Open borders and social democracy don’t mix

Labour’s cosmopolitan policies will undermine support for the welfare state.

Rakib Ehsan

Topics Politics UK

If Labour conference achieved anything, it confirmed what many of us have suspected for some time – the party has well and truly lost the plot.

Following a raft of costly economic pledges, accompanied by the promise of introducing a four-day working week, the conference made a number of stunning commitments on immigration, access to healthcare and democratic participation.

On its final day, it approved a policy motion advocating an ‘extension’ of free movement, the awarding of equal voting rights to all UK residents, and the scrapping of restrictions on immigrants’ access to the NHS and social accommodation. It also called for an end to ‘no recourse to public funds’ policies, which prevent some immigrants from claiming benefits, and encouraged the party leadership to reject any immigration system based on ‘quotas, caps, targets and incomes’.

This open-borders cosmopolitanism will deliver a fatal blow to the party’s own aspiration to create a sustainable, all-encompassing, taxpayer-funded welfare state. If these policies were enacted, they would inevitably lead to increased immigration at a time when much of the British public – including traditional Labour voters in the party’s Leave-voting heartlands – want it to be reduced and managed.

In comparison to many other countries, Britain has a relatively high minimum wage and a generous welfare state, which of course includes a publicly funded healthcare system. The scrapping of restrictions to accessing the NHS, social housing and the benefits system would only serve to act as ‘pull factors’ from a migration perspective.

This proposed extension of social rights was combined in the motion with the absurd proposal to give all non-UK nationals with residency rights the right to vote in General Elections. This would fundamentally erode the very notion of British political citizenship. If anyone in the world can become a member of Britain’s democratic community with such ease, citizenship is rendered meaningless.

This open-borders cosmopolitanism is also entirely out of place with Labour’s own economic pledges. The policies embedded in this motion would fundamentally undermine public support for comprehensive public spending, and the creation of an all-encompassing welfare state.

Ambitious social-welfare schemes can only be supported by cohesive national societies underpinned by a strong sense of collective membership. Social trust, mutual regard and the cultivation of a common identity are all critical in this context. None of these things develop overnight, nor are they easy to maintain.

In order to foster the level of cohesion and solidarity required to sustain major social-democratic endeavours, there has to be a certain degree of conditionality attached to the allocation of social rights. Reasonable boundaries need to be maintained around membership of the democratic political community.

Extending social benefits and political rights to such an alarming degree therefore poses a serious threat to social democracy, and represents a remarkable assault on the nation state.

The likelihood of the average British taxpayer pledging support for comprehensive public spending is likely to go down if the NHS is, in effect, converted into an International Health Service. Nor will voters be comfortable with helping to fund a welfare system in which newcomers will be able to access benefits with relative ease.

Under the Corbynistas’ philosophy, all the people of the world should have equal claim to political and social rights in the UK. This may go down an absolute treat with metropolitan types in Islington, but it will go down like a lead balloon in Labour-held marginals like Newcastle-under-Lyme and Ashfield.

The economics of social democracy can only be truly sustained if it is complemented by a sensible immigration system, along with a broader political culture that fosters community cohesion and cultivates a strong sense of national identity.

Labour’s current path will ultimately lead to self-destruction.

Dr Rakib Ehsan is a spiked columnist and a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society. Follow him on twitter: @rakibehsan

Picture by: Getty Images.

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R Rodd

1st October 2019 at 7:33 pm

I thought Spiked was for open borders. Has that changed?

Jane 70

1st October 2019 at 4:42 am

Andrew , common sense resides with the public, who are experiencing the consequences of rapid population growth, while governments promote ,or do not discourage, high birth rates.
Imagine what the UK will be like if our numbers do reach 80 million.

See the link above for a new campaign.

Jane 70

1st October 2019 at 6:53 am

And here is an article supporting immigration, while acknowledging the need to address public concerns.

Well written and sincere but not entirely convincing .


30th September 2019 at 10:34 pm

The real issue is what decades of creeping Islamicisation is going to do our cities and culture over the next decades. There have already been terrible consequences in France and we can expect to see similar in this country unless we act. Our culture of openness and respect for individual freedom is derived from Judaeo-Christian standards developed over centuries, if not millennia. Atheism, agnosticism, secularism, multiculturalism, moral relativism and scepticism have undermined our ability to resist tyrannical thought forms such as Islam.

