Bigoted Britain

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One of the more unsavoury aspects of the brexit vote is how the bigot brigade now feel they can throw their weight about. There’s been a worrying rise in racist and xenophobic incidents, up 14% nationally, but as high as 70% higher in some hot spots. A number of foreigner visitors (some only here as tourists) have reported all manner of stories of random abuse being shouted at them, eggs thrown at them, shop windows smashed or being attacked in a public park. Even Lily Allen has reported how she had abuse shouted at her by a cab driver who refused to accept her fare (she’d said something earlier in the week about how the UK should take in more refugees). And this is on the mild side. We have of course the recent murder of a Polish man (now being investigated as a hate crime) and of course just prior to the referendum, there was the murder of MP Jo Cox by a pro-leave bigot.

Unsurprisingly given that Britain has become a more racist and unwelcoming place, some have had enough and there’s stories of how some Polish people are now moving out of the UK, now no longer feeling welcome. I’ve even heard talk from one or two people I know who are thinking about leaving. We’ve even got the rather embarrassing story of how the descendants of Jewish families who came to Britain to flee the nazi’s, are now fleeing back across the channel and seeking to regain their German citizenship.

The word “Britain is increasingly being seen in international circles as synonymous with the word “bigot. And anyone who voted brexit, let us be clear this one is on your head. Make whatever excuses you want, but by voting leave you made common cause with the sorts of racists and bigots a previous generation of Briton’s died to stop from taking over this country. By voting leave you betrayed every principle the UK was founded on. For shame! History will likely judge your actions very harshly.

Far right out of the closet
Stateside some Americans might be tempted to take the moral high ground and say how awfully racist the British now are…yet they still can’t explain why so many want to vote for Trump. Maybe I can offer an explanation.

In part it has to do with “the bloc”, that being the GOP voters, who for various reasons (ideology, religion, down right ignorance and stupidity), will always vote GOP no matter what. The GOP could nominate Kim Jung un, he could campaign on a platform of selling them all into slavery and randomly shot into the crowds at his rallies and I guarantee you the GOP would still carry most of the “red states”. Even if the reincarnation of George Washington was the democrat candidate.

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Secondly, Americans, much like the British, need to accept that they are a much more racist country than they have ever realised. Case in point, the Bundy brigade who held up a wild life preserve at gun point, then after a stand off, car chase and shoot out (which left one of their number dead) recently beat the rap and walked out of court without any punishment. By contrast, protesters against an oil pipeline in Dakota have been harassed, suppressed and imprisoned. A reporter, who was filming the protests, now faces 45 years in prison. Edward Snowden would get a “mere” 30 years if he arrived back in the US.

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Spot the terrorist (PS, according to the Trump bigot brigade, its not the guy with a gun)

And in other news missed within the election coverage, a Saudi student was killed in what is believed to have been a racially motivated attack. Plus, as James Comey’s blatantly politically motivated actions have illustrated, parts of the FBI are filled with racist rightwing partisans.

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An African American church burning…in the name of Trump!

One is reminded of the bad old days in the deep south where the Klan would go out and lynch someone, get caught and walk out of court scot free. Meanwhile any black or northern college activists who tried to do something about segregation would be followed around by the cops, get beaten to a pulp while the cops looked on and then get themselves arrested and the book thrown at them for the most minor offences…..then also get lynched and murdered themselves.

The unfortunate reality which this election campaign has exposed, is that racism in the US did not end with the Jim Crow laws. It just went underground, it went dark. The reality many Americans need to accept is that probably about 1/3 of the country, or at least 3/4’s  of “the block”, are racists and bigots. They do not believe that a black person is equal to a white person (some even argue that blacks were better off as slaves!). Nor is a catholic, a Jew or a Muslim equal to a WASP like them. That Hillary is automatically disqualified from being president, not because of her emails or her politics, but because she’s a women and a women can’t be in charge of a man.

