Why I’m intemperate about freedom of movement

Note (1st October 2019): The post below was written in April.  Today at the Conservative party conference, Home Secretary Priti Patel smirked while she declaring she will “end the free movement of people forever” as if that were driving a stake through a vampire’s heart. The Labour party, on the other hand, has made some progress, the party conference voting overwhelmingly to support free movement; yet Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott makes clear that the leadership doesn’t feel bound by that – so, despite the appearance of progress, my plague-on-both-your-houses must stand.

The original post: It pains me to see the leadership of the UK Labour Party doubling down on its opposition to continued freedom of movement between the UK and the other 27 countries of the EU. A few impressions:

Westminster politicians don’t understand this issue, because they are typically more inward-looking, less international, than their constituents. British political careers famously begin at university and of course continue within the UK, with the MP being somebody who has devoted years to getting the support first of party members and then of voters, almost all of them UK citizens. The upper levels of the civil service are likewise extremely British. Contrast that with work in most sectors of business, education, or the health service, where an international cast of both co-workers and customers/clients/students/patients is the norm, and where careers often include opportunities for work abroad. My guess is that, relative to other Britons of the same age and education, most Westminster politicians, whatever the party, don’t have a clue of the extent to which freedom of movement within Europe has become a part of the lives – and the identity – of many of their constituents.

The university where I teach, a mile and a half from the Palace of Westminster, might as well be on a different planet.

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I’ll go and help too, vicariously

The joys of teaching at Birkbeck occasionally include emails from students like this

Hi Fred,
I’ve just accepted a 12 month contract to work in Sierra Leone as operations manager for [redacted]. Their focus is to improve the resilience of the Sierra Leone health service post ebola. Started induction in their London office today, will fly out to Sierra Leone 1st July.
I’m still planning to complete my dissertation for first week in September, though would be grateful if we could skype for meetings!
Best wishes
S
Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2

Eric Hobsbawm – late interview

When I was first at Birkbeck, this guy was still a regular in the staff canteen – so I must be getting on a bit myself! The interviewer is the current Master of Birkbeck, David Latchman. The revelation that several of Hobsbawm’s best books were essentially his Birkbeck lecture notes does raise the bar for the rest of us, just a bit.