David Cameron’s speech on demographic change was utterly brilliant. Rather than focus exclusively on migration, he offered a broad look at future population growth and its likely consequences on the quality of life in Britain. And so he was able to discuss economic migration and family breakdown, which of course also forces an expansion of the built environment, in a shared context that reflects the priorities of Cameron’s liberal Conservatism.
Broadly speaking, British voters favor a reduction in net immigration. At the same time, they’ve reacted negatively against outright xenophobia, leaving Cameron a very difficult needle to thread. By emphasizing the positive impact of immigration while also stressing its environmental burdens, he offered a balanced, nonhysterical perspective.
I strongly recommend that you check out ConservativeHome’s excerpts from the speech.
Many conservatives and libertarians will be disappointed by Cameron’s evident hesitation regarding the virtues of untrammeled population growth. I happen to think population growth is a very good thing, and that Britain’s growing population reflects the country’s best qualities, namely economic dynamism and cultural attractiveness. That said, the environmental concerns Cameron raises are no mere camouflage for cultural prejudice: these are real, legitimate concerns that carry a lot of weight with the all-important suburban middle class. England in particular has long been a glorified garden, with almost every inch of land shaped more or less directly by human hands. So it’s easy to see why the British would have a more “Dutch” attitude towards the landscape.
P.S.- If you have a few minutes, this series of videos is pretty amusing. Actually, I was pretty impressed by how Cameron directly engaged a few middle-aged men who seemed to think the CIA might have been behind the 7/7 plot. Good for him.