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And its obvious the US far right plan to try and intimidate ethnic minority voters during the voting on Tuesday. Already some of them are showing up at polling stations with guns. The irony is their excuse is they fear the election being rigged…..so they plan on basically rigging it themselves! One can only assume that if they win, much like how the brexit brigade were emboldened in the UK, they’ll go on the rampage. We’ll be hearing stories of burning crosses on people’s lawns and ethinc minorities being driven out of white neighbourhoods.

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Again spot the terrorist…hint he’s the guy who isn’t white

Making the West history
And what are the likely consequences of all of this? I mean if foreigners leave it will mean more jobs for British people? Actually no! If one or two of the people I know leave, well yes I suppose a British person could take their job…..if they’ve got a PhD in a particular narrow field of chemistry or engineering and about ten years experience! Oh, and if they leave they take their research grant with them and the half a dozen British technicians who work for them get the sack.

As for lower paid workers, it is often argued they are doing the jobs the British won’t do. That’s not quite true. Often the problem is that these jobs are temporary posts in locations far away from unemployment blackspots. A Polish person will have no problems relocating to Inverness for 6 months to do a minimum wage job over the summer. But a Britain person in Skegness with a house and kids in school often isn’t willing to do so. Remove the option to hire the Polish person just means one of three outcomes, the job will be unfilled, raising the risk of the company shutting up shop or move overseas. The company may increase its wages to tempt a British person to take it (but that pushes up the cost of the services it offers, making it more expensive to UK customers and potentially rendering the company uncompetitive internationally). Or,  the company may seek to eliminate the job by automating it altogether. All in all, the likely outcome of this rise in racism is likely to be less people in employment not more.

As I’ve pointed out before, the UK is not Australia (i.e. a combination mining colony and holiday destination). Running a knowledge based economy in an ageing country without the ability to bring in young minds (and tax payers) and fresh ideas is likely to be a recipe for economic disaster in the long run. The next generation of inventors and innovators will skip Britain (and the US) and head for less racially charged nations. Neil Ferguson pointed out in his series a few years ago, The west, and in particular Britain’s, success in past centuries boiled down to a number of “killer apps”. Competition, Science, rule of law, etc. Now you (like me) may dispute some of this theory here, even perhaps devise your own set of “apps”, but one cannot help but point out that many of these “apps” only work on the implicit assumption that the West remains open to foreigners to coming in and open to new ideas (i.e. none of this anti-science malarkey also on the rise since brexit).

And keep in mind that the UK is at a disadvantage to other Western states because it lacks the natural resources of the US, Canada or Australia. It doesn’t have the high value exports and warm climate of Spain, Italy or France and its got nothing like the high tech industrial base of Germany. Indeed per capita, even Ireland ranks above the UK for industry as a proportion of its GDP (20% in Ireland v’s 10% in the UK).

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So brexit now threatens to undermine the UK’s ability to bring in new talent (such as scientists, doctors, etc.). Indeed the country may now lose the people it has as they seek their fortunes in other parts of the world (as the falling pound means a massive drop in relative salaries). Already quite a few recent engineering graduates are heading for the exits.

Also the other “killer app” of the UK (relative to the rest of the West) has been its relatively free markets and easy access to finance. Given that the banks are on the verge of jumping ship (for better or for worse) that crosses off that one. An orderly evacuation of New York is possible if Trump wins. And the post-brexit UK is now an economy based heavily on government intervention and political patronage, as the Nissan and Hinkley deals make clear. Those who bend’eth the knee before the brexit high sept, will have gifts lavished on them. Those who are seen to be out of favour (e.g. wind farms which have helped cut UK carbon emissions by rather a lot recently and stabilise energy prices in he wake of rising gas prices thanks to brexit) are punished for their success. Keep in mind that its likely the Nissan deal could work out as extremely costly to the UK, and Hinkley C is likely to cost the taxpayer tens of billions (on top of the hundreds of billions bill payers will have to stump up over its 50 year life). And its recently been revealed that the government will have to pick up the tab for the plant’s eventual decommissioning (which generally has worked out more expensive than building the plant in the first place).

