s “OneLove” Manchester concert last weekend for the victims murdered at her show two weeks earlier, watched in by 10.9m, 49% of the total UK audience, with 22.6m watching at least three minutes of the broadcast. Her closing words were: “I think the kind of love and unity you’re displaying is the kind of medicine the world needs right now. Thank you for coming tonight, I love you so much, thank you.”

 

How to restore the lack of trust

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“The self-preservation society”. Today’s European Union (#Brexit) referendum has exposed deep issues of mistrust 

One of my favourite films growing up was “The Italian Job”. Not the horrible Hollywood makeover but the 1969 British original. A bunch of plucky mainly cockney criminals robbing an Italian bank in Turin and then attempting to escape over the Alps into Switzerland. Criminals yes, but with a touch of Robin Hood. There is something in every British soul that identifies with the under dog even if the film ends with Michael Caine and the other crooks trapped in a bus on the edge of a precipice. They end with the dilemma: should we edge forward to try and collect the gold or retreat safely but let the gold fall. It sounds a bit like today’s referendum.

Whichever way the UK’s EU referendum goes today (and I very much hope we remain in the European Union), the “leave campaign” has been remarkably successful. Led by some of the most privileged people in British public life, they have been able to portray themselves as the under dogs. Today’s vote is very much a vote against the perceived establishment (or establishments). Just about every British organisation (political parties, businesses, trade unions, NGOs, international organisations, global experts) are for “Remain” and yet around 50% of the population will vote against their advice. The more the Remain side marshall a serious organisation to speak, the more it seems to strengthen the “Leave” campaign.

The real revelation of the campaign then has been the depth of this distrust of officialdom within large sections of the population. This seems to have built slowly over many years- in part the result of the 2008 financial crisis but also the wider effects of globalisation felt everywhere in the world: widening the gaps in society between those that benefit and those who do not. Think only of how the Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump campaigns in the USA have exploited this. In the UK, the Leave campaign has been able to tap into this distrust against the elites even though it is a campaign run by an elite of its own. If “Remain” wins today’s referendum – this distrust will not go away, if “Leave” wins the distrust is likely to grow when the disaffected see that the promises made on trade, expenditure and immigration cannot be met.

The irony is that the leaders of both sides of the debate, David Cameron and Boris Johnson, both went to the same elite private school and university – and have been debating room rivals for many years. It seems that their private views on the EU are almost identical – they have (for reasons of political power) picked opposing sides of the debate – as any private school debating society does. The problem is the consequences of this petty rivalry will be profound, not just for the UK but also for the rest of Europe. Perhaps this is just the British way – to follow ‘our betters’ – the fictional Robin Hood himself was no man of the people in most versions of the story, rather he was an Earl looking to reclaim his status. Those that really try to push ideas that will change the lives of working people, such as Thomas Paine, tended to get exiled for sedition and forgotten by many British people – he is more remembered for his role in the French revolution or the US War of Independence.

But the referendum has revealed a deep mistrust in all types of organisation that needs to be rebuilt. This requires some serious thinking. As I debated on the BBC’s Moral Maze a couple of weeks ago – we need to understand the new forms of social contract that are developing in our societies and each organisation needs to be clear about how it relates to specific communities and where its accountability lies. Legal licence to operate is no longer sufficient for business and political licence is no longer sufficient for governments – both need also to develop their social licence. Yes, OK, I have written a book on this (yawn), but now is the time for some though questions about legitimacy, trust and consent whichever way the referendum result goes tonight. Sitting in a bus on the edge of a precipice is not a sustainable option.

Could closing tax havens be David Cameron’s greatest legacy?

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The Panama Papers and the London Anti-Corruption Summit

Forget the referendum on membership of the European Union, the real threat to the UK’s sovereignty comes not from Brussels but from tax havens, money laundering and sanctions avoidance. The revelations over the past 24 hours from the 11 million documents leaked from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists points so many fingers in so many directions that it is difficult to know where to start. So why not turn to a Prime Minister who has already promised to show leadership on this issue?  The same one who has asked his country to weigh its membership of the European Union in the balance in the June referendum.

