Racism, immigration, false stats and Councillor Pearson

Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”. ANDREW FISHER says it is advice a New Addington councillor would do well to follow

The Prime Minister’s speech last week on immigration wasn’t really about immigration. It was about the economy and electoral politics. Every economic failure requires a scapegoat – in the Thatcher and Major years, the Tories blamed trade unionists and single mothers, now they blame welfare claimants and migrants.

UK-Border-Agency--006So because the Prime Minister’s Bullingdon buddy is killing the economy, and there’s a growing backlash against the bullying attacks on welfare claimants, step forward immigrants to this country for some cheap politicking at your expense.

Apparently immigrants are taking advantage of British benefits and public services and we need to tighten up the rules. There’s no evidence at all for this, but that hasn’t stopped Tony Pearson (a Conservative councillor for New Addington) brandishing his own ignorance and obsequiousness on the local Tories’ website even more foolishly than his leader managed.

Cameron’s speech alleged that foreigners were coming over here to use our NHS and should be billed for the privilege – stating the NHS could claim between £10 million to £20 million from other countries. His own health secretary told the media, “I don’t think those numbers are at all accurate.”

While we leave the Tories flailing around for the correct statistics to back up their xenophobic dog-whistle politics, let’s consider another angle. The NHS poaches thousands of staff from across the world to work as nurses, midwives, physicians and surgeons in our hospitals. Other countries’ governments paid for the training from which we are benefiting – where is the bill from them to us?

I recently spent several days in Mayday Hospital for the birth of our first child. We were attended to by midwives from the Caribbean, northern Europe, west Africa, and a surgeon from the Middle East – as well as an ethnically diverse range of British-born midwives, anaesthetists and healthcare assistants. As Dennis Skinner asked, are we seriously suggesting that those “of different nationalities can change the bed sheets and operate, but woe betide them if they want to put their head on a pillow when they are ill”?

Our country has benefited massively from migration – and I’m proud to live in a borough like Croydon, raising my new-born third-generation immigrant son in an integrated community that has rejected attempts to divide both established and new ethnic groups.

New Addington councillor Pearson says some immigrants are good while others are bad. That’s probably because they’re human beings, just like indigenous Brits. Yes, of course some will commit crime, as do many British people. Pearson and others seem to expect you can import a master race of upstanding citizens. If, as councillor Pearson believes, “immigration is a good thing for Britain, some may even say a necessity”, then you have to accept that with those immigrants come the same flaws we see in our own society.

However, if we look at the statistics we find that immigrants are more likely to be in work and less likely to be claiming benefits than British citizens. Migrants from the EU’s new member states pay via taxes about 30 per cent more than they cost our public services. According to official Department of Work and Pensions statistics, only 5 per cent of EU nationals in the UK are claiming out of work benefits, compared to 13 per cent of established Brits.

Tony Pearson: Crystal Palace has opted to keep him on as a steward at Selhurst Park

Tony Pearson: ignorance

So-called “benefit tourism” is also unlikely to lead migrants to the Britain – our welfare state is only the 18th most generous out of 24 analysed by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. So Pearson’s “plans to stop our country’s generosity being abused” might want to start with plans for our country to display some generosity in its benefits system.

Apparently, though, for councillor Pearson, Cameron is addressing “years of Labour’s open door policy in respect of immigration”, which will come as news to all the workers in the UK Border Agency (apparently there was no need for them to be checking passports), the holidaymakers who queued, and to the thousands of would-be immigrants held in detention centres and deported.

Perhaps Pearson should also read up about the million-plus British citizens who are living happily in the EU, including 760,000 mostly retired Brits who live in Spain … for Pearson the strain on Spain can remain. The open borders between EU countries are a mutual benefit we should welcome.

Ironically, at his meeting on welfare, local Conservative MP Gavin Barwell challenged people in the audience who suggested immigrants should not have access to benefits or the NHS, saying, “I don’t want to live in a country where someone is lying in the street and we say ‘not my problem, guv’.”

While Barwell says that he’s prepared to stand up to racism in his constituency, he’s strangely silent on the same divisive politics in his own party. If Barwell wants to have a quiet word with Messrs Pearson and Cameron, may I suggest the words of Abraham Lincoln: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”.

