My comments on the contemporary Conservative Party's attitude towards immigration are mainly responses to what I found in Kieron O'Hara's book, After Blair: David Cameron and the Conservative Tradition (2007 edition).
This book is a relatively well-praised and popular work on Cameron's 'new Conservatism'. It even includes 'praise' from David Cameron himself. Cameron says, of O'Hara's book, that it
"is a compelling, and often persuasive, read and provides at least part of the road map for a sustained Conservative recovery in modern Britain."
As can be seen, it was written before Cameron was elected Prime Minister in 2010. Nevertheless, the book has its modest impact on the Conservative Party and it even encapsulates many of the new directions of the current party.
Most of all, apart from his stress on conservative scepticism (which the author deems to be the primary point of the book), O'Hara's position can be called, simplistically perhaps, left-wing Conservatism.
In it he criticises the free market, speaks out against tradition, embraces the European Union in its fullness, and, more relevantly to this piece, he defends what he sees as the positives not only of immigration into the UK, but also of mass immigration into this country!
Enoch Powell and the ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech
|Was he right or wrong? Or can he right today but not then?|
Kieron O'Hara attempts to get to the heart of British attitudes towards immigration through the prism of Enoch Powell. Although it is clear that O'Hara has absolutely no time for Powell, he still appears to keep his dismissive volume down a little. After all, Powell was a Conservative MP and he’s still admired by many Tories - both young and old.
Firstly, O'Hara advances Powell's positions, as I said, with a hint of distaste. Despite that, in these passages, at the least, he offers no arguments against Powell's positions and simply seems to assume that most contemporary Conservatives, or even 'progressive' Tories, are against Enoch Powell's heritage.
For example, O'Hara tells us that
"Powell was convinced that the long and continuous traditions [of the UK]... depended to a large extent on a cultural and political homogeneity, a capacity to conceive of the totality of the nation." (113)
The hint here, and from what else O'Hara writes in his book, is that Powell was wrong on these issues. Yet there is no argumentation to that effect.
Doesn't O'Hara believe in the United Kingdom's 'long and continuous traditions' or is he simply against them? Doesn't he believe that such traditions depend on 'cultural and political homogeneity' or does he think that such homogeneity isn’t needed? And is it wrong to think in terms of 'the totality of a nation' - of the United Kingdom?
I would say that you certainly don’t even have a nation in the first place if that geographical place doesn’t have at least some 'long and continuous traditions'. Without them, there is no unification throughout the geographical unit and thus no real nation. We may not agree with, or accept, all or certain of these traditions which we inherit, but there still remains the need for traditions of some kind or other.
And Powell was right. Without such traditions we would have political and social heterogeneity rather than homogeneity. Let's not mince our words here. We may indeed have conflict and possibly even civil war without such traditions and thus without such political and social heterogeneity. We may have the balkanisation of the British Isles, or even, possibly, its Islamisation through more and more sharia law and the concomitant demographic rise of Islamic ghettos (or 'enclaves' as the French call them).
In addition, in order to stop such disintegration or balkanisation it is also necessary for the government/state, as well as its citizens, to be able to 'conceive of the totality of a nation'. This isn't a demand for fascist or Communist (or indeed Islamic) conformity. It is more a desire that a country's inhabitants at least share some fundamentals of various kinds (whether a belief in parliamentary democracy, free speech, a national health service, the Sun or Mirror newspaper, bacon or whatever).
O'Hara then goes on to state what Powell believed would be the consequences of complete (?) political and social heterogeneity. He writes:
"From [Powell's] vantage point as an MP for Wolverhampton, with its relatively large immigrant population, he worried about its increasing heterogeneity, until his notorious, and deliberately offensive, 'Rivers of Blood' speech... " (113)
The point which must immediately be stated is that Powell might have been proved right, in principle, even then - in the late 1960s early 1970s. Complete social and political heterogeneity can, or could, lead to rivers of blood because it has done in the past and in other countries! Whether or not it did in Powell's day is another matter. I would say that, on the whole, it didn't. But in some respects it did.
Despite those qualifications, perhaps there weren't rivers of blood not because social and political heterogeneity don't - necessarily - lead to such things but because Powell, and others, might have overestimated or overemphasised the social and political heterogeneity of that time. Put simply. If there is genuine social and political heterogeneity there may very well be rivers of blood. On the other hand, if that heterogeneity is not genuine, or not as deep or embedded as imagined, then, clearly, there will be little chance of civil war or conflict across the board.