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And one cannot help but point out the irony of a brexit won on the back of a lie that we’d get money back of johnny foreigner in Brussels to spend on the NHS….instead the UK is likely to have to pay out billions to foreign multinationals and billionaires, while the NHS is screaming for funding, with dire warnings of possibly collapse in the provision of certain services if something isn’t done quickly. Hardly progress is it! And as a whole the UK government is already facing a £14 billion shortfall due to falling tax revenue.

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And this post brexit bigotry also raises a more serious risk, the breakup of the UK. I would argue that hidden in the small print of the contract that is the UK is the long standing principle that the English, who make up the majority of the UK’s population, will not use their majority position to force English nationalist domination onto the other parts of the country. Brexit and the bigotry it has spawned obviously suggests that this particular contract has been torn up. And if that’s the case, then the UK itself is on borrowed time. I’m not sure if the Indyref2 will go the SNP’s way, we’ll have to see. I will certainly be voting yes, if only to get away from all of this awful xenophobia. But even if its another no vote, I’d still argue a future break up of the UK becomes a matter of “when” and “how” and no longer “if”, unless something is done to kill of this rising tide of bigotry. The lessons of history are not on the UK’s side here.

Recall how the Soviet Union tried to hold things together as the Commonwealth of Independent states after the fall of communism, which very quickly broke down, once the other nations saw a rising tide of Russian nationalism. Similarly Yugoslavia broke up, when the other nations feared domination by the Serb majority. Czechoslovakia split down the middle as well. And the Austro-Hungarian Empire imploded after World War I once it became clear the scale of the mess the Hapsburg’s had dragged the various ethnic groups in the country into. And least we forget Ireland left the UK also thanks to World War I because the view was taken that we could no longer tolerate English interference in Irish affairs, or being dragged into European wars that we wanted nothing to do with.

One of course hopes the future breakup of the UK will be peaceful, but speeches along the lines of how “we came into the EU as one nation and will leave as one”from the brexit brigade sound eerily similar to what was coming out of Slobodan Milosevic’s mouth in the lead up to the Yugoslav civil war. Trying to stonewall the Scots in the event of indyref2 (which seems to be Theresa May’s plan) is a potentially very dangerous tactic.

Equally headlines branding Judges “enemies of the peopleis the sort of thing I’d expect to read in Der Sturmer in the 1930’s, not the UK in the 21st century. And of course one cannot help but put point out the irony of how one of the arguments for brexit is that British judges should make decisions like this….now the British judges have spoken they’ve been vilified. There’s a very real risk that if there is a vote on brexit in parliament, of it being turned into a rerun of the 1933 Enabling law vote in Germany.

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So if brexit means bigotry, then I would argue its a price that is too high. The price is likely to be the future economic prosperity of the UK, if not an end to the UK itself. Thus brexit must be stopped, or failing that it must be set up to screw over the bigot brigade. A soft brexit, with open borders, a relaxed policy on refugees (here’s a thought, the regions which voted the most for brexit should be required to take in a higher proportion of them!) should be a priority.

And there needs to be a change in the law to drive the bigots back into whatever gutter they crawled out of. Fines, prison sentences, a block on claiming benefits or working in a public sector related job, all should be increased to make them think twice before opening their dirty racist pie holes. I’d argue this taxi driver who refused to pick up Lily Allen should be stripped of his cab license for life. Anyone who is convicted of racial hatred, I say treat them like the UKBA treats migrants to the UK. They’d have to go through several years of paying taxes but going without benefits payments or tax credits or voting rights. Then, assuming they behave (else we reset the clock and they have to start all over again), they earn the right to reapply for citizenship to get all of these things back (paying through the nose for it, going through citizenship classes & tests, etc.). That might teach them a bit of respect!

