Enoch was wrong but there is still work to do says - Trevor Phillips

On the 40th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s infamous Rivers of Blood speech, speaking to a crowd of over 200 people in the very same hotel, Trevor Phillips has renewed the debate on immigration, thankfully on a more positive note

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Over the past few weeks a number of national newspapers had published articles questioning whether the predictions in Enoch’s speech had come true 40 years on. Trevor Phillips commented:-

Much has been already been said this week about Enoch Powell's words that day. But though the moment that took place here forty years ago mattered, I believe that what took place in the years afterwards mattered much more. Not because there were rivers of blood, or ever likely to be; but because the  shockwave of fear that followed still reverberates through our society today.”

He added -

“what was important in that speech was not the predictions but the principles it set out. In the years that followed others created a doctrine in his name that tried to build on and justify those principles.  Today we would call that doctrine Powellism, and it is Powellism that I want to address rather than Powell himself.”

Whilst accepting Enoch had been right about the total number of projected immigrants in the United Kingdom today, Trevor Phillips has dismissed the prediction made in the infamous speech that the nation would be consumed by racial war. However Sir Trevor did point to incidents such as the Stephen Lawrence murder and the Brixton Riots as examples that there had been serious racial tension in the UK.

Trevor Phillips continued to argue that Enoch’s speech had cast a 40 year shadow on the debate on immigration, and that this in itself had created a vacuum in the political arena.  This in turn he suggested had  been a cause  behind the governments “ad hoc” approach to immigration over the past 40 years.

Sir Trevor Phillips commented

“So for forty years we have, by mutual consent, sustained a political silence on the one issue where  British people most needed articulate political leadership.

But the shockwave of fear hasn't just affected what politicians said. It also critically determined what they did. And that too has mostly been the opposite of what the Powellites hoped.

To start with by closing down debate about immigration, they allowed successive governments to avoid having much of a policy at all.  In essence Powellism so discredited any talk of planning that we've limped along with an ad-hoc approach to immigration whose only consistent aspect has been its racial bias; a non-policy that may have led to Britain admitting more immigrants rather than fewer over this period.”

In his address Sir Trevor stressed that the UK was at a critical stage in dealing with its approach to immigration. He argued that in the future British children would not be asking how many immigrants we could take into Britain, they themselves would be weighing up immigrating to dominant economies such as China and India.

Sir Trevor commented,

“In my lifetime there has never been a more vital moment for such a profound shift in thinking. There are no rivers of blood in prospect. Rather there is today a tide of hope that is carrying 200 million and more migrants across the globe in search of a better life. Some are British. Many are highly-skilled and qualified.

They look in our direction, but they have choices. Like every other prosperous developed nation we know that if we don't get our share of this wave of talent we risk becoming an economic backwater.”

In order for Britain to capitalise and for immigration to work cohesively, Sir Trevor emphasised that a programme of “Managed Immigration” and active integration are essential.

Managed Immigration

In his speech Trevor Phillips argued that Britain should be asking itself how many of the right immigrants can we attract. He commented

“I do not believe in an open door immigration policy. I support unreservedly, for example the government's managed migration points system. I welcome how Liam Byrne is cutting through the paralysis of the last 40 years. However, though we might want to be more selective about who comes into Britain, managing immigration is not automatically the same as reducing numbers of immigrants.”

Cost Of Immigration

Research conducted by the House of Lords recently reported on relatively small benefit per household of immigration and this had caught the general publics attention. Sir Trevor commented:-

“And  what their Lordships didn't do was to address what is nowadays called the counterfactual: what would life for our society as a whole be like without the immigrants?

In the real world we know some real people who would have their lives transformed and not for the better. Take three examples which apply to millions of British people.

To start with many families have benefited from the fact that they now have two salaries coming in - mostly because women have joined the workforce. But that was made possible for some only by of the availability of capable and qualified immigrant carers.

In the next twenty years our need for personal care for the elderly will double. Unless women are forced out of work, we know who will fill the void. Tens of thousands of qualified care workers from the rest of Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

Immigration is also changing some of our public services for the better. We all know that there would be no NHS without foreign doctors, nurses, cleaners and administrators. We all know that there will be no Crossrail in London, no Olympics, no new wave of housing starts without immigrant carpenters, electricians and bricklayers.”

Sir Trevor went on to comment that recent immigration had presented many new challenges, that the benefits where not shared equally, that communities where changing rapidly and in some cases growing apart. Many of the nationals will quote Sir Trevor’s reference of a cold war between communities. a regrettable use of terminology.

Sir Trevor further argued that the impact of the lack of integration and allocation of resources has led to understandable despondencies from the population at large. Trevor Phillips in his address expressed that this is needs to change in order for people to see the real benefits of immigration. He went on to outline his Three principles of an integrated society.

Three Principles for An Integrated Society.

The First Principle is that Integration is a two-way street

"Immigrants change us, mostly for the better. They don't just bring their labour with them - they create more choice for everyone -  of food, of music, of literature - all aspects of the benefits of two-way integration. They compete hard, they lift our standards. And in a global economy they are beginning to give us the edge in markets - India for example - that we would not otherwise enjoy.

Most immigrants change too. We expect those who come to Britain to play by the rules and to do their best to share in the responsibilities of living together as well as enjoying the rights -  for example by learning English so that they can participate fully in the workplace and in the life of the community. And if people want the rules to be different they campaign to change them by the democratic means we have available.

But an integrated society isn't only the sum of what individuals do. It's also what governments and  civil society do too. So that means we all - immigrant and home-grown - have the right to expect that we will be treated fairly, not exploited and that our dignity is respected.”

The Second Principle: Fairness is not just for minorities

We can no longer identify those who are not flourishing in our society by colour-coding them. For example, it has recently become clear that when it comes to educational failure and that million young people I mentioned earlier, the people with whom the system is having least success and who should today most concern us are young white men emerging into adulthood with no qualifications, no skills and in some cases  no aspirations.

Our equality effort should be directed at them too, especially at a time when so many jobs that are available are going to immigrants simply because they are better qualified.

And in our effort to provide a better evidence base, the Commission today publishes on its website a series of maps that show exactly where migrant communities are concentrated across Britain."

The Third Principle: We Must Share the benefits and burdens of migration fairly

"Much of the reason for unease over immigration is no longer about foreigners' difference. It is about whether those who benefit from their presence are also bearing their share of cost."

Summing up Sir Trevor called for an open and honest debate on immigration, diversity link comments 40 years is a long enough wait!

Click here to read the speech in full

Posted by, Asif Yusuf



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