More clearly, it was obvious that Powell was talking primarily, or even exclusively, of people of Afro-Caribbean heritage (plus the Ugandan Asians and others from the Commonwealth). Yet, at that time, many Afro-Caribbean embraced many - or even all - aspects of British culture and its traditions. They were not intrinsically at odds with, as it were, Britishness or Englishness. Indeed many were Christians and many others were enthusiastic about British political realities and institutions.
Many of the younger Afro-Caribbeans, especially the unemployed, rebelled against what they took to be unfair and racist British realities. So too do the young of many traditions and cultures. (This is especially true of the indigenous British youth since the late 1950s.) Not only that. Racism and discrimination were indeed realities, in the UK, to react or rebel against. Much of the anger was justified - though certainly not all of it. And it can also be said that not all rebellion or reaction implies a complete rejection of the culture, both social and political, in which you live.
Thus we can also ask if all these angry or rebellious Afro-Caribbean youths shared an explicit political ideology or even a totalist religious system. I would say that they didn't and this could be another reason to be slightly sceptical of Powell's rivers-of-blood prophecy. However, what if all these young black men had indeed shared a radical or even revolutionary religion/ideology? Things might have been drastically different and our streets might have become rivers of blood.
As for the O'Hara quote directly above. If Powell sincerely believed that it was possible, or even inevitable - all things unchanging - that there could have been rivers of blood, why didn't he have the right to say so? Indeed why was the speech 'deliberately offensive' in O'Hara's words? (It's not that I disagree with that statement. I'm not even sure what he means by 'deliberately offensive'.)
The interesting thing about O'Hara's take on Powell is that one of his major criticisms of the man will not be directly apparent to most people because it has nothing to do, directly, with race or immigration. It concerns O'Hara's position on both his and Powell's attitude towards the free market. O'Hara concludes the paragraph by saying that
"whatever one might think of the tone of the speech [''Rivers of Blood'], one thing it does is repudiate the free global market for labour in no uncertain terms."
O'Hara is against what can be called the untrammelled free market. (Indeed, sometimes, as a left-wing Tory, he sounds like he's against the free market. Full stop.) Powell, on the other hand, was a free-market zealot (according to O’Hara). But in order to believe in an untrammelled free market, as O'Hara claims Powell was, you must also believe in 'the free global market for labour'; which Powell didn't seem to believe in. Yet Powell's opponents are all too keen - and too often tell us - that Powell himself brought over immigrants from various countries. That may be true. But it is largely irrelevant when seen in a contemporary context.
O'Hara systematically fails to mention the legions of immigrants, mainly Muslims, who are on benefits. What relevance do they have to Powell's or O’Hara’s own 'free global market for labour'? There is huge recent-immigrant unemployment alongside whole ghettos of immigrants. Talk about 'our need for foreign labour' is simply not relevant when talking about these people. (They are also mainly unskilled and unqualified.)
I'll leave this discussion here because O'Hara uses the Powell case as a simple preamble to his absolute defence of what can only be called mass immigration into the British Isles. It is the value of these immigrants, and their labour, that he seems to defend completely
Why Free-Marketeers Should Accept Mass Immigration
|It has worked! But these marchers want a Marxist Utopia, which would result - and has resulted - in hell on earth.|
Firstly he states the obvious. He says that a ‘change in the constitution of the population has occurred’ (249) What follows in the interesting bit. He says that “it is the Conservative’s business to manage that change, not to prevent it, nor to reserve it.”
For a start, as an unelected academic, who is Kieron O’Hara to tell us what is the business of Conservatives (or conservatives with a small ‘c’)? Secondly, who says that it’s not the business of conservatives to ‘prevent’ or even ‘reverse’ mass immigration? Clearly he does.
There are strong arguments to the effect that once immigrants are here there is little that can be done - at least on the mass scale. That may be. However, O’Hara is not only talking about managing mass immigration which has already occurred. He’s also saying that Conservatives should ‘not... prevent it’ today or in the future. And he certainly doesn’t believe in any policy of reversal. But who says that mass immigration can’t be prevented? Many want mass immigration to be stopped. Many others think it can be stopped. Surely, of all people, Conservative politicians should never be happily say that some terrible situation is beyond our, or their, ken. No politicians should ever say that with ease - not even Conservatives.
It simply doesn’t follow that because we have mass immigration now, and have indeed had it in the past, that it must be the case that we simply accept it both today and in the future. Of course there are political and economic arguments which state that mass immigration ‘is necessary in modern economies’, etc. These positions can be argued against too. Not to do so would be equivalent to Francis Fukuyamo’s idea that the way things are in the West today is the way things will always be from this day onward. (He was referring to ‘liberal ‘capitalism’. The Whigs said something similar. Indeed Hegel once said that perfection had been reached in the Prussia of his day!)
