Express opinions on migration that ignore the facts

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.

Express front pageAn 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.

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4 Responses to Express opinions on migration that ignore the facts

  1. davidcallam says:

    Newspapers’ first duty is to their shareholders.

    So they pander to the prejudices of the steadily decreasing numbers of people who buy their daily drivel. They are all besotted with Nigel Farage at present – even the BBC – because he seems to be the man on the Clapham omnibus.

    So the Tories, many of whom share Nigel’s backward-looking faux-nostalgia stance, are happy to close our borders. They all think they’re Churchill and buy into the myth that Britain stood alone against the Nazi threat in 1939. They conveniently forget the many brown- and black-skinned members of the Empire (now the Commonwealth) who fought shoulder to shoulder with us in both World Wars.

    Labour, the party of the squeezed middle, suddenly sees Nigel nicking working-class votes it has taken for granted for decades. So it too wants to outkip Ukip and finds itself making promises on immigration to people in eastern England who have yet to experience the joys of living in a multi-ethnic society like Croydon.

    Please note: Ukip does badly in large cities like Greater London, where we know its scare stories about foreign languages being spoken on trains are exactly that; scare stories.

    I was heartened by David Cameron’s recent speech on the European Union because, when he was compelled to say something of note he parked all the hateful Tory race-card rhetoric in favour of something more likely to appeal to Angela Merkel. Indeed, I’m told she had sight of the speech the day before he delivered it.

    There’s a man who understands the reality of European politics, whatever the increasingly desperate utterances of his right-wing Tory Taliban.

    Once next May’s election is behind us, whatever the result, the immigration nonsense will disappear like a morning mist, as it always does between elections.

    Nigel Farage will limp off to nurse his half-a-dozen seats, realising he has less influence in Westminster than the Liberal Democrat rump or the Alex Salmond-led Scottish Nationalists.

  2. I very much agree with most of Andrew’s comments. However I would like to make a few observations:-

    1. The argument that immigrants put more into the economy than they take out (though true) doesn’t always resonate with ordinary people, as they’re not seeing the benefits of any economic improvements. Under this Government the benefits pass overwhelmingly to the rich. We should therefore listen to those who feel they’re losing out and campaign for policies that lead to greater equality and fairness (to be fair Andrew does this all the time).

    2. I find it surprising that none of the parties seems to have a population policy for London. We are fast approaching 9 million. Parts of London, including the north of Croydon, are arguably becoming too crowded for people to have a good quality of life. Open spaces are sparse, and increasingly being built on, housing is at too high a density, traffic congestion and pollution are real problems etc etc.

    It is not an answer to build on the Green Belt, as this would lead to urban sprawl. It is part of an answer to have an industrial strategy, which directs development to other regions of the UK. But I think we also need control of net migration in this context. I am therefore not opposed to measures which address this, provided they are done in a fair and non-xenophobic way.

  3. KristianCyc says:

    Must be fun being an immigrant, being accused of both claiming job seekers benefits and stealing jobs from locals at the same time. They took ahr jerbs!

  4. Rod Davies says:

    Ar ran Meibion Glyndwr, byddwn yn nodi bod 99% o gyfranwyr i’r blog hwn yw mewnfudwyr o ryw fath neu’i gilydd. Mae’r rhif hwn yn cynnwys bron y cyfan o aelodaeth UKIP a’r darllenwyr y Daily Express. Os oedd ganddynt unrhyw anrhydedd, byddent fabwysiadu polisi “yn gyntaf yn ~ cyntaf allan” ac yn rhoi eu hunain ar y cwch cyntaf i’r Cyfandir.
    Os nad ydych yn gallu deall y defnydd o hwn Google Translate. ( )

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