The UK Prime Minister’s international Anti-Corruption Summit on 12 May 2016 is to be welcomed. However, the UK and its offshore dependencies have particular questions to answer if London is to lead the charge. Taken as a whole, the Union flag flies over more tax loopholes than any other, yet it barely makes the UK’s mass media. Even today’s revelations will not sustain enough domestic scrutiny unless the Prime Minister sets in place fundamental reforms that might become his greatest legacy. If we look around the world, the worst abusers of human rights, the most corrupt of politicians and dirtiest of all businesses have much to thank those corners of the world where money (and other assets) can be squirrelled away, quietly and with few questions asked.

Some transparency would be a start – a registry of all businesses based in the tax havens is an essential first step. However, many will continue to ask why such loop holes continue to exist when it is clear they benefit all those who enjoy levels of impunity – be they the super rich, the corrupt or sanction breakers. Prime Minister Cameron has to make the case convincingly that his government is serious about its intent to no longer be a provider of shadow and shade to people who care little about the interests of Britain or its people.

This will take particular courage because today’s allegations even reached the financial dealings of David Cameron’s own father, but then many world leaders will be touched by this scandal over the weeks ahead. Prime Minister Cameron could make a difference by not defending the indefensible (as some world leaders will try) but by setting a new legacy for his own country and for generations to come.

We hope that the Prime Minister will also shine a light on other places where reform is badly needed, such as major sports bodies for example. But condemning the likes of FIFA now requires very little political capital and raises the issue about why governments were silent for so long about corruption in sport. The Panama Papers have raised the game and set a new standard for leadership on transparency and anti-corruption. The 12 May London Summit must tackle the issue of tax havens head on. Perhaps by doing so, the Prime Minister can also show the British people that sovereignty is undermined in sunnier places than Brussels.

How David Cameron learned about refugees

What difference a day makes…

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Two days ago, I watched the UK Prime Minister speak on national television explaining why the UK could not accept any more Syrian refugees. He looked uncomfortable when saying it, not making eye contact with the camera.

Like many British people, I got a little angry about this. My grandmother had taken in a destitute Hungarian refugee in 1956, she had little but had taken him into her home. Surely if the government was not willing to do anything itself, it could at least get out of the way and let the British people step in, as they had in 1956.

So I wrote this letter to The (London) Times newspaper. Surprisingly it was published, perhaps signalling that even conservative newspapers such as The Times were sensing that the government needed a powerful message – a reminder of some moral sense.

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The front page of the Times yesterday, and most other UK newspapers that day, was the shocking image of the little drowned boy Aylan Kurdi. One of those historic images that changes the tide of events.

Partly because of what my grandmother did and other refugees I knew in my early life, I spent most of my 20s and early 30s working on refugee settlement issues in Europe before moving into other areas of human rights.  By lunchtime yesterday, I was with two colleagues reflecting that, as with John Major on Bosnia in 1993, something would need to change quickly in government thinking. At 6pm yesterday, there were the first television reports of some announcement from 10 Downing Street which came this morning.

Most of the details about how the UK will respond have yet to be released. It will be in the single digit thousands (at least initially), refugees for resettlement nominated by UNHCR from the immediate vicinity of Syria itself. There are many unknown answers to complex questions still ahead, but the outpouring of letters and social media throughout the UK today reminds us that there is still a basic humanity underpinning the social contract that all democratic governments must service. They do indeed need social licence.

I end with two of today’s letters in The Times responding to my own and reflecting why ordinary British people  feel compelled to act. I hope that when it matters, a British Prime Minister will not forget this again. My deepest respects to the father of the Kurdi family and all asylum-seekers and refugees wherever they may be – the dispossessed and the desperate but also those closest to the dignity of life itself.

