Rishi Sunak may have defeated his rebels, but it was a Pyrrhic victory that cannot save his government. The Rwanda Bill won’t halt the boats, let alone convince exasperated voters to trust the Conservatives again.
The Tory wets who prevented Sunak from toughening his Bill have shown themselves to be pathologically unable to grasp the enormity of the challenge posed by mass migration, legal and illegal, to the Western order in the 21st century. Most voters – in Britain, and across Europe – believe immigration to be unsustainably high, and yet the pressure will be on the numbers to rise much further, especially given the West’s crippling baby-bust.
Over the coming decades, tens, if not hundreds of millions of people may seek to leave Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa to flee poverty, war and chaos. This would overwhelm almost all host societies, and will force a complete rethink of the West’s approach to economic immigration, integration, asylum and refugees. Walls will be built, whether we like it or loathe it, and international law torn up. Politicians who are unable or unwilling to adapt are likely to be swept away, starting with Sunak and Joe Biden in November and extending, in due course, to the leaders of almost every European country, including Germany’s Olaf Scholz and France’s Emmanuel Macron.
Mainstream politicians must tackle these issues in a civilised way, or truly nasty characters will be propelled to power. Governments need to become much more discerning as to who they grant citizenship, migrant numbers must be cut significantly and a greater emphasis placed on helping newcomers acquire a love of their new country.
The Rwanda plan is laughably inadequate in this context. It cannot be scaled. It retains our membership of the European Convention of Human Rights. It doesn’t question the principle of non-refoulement or any of the post-Second World War refugee conventions, well-meaning yet outdated agreements that bar governments from choosing who can settle in their countries. It does nothing to fix our dysfunctional Home Office and its propensity to lose track of illegal migrants, or the fact that our courts and administrative machinery are so lax at interpreting the law.
I have long been on the liberal wing of the conservative movement when it comes to immigration, an advocate of modern, hyphenated British identities and of a multi-religious, colour-blind society. I am in awe at the astonishing success of so many well-integrated, patriotic immigrants and their children, and it is clear that the British model, on average, has performed far better than the French or German approaches to absorbing newcomers. We should be proud of our multi-ethnic Britain, our Hindu Prime Minister and the great progress we have made in combating racism.
But I now also believe that the volumes of immigration have become unsustainably large, that certain groups have become dangerously insulated from the rest of the nation. Extremism is on the rise and far greater scrutiny of who we let in is needed if we are to retain our social cohesion.
The far-Left’s growing influence over our culture has had disastrous consequences: if Britain is now seen as an evil, “settler-colonial” state, then why would anybody want to integrate? Our immigration success stories have one factor in common: a belief in the British dream, in a meritocratic system where hard work, family values and a commitment to education can allow anybody to rise.
This isn’t compatible with critical race theory. The woke ideologues’ obsession with identity politics, quotas, pitting one group against another, dividing the world into “oppressors” and “oppressed”, and discriminating against white people, is designed to undermine Britain’s successful model of integration. It denigrates Britishness, and exaggerates differences. It is soft on Islamist extremism. It has helped fuel a wave of anti-Semitism. Wokeism is incompatible with building a successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith society and thus with high levels of immigration.
The economic case for mass migration – as opposed to the selective admission of high performers – has also weakened. It has propped up GDP, but failed to shift the dial on GDP per capita. The central claim that migration would increase productivity growth has proved elusive. Many migrants aren’t boosting the labour force, but are instead moving here for family reunification or to study, categories that are being grossly abused.
We should be focusing economic immigration on those – drawn from any country in the world – most likely to be net contributors to the exchequer. It should be very unusual for migrants to be offered social housing, and we must adopt a contributory welfare state where benefits are only paid to those who have contributed for years.
It has proved easier for the Government to import workers than tackle the fact that millions of existing citizens are stuck on welfare and suffering from low skills and depleted social capital. Our politicians also prefer to keep pay down in social care by importing cheap workers, and to save money by refusing to train doctors.
Given our sclerotic planning laws that prevent more housebuilding, current levels of immigration are driving the housing crisis. An extra 234,400 new homes were built in England in 2022-23; net UK migration in the year to June 2023 was 672,000, the vast majority settling in England. Our crippling shortage of homes is rapidly worsening with these levels of immigration and housebuilding, hammering the young.
Germany’s IZA Institute finds that each 1 per cent annual rise in the number of migrants in Switzerland increased home prices by 4.3-5.9 per cent. Even Elon Musk, who supports generally liberal migration policies, now believes the housing stock – and by implication, America’s 333 million population – can’t in practice grow by more than 1-2 per cent a year. The thesis advocated in One Billion Americans by Matthew Yglesias – tripling the size of the US population to maximise global welfare – is rapidly losing support on the pro-capitalist Right.
The housing crisis has created a new generation of communists, and until we double or even triple housebuilding means that mass migration is no longer compatible with conservatism. This is a Darwinian moment for the Tories and centre-Right parties everywhere: they must toughen up on immigration, legal and illegal, or face extinction.