Cameron was again speaking recently about a something for nothing culture. As I believe I pointed out the last time he used that term, there is something deeply ironic about a Tory PM talking down to middle class or working class immigrants, the vast majority of whom are only here to work, earn a living and pay their taxes. Then turn around and allow an open door immigration policy for various mega-rich foreigner tax dodgers (who helped bankroll the Tory’s last election) into the country, suggesting that these people should be able to have all the benefits of living and working in the UK, but shouldn’t pay any tax at all! Or that banksters who wrecked the economy several years ago are in fact entitled to their ridiculous bonuses, and no we won’t be imposing any windfall tax on them either. That, Mr Prime Minster is what we call a something for nothing culture.
Of course David Cameron was merely reacting to Jitters within his own party regarding UKIP. While I am no fan of either the Tory’s nor UKIP, I might suggest that trying to out flank on the right an Ultra-right wing party is a loosing strategy, at least if you want to extend you’re voter net beyond Daily Mail bigot brigade come next election.
Indeed, the problem here for the PM is that the Daily Mail/UKIP policy on immigration is, as I pointed out in a previous post, completely divorced from reality, much like their policy on Europe. The PM is therefore merely shadow boxing against a phantom enemy and making himself look very silly in the process.
A British citizen is more likely to claim benefits than an someone from overseas (see Fullfacts.org report on this). Of the 2 million eastern Europeans who entered the UK over the last decade or so (many of whom have of course since gone home) only 13,000 actually tried to claim benefits.
The evidence doesn’t just contradict the UKIP position on immigration, it actually suggests the opposite conclusion – that bulk of immigrants are only here to work, pay their taxes or attend UK universities (and thus help subsidise UK eduction and the economy via their living expenses). As I’ve previously mentioned the problem isn’t so much damn foreigners coming over here, stealing our jobs its foreigners staying at home and our jobs migrating overseas. If anything the UK should be encouraging inward migration not the other way around.
While you could argue that certain parts of the country (notably around London) are overcrowded, this is a separate argument (While there is a shortage of council housing in the UK, immigrants or asylum seekers are not more likely to get a council house than a UK citizen). It means you need to encourage people and companies (foreign and domestic) to relocate out of London, not shut the door on everybody. And if you are going to advocate a reduction on inward migration than any sensible political party (there in lie the problem, UKIP are not a sensible political party, but extremists) has to be prepared to pay the economic costs of that policy, and we’re not talking small change here.
For example, the UKBA (who thankfully are now going to be disbanded), acting under Tory orders, having been cracking down on overseas students attending UK universities. This policy is clearly driven by the fact that they see tier 4 overseas student as an easy target and reckon that by harassing them they can get inward migration numbers down and keep the Daily Mail brigade happy. But the overwhelming majority of those in the UK on a student visa, are only here to study. All the UKBA is doing is harassing law abiding people, creating a ton of paper work for university staff and generally discouraging future students from studying in the UK.
Now while Id agree that UK universities are perhaps relying too heavily on Tier 4 students for funding. But this is an inevitable consequence of the de-facto privatisation of UK universities by successive Tory and Labour governments, as I’ve discussed before in my uni blog. Obviously if the Tory’s plan on pulling the rug from underneath universities then it had better be prepared to pay the financial and political price for that. Without tier 4 students effectively subsidising the UK third level system the UK government will either have to spend a lot more than it currently does to fund UK education (so forget about deficit reduction or tax cuts), or risk seeing many universities in the country go bankrupt (which will basically cost them the next and several subsequent elections), reducing the number of university places in the country and destroying the UK’s knowledge based economy.
In a similar vein the UKBA are also harassing overseas professionals. I’ve seen situations now more than a few times where we, or a company the university works closely with, has tried to employ someone from overseas and run into protracted visa issues. There are many reasons why companies will hire someone from overseas. He may have specialist knowledge and we can’t find any suitable UK candidates. They might be a former student whose research a corporate sponsor now wishes to commercialize.
But inevitably we face the situation where, for example the person is already in the country, but no the UKBA insist he goes home, applies for a work permit and then drags their feet for months on end over it. In the interim the uni/corporation has to put a project on hold, or cancel it altogether. One cannot escape the conclusion the UKBA is doing this on purpose in the hope that if they make immigration to the UK so annoyingly inconvenient people won’t come (and again, it makes their numbers look good).
Of course the economic effects of this policy are considerable. Many of the new innovative ideas that will become major money spinners in future are inevitably now being developed by UK educated professionals outside of the UK. And hence the billions of revenue that will one day be generated will be made there and not here.
I’m not proposing an open door policy on immigration. There are some people who we want to sling out or stop coming in (e.g. Qatada, who thanks to the government’s previous support for torture in black sites, is now still here). But punishing law-abiding working and middle class people (while instituting an open door policy for wealthy supporters of the Tories), is a policy that is unfair, corrupt, unethical and in the long term, economic suicide. What I oppose is a immigration policy driven by bigotry and xenophobia.