The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced his intention to negotiate an ‘a cap on immigration’ on residents from the European Union (EU) coming to the UK, in a desperate attempt to spike the United Kingdom Independence Party’s (UKIP) popularly amongst a significant section of British voters. Whether it will be successful in stemming the UKIP surge is open to debate, as all other similar stunts, such as the offer of an in/out referendum on the EU, have so far failed to depress UKIP support.
Whether even it will be listened to seriously by other EU states is openly questioned by Jose Manuel Barraso, outgoing European Commission President, today. It is highly unlikely that Cameron will get any kind of cap, so this is purely a public relations exercise, as no doubt UKIP will point out. I think this is just another sign of the established political parties pushing the old buttons that have been effective before, but they are just not working anymore.
For many UKIP supporters, as I have pointed out before, it is not really UKIPs policies that are attractive to them, indeed many supporters don’t even know what they are, but it is rather an expression of dissatisfaction with the whole of the existing political establishment (the Greens are profiting from this too, with completely opposite policies to UKIP, in the main). So, I doubt this will have the effect Cameron desires.
I think it is true to say that in some parts of the country immigration from eastern Europe in particular, is unpopular, but in other parts, London for example thrives on immigration, it passes off almost unnoticed. London is of course an ‘immigrant city’ where the majority of the population is of non British stock, and even that which is, tends to be from other parts of the UK.
But the big problem with immigration though, is not the immigrants themselves, as the British are by and large a very tolerant bunch, but it is the lack of resources being put into the infrastructure to cope with their needs and the rest of the population. This all started under the last Labour government, when Labour were quite happy to take the increased growth in the UK economy generated by eastern European immigrants; many took the opportunity to have building extensions and improvements, and at comparatively inexpensive cost. No, the failure of the Labour government in this area, was to neglect to reinvest some of this growth in public services.
Particularly in poorer areas, the pressure for doctor’s and hospital appointments, school places and jobs became quite acute, and the Coalition, if anything, have made matters even worse with their crusade to slash public spending and to cut taxes for the wealthy.
There does seem to be something of a difference this time around with anti immigrant sentiment, compared to the 1950s, 60s and 70s, where the immigrants to the UK were predominately from the Caribbean and India and Pakistan. This of course being colour.
Now, I come across black and Asian British people who complain about eastern (white) Europeans taking their jobs or under cutting their wage rates, but as always, it is a simplistic scapegoating reaction to a more complex problem.
That problem is with the affects of economic globalisation and an obsession with neo-liberal ideology. Is it any better that our jobs can be transferred out of the country altogether, by outsourcing to India or China? Is it immigration that has forced down wage rates, or government policy on reducing the powers of trade unions and opt outs and the watering down of EU employment rights? Did immigrants invent zero hour contracts?
The idea that by stopping or limiting immigration all our problems will be solved is naive. By demonising immigrants as ‘health’ or ‘welfare’ tourists which just isn’t borne out by the facts and places like Clacton, which has recently returned the first UKIP elected MP, has only 4.3% of its population born abroad. But Clacton, like many areas is economically depressed, as a direct result of government policies, both Labour and the Coalition.
Let’s put the blame for our economic problems firmly where they belong. The economically disastrous one party neo-liberal state that we live in is to blame, and UKIP will do nothing about that at all.
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