H McLean

1st October 2019 at 3:06 am

Don’t forget the influence of postmodernism, which has impacted the thinking of academics to the extent where the ‘centuries if not millennia’ it took to develop and hone the cultural standard of enlightened western thinking are reason alone to justify tearing everything down and starting again. These academics have been filling the minds of students, politicians and activists with this ideological vandalism for decades. It doesn’t matter if they don’t actually have a plan for something better, like Pol Pot and his murderous band of Marxist–Leninist Communist ideologues they believe the past is inherently evil and should be erased from history, baby, bath-water and all, regardless of the damage it causes. Year Zero here we come.

Jane 70

1st October 2019 at 4:34 am

Very well said Zenobia; for once, we agree.

Marvin Jones

6th October 2019 at 1:26 pm

The real danger is, the decline and inevitable demise of Christianity in conjunction with the massive rise of Islam. The results are not too difficult to see.

John Hamilton

30th September 2019 at 9:32 pm

>If these [Labour’s] policies were enacted, they would inevitably lead to increased immigration…<

Where is the evidence for this claim? I'm no expert, but a little online research reveals that Britain does not take many migrants *per head of population* compared to most other European countries (top of the destination list is Germany). Furthermore, when migrants seeking to enter the UK are asked why they want to come here, the top two answers are (1) that they have relatives in the UK, (2) that they speak English, but no other European language, as a second language. These are obviously very understandable reasons, for they will greatly help the migrants interact with people and build a life for themselves. Our benefits system for migrants is also not particularly generous compared to other European countries, so this is not regarded as a significant 'pull' factor compared to these other factors. So Rakib Ehsan's claim seems unfounded.

John Hamilton

30th September 2019 at 9:38 pm

Actually, I meant ‘asylum seekers’ rather than migrants – but that is what all the political fuss is usually about, isn’t it? Asylum seekers coming over here, claiming our lavish benefits, taking our jobs and our women (they’re welcome to the latter!)….

Ramsay macdonald

30th September 2019 at 10:05 pm

The vast majority of overseas people who want to claim asylum in the UK is in fact very small. How do I know this? Well because I once worked for the Home Office Immingration service back in the early noughties. Most would be entrants to the UK are economic migrants, illegal entrants, over-stayers (by far the biggest group) and would be asylum claiming persons who just wanted to come to a more peaceful place. This latter group had the misfortune to live in a country with a war going on, but they were not combatants. The criteria for asylum was that a person was being actively discriminated by a particular regime on the basis of being a member of a national minority, belonging to a racial group, be a practising homosexual, political group, religious group. They would also be subject to actual prosecution from the state authorities.

Genuine asylum seekers were few and far between. Although many applications would come from persons who failed to meet the above criteria.

Marvin Jones

6th October 2019 at 1:37 pm

Their first and most important reason is once they have set foot on this land, they have almost total protection against deportation, then the human rights bestowed to them that equals or more than equals to ours, the citizens, their benefits are generous and for life, given the statistics of immigrants being employed at all over many years, and lastly, the total and utter surrender and appeasements to their ethnicity and religion by our spineless politicians, due to their vast numbers that have been ingested into our lands. This is the final destination for the silent conquerors of Britain.

R Rodd

1st October 2019 at 7:31 pm

Where is the evidence for this claim? I’m not going to do your research for you but there have been many studies showing that all the wealthy nations would receive massive immigration if they opened their borders.

” but a little online research reveals that Britain does not take many migrants *per head of population* compared to most other European countries (top of the destination list is Germany).” This has nothing to do with what would follow open borders. What Britain “takes” now is irrelevant. Also, that other countries take more is irrelevant.

Also, why previous immigrants came to the U.K. is also irrelevant. Why are you mentioning all these irrelevancies?

The U.K.’s benefits system may not be especially generous compared to some other European countries but they represent heaven compared to the 3rd world countries.

John Hamilton

1st October 2019 at 9:11 pm

But I don’t think the Labour policy is for ‘open borders’ in the way this article implies. The author claims that ‘On its final day, it approved a policy motion advocating an ‘extension’ of free movement’ – but if you follow the ‘policy motion’ link, you’ll see that the only way in which Labour are advocating completely ‘open borders’ is to EU citizens, i.e. they have voted to keep EU ‘freedom of movement’. So we’re not talking about ‘3rd world countries’, and the author is creating a misleading impression of what the Labour conference decided. The claim the article makes is that decent welfare provision for migrants will increase the migrant population, so I think the question why migrants choose to come to the UK *is* relevant.

Hugh Bryant

30th September 2019 at 5:15 pm

Open borders make rich people richer by making poor people poorer. That’s why the metropolitan middle class love them and the poor folks hate them. The fact that Labour have now adopted them as policy just tells you that it is now entirely the party of the metropolitan middle class.

