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If you want to be welcome, do not demand entry

The ceremonial of the State Opening of Parliament includes a moment when Black Rod, the Queen’s representative, approaches the door of the Commons to summon MPs for the Queen’s Speech. Tradition demands that he – or in 2019, she – has the door slammed in her face to symbolise the independence of the Commons from the Crown. Only after knocking three times is Black Rod allowed to enter.

The door closed to a demand but open to a request is a powerful symbol.

In the election we have just had, one of the most contentious issues was immigration and nationality. As stated in its manifesto Labour’s policy was to give the vote to “all UK residents”, and not just the vote, automatic citizenship, according to the Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey. Labour did not exactly shout about the fact that “UK residents” includes foreign citizens, but several people including the Prime Minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings did notice. He then informed the nation in his own inimitable style: “BATSIGNAL!! DON’T LET CORBYN-STURGEON CHEAT A SECOND REFERENDUM WITH MILLIONS OF FOREIGN VOTES”.

But underneath the all-caps headline he made a fair point:

Before the 23 June 2016, many such as the Economist and FT predicted a Leave win would boost extremists and make immigration the central issue in politics. VL said the opposite would happen: that once people know there’ll be democratic control, it will quickly fade as an issue and attitudes towards immigrants will improve. VL was right, the FT was wrong — as all academic research shows. If you want immigration to fade from politics, then democratic control is the answer. If you go with Corbyn and free movement for the whole world, then immigration will be all over the news and extremism will grow. A system like Australia’s will be fairer, good for the economy and take the heat out of the issue.

Imagine that Corbyn had won, formed a coalition government, enacted Labour’s manifesto promise to give the vote to EU citizens and others, and held a second referendum in which their 2.4 million votes for Remain swept away the majority for Leave among British citizens. Imagine if the ignored and scorned people of Leave-voting towns in what were once Labour heartlands saw that Labour had imported a new foreign electorate to replace them. Some may not like that wording but it would have been accurate. Imagine the bitterness towards foreign residents in the UK if that had happened.

It didn’t, thanks in no small measure to Mr Cummings himself. In a month or two the Guardian will report that public hostility to immigration has gone down and attribute it to a burgeoning movement to rejoin the EU. But the real reason will be that people will feel that at some level the wishes of the existing citizens of the UK control who else comes in the country. When you know you can close the door you become more willing to open it in welcome.

Having written the above, I remembered that this is not the first post of mine with a title that uses the metaphor of knocking on a door. Rather than be embarrassed at repeating myself, I will assert that it is a metaphor with several applications. Here is the old post: “To knock on the door is better than booting it in”. It is about relations between transgender and cisgender women.

13 comments to If you want to be welcome, do not demand entry

  • Mr Ed

    After invading the Falklands in 1982, the Argie Junta had a wheeze to avert war and several thousand Paras, Royal Marines, Guards and Gurkhas and others turning up, which was to withdraw most of their invasion forces and, so to forestall any British military action, hold a referendum on the Falklands joining Argentina. Part of the plan was to allow the 10,000 settlers that they planned to bring over in the meantime before the referendum to vote, and as everyone on the islands who wasn’t a British soldier or colonialist or from somewhere other than Argentina or the Falklands was ‘Argentine’, they thought that this was a perfectly fair way to resolve the issue of the islands ‘ownership’.

    They were a bit surprised that Mrs Thatcher didn’t quite accept this, I bet the Foreign Office would have if left to its own devices. It sounds like Labour had got more or less the same idea, just slightly more subtle.

    It’s call being ‘inclusive’.

  • Ian

    OP, spot on. Also Mr Ed’s comment.

  • staghounds

    The United Kingdom is about the size of Minnesota and has what, 60 million people?

    Y’all are FULL.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Y’all are FULL.”

    I gather New York City has about 8 million people in 300 square miles (a 17×17 miles square). So we’re about 7.5 New Yorks. At the same population density as New York, we could all fit in a 50×50 mile square. Guttenberg has about double that density.

    Y’all are EMPTY. 🙂

  • Dr Evil

    Trans and cis should only be used about chemical bonds!

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Trans and cis should only be used about chemical bonds!”

