The Greens are pro-immigration? Pull the other one
Anti-consumption and anti-growth... Little wonder the Green Party is also anti-migrant.
In recent times, it has been the Labour Party that has presented itself as the champion of immigrants in the UK. Of course, there was always very little truth in Labour’s pro-immigration posturing, but now even it has given up trying to pretend it wants any more foreigners coming to the UK. So is there any party in British politics that is pro-immigration?
The Green Party certainly claims to be. It says that it is the only party that truly stands up for the interests of immigrants. In 2014, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said she wanted to stop the ‘race to the bottom’ in the immigration debate, as the main parties vied with each other to see who could out-UKIP UKIP in the anti-immigration stakes. On International Migrants’ Day last month, the Green Party tweeted ‘Today is #InternationalMigrantsDay. But we stand up for migrants’ rights every day.’ An attached graphic read: ‘Wherever you hail from, you have a home in the Green party.’ So are the Greens really pro-immigration? Well, if their immigration policy document is any indication, no, not really.
The Green Party has pledged to liberalise some of the more draconian aspects of immigration policy, from scrapping arbitrary caps on immigration to declaring an amnesty for those who have lived in the UK illegally for more than five years (presumably those here illegally for less than five years would still be booted out).
Yet the Green Party is ultimately still in favour of immigration controls. It is just that, unlike the other main parties, it is very vague as to what those controls should be. Indeed, I asked the Greens’ spokespeople who exactly they would turn away from the UK, but didn’t receive a satisfactory answer. They just insisted that there was a recognition that ‘immigration controls were needed’. Whether this vagueness is deliberate or because the Greens just haven’t thought that far ahead is unclear, but, whatever the reason, their need to put major restrictions on the number of people entering the UK is inevitable.
In recent years, the Green Party has done its best to distance itself from its Malthusian, pro-population-control roots, claiming that the UK’s problems are problems of overconsumption not overpopulation. Until 2003, it was still saying that the UK was suffering from overpopulation problems and that we had to make sure we didn’t exceed our natural ‘carrying capacity’. The Green Party has since stopped using such arguments, perhaps because the British National Party adopted near identical language in order to claim the UK needed to deport all immigrants to make room for Proper Brits. However, no matter how much the Greens try to distance themselves from the stigma attached to Malthusianism, there is no escaping the fact that arguments about consumption and population are inextricably linked. If you believe that all of the UK’s resources are finite, and that we must all temper our consumption to live within those limits (as the Greens do), then having to deal with more people is obviously going to be seen as a problem.
That is why the Greens Party can never be pro-immigration, let alone in favour of open borders and true freedom of movement for all. In fact, the Greens’ ideology is completely at odds with the idea of allowing people to come freely to the UK. Their view of our resources as being finite, the idea that there is just one big pie we must all share, means that more people coming to live in the UK would mean less pie for each of us already living here. This would make the Greens’ strange claim that they will be able to improve people’s living standards while simultaneously striving to have ‘zero or negative growth’ even more absurd than it already is. For a party obsessed with the idea of sustainability, allowing people to just come in and consume is about as unsustainable as it gets.
Central to Green ideology is an aversion to growth, both economic and infrastructural. The arrival of large numbers of migrants to the UK both causes and necessitates growth. Not only do more people require more schools and hospitals; they will also require other things Greens despise, like more houses, roads and lots more energy production. In reality, of course, such growth is nothing to be feared. In fact, it improves things for everyone. But Greens are terrified of growth, because growth goes hand in hand with the expansion of the dreaded ‘human footprint’. The Green Party can continue claiming to be a champion of immigration because it hasn’t told anyone how many people it intends to let in and how many it intends to kick out. At least the likes of UKIP aren’t afraid to tell the public what they really think.