John­son ‘ly­ing to vot­ers on mi­gra­tion’

A trust­wor­thi­ness test for each in­di­vid­ual can­di­date would help to re­store faith in our po­lit­i­cal sys­tems

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By SCOTT MAC­NAB

Boris John­son has been ac­cused of “ly­ing to the pub­lic” over his prom­ises to re­duce im­mi­gra­tion.

Mr John­son said he could “guar­an­tee” num­bers com­ing down through restrictio­ns on low-skilled work­ers mov­ing to Bri­tain.

Shadow health sec­re­tary Jonathan Ash­worth said Mr John­son was “mis­lead­ing” vot­ers about the ef­fec­tive­ness of the sys­tem.

Boris John­son has been ac­cused of “ly­ing to the pub­lic” over his prom­ises to re­duce im­mi­gra­tion af­ter de­tail­ing his plans for a points-based sys­tem.

The Prime Min­is­ter un­veiled restrictio­ns on low-skilled work­ers mov­ing to Bri­tain in a post-brexit shake-up.

The pro­posal is at the heart of the To­ries’ plans for an Aus­tralian-style points-based sys­tem. It will block work­ers mov­ing to the UK un­less there is a short­age in a spe­cific sec­tor, such as con­struc­tion.

A Mi­gra­tion Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee would be given pow­ers to set the num­ber of visas needed in key sec­tors, en­joy­ing the same in­de­pen­dence as the Bank of Eng­land when it sets in­ter­est rates.

The Prime Min­is­ter, in an in­ter­view with Sky News’s So­phy Ridge On Sun­day pro­gramme, said he could guar­an­tee “num­bers will come down” as part of the “con­trolled” mea­sures.

But shadow health sec­re­tary

Jonathan Ash­worth said Mr John­son was “mis­lead­ing” vot­ers about the ef­fec­tive­ness of the pro­posed new sys­tem.

He also ar­gued the To­ries would have “no demo­cratic con­trol” over the im­mi­gra­tion num­bers due to plans to setup an in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee to over­see the points-sys­tem im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“He said the com­mit­tee will be in­de­pen­dent in the same way as the Bank of Eng­land is in­de­pen­dent, so he is mis­lead­ing peo­ple when he says he is bring­ing im­mi­gra­tion down be­cause there will be no demo­cratic con­trol,” Mr Ash­worth said.

“There will be no ac­count­abil­ity over any de­ci­sion that any im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter makes be­cause it will be handed over to a statu­tory in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee – so again Boris John­son is ly­ing to the Bri­tish peo­ple.”

Mr Ash­worth said the UK must main­tain free move­ment for the NHS and the so­cial care sec­tor as they “could not sur­vive if we did not con­tinue to re­cruit in­ter­na­tion­ally”.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, also ap­pear­ing on the So­phy Ridge pro­gramme, ac­cused the PM of hav­ing “al­ways been very soft” on im­mi­gra­tion.

The Con­ser­va­tives’ pro­posed Aus­tralian-style sys­tem would put no lim­its on highly ed­u­cated and award-win­ning work­ers, in­vestors or en­trepreneur­s com­ing to Bri­tain af­ter Brexit.

It would also fast-track and of­fer re­duced fees to doc­tors, nurses or so­cial care work­ers who want to come to work in the NHS.

The change could be dis­pro­por­tion­ately dam­ag­ing for Scot­land, which is more re­liant than the rest of the UK on im­mi­gra­tion to keep the pop­u­la­tion grow­ing and sup­port the econ­omy.

Im­mi­gra­tion was a key fac­tor of the 2016 Brexit vote and the of­fi­cial Leave cam­paign led by Mr John­son pledged to

“take back con­trol” of Bri­tain’s bor­ders.

The To­ries launched a £100,000-a-day so­cial me­dia blitz over the week­end to ham­mer home its core po­lit­i­cal mes­sages and plans for tough post-brexit im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies.

In a let­ter to the na­tion the Prime Min­is­ter said Labour’s im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy would “put even more pres­sure on the NHS and our other pub­lic ser­vices”.

Mr John­son stated: “He does not just want to keep free move­ment with the EU – where even mur­der­ers have free move­ment rights – but he wants to ex­tend it to the whole world so any­one from any­where can come here any time they like. And there would be noth­ing you could do about it.”

Is this, as some have sug­gested, the most dis­hon­est elec­tion cam­paign in Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal his­tory?

That is a pretty big claim for a king­dom which has seen at least its fair share of smear and scan­dal over the cen­turies.

Few though would ar­gue that 2019 has not marked a new nadir in mod­ern times with trust be­tween pub­lic and politi­cians at a des­per­ate low point.

Ear­lier this year, a study by the re­spected Hansard So­ci­ety found trust in our po­lit­i­cal sys­tems had fallen be­low lev­els seen in the af­ter­math of the MPS’ ex­penses scan­dal of 2009 and at their low­est point since it started its reg­u­lar stud­ies 15 years ago. Since then, things can only have grown worse.

The dra­matic rise of ‘fact check’ teams, work­ing to test the truth of politi­cians’ claims on the cam­paign trail, is just one sign of how badly trust has been eroded.

Sev­eral lead­ing fig­ures have been caught telling whop­pers in re­cent weeks. Some have been the mun­dane – do we re­ally be­lieve that repub­li­can Jeremy Cor­byn sits down to watch the Queen’s Speech at Christ­mas? – and oth­ers more ob­vi­ously se­ri­ous and far-reach­ing – Boris John­son and some of his fel­low Min­is­ters can­not all be telling the truth about the need for Ir­ish Bor­der checks in a post-brexit world.

Politi­cians have al­ways had what can be eu­phemisti­cally de­scribed as a loose re­la­tion­ship with the truth, to a greater or lesser de­gree. Vot­ers un­der­stand and ac­cept that, to a point, eva­sion and a se­lec­tive pre­sen­ta­tion of the facts are part of the po­lit­i­cal process.

But the care­less­ness with which prom­ises and claims of fact are be­ing made – nei­ther the John­son or Cor­byn tax and spend­ing plans stand up to much scru­tiny – only feed the grow­ing cyn­i­cism with which our pol­i­tics is re­garded by the ma­jor­ity of the gen­eral pub­lic.

It is of­ten said, par­tic­u­larly of the United States of Amer­ica, that the pub­lic get the politi­cians they de­serve.

There is some truth in that. There are many con­sid­er­a­tions to weigh when cast­ing your vote on Thurs­day.

One im­por­tant one, we would humbly sug­gest, is as­sess­ing the track record and gen­eral trust­wor-thy­ness of any can­di­date be­fore lend­ing them your sup­port.

It is the surest way to bring some more hon­esty back into our pol­i­tics.

“The Con­duc­tors pledge them­selves for im­par­tial­ity, firm­ness and in­de­pen­dence... Their first de­sire is to be hon­est, the sec­ond is to be use­ful... The great req­ui­sites for the task are only good sense, courage and in­dus­try”

FROM THE PROSPEC­TUS OF THE SCOTS­MAN, 30 NOVEM­BER 1816

Boris John­son tak­ing time off from cam­paign­ing yes­ter­day to visit the Con­ser­va­tive Party cam­paign head­quar­ters in Lon­don and take calls from the pub­lic

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