    Because ‘Free Speech’ doesn’t apply to speech we disagree with…

    Anyway, you’ll have to argue with the astronomers about that.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Nullius in Verba, you are right about the use of “trans” and “cis” in astronomy, but I saw nothing in what Dr Evil wrote to suggest that he or she wanted to curtail anyone’s free speech.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Natalie, it depends how you interpret “should only”.

    Part of the reason for free speech is to give us access to opposing arguments, which we need to test and maintain confidence in the truth of our own beliefs. It’s not just that people ‘should’ be able to use any terminology they choose in their own interests, it is in our interest that they should do so too. As JS Mill put it: “So essential is this discipline to a real understanding of moral and human subjects, that if opponents of all important truths do not exist, it is indispensable to imagine them and supply them with the strongest arguments which the most skilful devil’s advocate can conjure up.”

    Since the 1980s science has discovered much about human sexual development, overturning many of the beliefs that came before, and invented new terminology to describe it. Those people convinced by it *should* talk about it. Those people not convinced *should* argue with them. There *should* be a debate in which the terms are used. To say that the terms should not be used implies that there should be no debate.

    There is a point of view on Free Speech, a definition of it, that says that while you *can* say anything, there are still certain things that you *shouldn’t* say. And it’s arguable that saying hurtful, or offensive, rude, obscene, disgusting, upsetting, provocative, deliberately deceptive, cruel or nasty things have valid moral strictures against them that we should be mindful of alongside Free Speech. The debate on ‘offence’ is ongoing.

    But the justifications for Free Speech, as set out by Mill, offer no support for the contention that things should not be said because they are untrue. And certainly not because they are untrue in our opinion, in an ongoing debate.

    For years the transgender were the outsiders, knocking on the door and begging to be allowed in. But society has shifted, the transgender are well inside the door now, and it is now the transphobes who are shut out in the cold. They need to learn to knock politely. Shouting and kicking at the door and loudly demanding to be let back in isn’t going to work.

    The hardest part of Libertarianism is understanding that Liberty necessarily goes both ways. Everyone wants free speech for their own opinions, and calls on Liberty when those rights get stepped on. But that necessarily requires that you not step on anyone else’s, even opinions you deeply oppose, that you think are dangerous. We are all insiders on some things and outsiders on others, so the advice we give as insiders to an outsider wanting to be let in, applies equally well to us when we find ourselves an outsider under the boot. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.

    Now maybe all Dr Evil meant by his comment was “I’m right and they’re wrong”, expressing his opinion, and that his opinion ‘should’ be the only one expressed only because everyone else ‘should’ be persuaded by his arguments. Like an evangelical atheist thinks that nobody should believe in God or Santa Claus any more, or an evangelical Christian thinking everyone should. If so, I can only apologise to Dr Evil for questioning his motives. (And I’m not sure I can believe I just wrote that sentence!) But maybe he didn’t. That trans/cis opinions should be suppressed is a fairly widespread opinion at that end of the debate, and it’s a small step from thinking such opinions shouldn’t be expressed to making it so. And I’m always ready to take any opportunity (no matter how slim and dubious!) to make the point again, because I think it’s a point worth making.

  • Nullius in Verba (December 15, 2019 at 2:06 pm), one of the things we should be able to say is whether things ‘should’ or ‘should not’ be said – meaning should/not be said to be logically correct, should/not be said to be polite, …. , anything short of should/not be said if you wish to stay alive, out of jail and suchlike.

    For the record, on the one hand, I’m with Natalie – I see nothing in Dr Evil’s comment that merited a reply questioning allegiance to free speech; it seemed merely to be claiming a logical point. On the other hand, cis- and trans- prefixes are simply latinate ways of saying nearside and farside, so can (I say nothing of the should or not) be applied to anything to which adjectives nearside or farside could be said. So I do not precisely agree with Dr Evil’s point.

