MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: The best way to curb immigration? Give OUR workers a chance
If your political opponents come up with a good idea, and you like it, steal it.
The brilliant 19th Century Tory leader Benjamin Disraeli famously joked that Robert Peel had caught his Whig rivals bathing, and had walked off with their clothes.
The truth is that politicians who follow this rule seldom suffer, and their victims cannot complain very much.
With a bit of luck, you will make a better job of it than they would have done, and they cannot attack you for following an idea they have themselves praised.
Obviously this cannot work if there is a deep ideological difference. But it is certainly the case with Labour’s new enthusiasm for bringing down immigration: training our own doctors, nurses and other skilled workers so we do not have to import them.
Wes Streeting, Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Wes Streeting, the Shadow Health Secretary, today sets out this policy in an article for The Mail on Sunday, saying that the next Labour government (if there is such a thing) will ‘choose homegrown talent over ever-greater reliance on recruiting from overseas’.
As he points out, the Nursing and Midwifery Council last week disclosed that half of new recruits into the NHS have been trained abroad.
He also lands some shrewd blows on the Government, for failing to train enough medical students, saying this is a false economy which compels the NHS to spend billions on recruitment agencies.
He says: ‘Last summer they cut the number of medical school places by 3,000, turning away straight-A students from studying for a brilliant career in medicine.
There is a global shortage of medics, and the UK is refusing to pull its weight. It is simply immoral.’
Ouch. If there is one thing worse than a false accusation, it is a truthful one.
So why concede this case to Labour which, on past form, actively wants more immigration and could well sideline Mr Streeting and his bright ideas if it ever actually gets into power.
Surely it is Conservative to boost our own resources, train our own domestic students to the highest level, and become nationally more self-reliant?
Yes, there are purely economic benefits from the current high levels of immigration. But politics – as Benjamin Disraeli would tell Rishi Sunak if only he were available – often involves seeing beyond the numbers, into people’s hearts and minds.
The trouble is that Mr Streeting has a point. In fact he has three points. We should be offering more opportunities for our own bright school-leavers to train for important practical and professional work in the economy and the health service.
The public are tired of the current levels of immigration and want to see them brought down, after years of failed promises. And it is wrong to plunder poor countries of their expensively trained doctors and nurses.
Meanwhile, it is not clear that the problem of boats crossing the Channel is going to be solved or even significantly reduced this summer, or whether the Rwanda scheme will at last get off the ground.
But a serious attempt to increase home-trained skilled workers can be brought into action swiftly.
We suspect that Mr Streeting and his boss Sir Keir Starmer are already worried that Rishi Sunak will in fact steal their clothes.
Mr Streeting actually complains in his article that the Tories have ‘shamelessly stolen’ Labour plans to get the long-term sick back to work.
Well, so they should have done, if it is a good plan.
Like it or not, the levels of migration into this country will be hugely influential on many voters, if not actually decisive, at the fast-approaching General Election.
The Government simply has to do better on this.
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