John Hamilton

1st October 2019 at 12:20 pm

>Open borders make rich people richer by making poor people poorer.<

Evidence, please?

Andrew Leonard

30th September 2019 at 4:13 pm

Should no-go zones also have open borders?

steve moxon

30th September 2019 at 3:19 pm

Well at long last, Spiked! here publishes an article that refutes the ‘open borders’ nonsense that hitherto Spiked! has proffered.
Welcome to the real world.
There never was and never will be any democratic mandate for ‘open borders’. It does not work politically, culturally or economically. It works only for the elites, and is motivated by hatred towards ordinary people.
This is very welcome that Spiked! has junked the vestige of its ‘Living Marxism’ past to realise this. Internationalism has always been a key myopic fault of Marxism.

John Welsh

30th September 2019 at 1:55 pm

Is it me or has Labour copied all the Democratic Party policies?

Jane 70

30th September 2019 at 2:50 pm

I think they’ve all cloned themselves

John Eve

30th September 2019 at 11:31 am

It’s a persuasive article.

Just one point on voting rights, though. It would be a mistake to give the impression that voting rights in the UK are currently restricted to British citizens. They are not. Citizens of oher Commonwealth countries can vote and so can citizens of the Irish Republic. Also, at the moment, citizens of other EU countries can vote in local elections and Euro elections in the UK. After Brexit, as a result of a bilateral agreement, Spanish citizens in the UK will still be able to vote in local elections. (Perhaps there are or will be similar agreements with other EU27 countries.)

Michael Lynch

30th September 2019 at 10:41 am

Labour got let off the hook nicely by the High Court decision. I was looking forward to Watson who was going to deliver a speech the next day and I heard plenty about Momentum members who were going to disrupt it. It would have been great to watch because the truth is that Labour is imploding with its own divisions.

Steve Roberts

30th September 2019 at 9:34 am

The article does raise the often forgotten point – in fact worse it makes rational discussion over immigration almost impossible – that immigration cannot be dealt with in isolation as a simple open or closed borders issue. There are many social and political factors directly tangential to the issue which the article attempts to introduce quite rightly.
And yet the author falls intio the same trap when he writes ” The economics of social democracy can only be truly sustained if it is complemented by a sensible immigration system, along with a broader political culture that fosters community cohesion and cultivates a strong sense of national identity”
There is too much of an assumption of what is “sensible” and a determinism , which is worse.
Whether any socially democratic society , for whatever democratically decided reason, can sustain or wishes to sustain any immigration policy cannot be predetermined, it will depend on so many social and political factors, large among them surely would be the level of economic progress and growth beyond where society presently finds itself.
A most basic example, historically and contemporarily are emerging nations with huge expansion occurring , they actually, almost without exception, open their borders to a large extent or immigration becomes far more liberalised as they are desperate to maintain the level of economic growth decided upon.
In a nutshell more minds and bodies are needed to develop a better world. to not accept this possibility or desire now or in the future is to be too predeterminist.
If “Labours current path” leads to its self destruction, happy days, or is the author concerned about that , it isn’t made clear.
And lest we forget, these are alleged manifesto commitments, promises, little more than virtue signalling anyway, and their history of “honouring” peoples votes ?

Hana Jinks

30th September 2019 at 9:31 am

Unless you’re willing to acknowledge Labour as the most dangerous party in Europe, Herr Ehsan, then you’ll likely be prone all kinds of weird assumptions.

Britons don’t want any more “managed” immigration. They don’t want any more immigration, full stop. You babble on about creatong a national identity…as if they never already had one before they were subjected to race-mixing. British people identify as white. Just like I’m sure that you still identify as brown or Bangladeshi.
And while there shouldn’t be seen as any problem with calling yourself British either…enough is surely enough. Where in Europe can white people feel free to roam now without fear of being attacked and raped? Why should whites be forced out of Birmingham, Bradford and some parts of London? And why should opponents of this be marginalized, fitted up and put on jail?

We are sick to death of f**cking diversity-communism. Sick to f**cking death of it. Sick of fags having political sway to be able to inculcate our children in their perverted ways. Sick to f**k of infanticide. Sick of having to pay for farking carbon, of all things. We’re sick of having to watch what we say. Sick of having to indulge your death-cult in our midst.

We’re sick of having our wages support you leftist creeps and your diabolically insane ways.

Hana Jinks

30th September 2019 at 9:33 am

*our wages robbed

Jim Lawrie

30th September 2019 at 1:12 pm

People like Ehsan think the matter will be settled once we are the minority. As do Spiked and Labour.

