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Another blast on the dog whistle

by Nick Kent | 09.12.2019

The prime minister is trying to win Thursday’s election by replaying the shabby and dishonest 2016 Vote Leave strategy of scaring people about EU migration.  He is demonstrating once again that he cannot be trusted.

Sounding a loud blast on his dog whistle at the weekend, Boris Johnson tried to call home Leave voters by raking up the 2016 scare stories about EU migration.  In an interview with Sophy Ridge on Sky he said that his government wanted to “bear down on migration particularly of unskilled workers who have no job to come to”. He also claimed that such people had been coming into the UK from the EU over the last 20 years.  “You’ve seen quite a large number of people coming in from the whole of the EU — 580 million population — able to treat the UK as though it’s basically part of their own country. The problem with that is there has been no control at all and I don’t think that is democratically accountable.”

It goes without saying that the prime minister has got his facts wrong.  The EU does not have a population of 580 million, but 513 million (of which 66 million is the UK population).  It is not unskilled EU migrants who have come here but mostly highly skilled people, many of whom have been willing to take work for which they are overqualified.  And then there is the insinuation behind his words that EU migration has been bad for British workers. But that is not what the Migration Advisory Committee, the official monitoring body that will play a pivotal role in Johnson’s new points-based immigration system, concluded. It found that EU “migrants have no or little impact on the overall employment and unemployment outcomes of the UK born workforce”. 

But never mind the facts, Johnson knows these sort of scare-mongering tactics work.  They were at the heart of his and Gove’s Vote Leave campaign in 2016. Back then they falsely claimed that Turkey would be joining the EU and that millions of low-paid Turks would be flocking to the UK, threatening a higher crime rate and extra costs for the NHS.  They promoted these lies in dozens of online ads and in a poster campaign.  Did this work? Well, Dominic Cummings, then campaign director of Vote Leave and now Johnson’s effective chief of staff in No. 10, certainly thought so: “If Boris, Gove and Gisela (Stewart) had not supported us and picked up the baseball bat marked ‘Turkey/NHS/£350 million’ with five weeks to go, then 650,000 votes might have been lost.”  Since then Johnson has falsely denied ever mentioning Turkey in the 2016 campaign.

Johnson’s dog whistle on immigration is not just a squalid tactic based on misleading data and designed to appeal to our basest feelings, it is yet another example of his dishonesty.  Immigration from outside the EU – the part, remember, over which the UK has direct control – has been greater over the last 20 years than that from inside the EU. Non-EU migration is now running at a rate nearly five times greater than EU migration.

Ultimately, this election is about trust.  By failing to tell the truth on something as sensitive as immigration, Boris Johnson has shown once more that he cannot be trusted to run the country.

4 Responses to “Another blast on the dog whistle”

  • Once again preaching to the converted. People are happy to lap up Johnson’s lies, or are “tired of Brexit”. As a consequence the Brexit disaster will simply need to run its course, before that majority will come to see the salutary lesson that is hidden in the result of what they’ve inflicted on their once United Kingdom. I think the big problems in the future are going to be dealing with the anger of Brexiteers, e.g. discovering they were taken for a ride for the benefit of shady financial whizz kids, when experiencing infuriating things like having to take your passport when travelling to Scotland, as well as dealing with the anger of Continental nationals who foreseeably are going to be asked to accept the impoverished English, by then probably recipients of EU grants rather than Being wealthy enough to be payers, back into the fold. That notably will be a hard but to crack.

  • Exactly, Peter. The leavers are going to find that travelling within the EU for their holidays is going to be more difficult. They will most likely have to buy visas beforehand and will find that the EU directive that enables them to get compensation for delayed flights no longer applies. They may also find that roaming charges increase again. Britain is treating EU nationals living and working here with complete disdain. The EU may well reciprocate. Guy Verhofstadt once said that GB nationals might be able to pay a small fee to retain their EU rights, but we no longer hear such comments. But, many who voted leave do not have a clue about the benefits of EU membership. They will now when those benefits are removed. We are back to the old days when the British referred to their European neighbours as foreigners who were patronised as being ‘less developed’ than the British. (Eg Don’t drink Tao water in Spain or take your own teabags if you want a decent cup of tea when in Italy etc). I cannot believe what is happening and I am ashamed .

  • Quite disgraceful comments by Johnson. Just imagine if he had said a certain racial group were acting as if the UK was their home. Xenophobia is only a short step from the slippery slope to full blown racism. We have seen enough examples in European history as to where that can lead.
    EU migrants just want to get on with their lives. They didn’t trigger the situation they now find themselves in, and they don’t even get a vote to have their say.
    Johnson is obviously desparate enough for votes, that he is not above trying to mop up UKIP/BNP votes.