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Editorials

A good income

Most commentators agree that it was a curious election. The televised leadership debates seemed to have transformed the contest, only for actual votes to suggest otherwise. Marginal constituencies requiring only small swings were protected, while others fell to shifts from one party to another of up to 20%. There was a drift away from much-fancied independent candidates, while the Green Party won its first parliamentary seat.

In the context of the campaign the latter is somewhat suprising. Despite David Cameron launching his leadership with a series of green initiatives, and news of the important role Ed Miliband had played in climate change talks in Copenhagen, environmental issues were not a priority at the election. Other issues important to Christians also received low billing. The renewing of Britain's nuclear deterrent cropped up as a budgetary issue, but not a moral one. Foreign aid was barely mentioned.

As Paul Vallely reports, the one issue that most concerned people on doorsteps and at hustings events was immigration. Until Bigotgate, the politicians had done their best to deflect the subject, since a considerable proportion of newcomers to the country are beyond the control of the British parliament.

After Gordon Brown's encounter with Gillian Duffy, however, the disconnect between politicians and large parts of the electorate was fully revealed.
In the face of prejudicial assumptions about people arriving from other nations, we must continue to make the point that immigration benefits our country; the people it brings are an asset. Where the new consensus is to resist the foreigner, we need to take a stand. But we should stop short of declaring all those who are uncomfortable with rapid change in their communities as bigoted.

It is more than the fact that Mrs Duffy didn't seem to have had anyone explain to her how or why the arrival of East Europeans was in her interests. The free movement of labour across the EU undoubtedly benefits young people up for a challenge and some hard work - and many Brits have taken advantage of the law. But the world may look somewhat different to pensioners who have lived for decades alongside people who have the same relationship to their home town as them. This isn't a question of race or language, or even the availability of local services, but the fact that for many new arrivals those towns are temporary to them - most intend to stay for relatively short periods. In such circumstances the social contract is different.

Adam Weymouth's article reminds us of our Christian duty to the stranger, but we should also remember that when economics and progress demand social change, we should be certain to take the most vulnerable with us.