Jaber Jabbour has a financial advisory business, has worked for Goldman Sachs and was named as one of the 40 under 40 rising stars in investment banking in Britain by Financial News.
I am under no illusion that I am among the least popular people in the UK. There are two reasons: (a) I am an immigrant and (b) I work in the financial industry – and in the past designed complex financial derivatives while being employed by Goldman Sachs.
I have been living in Britain since 2004. I came to study for a master’s degree and, upon graduation in 2005, began working in finance. Before this, I had spent the first 22 years of my life in Damascus. Having been brought up in Syria, I always fantasised about living abroad. This dream was shared by the majority of young people who lived there at the time. The daily reflection on my experiences in Syria, the way the country was run by the Assad regime and the fear imposed by the intelligence agencies shaped the principles and values of an ideal society created in my mind. This was sharpened further while reading about economics, politics and philosophy, and watching western movies.
While day-dreaming about emigrating abroad, I was not so naïve to believe that this imaginary ideal society actually existed, but I knew that some countries were closer to it than others. With that in mind, I decided to come to Britain; it was the right decision.
From day one in the UK, I struggled to understand where I fit in on the political map: I was fiscally and economically on the right, but socially progressive. Technically speaking, I am a liberal (with a lower case ‘l’): I believe in freedom, individuality and independence; I favour a very small role for the state and minimal foreign military intervention; I am a firm believer in a cosmopolitan world, in equality at birth and that no one should gain advantage or suffer discrimination based on the characteristics with which they were born. Indeed, the only criteria for judging anyone, in my opinion, should be their personal achievements and contribution to society.
At first glance, I thought that I was a Liberal Democrat. However, after taking a closer look, this didn’t feel right. The Lib Dems in the UK are far too left, fiscally and economically. In addition to this, I completely oppose their view on the role of the state, and fundamentally disagree with their position on the E.U – including their reluctance to question the current European immigration status.
The right to immigrate to Britain is a privilege that should not be automatically doled out to people based on whether they hold a European passport or not. Instead, immigration to Britain should be a prize awarded to those individuals who can illustrate that they clearly identify with British principles and have worked hard in their own communities to accomplish significant achievements. In this way, they can display that they are capable of adding value to Britain.
In the same way that a business carefully and dynamically considers its recruitment plans based on what its needs happen to be at any particular point in time, so should every society – whether an EU country or not – when it comes to its immigration policy. For example, if Britain requires 10,000 immigrants in 2014, there are 10,000 prizes to be awarded. These should be offered to the most talented people in the world who identify with British principles and who can add real value to Britain. This is independent of their nationality, appearance and religion.
Needless to say, this view on immigration does not apply to humanitarian crises, which constitute a completely different issue and involve many other factors. During the recent past, a number of decisions and statements by Conservatives has made me less confused about my core political identity. Some of these are:
- Parliament’s vote against the possibility to intervene in Syria. The credit goes to the Prime Minister for holding the vote and to Conservative backbenchers for voting independently – thus reversing the trend of Bush-Blair alliance and restraining Obama.
- Boris Johnson’s unconventional views on immigration and George Osborne’s announcement about making it easier for Chinese people to visit the UK.
- The shift towards a more inclusive foreign policy, as illustrated by the change in stance on Iran and through encouraging more trade with China.
- David Cameron’s push towards more social equality, tolerance and fairness, despite having to take difficult decisions
Finally, the economic principles of the Conservative Party are not the right values by which to run Britain’s economy only. Rather, these are universal rules that should be used to govern any economy at any time. Thanks to the acquisition and strict application of these principles by the Prime Minister’s team at an incredibly difficult time, we have been able to successfully cut the deficit and advance the private sector. As a result of this, economic recovery is well underway in the UK. However, if, for whatever reason – local or global, we return to recession, we should stick with the current formula as it is the only valid prescription.
In conclusion, it could be that I have changed over the past ten years, but it could also be that the political map in the UK has undergone a secular shift. If the latter is the case, it may well be that the Conservative Party is now the only liberal party in Britain.