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10 reasons why UK MPs should accept their 10% pay rise

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Defending transparency and accountability is hardest when it is perceived to be in your self-interest.

It is not popular to defend the £7,000 pay increase for MPs that the independent parliamentary body has recommended, increasing their pay from £67,000 to £74,000 a year before tax (just over US $110,000). But there are, I believe, very important reasons for making such a defence.

First to say that their existing annual salary of £67,000 is a lot of money for most people: it is well above what most UK workers can ever expect to earn: the minimum annual salary being about £13,000 and the average being just over £26,000.

Over the past two days, nearly all leading MPs across all the main parties have lined up in the media to state how much against the proposal they are. Many claim that they will not be accepting the increase, donating it to charity or keeping it in a separate fund. David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister, has asked the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) to drop the proposal, although as an independent parliamentary body, this is a request and not an order.

It has, most definitely, become a public relations issue – with no perceived reputational or political pay off for any MP that defends the increase. It is perhaps a reflection on how deep the trust deficit surrounding Westminster has become that MPs should behave in this way. I will argue here that conversely, the legitimacy and trust of parliamentary activity requires better paid politicians. The social licence of MPs and of Parliament, requires some longer-term thinking and political bravery as there are deeper issues at stake – the transparency and accountability of elected bodies in the UK and around the world. And yes, even if this means MPs being accused of standing up for their own financial interests on this one occasion, much better it is done within the antiseptic fresh air of public scrutiny than some of the corruption of the past.

1.  It is true that public sector pay in Britain has largely flat-lined over the past six years whilst the richest in society continue to get richer. This is heavily unfair and speaks to an increasingly unequal society. But the issue of MPs pay has not effectively been dealt with since the expenses scandals of 2009 and, let it be said, before that many MPs had regarded their expense claims to be more or less unofficial salary top ups. So MP pay issues in the UK go back much further in time and were also related to the other income they might receive from other forms of employer, shares or consultancies. The old ways of doing things were opaque, and sometimes corrupt, lets not return to that.

2.  The increase would bring MPs in the UK onto a par with those in Germany (this seems a fair benchmark) but still well below MPs in countries such as Japan, the USA or Italy (some better benchmarks than others perhaps). Other public professions in the UK: head-teachers, senior civil servants and hospital administrators can all earn significantly more. There is never a good time to try and correct this imbalance, now is as good as any other.

3.  Allowing MP salaries to continue to fall behind other professional benchmarks favors rich MPs. A 10% pay increase matters very little if you are independently wealthy, like some leading UK politicians are, but matters a great deal if you started with very little and trying to work 80 hours a week to serve your constituents and tackle inequalities. One shocking indicator are the number of UK MPs that have attended private school – a huge social class indicator in the UK which still surprises many of my overseas friends. Only 7% of the UK population attends private school, but they represent 54% of current Conservative MPs, 41% of Liberal Democrats and 12% of Labour MPs. This is perhaps a better benchmark for representational legitimacy than the pay rise issue.

4.  The issue of trust and legitimacy in the eyes of the public is not just about the amount earned, it has been about the lack of transparency and accountability. The two should not be confused. Now that an objective process is in place, MPs should not pussyfoot around the recommendations of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) for reasons of short-term perception. How does this help trust and legitimacy over the longer term?

5.  IPSA was created with the very mandate to place the pay increase decision, as well as other related issues, outside of political considerations and benchmarked against external indicators. To not implement this recommendation undermines the ability for objective oversight of such procedures within Parliament.

6.  Creating ‘ring-fencing’ schemes for the increase will cause chaos and the kind of lack of transparency that IPSA was created to avoid. If an MP wants to give some or all of the salary to a charity, fine, but it should not be linked to the pay increase issue. They should also make sure that the name of the recipient charity is publicly declared, as such external interests are indeed an issue of public concern, particularly when it is in effect public money which is being re-routed.

