Once Britain’s jobs crisis meant there were more people looking for work than there were places to fill. Now it’s the other way around. Yesterday brought news that unemployment in the UK has fallen again, by 51,000 over the past three months, to just under 1.3 million. The welfare reforms of the past decade have worked. Now employers can’t find enough people with the proper skills to take the jobs that they have to offer. That’s why they are right to call today for a sensible immigration system that allows people from other countries to come here to make our country richer and stronger.
The #FullStrength campaign, backed by retailers, builders, tech companies, universities and more , wants the planned £30,000 salary threshold for new migrants to be cut to £20,000 — because the current proposal is absurd. It would mean we’d allow people to come from abroad to take the best-paid jobs but struggle to find enough workers for other vacancies to keep our vital services and businesses running.
The good news is that the next prime minister agrees. Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt think a liberal, flexible and properly enforced immigration system is better than the one we’ve had for the past decade which pretended to talk tough, with targets that weren’t met and borders which weren’t enforced. But how do you explain this to voters? After all, opposition to immigration is assumed to be one of the reasons the country voted for Brexit in the EU referendum. It’s not going to be comfortable telling them that even after Brexit, if it ever happens, there will be more people coming here.
That’s why Mr Johnson, like a number of other politicians, has talked of an Australian-style points system. It sounds impressively tough and it goes down well with Right-wing supporters. But in fact it is a way of encouraging immigration, by selecting people on their skills. Australia has a higher level of immigration than we do. It is one of the reasons Australia is richer today than it has ever been before. It has lots of migrants. It is one of the reasons London is a leading world city too. So will the new prime minister do what’s right for the economy and the country? Or will he keep up the sham of talking tough? Employers are right to press for an answer.
Bailey’s bright idea
So much is going on in politics right now that Londoners can be excused for not noticing there’s soon to be a contest to choose the next Mayor. But in May next year we’ll vote to decide if Sadiq Khan deserves a second term.
It’s an important job. After all, his predecessor is all set to take over the country. When he won, Mr Khan said his priority was to build more affordable homes. He’s promised to start building 116,000 by 2022. In the past year, work began on 14,544, just inside his target — but that will have to climb to 45,000 soon, which looks impossible unless policies change.
So all credit today to his Tory opponent, Shaun Bailey, for backing a Housing for London body to start building them itself on publicly owned land . It’s the sort of big, chunky idea that could work. Mr Bailey has a mountain to climb if you believe the polls. But thinking big is the right way to go about it. He is starting to make this contest interesting.
Nazanin is not forgotten
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe should be at home with her family in Britain. Instead, jailed in Iran, she’s just been transferred to a mental-health hospital and her family haven’t had any contact with her for 48 hours. It must be terrifying for them, especially as reports say her health is getting worse . She is innocent. The Iranian government knows it. She is a victim of politics and she should be freed. As tensions rise between the west and Iran, her plight might seem worse than ever. But allowing her to return to Britain would be a sign Iran still wants to talk.