Tuesday 31 December 2013

Tristram Hunt on Education and Immigration

"Just as broken clocks are right twice a day, even the Daily Telegraph occasionally prints the truth." I can't remember who coined it, but it's a cliche so commonplace that to cite it is to patronise one's audience. Unfortunately, that is what I'm going to do about the reception this ridiculous article received among people who really should know better. First things first, I have a current and former interest to declare. Tristram is my Member of Parliament. He's also my former employer.

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.


Anonymous said...

problem is that Poles did not compete for unskilled work; plumbing, carpentry and brick laying are not unskilled jobs, they take at least four years to learn. The reason why Poles (and Spaniards before them) found it easy to find work in the UK is because they had skills. But obviously Tristram would not know what a skilled job is, or what it means to compete in the job market. And obviously we can’t expect members of the Labour party to know anything about jobs that require hands-on skills rather than a university degree.

Val Tinsley said...

How many times did Tristram try for selection for MP before becoming an MP think that should qualify him to be in competition fot the job market
I've always worked hands on but also realise there is place for both Degree or manual

Nickoli said...

Having read this post, and not seen the Telegraph article, I've still come away with the impression that Tristram Hunt either believes that immigration is a problem in a way that just isn't supported by evidence, or doesn't, but is still willing to indulge in "racist dog-whistling". Either way, as another constituent, it makes me rather concerned and dis-inclined to support him at the next election.

Gary Elsby said...

The Tories and their press are rattling cages before undertaking proceedings to divorce themselves from the Liberals.
A bit of reds under the beds never did the Tories any harm and it is really quite amusing to see grown men and women telling of terrors come 1/1/14.

Can a Brit who has lived abroad for years come back and claim benefits regarding housing ect...?
He must join the queue just like every other immigrant.
Poles on the other hand, who work full time in skilled jobs everywhere are entitled to all the benefits going and the chid allowances they send back to the kids in Poland.