CROYDON COMMENTARY: Tis the season to run scare stories about immigration, without any concern for reality, writes ANDREW FISHER
We will soon be reading annual headlines about how immigrants want Christmas banned or about schools banning nativity plays. These are merely festive manifestations of a year-round trend of fear-mongering about migrants.
An absurd example of the genre was provided recently by the Daily Express asserting that there were “hidden migrants” uncounted in official statistics. That’s as long as you consider that the British-born children of migrants are actually migrants, too.
According to the Express, only one parent need be a migrant for a couple’s British-born child to be a “hidden migrant”. It is by this inversion of logic that my Croydon-born wife becomes a migrant and, since she’s been reclassified, our Croydon-born son must also now be a migrant. By Daily Express rationale I’m the only non-migrant in my household.
If it was only an increasingly rarely-read rag like the Express, such headlines wouldn’t be a problem. But we are a nation obsessed with immigration. The rise of the UK Independence Party has forced leading members of the main political parties into a Dutch auction over who can be the nastiest to immigrants.
In recent weeks Labour tried to sound “tough” on migration. Within days, the Prime Minister made a speech promising deterrents twice as “tough” on a mythical group called “benefit tourists”. Benefit tourists, of course, are as much a part of reality as displaced unicorn-ranchers from Narnia.
Why do I say this? For two simple reasons.
First, this country has one of the least generous welfare states in Europe. So if you were to uproot your life and move thousands of miles to live on benefits, the UK’s £72 per week “luxury” might not prove to be the huge pull-factor which some would have us all believe. And secondly, because the government’s own statistics tell us migrants are less likely to claim benefits than the native population.
Research shows that in the past 10 years, immigrants have made a net contribution to the British economy of £25 billion. Far from milking our welfare state, they’re actually propping it up.
Switzerland provides a contrast to the UK’s gutter politics. You’d think the Swiss might be natural bedfellows of UKIP’s Nigel Farage and his ilk: they remain outside the European Union, have low taxes and, when it comes to hoarding others’ gold, art or wealth, have a flagrant disregard for political correctness.
Nevertheless, the Swiss overwhelmingly rejected a call to reduce net migration to no more than 0.2 per cent of their population a year. The Swiss population is already 23 per cent foreign-born, which is about twice the proportion of the UK population.
In British terms, 0.2 per cent would be equivalent to net migration of 128,000 per year – well above the Conservatives’ promised “tens of thousands”, and a little less than half our current rate of net migration. So on a proposal more liberal than the Conservatives’ stated aim, the Swiss rejected it because of fears it would damage the economy – which evidence from the UK suggests are true.
While Cameron has failed to reduce net immigration (it’s now higher than it was in 2010), it has helped soften the blow of his Bullingdon Club pal’s failure over the deficit: without the contribution of migrant workers, the deficit would be a whole lot worse.
In the 2012 Croydon North by-election, local Conservatives claimed in their literature “we inherited an economy reliant on banking, immigration and debt”, while Croydon Central’s current MP Gavin Barwell alleged “more Croydon North residents would have jobs if [Labour] had a better immigration policy eg accession controls on new EU members”.
In the two years since, net immigration has risen under his government while unemployment has fallen. So the Conservative-led government’s economy is actually more reliant on immigration. And the debt is higher, while banking scandals continue, too.
Of course, you won’t hear a word about this from Gavin – like the Daily Mail and Express, he’s too busy being “tough” on immigration to worry about the facts.
Coming to Croydon
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- David Lean Cinema, The Riot Club, Dec 4
- St Andrew’s churchyard gardening session, 10am, Dec 6
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Croydon Philharmonic Handel’s Messiah, Fairfield Halls, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Heathfield House Christmas charity bazaar, Dec 7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- David Lean Cinema, ’71, Dec 11
- Mayor of Croydon’s charity Christmas dinner, Dec 12
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- Concert of Christmas music, St Luke’s, Woodside, Dec 13
- Opera Soiree at Whitgift School, Dec 14
- Friends of the Earth Green Beanfeast, Dec 15 (book by Dec 1)
- Croydon Philharmonic Christmas concert, St Matthew’s, Dec 16
- Spread Eagle’s Christmas Improv show, Dec 17
- David Lean Cinema, Northern Soul, Dec 18
- David Lean Cinema, Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, Dec 29
- David Lean Cinema, The Beat Beneath My Feet, Dec 30
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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