7.  We want the best MPs we can across the three countries (England, Scotland and Wales) and one province/region/country (Northern Ireland) of the UK – not just the richest, privately schooled Oxbridge educated middle-class or a Parliament dominated by the zealots. If it is true that Sepp Blatter earned $10million a year, and some UK bankers and CEOs do still not earn much less, shouldn’t UK MPs earn the equivalent of 1% of this, especially when they are meant to rein in the corrupt?

8.  Giving a pay rise to MPs might create a stronger moral argument for ending public sector pay restraint elsewhere, particularly those professions blighted by poor pay such as residential care.

9.  IPSA have clearly stated the pay award can be funded by the savings in MP expense claims and so there is no negative impact on the parliamentary budget.

10.  If the IPSA recommendation is rejected by parliamentarians it will send a very perverse message on the UK’s commitment to transparency and accountability. Lets not forget that other parliaments around the world – some of which pay MPs more even in less developed economies – do not have similar oversight bodies. IPSA was very late in coming in the UK but, unless its work is supported by MPs, it will be undermined at home and is unlikely to be a model for reformers elsewhere around the world.

Yes, this is an instance where political bravery means an extra £7,000 a year before tax and where each MP (how ever uncomfortable it might be) will need to look their low-paid electorate in the eye during constituency surgeries and justify why it is in the longer term interests of the country. Not according to them but according to IPSA. Isn’t that what independent oversight is mean to be about?

Why don’t we love the European Convention on Human Rights?

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This is a question to ask anyone on the continent of Europe, from the West Coast of Ireland to the Ural Mountains. The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and its Court in Strasbourg, owes nothing to the European Union for its existence as it was created immediately after the Second World War and has 47 member states, including Russia, Turkey and the Caucuses (in fact every county apart from Belarus). The Council of Europe, which oversees the European Convention and the Court, was inspired by Winston Churchill (the UK’s wartime leader) who believed that political union based on core values was essential to prevent future European wars.

It is therefore perhaps surprising that the 2015 manifesto commitment of the recently elected UK Government is to scrap the UK’s Human Rights Act that incorporates the ECHR into law. The ECHR was very much a Conservative Party creation, drafted under the guidance of David Maxwell-Fyfe in the late 1940s, a politician who was to go on to become the UK’s Lord Chancellor. So why are we here?

Human rights are rarely popular

Human rights are not usually a vote winner, in particular when we consider their legal aspects. Perhaps this is because most legal cases relate to specific (often marginalised) individuals and not the majority. When the majority does benefit through policy changes, such as child protection, gender equality, care of the elderly, personal security, education, health and so on, these are rarely regarded as human rights issues (which in fact they are). In the UK, the debate about the much-cherished National Health Service is rarely framed within the terms of the “right to health” and the UK’s commitments under the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The legal cases that have been taken to the Strasbourg Court have been much more associated with the civil and political rights of individuals including prisoners, asylum-seekers, suspected terrorists and so on. Tabloid newspapers have long had a field day on such issues – resulting in many to comment “what about my human rights?” The fact human rights law defends sometimes unpopular minorities for reasons of legal precedent (they are the “canaries in the coal mine”) is rarely explained to non-lawyers (and I am no lawyer). Given the lack of public awareness, some might argue that a debate about a “British Bill of Rights” in the place of the ECHR might be a good thing – to engage the wider public. However, there are a number of important reasons why this might not be the case.

A British Bill of Rights?

At first glance it sounds rather nice: evoking the 800 years legacy of the Magna Carta and all that. But the debate about what should be in such a Bill of Rights will be fierce and might well surprise some of its supporters. Our commitments to human rights within the United Nations are now far more expansive than under the ECHR – including economic, social and cultural rights and more recently the recognition that business too have a direct responsibility to respect human rights. If all of these human rights are to be strengthened under UK law – fantastic – but is this what the Government wants? Will we be litigating to protect rights within the education system, healthcare, water provision or the indignity of food banks?