Hana Jinks

30th September 2019 at 2:37 pm


Jane 70

30th September 2019 at 5:16 am

This open borders nonsense is the route to social chaos, tribalism ,overcrowding and, ultimately, a breakdown of the already creaking infrastructure which society relies on.
Having been an Immigration Officer and dealt at first hand with the difficulties in maintaining adequate border controls in the face of sustained insults and ad hominem attacks from the liberal left commentariat, I can assure the Corbynistas that it will not work.
Do they imagine, for example, that thousands of affluent Norwegians will up sticks and move to Afghanistan en masse? Or that the impoverished inhabitants of failing states across the world will stay put, calmly awaiting a chance to join the queue for admittance to a chosen destination?
Many years of experience and research convince me that at the root of this wish to dissolve the nation state, is a reluctance and refusal to accept the consequences of our growing spread across the world.
Furthermore, there is the ‘pull factor’: increasing numbers leave already impoverished unstable and essentially failing states, adding to overcrowding and instability in western democracies and furthering the decline in their countries of origin.
As many others have wisely pointed out, immigration is not a right; one cannot simply turn up in another country, demanding one’s rights and insisting on admission without constraint.
As to the need to increase birth rates to support ageing populations, this is a Ponzi scheme, still advocated by governments unwilling to acknowledge that ultimately it would lead to endless growth.
The public will never accept this irresponsible ideology.

Jim Lawrie

30th September 2019 at 12:57 pm

Mass immigration and its costs threaten the very basis of capitalist society – the right to private property and equality before the law.

Jane 70

30th September 2019 at 2:48 pm

Exactly, and it threatens a whole lot more as well.

Andrew Leonard

30th September 2019 at 4:15 pm

Another good post Jane.
Can you elaborate on “a reluctance and refusal to accept the consequences of our growing spread across the world”, so I can better understand what you mean?

Jane 70

30th September 2019 at 5:23 pm

Well Andrew, for many years I’ve been involved to varying degrees in the population movement,still not spoken about in woke/mainstream/polite circles.

Working in border control brought home to me the enormous unrelenting migration pressures now affecting most parts of the world. I went on to study this in depth and to become involved in campaigning..

The drivers are rapid population growth,poverty, environmental,social and political deterioration, resource shortages and the collusion of western countries in proclaiming mass migration to be an absolute unalloyed good.

Woe betide anyone who challenges the prevailing dogma: the media, academia, ngos, governments both left and right, all concur.

Open borders is the latest craze, enthusiastically promoted by the woke and the loony left, the democrats in the US and the liberal commentariat.

My thinking is that all this stems from the refusal to acknowledge and accept the massive and growing impact of human population pressure -and no, I’m not a fan of Greta and the children’s Crusade.

Open borders matches the current rights driven dogma espoused by just about everyone in the elite and provides a convenient distraction : if the world’s humans can go wherever they like, with no constraints and no obligations-(other than those placed on us in the west to accept them all)-then no uncomfortably challenging decisions about how to deal with overcrowding, water and food shortages ,environmental and aspirational pressures will need to be made.

This might be viewed as cynical, but it’s based on many years of experience and research.

We still hear more people means more solutions, that we must welcome vibrant diversity, and enhance the environment and also do our bit by reducing plastic usage and carbon emissions, all the while relying on freedom of movement ,clever tech and happy thoughts.

It’s magical thinking and it seems to rely on an endless manipulation of public opinion in western countries: we have to assume a burden of guilt and responsibility without our informed consent.

Andrew Leonard

1st October 2019 at 3:17 am

Thanks Jane.
“the collusion of western countries in proclaiming mass migration to be an absolute unalloyed good”
How strongly related is this absolutist position, to birth rates falling below replacement levels?
Western governments surely do not want negative population growth, as it adversely effects their country’s prestige on the world stage. On the other hand, the public – aside from the ruling class – are probably quite happy to see their populations slowly decline.
But the later can’t be true can it? The public can’t be relaxed about negative population growth, and be White Supremacists, at the same time, can they? 🙂

a watson

30th September 2019 at 5:40 pm

Good and clear comment. The effect on the inner cities in Britain of such a policy would be disastrous socially. Already the consequences you fear Jane are becoming evident in parts of London and our other once well run urban conurbations.

Jane 70

30th September 2019 at 5:59 pm

Thank you and one of the reasons I left the overcrowded south of England.

jessica christon

30th September 2019 at 11:10 pm

@ Jane, Good for you, I wish I could too!

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