Indeed O’Hara says that opposing mass immigrations is equivalent to ‘King Cnut trying to hold back the tide’. What incredible arrogance and defeatism! What an abrogation of the very nature of politics! This academic appears to be claiming that mass immigration (plus perhaps other political, social and economic realities) is a logical necessity in modern economies; not a contingent fact!
The other thing to stress is as simplistic as the ‘racist’ position/s he decries.
What sort of immigrants is he talking about? Muslim fundamentalists/Islamists or Indians who want to join the British Army or work in a UK charitable organisation? Is he also talking about the immigrants who claim benefits in our country or those who work the NHS? Immigrants who want to bomb us, or live off the dole, or immigrants with skills or expertise the UK requires? He doesn’t make these distinctions at all. You cannot be for immigrants - certainly not mass immigration - unless you make such distinctions. If you don’t, you are nothing more than a mass-immigration fundamentalist, as many leftists and left-liberals are... as well as left-wing Tories like O’Hara himself.
However, O’Hara rather ingeniously tries to fuse Conservative, or even conservative, values and attitudes with the defence of mass immigration. For example, in the first part of this piece I covered O’Hara’s thesis that Enoch Powell contradicted himself by believing in the untrammelled free market at the same time as being against mass immigration. As a free-marketeer (of the ‘liberal’ variety), Enoch Powell shouldn’t have ‘repudiated the free market for labour’. Despite appearances, O’Hara embraces this aspect of neo-liberalism by saying that ‘at a time when short-term labour shortages’ we should embrace the ‘demand for [more] immigrant labour’. So O’Hara is against the untrammelled free market when it comes to unemployment, employment rights, the NHS, etc. But he’s for it when it comes to a mass immigration which will ‘alleviate our labour shortages’ and even make us more productive and more efficient. But if the untrammelled free market is a bad thing for X, Y and Z, why is it suddenly a good thing when it comes to mass immigration into our country?
Do we really need mass immigration, rather than immigration, to solve our economic problems? More pertinently, do we really require loads of immigrants who will go on benefits - never mind immigrants who hate our country? O’Hara doesn’t make any of these distinctions because he appears to be a ‘progressive’ Conservative who’s also a mass-immigration zealot. And he proves his championship of mass immigration by saying that our ‘immigration quotas’ are ‘swingeing’. In other words, he wants more immigration whether or not these immigrants are Muslim terrorists/Islamists/haters of the West or Chinese business-oriented hard workers.
Again, O’Hara simply states, rather than argues for, the position that it ‘is futile to stand in the way of great social changes’. Including the UK’s conversion to Nazism or the extermination of all people with ginger hair? Or is he only really talking about mass immigration as an example of a ‘great social change’?
O’Hara both defends mass immigrations and also says that it doesn’t really exist! (Just as Islamists argue that the Jews weren’t exterminated by the Nazis and also that they deserved it. Or that the the Jews/Zionist carried out 9/11 and also that it was a good thing that ‘the war was brought home to the motherland’ - as Chomsky put it.) He says it doesn’t really exist and states that ‘newspapers spread scares about the hordes of Eastern Europeans [who are] about to flood into the United Kingdom’ at the same time as saying that mass immigration is the only way to rectify worker-demand and solve other economic problems.
So the newspaper (the tabloids, of course, not the Guardian) worry us about mass immigration whereas O’Hara thinks that we need it. All at the same time as hinting that there is no real mass immigration anyway (hence the ‘swingeing immigration quotas’).
Again, O’Hara tells us that mass immigration is a result of the Conservatives embracing the free markets. That is, ‘these results are a result of a free market’. So Enoch Powell, and the neo-liberals, should have embraced mass immigration because it accords with the defence of the (untrammelled) free market. But neo-liberals, as well as many tradition Conservatives, reject mass immigration. Enoch Powell and co. are basically hypocrites to O’Hara. However, the new ‘progressive’ Tory, such as O’Hara himself, embraces mass immigration as free-marketeers - a free market that O’Hara otherwise rejects or delimits again and again in his book.
To elaborate. O’Hara is repeatedly critical, throughout his book, of untrammelled markets yet thinks that immigration should be untrammelled and supported precisely because it accords with the free market. In terms of examples, O’Hara, or the New Tories, believes in the rights of workers, EU representation, government support for the NHS (along with an almost complete rejection of reform), at the same time as believing, both ideologically and economically, in free mass immigration..
Is O’Hara against the completely free market or he for it. He is in favour in terms of immigration. Not when it comes to rejecting the power of the EU and it ‘social policies’.