The UK is generally serious about its United Nations human rights commitments and its place at the top table in New York and Geneva – in particular its permanent seat on the Security Council. Therefore it would be hard to ignore the full range of internationally recognized human rights if the process is to be reopened? If, however, a British Bill of Rights were to be restricted to civil and political rights only, it is likely to be a near carbon copy of the existing UK human rights legislation unless we were to leave the European Court and the Council of Europe altogether. I believe that leaving the ECHR would have very serious international consequences as set out below.

It is also important to note that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are likely to take a very different view on such a British Bill of Rights. Both Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own Human Rights Commissions aligned to the ECHR – they might want no part of a British Bill of Rights that was not fully aligned to the ECHR (and therefore what is the point of replacing the existing UK Human Rights Act?). Does the government really want to provoke such discord at the very time it is trying to keep the Union together? In many ways what is being proposed is actually an English Bill of Rights and not a British one – suddenly it doesn’t sound so compelling. Should the English have fewer human rights than the Scottish, or vice versa?

Leaving the European Court on Human Rights?

It might well be the case that the problem some British politicians have with the ECHR are not the rights themselves, but the lengthy delays involved in cases and (in the case of the right of prisoners to vote) decisions that offend political sensibilities. Occasionally frustrating government ministers is the job of any human rights court, and what is rarely reported in the UK press is how the European Court offends such sensibilities in Moscow, Budapest or Ankara too. The UK leaving the ECHR would send a very clear message to other politicians in every capital across 47 countries (not all of which have outstanding records on human rights) that the days of accommodating the opinion of a court beyond their borders is over? I feel for the British Ambassador in any of these capitals when he or she has to explain this to local human rights defenders, and I worry very much for all those risking their lives for freedom everywhere as the ECHR is also much admired model for those working to developing the capacity of their regional human rights courts in Africa or the Americas.

Citizens within the UK would also be stripped of their ability to petition beyond this country for justice. If we assume that the legal systems of the UK are flawless then fine, but I have yet to meet a British judge who believes this to be the case. Some countries allow their citizens to petition under United Nations human rights conventions but the UK has signed very few of the optional protocols that allow for this. I have heard nothing to indicate that the UK would allow for this as part of such a British Bill of Rights.

Finally, it is worth adding that although the Council of Europe is nothing directly to do with the European Union (which was set up later has far fewer member states), the EU has endorsed the ECHR and recognizing the ECHR is now essential for all EU members. This includes the work of the EU’s External Action Service around the world as well as the internal role of the Fundamental Rights Agency in Vienna. Any plan to revoke the UK’s recognition of the ECHR would play directly into its forthcoming referendum on EU membership.

Where do we go from here?

As is often said at such moments, no one would choose to start from here. The UK Government is right to demand greater efficiencies and clarity from the Strasbourg Court process – as the Brighton Declaration suggested (during the UK’s turn as Chair of the Council of Europe in 2012).

A public debate on the value of human rights law is also welcome as well as the nature of the UK’s international commitments. The challenge will be that an a priori commitment to revoking the UK Human Rights Act might raise the expectations of those hoping the UK will step away from some of its wider human rights obligations – something no internationally responsible democratic Government is likely to do. The debate about a British Bill of Rights might, therefore, waste a lot of time, energy and money if we end up very much where we started in a couple of years time. Worse than that, unless handled with extreme care, the debate might alienate further democrats and civil society in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – and send a very perverse message to other governments around the world less committed to human rights.

We are where we are, and so we must all hope for some level headed and inclusive discussions that really do put human rights in their full context and what is at stake for both British interests but also human rights defenders worldwide. If the UK (or just England) were to leave the ECHR it might not affect the lives of most British people directly in the short-term unless you are unlucky enough to have your fundamental human rights put at risk over the years ahead. But it would have an immediate impact on this country’s international relations and the wellbeing of vulnerable communities across Europe and around the world, as well as integrity of the component parts of the United Kingdom. I know that Government ministers want what is best for this country and so they need to proceed very carefully now the genie is out of the bottle. This too at a time when the UK Anti-Bribery Act and the UK Modern Day Slavery Act set new benchmarks for how our Government, companies and charities must behave around the world in accordance with international standards.

