Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Keep it simple
Michael Howard's anti-immigration stunt, launched on Sunday, seems to have left his opponents in a state of shock. Only today is a serious counter-attack emerging but, instead of countering Tory policy, it risks validating it.
For example, there is an extensive feature in today's Guardian that debunks the myths on which Tory policy is based by setting out copious facts and figures. All good stuff, but it is missing the point.
The real argument is not about numbers, legality or administrative efficiency. The Tory stance and the popular prejudice on which it feeds are essentially emotional rather than rational. You cannot fight emotion with logic.
Churning out a series of dry statistics about the number of Australians versus the number of Romanians may be valid in rational terms but will make little impact.
David Aaronovitch came closer to the truth than some of his Guardian colleagues by saying that "immigration control is code for fewer darkies, Gypsies and Bulgarians." Only one of the people quoted in today's Guardian feature got to the heart of the matter. Edie Friedman, of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, said,
"I find the timing of this announcement, during the week that we are remembering people who died in Auschwitz, extremely uncomfortable."Unlike Prince Harry, the Tories know what they are doing when they put on a swastika armband. The answer to their emotional charge is an emotional response. Tory anti-immigration policy is nothing more than an attempt to exploit racial prejudice and it is morally repugnant. Liberal Democrats should reiterate that simple moral judgement and not allow themselves to be deflected into statistical quibbling on their opponents' territory.