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Never tweet #1: regional migration, refugee quotas, class war

New concept: instead of tweeting, which raises everyone's blood pressure and is pointless, I am just going to do posts every so often about things on Twitter and in the news. If they don't occupy my brain for long enough to be worth even a short post at the end of the day... I will just not share my opinion about it! Radical!

Immigrants to the regions: The Sun got a briefing that Priti Patel is going to introduce use her new (sigh) "Australian-style points based immigration system" to encourage settlement outside London, or, in their words, "push migrants to Northern towns". Everybody gave pretty much the quotes you would expect - Diane Abbott said it was unworkable and illiberal; Lisa Nandy said the north is sick of Westminster gimmicks. The basic idea is better than those critics suggest, and it's something I argued for in my last report at Global Future. But I also made a point there of stopping to highlight that you can't really force people to live in certain regions, and the system has to be based on careful selection and a welcoming environment, not enforcement. Is that what Priti Patel has in mind? Seems unlikely!

To be honest, though, the briefed quotes in the Sun read very much like they come from someone who has just googled Australia's immigration system for the first time. The Migration Advisory Committee had already been asked, by the previous Home Secretary, to look into lowering salary thresholds for non-London regions. It wouldn't surprise me if they just end up doing that, and pretending it's a big new idea.

We don't want refugees so can we just pay poor countries to take them: It's so much cheaper! In fairness this week's version of this bad old idea is really just Nobel clickbait. Two points that I think often go missing in the debate about this. One: if this isn't just pure "we're richer than you" power politics, it would have to work by each country having an initial 'fair share', which they can then buy their way out of. On any reasonable assessment, poorer countries take far more than their fair share of refugees - Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon host more than 5 million Syrians between them - and rich countries far less. In a pay-don't-host system, Western countries would have to pay a huge amount of money for the current distribution of refugees - let alone to take even fewer than now, which is usually what supporters of this idea are talking about.

Two: the motivating force behind this concept is that rich countries just 'can't' take large numbers of refugees. As a matter of national wealth this is obviously false. Often the argument points instead to large refugee flows disrupting social cohesion and the political fabric. Why shouldn't that apply much more strongly to Lebanon, where refugees are now a third of the population? It feels to me like people have some background assumption that poorer countries don't really have political or civil societies - they're just out there subsisting, with the occasional coup or revolution - so there's nothing to worry about as long as the money's looked after.

Who should lead the class war: I expected to really, really hate this Jacobin article about left populism in America but in the end I only hated about half of it. The later sections, which turn from broader analysis to arguing for Bernie Sanders over Elizabeth Warren, seem clearly silly, but the front half is provocative and good. This Democratic primary is going to be a really terrible time to be on the internet! Good luck everyone!