It’s been a complicated few days for Stephen Kinnock. The election of Paul Nuttall as UKIP leader has startled many Labour MPs into beginning a long and complex discussion on immigration. This debate has two sides, so Kinnock has decided to adopt a familiar centrist approach – by taking both of them.
It was often said of Tony Blair that he was all things to all men, and the 29th of November appears to have been Kinnock’s day to be all things. In a statement on the Today Programme, he warned Labour of not making reckless pledges to cut immigration. Meanwhile in an interview with Progress, the Blairite Labour faction, he talked about ending multiculturalism.
On the Today Programme he spoke at length about the role of belief and trust in building an immigration system, however this doesn’t mean he wants to see immigration cut. Instead he believes in a “sector-by-sector” breakdown to understand the role non-indigenous workers might have. This may, he adds, even mean a rise. He argues that we made a grave mistake by not talking about immigration and must rectify it.
Later that day in a response at a Progress event, Kinnock said
We must move away from multiculturalism and towards assimilation… We must stand for one group, the British people.
This may be familiar to some as it sounds very much like a prospective UKIP parliamentary candidate, who said:
A removal of multi-culturalism and assimilation of these people needs to be done
Perhaps the most worrying quote from Kinnock was:
we welcome diversity, but what is it saying to those who consider themselves the mainstream?
The implication being that protecting diversity is somehow undermining the majority. A notion long held by the bigoted far-right. It’s a wonder he didn’t add that political correctness had gone mad.
In a Guardian article just over two months ago, Stephen Kinnock said that those who will be successful in a post-Brexit age are those that are “open to other cultures.”
Kinnock’s notion of “the British people” deserves particular focus. If, as the discussion implied, he believes Labour has focused too much on diversity and “segregationist” thought, then what is British identity? Indeed at one point he slips up and acknowledges that the values of tolerance he espouses when asked are indeed human values, not just British ones.
Telling people that their worries about diversity are justified; that they undermine the mainstream might be good politics, but it’s bad for the country. Accepting the notion that Labour is ignoring the mainstream is a vindication for all those who think Labour has gone soft. Indeed it reaffirms that UKIP’s immigration rhetoric was right.
For a different perspective we might turn to Stephen Kinnock. Who, 2 months ago, talks about the need for a “managed” immigration system. A system that, whilst pro-immigration, ensures there is controlled immigration. For those who may also find that familiar, in a similar article Nigel Farage said that he is not “anti-immigration but anti-uncontrolled immigration.”
In the same article, Kinnock also mentions that limitless freedom of movement is not socially sustainable. In a second paragraph he declares, casually, that there is a level of immigration at which racism will break out. These, again, may sound familiar as they’re lifted from Theresa May’s much maligned conference speech where she asserted that a cohesive society was impossible with mass migration.
So, Stephen Kinnock must now argue with Stephen Kinnock. Kinnock’s sector-by-sector migration system that may see immigration rise will butt up against Kinnock’s worry that high immigration is unsustainable. Kinnock’s human British values of tolerance and non-racism seem at odds with Kinnock’s critique of multiculturalism. Indeed, Kinnock will find his call for openness to other cultures may be undermined by Mr Kinnock’s desire to end multiculturalism.
No wonder Labour is in disarray.
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