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The new normal

The tabloids are fretting as usual over “immigration”, with a significant increase in the numbers arriving from across the Mediterranean. Something that is having a knock on effect at places like Calais. However, as discussed recently by Ellie O’Hagan in the Guardian, the fact is that some of these migrants are fleeing not war, or ISIS but the effects of climate change. A factor that the media seems to be missing.

Boats crammed with Migrants is something we might have to get used too

Boats crammed with Migrants is something we might have to get used too

Now admittedly the number of people we can currently classify as genuine “climate refugees” is probably only a fairly small proportion of those arriving. However, a fact we need to get used to is that this number is going to increase if we don’t do something about climate change urgently….and I mean a lot!

If you think a few hundred thousand refugees is more than we can handle, wait a few years. After sea level’s rise (about 150 million people in Bangladesh alone live only a few metres above sea level) and desertification take there toll we’ll likely be facing tens of millions a year trying to get in.

Now at the moment, the numbers coming in are numbers we can handle. Anyone from UKIP or any other bigot brigade outfits who tells you Britain/Europe/the Third Reich is “full doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The reality is that by international standards, Europe has a relatively low population density, and the US and Australia are even less densely populated. Even a million extra refugees per year is an increase of just 0.2% in the EU’s population. And the fact is that an ageing Europe needs people coming in, or there will be nobody left working to pay the pensions of the very baby booming bigots voting for far right parties. Similarly, in the US, the anti-immigrant case holds very little correlation with reality.

However, once we are facing refugee numbers in the millions, perhaps tens of millions in a bad year, its not going to be funny any more. Such numbers will indeed be far more than we can handle. And the money it would cost to try and keep them out or pay for relief efforts is almost certain to exceed what it would cost to gradually get off fossil fuels. Its a crisis that could easily bankrupt the continent in the long term.

So rather than getting our knickers in a twist over a couple of fence jumpers at Calais, I’d argue the time has come to take some serious long term action. For the best way to stem the flow of migrants is for the west to quit screwing over other people’s countries.

UK universities face foreign competition?

I’ve long worried that the UK's decision to put up tuition fees would ultimately discourage students from going to UK universities. Either choosing to go to universities in other EU countries (such as Holland) or not going to uni at all. This risks making a university education the preserve of the middle and upper classes. Also by making university's more commercially orientated, with a greater emphasis on revenue raising and less on tuition. Indeed I cannot help but notice a trend between universities (such as for example Strathclyde) being praised for their “entrepreneurial spirit” and then sliding down the university rankings, presumably because the staff are too busy chasing grants to look after students properly.

Well the BBC have a brief piece out about US students going to study in Germany, which has recently abolished fees for university students, even those from outside the EU. This goes to show that you can get just as good an education in Germany for a lower price. While living costs in Germany are quite high, this elimination of tuition fees, plus the less commercially oriented outlook of German institutions makes for good value for money. Language? Many European institutions now do courses in English, notably engineering and technical courses.

However the is also the US aspect of this. For many years foreign students, in particular non-EU students have been a key part of any UK university's finance. And the US students are generally seen as the cream of the crop. Not least because they ain't shy about spending money. However US students are also caught up in the pointless Daily Mail-esque antics the Tories have dumped on all non-EU students. Being required for example to prove they are still in the UK every 30 days, or having to prove they have good English language skills (okay Americans can get something's wrong, like metre or calling a toilet a restroom, but I think they've good enough English to cope with an engineering degree!).

So its just a matter of time before the penny drops for many US students. Why pay tens of thousands a year to go to a UK university and be treated like a terrorist, when you can pay about 150 euro's a year and go to a German uni, which is just as good….oh and they throw in free public transport too! In essence the UK might be killing its golden goose. Its not just about a few uni's loosing out on a bit of tuition money. Its about the fact that these students going somewhere else and thus taking their ideas and the skills they've just accumulated with them. No more US entrepreneur's setting up a internet start-up in London, when they got their degree in Munich. And where the Americans go, the Chinese students will surely follow.

In essence I wonder if the UK HEI sector has been “found out”.

Tory Xenophobia – Again!

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 I’d 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.