Theresa May, fresh from yet another blunder, has been carpeted by her normally loyal right-wing cheerleaders in this morning’s papers, the Mail, Telegraph and Times (£) in particular, with the most damning criticism of all coming from the Financial Times (£), which concentrates on “the true scandal” of a fear-based immigration policy.
In an editorial headlined “Britain’s door only ajar for business”, the FT says (£):
The UK government’s approach to immigration has been rightly criticised for policy goals that obsess with keeping people out while paying mere lip service to welcoming people in, to the detriment of business and growth. Now Theresa May, the home secretary, is under fire for how her department implements policy on the ground.
In this case the government and its critics show an equal preference for popular pandering over rational policy…
Westminster is consumed with what can be pinned on Ms May, and government and opposition joust to paint each other as unconcerned with terrorists entering the country. This circus ignores the true scandal: that at a time when Britain needs growth more than ever, the country is far from being “open to business”.
Of the way visitors to our country, tourists and businessmen, are made to feel unwelcome, treated with suspicion, treated like criminals, the FT adds (£):
This does not begin at the border. Long border queues are just a small part of a larger pattern in which non-European business people, skilled workers and artists - all of whom most Britons would rather visit the UK than competitor economies - are not being made to feel welcome.
A series of little humiliations for entirely legitimate travellers can begin on first contact with the UK foreign service - or rather with the corporations handling the process. Few Britons know that the UK has contracted out the administration of visa applications to Computer Sciences Corporation and VFS Global, a US and a Swiss-based private information technology business.
While final judgments are made by Foreign Office staff, this does not eliminate confusing and erratically applied rules, unpredictable waiting times, and customer service designed to make Kafka proud.
Cutting UKBA staff by more than a fifth by 2015 will make an intelligent immigration policy less achievable.
So will the obstinate view that the only goal of immigration rules is to keep people out.
Years of pandering to irrational fears over immigration, rather than taking on the arguments of those who are anti-immigration and making the case for immigration - regrettably from Labour as well as Tory governments - have led us to this point; visitors treated like dirt, businesses deterred from investing, xenophobia on the increase, UKIP on the rise, and, with the coalition’s savage cuts thrown in to the mix, massive delays for Britons and foreigners alike at the UK border.
It’s not just May that needs shelving, it’s the whole immigration policy – of both parties.
• So is Britain really “full up”? – Matt Cavanagh, November 1st 2011
• Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible – Ruth Grove-White, November 1st 2011
• The government must stop spreading untruths about immigration – Donna Covey, October 18th 2011
• May is wrong: We can have a liberal immigration policy – Matt Cavanagh, October 7th 2011
• Yet again, Tories fawn over the far right – Alex Hern, October 6th 2011