Frank Field MP
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Balanced Migration in Birmingham

How does our Balanced Migration campaign run outside Parliament? Yesterday, Nicholas Soames and I met up with Roger Godsiff in Birmingham. If we could get a proper hearing here, without our political motives being unfairly questioned, we would have established a bridgehead that would encourage further work.

Our first port of call was with the editors of the Birmingham Mail, Post and Sunday Mercury. In the minefield of immigration politics, could we persuade our hearers that our single and only aim was to try and persuade the political elite to join where the overwhelming majority of the electorate is on this issue?

That events turned out positively owes most to Roger Godsiff.

It is strange how events can show one's colleague in such new light. I had never questioned Roger's integrity. I had watched him debate too much on the immigration question to have any doubts on this score.

It was Roger, after all, who exposed the unbelievable fraud in local government postal voting. He did so in a city where very shortly white voters will be in a minority. His success was in asserting that what might be acceptable electoral practices, say on the Indian subcontinent, are not acceptable in this country. That postal voting arrangements are being overhauled owes everything to him.

As Roger spoke I could not help letting my mind go back to my first ten years in Birkenhead when the Trotskyites were by simple thuggery trying to take over the Labour Party. The campaign was so awful that I decided not to make my main home in Birkenhead. So while it was my duty to fight the corner and never to surrender an inch if that was at all possible I had another life outside of Birkenhead to argue my case.

But Roger's home is in Birmingham and those few of us who are prepared to raise the question of the levels of immigration in Parliament do not get an easy run - although it is getting easier. Roger did not only rely on integrity. We had arguments and facts as well. If present levels of immigration continue we will need to build the equivalent of seven new Birminghams. The arrow of our argument landed a local bullseye.

We also developed the argument that despite all the razzamatazz about the use of class politics, immigration was essentially a class issue. Both long established citizens, as well as more recently established citizens, believe the government is wrong in its open borders policy. Our initial poll to launch Balanced Migration showed there was no statistical difference in the proportion of Black or White citizens, or older established or newly established citizens, in their wish to see the number of new arrivals drastically reduced.

Studies in the East End of London have shown how the complaints of the White working-class fifty years ago that the Bangladeshis were putting pressure on the housing and schools, are now identically voiced by well established Bangladeshi families equally concerned about how new arrivals are affecting their families' chances for better housing and better schools.

The other lesson of the day was the contrast between power of leaders in the print industry to respond to political campaigns compared with the BBC's chain of command.

The three-MP delegation to Birmingham had an equally constructive meeting with the BBC regional political staff. But it was quite clear from our conversations that, in order to, in a sense, preserve a BBC line, the command chain in the BBC is lengthy.

I could not help think, while sitting in the meeting, that one of the reforms the BBC must think about is how does it pass real editorial power down into its regional offices, so that it can let the regions begin to change how the Corporation approaches emerging political topics.

In a 24-hour news medium, is it appropriate for a line to be held until a decision is made and so the whole Corporation jumps to a new position? Wouldn't a better approach be to let those areas where a political issue is more important - say the levels of immigration into the West Midlands - respond appropriately, knowing that this may begin to set the new line which the whole Corporation would in time adopt?

Our next trip to the regions will be to Liverpool and Manchester. After Birmingham we have a yard stick against which to measure our attempts to get the regional media reporting seriously on the immigration we have.
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Why should there be a BBC line?
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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