So, Phil “Muslims are Inbred” Woolas (left) is the new immigration minister, and Liam “Dessicated Calculated Machine” Byrne is out (and up). Woolas didn’t waste time before playing the populist, and immediately announced that he thought there ought to be a limit to the population. Unless he is planning a ‘one child’ policy, it rather implies an imposed cap on immigration.
I hate this moment, when I suddenly have to look back fondly on the last minister as being a paragon of liberal virtue in comparison to the new even more reactionary one. It really does seem to get worse and worse. It never ceases to astound me that Jack Straw was actually a liberal Home Secretary in comparison to his successors, for example.
There are in fact positive things to say about Liam Byrne. He wasn’t exactly cuddly, but he did preside over the introduction of a far less subjective system of immigration control, the points based system. There is less room for compassion and flexibility, but equally there is less room for the ignorant gut instinct routinely relied on by some visa officers in the past. The entirety of immigration law is also being re-written as I type, which can only help with transparency and good governance. The existing mish-mash of inter-woven and re-amended laws is a disaster area. And the proposals to amend the immigration appeal system seem to be remarkably well thought through.
It is as if Byrne has provided effective leadership to his team of civil servants, which is surely why he could not be wasted any longer at immigration and is on his way to a political Better Place.
For an inkling of what is to come, check out Woolas’ past sensitive handling of race relations with Muslims. I imagine we can expect the revival of the proposal to prevent entry for foreign spouses under the age of 21 and some other thinly veiled (excuse the pun) mechanisms for keeping out immigrants from the Indian sub continent.