Right, that's out the way. On Saturday the Telegraph published snippets of an interview with Tristram under the headline 'Labour: White boys' underachievement linked to mass migration'. Now, of course, there is an issue with white boys' underachievement at school - though, forgive my contrarian nature, few outside the women's movement were that bothered about white girls' underperformance until the terms of the problem were reversed. But anyway. It's a complex problem but not an insurmountable one by any means. And, unfortunately, immigration is a hot topic too. Even if we don't wake up to our Romanian and Bulgarian overlords tomorrow, the UK can look forward to being swamped by 27 million new Britons by the end of the month. And if the pint-chewing and cigarette-drinking Nigel Farage gets his way, you can add tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to that total. Immigration does matter to many millions of voters - you don't need the ringside seat I once had at Tristram's postbag to realise that.
Are the two linked? Because my next-door-but-one neighbours are Polish, does that mean the white working class boy around the corner is going to do worse at school? It's difficult to see how a link could be suggested. But this is what the Telegraph says Tristram believes. Asked about it, he replied “Exactly. And that comes back to the supply side. We have to get in there.” Seems unequivocal.
It all depends on how you define 'linked'. Evidently, if white working class boys aren't doing well at school they will find themselves disadvantaged when they enter the labour market. And this is especially the case when they're competing for unskilled work with recent arrivals from overseas. There is a link between the two. A relationship. And, it's perfectly obvious from the short piece and the longer extract from the forthcoming Fabian Review that this is the sense in which the matter is being discussed. Hence why Tristram stressed the necessity of upskilling working class boys and acknowledged that open borders to EU migrants were a mistake. Whether you agree with the comments or not, the end point is aimed at the entry points and extent of the labour market in low paid, unskilled work.
Sadly, thanks to the mischievous headline the title strongly implies immigration causes underachievement. And going by the outraged tweets that fell into my feed on Saturday and Sunday, this was how many, many lefties interpreted it too. This is why I'm going to have to patronise folks who were so moved. The Telegraph is a Tory paper. As such, it doesn't have the best interests of the labour movement at heart. It will say and do what it thinks it can get away with to traduce and rubbish progressive views. That is why they publish Dan Hodges and Lisa Ansell, both of whom spend their time knocking Labour and the trade unions from Blair Ultra and Ultra-Left perspectives respectively. The paper has also embarked on a conscious effort to distort whatever front-bench Labour people say to undermine members' and activists' morale (some might say the leadership are quite capable of that themselves).
Given Labour's unenviable past of indulging racist dog-whistling, you can understand why some might accept the Telegraph's spin as plausible. Nevertheless it's still disappointing that people who know a thing or two about media literacy and the partisan press uncritically swallowed the report.