For those of you reading this commentary outside of the UK, perhaps it resonates with your own national discussions. If not now, it might well over the months ahead as discourse in the UK might embolden those who see little value in Churchill’s legacy and the post war social contract.

Immigration – more than a numbers game

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The UK election will be decided in less than three weeks and immigration is indeed one of the main issues  as it has been in many other European countries. Whilst the party leaders will debate the UK’s membership of the European Union, none has so far mentioned the two airplane loads of passengers washing up dead on the European coast this week alone. Let me rephrase this. The equivalent of two plane loads of irregular migrants assumed dead in capsized boats trying to make the Italian coast from Libya in the past week. If they had been airline crashes then the media coverage would have been tenfold greater. But they are not plane  passengers, they are nothing more than “clandestinos” and supporting their rights wins few votes. Perhaps the biggest moral issue for Europeans in this generation is rarely a central political concern, particularly to those in the North and West of Europe far from the Mediterranean. When agreement is reached, it is often perverse – such as ending support for Italy’s “mare nostrum” humanitarian interventions for fear that it just attracts more migrants.

However, political debates about immigration are not really about numbers. How does any society decide it has enough migrants? About 9% of the UK’s population is foreign born, whilst in Australia or Switzerland it is 24% and it is over 80% in the United Arab Emirates or Qatar. How to know when enough is enough? It is very hard for host populations to make objective decisions about this, so too their politicians. One common factor for most of these countries is that it is the localities within them with the lowest percentage of immigrants that are often the most anti-immigrant in sentiment. So perhaps it is not about numbers at all, but about the perception of those numbers, about qualitative and not quantitative issues. The target to reduce net immigration to the UK by the current coalition government to 100,000 was all but abandoned last year – so perhaps mainstream British politicians are also realizing this.

Immigration debates then become more meaningful when they are about qualitative issues. Sometimes this can raise tough questions about cultural identity and religion – some of which we discussed in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January. These can be uncomfortable and challenging discussions but they are what the immigration debate in Europe is really about (but in code), not about the numbers. At its essence is the clash between those that believe Europe should remain predominately white and of Christian heritage and others who see Europe as part of an interconnected world united by a set of universal values but not a set of religious beliefs or a shared bloodline. Those of you who read my blogs know what side of this discussion I am unambiguously on – but it is where the debate really is. In fact it is less and less about immigration at all, as each of cultural identities is beginning to become independent from where in the world any of us are born.

On a more positive note, some British politicians are taking a much smarter position of immigration – linking it more to abuse and exploitation than to numbers. It is an undoubted fact, that some immigrants coming to the UK (in particular those entering illegally) are vulnerable to considerable exploitation in the labour market. This came to prominence in 2004 when 23 Chinese workers drowned whilst picking seashells in the North of England and the issue of unregulated third party labour providers came into focus. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority, which now regulates the role of labour providers in UK agriculture, horticulture and shellfish farming, is a very important step towards ending labour market exploitation. Fundamentally, it focuses on ending exploitation not just for foreign-born workers but also native workers too – exploitation is exploitation. The powerful message this sends is that the UK wants to be home for migrants but not at any cost – not if it means undercutting the protections and rights of native workers or the migrants themselves. This is surely the most effective way of controlling immigration – regulating the labour market and not just the borders.

No UK Government minister has yet been willing to extend the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to other business sectors donated by temporary agencies, such as hotels, catering or construction. But perhaps after the forthcoming election, whichever party wins, it would make good political sense to do so, in particular if Britain’s newest piece of legislation, the Modern Day Slavery Act, is to become more than a piece of paper.