But this isn’t a debate interested in facts, it’s about restoring to the Tory ranks the xenophobic and sometimes outright racist vote that has defected to UKIP.

Pearson’s claim that “Labour are [sic] still the party of mass immigration” is just a sanitised version of the 1964 Smethwick Tory slogan “if you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour”. But if you have nothing to offer the electorate other than economic failure and falling living standards, then you have to resort to fear.

With migrants bringing in more in taxes than they receive in benefits and services, it is a grotesque slur for politicians to blame them for stretching benefits and services. They should instead be using the additional revenue wisely to ensure that there is sufficient housing, welfare and healthcare for all.

Just a couple of days before the Tories give the richest 1 per cent in society a tax break, maybe we should ponder whether the problem is too many incompetent politicians rather than too many immigrants?

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11 Responses to Racism, immigration, false stats and Councillor Pearson

  1. Tory in trouble plays the race card: surprise, surprise.

    Enoch Powell, a dissident Tory turned Ulster Unionist, delivered his famous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in Birmingham in 1968, raising fears that immigrants from the Commonwealth would swamp the country’s indigenous population.

    Among other things, he said: “The black man will have the whip hand over the white man in 20 years.”
    With the benefit of hindsight we know that was hyperbolic twaddle, but it commanded much febrile support from the so-called common man at the time.

    Nigel Farage, the only known name in UKIP and another dissident Tory, is making similar racist noises about Bulgarians and Romanians, warmly egged on by the more xenophobic elements of our ‘free press’.

    I saw a wide-eyed Mr Farage ranting on Newsnight last week, playing on the fears of potential Conservative voters.

    Given Nigel’s popularity among Nasty Party head-bangers, Call-me-Dave feels obliged to rattle a few sabres. Hence his recent re-stating of immigration laws in an attempt to appear tough.

    And where Mr Cameron goes, lesser Tories are bound to follow.

    In truth, the vast majority of people who come to this country do so to better their situation through hard work; in the process, they are net contributors.

    Take the proverbial Polish plumber, who begins paying indirect tax from the moment he sets foot in the country and income tax from the time he receives his first wage.

    Is it his fault that a bumbling central government takes at least 12 months to pass on his contributions to his local authority so it can educate his children properly?

    Is it his fault that employers prefer the quality of his work to that of English layabouts who think the country owes them world-class pay for a shoddy job?

    The British electorate has rejected extreme politics of both the right and the left in the past; I can only hope it will do so again in the future.

  2. In the UK we do have a low-skills problem such that our economic recoveries are blocked by shortages of skilled labour. If we are going to recover from this recession we need far more skilled workers. If we do not rely on skilled workers migrating to this country then all of us need to think critically about how we are going to improve basic skill levels.

  3. Charlotte you are correct, the problem is lack of skilled workers. As a member of the EU we have uncontrolled immigration (or free movement) from those countries, that is a legal requirement. At the same time in order to limit net migration the Government does its best to discourage issuing visas to those immigrants from outside the EU.

    Unfortunately the net effect of this is that we have permitted far too many immigrates from the EU (who represent a higher than the national average level of unskilled workers) whilst discouraging immigrates from outside the EU (who are often those who have the skills we require).

    To this it should be remembered that those under 24 years old have in the past tended to go into unskilled jobs as a way to becoming skilled. With the high level of unskilled immigrant workers entering this country this has largely been responsible for the very high levels of unemployment amongst those under 24 that we now have.

    So, it is this uncontrolled immigration from the EU that is largely causing the problems with the country’s economy. All UKIP is suggesting is that we should adopt the same immigration controls that the USA, Canada or Australia currently use.

    It is important to distinguish between immigrants (whom we like and have largely contributed a lot to this country and its economy) and uncontrolled immigration (which is wrong and unfair to native people).

    Controlled immigration is something that this country has had for centuries, especially before 1973, and allowed for proper planning of services and infrastructure.

    Uncontrolled immigration has resulted in the closures of Croydon’s schools only a few years ago only to now be suffering for a dramatic shortage of school spaces requiring urgent action including having to build on our Metropolitan Open Land (effectively our Green Belt).

