Flip-Flopping Keir Starmer’s Immigration Acrobatics: A Weathercock in the Political Storm
The Labour Party has accused the government of “breaking promises” on migration as official figures are expected to confirm that numbers have increased.
The Labour leader made the charge as official figures due out today are expected to show that net migration has increased to more than 700,000 in the year to December 2022.
At this point, it doesn’t matter where you stand on immigration what does matter is where our politicians stand and more so can we believe them…
In the ever-volatile landscape of British politics, few demonstrate the art of flip-flopping with as much finesse as Keir Starmer. The Labour leader, known for his ability to sway with the wind, has proven himself to be a weathercock when it comes to policy promises and pledges. One area where his incredible ability to change direction is most evident is immigration.
During his bid for the Labour leadership in 2020, Starmer made a seemingly definitive statement in support of freedom of movement and open borders with the EU. He passionately argued for restoring the reciprocal rights of EU and UK citizens to live and work across the continent, should he lead a Labour government. He defended EU immigration, emphasizing that migrants were not to blame for societal issues such as low wages and inadequate public services, which were the result of political failures.
While campaigning for the party leadership Speaking in London in 2020, Sir Keir Starmer confirmed he would push to undo those changes in government, as he urged Labour to “make the wider case on immigration”.
He said: “We welcome migrants. We don’t scapegoat them. Low wages, poor housing, poor public services are not the fault of migrants and people who’ve come here: they’re political failure. Political failure. So we have to make the case for the benefits of migration, the benefits of free movement.”
And he added: “I want people in this country to be able to go and work abroad in Europe. And I want people in Europe to be able to come and continue to work here. I want families to be able to live together, whether that’s in Europe or here.
“And I want people in this country, in the United Kingdom, to be able to go and study in Europe just as they can now and people in Europe to be able to come and study here.
“We have to make the case for Freedom of Movement. And we have to make it strongly.”
The Shadow Brexit Secretary was then pressed by the Mirror on whether that meant he would reverse Boris Johnson’s plans to end EU free movement if Labour took office under his leadership.
Sir Keir said: “On freedom of movement, yes, of course: bring back, argue for, challenge.”
But he warned his party: “We’ve got to face up to the fact… we are in opposition…
“If you’re in opposition you’re losing. You have to make the argument. We have to show we’re right.
“But the price of losing an election is you don’t get to shape the country which is why we must win the next general election.”
Starmer’s rhetoric was strong and unambiguous. He expressed a desire for people in the UK to work and study abroad in Europe, and for Europeans to have the same opportunities in the UK. He advocated for the benefits of migration and the importance of freedom of movement, urging his party to make a strong case for it.
Of course, he played to his audience, the largely remain backing London Labour membership.
However, once Starmer secured the leadership position in the Labour Party, his tune swiftly changed. Like a weathercock caught in a gust of public opinion, he abandoned his promises on freedom of movement. With growing public opposition to uncontrolled immigration, Starmer jumped on the bandwagon, forsaking his previous stance. In a Prime Minister’s Questions session, he responded to immigration concerns by criticizing the government’s policies and their impact on the economy and public services.
Starmer’s new position on immigration was clear: he highlighted the need to address labour and skills shortages and emphasised the importance of fair wages. He pledged to fix the apprenticeship levy, bridge the skills gap, and prevent businesses from recruiting abroad if they did not offer proper pay. The Labour Party claimed that scrapping the 20% wage rule for overseas recruits would encourage firms to invest in training UK workers and prioritize fairness within a managed immigration system.
The problem, however, lies in the inconsistency of Starmer’s positions. Like a weathercock that changes direction with every gust of wind, Starmer’s stance on immigration remains uncertain. It is difficult to discern where he truly stands on this crucial issue, as he has shown a remarkable ability to adapt his rhetoric to suit the prevailing public opinion.
Again, the problem arises when you don’t know when someone’s telling the truth. We’ve already witnessed such a predicament with the former prime minister, Boris Johnson and the prospect of another one on the horizon is far from reassuring.
As Friedrich Nietzsche aptly expressed, “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
And we certainly can’t believe Starmer. With the shifting winds of politics and the changing tides of public sentiment that seem to guide Starmer’s stance on immigration. His credibility and consistency are called into question again as he flips and flops, abandoning promises and pledges as quickly as he made them.
One of Starmer’s 10 key pledges, as he ran for Labour leader, was to “defend free movement as we leave the EU”.
However, he subsequently abandoned this, telling the Mail on Sunday in November 2022: “A Swiss deal simply wouldn’t work for Britain. We’ll have a stronger trading relationship and we’ll reduce red tape for British business – but freedom of movement is a red line for me.
“It was part of the deal of being in the EU but since we left I’ve been clear it won’t come back under my government.”
In the realm of politics, the ability to adapt to changing circumstances is often seen as a skill. However, when it comes to core principles and policy positions, consistency and authenticity are vital. Starmer’s weathercock politics raise doubts about his leadership and leave the public wondering where he truly stands on crucial matters that impact the lives of citizens.
As the political winds continue to shift, one thing remains certain: Keir Starmer’s unpredictable and ever-changing stance on immigration mirrors the behaviour of a weathercock, turning with the wind and leaving observers perplexed and uncertain.
Starmer finds himself in a precarious situation, as both supporters of free movement and advocates for controlled immigration have lost faith in his credibility. This is an unfavourable position to be in, particularly considering that Starmer’s entire political standing relies heavily on his reputation.
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