A home for the incurably smug


When I was at secondary school we had a mock trial and I was chosen as lead for the prosecution. I cleverly set a trap for the gang alleged to have broken into the tuck shop. But when the plan worked and the two witnesses directly contradicted each other I punched the air and whooped in delight. Unfortunately, this irritated my classmates so much that they found the defendants not guilty to spite me.  

In a similar vein my fellow Moral Maze panellist Clifford Longley, who is a learned, witty and modest man, made the mistake on one programme of starting a contribution with the words ‘I think this is my killer point’. He has never been allowed to forget it.

So now on those very rare occasions when I think I have scored a goal in an argument I try to keep my satisfaction to myself. So it was last week in an LBC debate on immigration that we hosted here at the RSA.

Peter Lilley was the most anti-immigration voice on the panel. As the evening wore on it wasn’t so much his views that got me down as his insistence that anyone who expresses any concern about immigration is labelled a racist. Given that almost every single national newspaper is in favour of tougher restrictions, not to mention the Coalition parties (even Ed Miliband said that a failure to express concern about the impact of immigration lost Labour supporters), this does seem a rather out-dated view.

Although the Great Room audience was pretty balanced in its views, it was clear from the phone-in comments that the LBC listeners were on Peter’s side, and many of them shared his slight persecution complex.

Anyhow, my moment of inner triumph was when Peter responded to a question about the low paid. He said  that if we stopped immigration the labour market would tighten and wages for UK workers would go up, thus reducing poverty. My response was to point out that in many occupations which rely on low paid migrants it is far from clear that the market will tolerate higher costs. The example I gave was social care and, I added, given Peter’s support for the Government's austerity package presumably he wouldn’t want anything to raise public costs.  Perhaps he was just sipping his water but I couldn’t help noticing that at this point Peter was slightly less ready than before with his rebuttal.

So, I was interested to read about the problems besetting Southern Cross care homes and the wider issues of finances and standards affesting teh sector.  cross this morning in the newspapers that many companies providing care homes are now in dire financial straits, as well as too often delivering poor standards. It doesn’t seem that wages are the precipitating factor but it hard to see how the sector, residents, carers or the state could pick up the tab if wages did rise significantly.

So there you have it, my killer point. And even though there’s seemingly nothing I can do to eradicate the self-satisfaction from my tone, at least I managed to wait a week.

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