  4. ndavies144 says:

    “unfair to native people”
    How do you define “native people” Peter?

  5. “So, it is this uncontrolled immigration from the EU that is largely causing the problems with the country’s economy.”
    The economic effect of immigration pales into insignificance compared with the nefarious activities of investment bankers, whom the present government persistently refuses to tax fairly.
    “All UKIP is suggesting is that we should adopt the same immigration controls that the USA, Canada or Australia currently use.”
    It’s a fundamental right/obligation of all members of the European Union to grant residents of other states the right to live and work anywhere within their collective borders.
    The United Kingdom can no more deny that obligation than Californians could discriminate against New Yorkers; nor British Columbians against Quebecois; nor Victorians against people from New South Wales.
    Happily, there are no plans to change that relationship anytime soon, however much people who think like Peter Staveley may wish it were so.

  6. In my comment I meant native people who were born in the UK or who have lived here legally for the majority of their lives.

    There is some inference that the term immigrants also mean those whose parents or ancestors came from another country. Ultimately by that definition we are all immigrants!

    To be clear I was using the dictionary definition of the word not a political construct of the word.

    In fact thinking about it by native people I actually meant those with a British Passport or who were born in the UK or who have lived here legally for the majority of their lives.

  7. @UKIPAddiscombe is talking absolute nonsense. Australia and the US have far higher migrant populations than the UK – and lower levels of unemployment. “All UKIP is suggesting is that we should adopt the same immigration controls that the USA, Canada or Australia currently use.” UKIP wants higher immigration then. The idea that more people living together = higher unemployment is absurd. More people live in Germany, Japan and the US and all those countries have lower unemployment.

    The fact is that our economy is in a state because of the banking crisis – which has sucked demand out of the economy through corporate deleveraging and government austerity.

    To say that we have “uncontrolled immigration” is an out-and-out lie. We have free movement within the EU and quite restrictive rules for the rest of the world. Actually you have to go back only one hundred years to find Britain actually did have open borders … but there you are: nationalists ignorant of their own nation’s history.

  8. All we are suggesting is that the system of controls that are adopted by those countries might be the most suitable. I did not comment about the levels of immigration in those countries. In any cases other immigration systems are available

    Andrew, you obviously have not properly read my comments. When I was talking about uncontrolled immigration I added the qualifier that I was talking about uncontrolled immigration from EU states with the exception of the final paragraph where having added the qualifier about the EU previously I thought that it would be too tedious to repeat it again.

  9. All I am saying is that those systems have resulted in far higher migrant populations in those countries. I don’t in principle have a problem with that, but I suspect you do.

    Do you have any evidence that “it is this uncontrolled immigration from the EU that is largely causing the problems with the country’s economy” or that “Uncontrolled immigration has resulted in the closures of Croydon’s schools”?

    EU migration is not uncontrolled – it is an agreed mutual system of free movement. If you want to end that, how do you think the 760,000 British citizens in Spain will react?

  10. EU migration may have started as a mutually agreed system of free movement but it is now enshrined in EU (and therefore British) Law, so effectively cannot be changed unless the UK leaves the EU.

    The 760,000 British citizens in Spain will have the same status as those British citizens in Switzerland or Canada or Australia or the USA. Most countries outside of the EU only permit permanent residency if either the person can support themselves (such as with a pension) or has a skill that the country requires and a job to go to (i.e. are granted a Work Permit).

    My understanding is that the UK has had the largest proportion of incoming migrants in the EU and whilst most of those migrants have jobs they have tended to take unskilled jobs (even if they have skills). This, in turn, has meant that younger people born the UK have not been able to obtain jobs and are on benefits (particularly in rural areas). So, in effect, we are paying British people to be on benefits whilst migrants are reducing wages for unskilled workers (and so are paying less in taxation).

    As I said I have nothing against immigrants it is just the rate that immigrants are entering the UK that is causing the problems.

  11. Still no evidence for any of your assertions then: i.e. “it is just the rate that immigrants are entering the UK that is causing the problems.”

    And 95% of EU nationals here support themselves – much like the UK citizens in Spain and elsewhere.

    Your arguments are either false or unsubstantiated.

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