    Of course, connotations are another matter. Some who love the word ‘trans’ might demand the police visit anyone who said that men who claim to be women are ‘farside’. 🙂

  • I’ve had very few trans/cis arguments in the past decade and a half. Most of those were with people of the trans or left persuasion. If you use the wrong word, it doesn’t matter if you’re included in the class mentioned – political correctness rules for some. Using the ‘correct’ word is even more important than knowing which fork to use for which portion of the meal. Were you raised in a barn by Nazis? You should know these things! (As a transsexual, I used the word ‘tranny’ on a bulletin board, commenting to a tranny about another tranny. Fireworks ensued. But though I was told not to use that word, I was given no replacement.)

    😡 (My. I seem to have a bit more steam built up than I realized.) 👿

    Currently, the Instapundit blog is the chief burr under my saddle. I like most of it, but transgenderism seems to be the chief burr under a lot of saddles there. But I figure they aren’t talking about me, and some of the people they are talking about are indeed rather horrible.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Nullius in Verba (December 15, 2019 at 2:06 pm), one of the things we should be able to say is whether things ‘should’ or ‘should not’ be said – meaning should/not be said to be logically correct, should/not be said to be polite, …. , anything short of should/not be said if you wish to stay alive, out of jail and suchlike.”

    Oh, I agree we ‘should’ be able to say things should or should not be said. I’d even include the point that people should be able to believe and argue for “should/not be said if you wish to stay alive, out of jail and suchlike”. With liberty, people are entitled to hold beliefs opposing liberty for others, and to express them. It’s only when things move from ‘talking’ about harm to ‘doing’ harm that I think anything should be forbidden.

    But what I’m saying is that Mill’s justifications supporting the principle of Free Speech hold that there *should* be a debate in which the contested terms are used. To say that the terminology of one whole side of the debate should not be used implies that there should be no debate.

    The context of the discussion is one where the issue is politically contested. How is someone of the other faction to interpret a statement saying the terminology of their position “should only” be used in other senses, than to read that as saying that they ‘shouldn’t’ be arguing for their own position? Why not? What exactly are we being asked to do, with this ‘should only’?

    I expect this is another of those differences of interpretation and mutual misunderstanding that we’re not going to resolve. And I’m not going to pursue it any further. It’s not that important. It was just a reflex reaction – I don’t like being told what standard dictionary terminology I ‘should’ or ‘should not’ be using for somebody else’s politically correct reasons – even when the politics defining ‘correctness’ here isn’t of the usual left wing variety.

    “But I figure they aren’t talking about me, and some of the people they are talking about are indeed rather horrible.”

    Agreed. Which is why I try to distinguish between the cause and the methods. The problem with these horrible people is not the cause they support, but the methods they use to bring it about.

    There are horrible people who are pro-trans, and horrible people who are anti-trans. What they have in common is the coercive methods they use to try to get their way, and shape society in the way they see as good and right. The enemy are the moral policemen, who argue that there should be no debate, no opposing opinion, no heresy against what they know to be the truth. People who try to kick down the door rather than knocking. And they can be on both sides.

  • Paul Marks

    I have already written a long comment on the Labour left’s Frankfurt School of Marxism hatred of the local population.

    Such tactics may work in the United States, or large parts of it – but they will not yet work in most of Britain, the demographic numbers are just different.

    Basing one’s approach on hatred of the British (especially the English) was not a good choice by Mr Corbyn and co – although the left may point to London for evidence that their approach may (may) work in the longer term.

    Nothing to do with “English Nationalism” – other than a dislike of being hated. And nothing to do with “racism” – apart from the dislike that white (actually pinkish grey) people have for being targeted on the basis of the colour of their skin.

    By any normal definition of “racism” is is the left who are racist – because they attack white (really pinkish grey) people because of the colour of their skin. Frankfurt School Marxism and French Post Modernism get round this by pretending that racism is about “power relationships” of “exploitation and oppression” which only white people can be guilty of (which is itself a racist assumption).

    As for the white (pinkish grey) people who are on the left – self hatred, and the concept that they are “allies of the oppressed” against white (pinkish grey) oppression.

  • Paul Marks

    Of course most immigrants from the European Union are themselves white (pinkish grey) and hetrosexual and a lot of them are male.

    But, somehow, the Frankfurt School manages to include them in the ranks of the “oppressed”.

    In the past London (Frankfurt School) Labour tried to explain to Irish people in London that they were really black.