Boris Johnson has been advocating an amnesty for illegal immigrants for some time, and is now planning to increase the pressure for change by setting up a study to assess how it would benefit society.
He's quite right of course, so it's singularly disappointing to see the responses he's had so far from the Immigration minister among others. Cracking down hard on immigrants plays well with what remains of the Daily Mail element of the Government's support (did such support ever exist?) but all too frequently politicians seem blind to the law of unintended consequences.
One obvious example has been the growing reluctance to allow seasonal migrant workers to come here in the crop-picking season. Has that meant that such work has been taken by underemployed 'British Workers'? Of course it doesn't; it means that large quantities of fruit and vegetables have been left to rot, which is one of the factors in rapidly rising food prices.
There are many jobs that are both unattractive and low-paid that won't get done unless people come and do them outside the framework imposed by taxation and employment legislation. I doubt if James Purnell is going to pursuade the great unemployed to take them on either. Our Government is not alone in publicly denouncing illegal immigrants whilst at the same time using them to prop up the comforts of an affluent society.
Boris Johnson is right on this, and Gordon Brown, James Purnell, Phil Woolas et al. should have the courage to say so rather than pandering yet again to our unpleasant tabloid press.