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Home News Immigration: Progressives need to listen ... and learn

Immigration: Progressives need to listen ... and learn

05 September 2016
Immigration: Progressives need to listen ... and learn

It doesn’t seem like just 10 weeks since the British people voted for Brexit. But as the dust settles, and initial tempers subside a little, progressives are now searching for the real lessons of June 23rd. Those lessons will have clear implications for the contests across Europe between populist forces and parties of the political mainstream.
What went wrong on immigration during the referendum debate? Was the crystallisation of the debate around that theme the sign of a genuine loss of control, of a dishonest debate, of a lack of political leadership? This week Policy Network publishes a trio of essays which grapple with these very questions.
Sunder Katwala, from British Future, argues that progressives can no longer ignore public concern on migration. To do so risks taking progressives ever further away from an effective public response to the populist challenge. It isn’t good enough, he believes, to try and change the subject – instead voters’ valid concerns will only be assuaged when they hear a practical plan to handle the pressures of immigration better.
Will Moy, director of Full Fact, writes that “the immigration debate badly needs fewer numbers and more choices”. More work can be done to provide better information, but this must be backed up by a response to fears about identity and culture.
Finally in a new milestone contribution to Policy Network’s project on New migration realities: inclusive narratives, Maeve Glavey explores the complexity of immigration trends and public opinion across Europe. Contrary to widely held assumptions there is no one exclusive type of voter worried about immigration, with young people not immune from concerns. There are worrying levels of dissatisfaction with governments’ perceived ability to manage immigration. However, there are also positive trends towards the acceptance of diversity over time, and robust understanding of the long-term benefits of immigration, especially in the UK. These nuances can and should be recognised and built on by those who defend the vision of a migrant-welcoming society in the face of populist challengers.
All three correspondents believe that it is possible to build a more positive, and more popular, narrative on immigration. However, this requires carefully listening to the worries voters across Europe have about specific aspects of immigration.

From the Policy Network Observatory:

The debate on immigration is too often dominated by meaningless and misinterpreted statistics

Britain’s Brexit vote exemplifies why progressives cannot keep running away from the debate on immigration

The reaction to rising immigration among European publics is complex and conflicted. The progressive mainstream must better understand voter anxieties in order to offer a positive platform to counteract them

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