UK immigration hits record 745,000: Home Secretary James Cleverly's praise for benefits of immigration is an important change of tone – Scotsman comment
As revised figures showed UK net migration hit a record 745,000 last year, Home Secretary James Cleverly stressed the government was committed to reducing the numbers and “stopping the boats”. No surprise there. However, Cleverly also did something unexpected: he actually spoke about the benefits of immigration.
“Behind the overall migration figures are a number of important and positive changes,” he said. “Today’s statistics, which show the biggest drivers of immigration to the UK are students and healthcare workers, are testament to both our world-leading university sector and our ability to use our immigration system to prioritise the skills we need.” He added that changes to working visas had been made “to address the urgent need for more social care workers” and that he was “proud” the UK had welcomed refugees from Hong Kong, Ukraine and Afghanistan.
Cynics may suggest that, given the gap between Conservative rhetoric about being “tough” on immigration and the reality of rising numbers, this is simply an attempt to justify failed policies. However, there is a pressing need to change the tenor of the debate to avoid the country being whipped up into a national frenzy of anti-immigrant sentiment by those whose motives are mainly political.
If those calling for universities to get out of the ‘immigration game’ have their way, our seats of higher learning will be robbed of a vast income stream that helps them provide a world-class education system. If the social care sector is unable to find the staff it needs, vulnerable, elderly people will suffer. And if the UK closes its doors to those fleeing Putin’s bombs, Chinese repression and the Taliban, what kind of country will we be? The image presented to the rest of the world would be one of an isolationist and xenophobic country.
Last week, The Scotsman praised Cleverly for mending fences with the police after Suella Braverman’s ridiculous attack and not denying he thought the Rwanda scheme was “bats**t”. Yesterday, as the hard-right Tories’ resident comedian, deputy party chair Lee Anderson MP, suggested sending asylum seekers to Orkney instead of Rwanda, Cleverly was demonstrating that pragmatic, non-populist Conservatism is not dead yet.
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