Immigration and British Citizens by Jean Calder


I’ve been interested to read responses to one of my recent blogs, Labour Fails to Listen. 

In his comment, Jim Grozier disagreed with what I’d said about immigration. He wrote: “I have a major problem with one paragraph, and one phrase in particular – “the rights of British people” – sent a shiver down my spine.” He added “Surely the only rights British people have are *human* rights – the same rights that the immigrants have – so why should British people be favoured over non-British people?”

I find these ideas fascinating. I am an immigrant. I remain immensely grateful to the UK for taking me in in 1972 and for providing me with a better and safer life than I would have had in South Africa. I’ve worked hard since I’ve been here and, like most immigrants,  have tried to give something back. However, back in the 1970s I never for one moment thought I had a right to the same services and benefits as British-born people. It simply would never have occurred to me, given that neither my parents nor I had contributed, by our work or our taxes.  

I worked for three years in order to gain what was then called ‘resident status’ and then went to Sussex University as a mature student on a full grant. I will always be grateful for this. However, if the government of the time had decided that immigrants like me needed to work for  five or seven years rather than three, because British born people needed the places or because the country couldn’t afford it, I would have accepted it. I wouldn’t have liked it, but it would have seemed to me fair and completely reasonable that the country should look after its own young people first. I’ve never had any difficulty with this notion, though I would expect that after a certain period of legal residence and contribution, rights would equalise.

It seems strange to suggest that British citizenship should bring with it no rights other than basic human rights. As Britons, we don’t live in a supranational European state or a world without borders. The nation state still exists and so long as it does, continues to confer particular rights and responsibilities on its citizens. This is true in all countries, not just our own. It seems to me absurd to suggest that national governments should, in all circumstances, give equal weight to the well being of visitors or settlers, whatever the hardship this may cause to the people of the host nation. 

Tony Greenstein commented that apparent concern about immigrants’ undercutting wages “has been the staple argument of racists for over 120 years.” He is right, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t in some cases true. My point is that, over several years, an unscrupulous political elite in the UK developed a deliberate strategy of bringing in workers for the purpose of undercutting wages and conditions and undermining unionised labour. Unskilled jobs which could have been carried out by British people were, quite legally, advertised abroad rather than in the UK. Skill shortages were not addressed by a state education and training establishment, which, over decades, failed to prepare indigenous workers for key trades and professions, for example in building, nursing and medicine. One result is an NHS staffed by low-paid agency workers with poor English – and well-paid doctors from abroad, who could perhaps have better served their countries by working at home.  

Jim ended his comment by recalling MP Dennis Skinner’s Commons speech in which he attacked UKIP MPs and referred to what he called his “United Nations heart bypass” operation. He said: “..it was done by a Syrian cardiologist, a Malaysian surgeon, a Dutch doctor, a Nigerian registrar, and these two people here talk about sending them back from whence they came. And if they did that in the hospitals in London, half of London would be dead in six months.”

It was a moving and amusing speech and a wonderful piece of polemic, but Skinner should surely also have asked why our very wealthy country fails to train enough people to staff its NHS. After all, tiny cash-strapped Cuba manages to produce enough doctors and nurses to meet its own needs and has for decades been able to export them, as required, to war zones and disaster areas around the world. I have to ask, if they can do it, why can’t we?

I’ll respond to Tony’s comments about Lutfur Rahman and islamophobia, Ireland and feminism at a later date.
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The case for a programme of publicly funded works

I thought I would share some thoughts about the case for a programme of publicly funded works that I think would be part of the answer for Double Dip Britain:

There is nothing economically unsound in increasing temporarily and artificially the demand for labour during a period of temporary and artificial contraction. There is a plain need of some averaging machinery to regulate and even out the general course of the labour market, in the same way as the Bank of England, by its base rate, regulates and corrects the flow of business enterprise. When the extent of the depression is foreseen, the extent of the relief should also be determined.

There ought to be in permanent existence certain recognised industries of a useful, but uncompetitive character, like, we will say, reforestation, managed by public departments, and capable of being expanded or contracted according to the needs of the labour market, just as easily as you can pull out the stops or work the pedals of an organ.

I sometimes fear the increasing evil of casual labour. We talk a great deal about the unemployed, but the evil of the underemployed is the tap-root of unemployment. There is a tendency many trades, almost all trades, you have a fringe of casual labour on hand, available as a surplus whenever there is a boom, flung back into the pool whenever there is a slump.

I can almost see Paul Perrin spilling his warm milk as he reads this nonsense about public works. But don’t have a go at me, Mr Perrin, paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 above are the words of that well-known radical, Winston Churchill writing in ‘The People’s Rights’, first published in 1909.  It is a powerful plea for ‘a great policy of social reconstruction and reorganisation’.  He was at the time, of course, a Liberal. Whatever became of that great radical party …?

Election result that will change the European political landscape for a decade

The last two weeks have seen election result that will change the European political landscape for a decade.

In Britain, France and Greece, the voters have said a resounding “no” to austerity. Even in the voters of Schleswig-Holstein gave Angela Merkel a bloody nose, her CDU party’s worst defeat in Schleswig-Holstein since 1950. Gone is Nicolas Sarkozy, in comes the anti-austerity Francois Hollande as President, and the two pro-austerity centre parties in Greece have been rejected by the voters.

The two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk have been given notice. Writing in today’s Daily Mail, former Sun editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, has revealed that he has waged a £1,000 on Cameron being gone by November. He got odds of 10-1.

There is so much to comment on, but the rejection of austerity must be the headline. Other matters, in brief, include:

Labours excellent performance up and down the country and its growing lead in the opinion polls. However, the party should not be complacent and, in light of European election results, needs to show that it is setting its face firmly against austerity. Just saying that they would not have cut so far and so fast is the wrong message. It now needs to give people hope and begin to make firm promises about public increasing expenditure, investing in housing and infrastructure products, and reversing changes in the NHS.

Locally, Labour had an excellent result in Hastings, having secured its most seats ever on the Borough Council and reinforcing its hold in that town. But Hastings is a strange place, having elected a Conservative MP, Amber Rudd, in 2010 on the same day as it elected a Labour council. Sarah Owen, Labour’s energetic and electable young candidate, should not underestimate the Blue Lady, Amber Rudd, who has become a highly respected member of the local political establishment, across party divides.

The Greens have much to be pleased about. They increased their number of councillors by more than any other party other than Labour and the Scottish Nationalist Party. The highlight was the third place secured by Jenny Jones in London’s mayoral election, beating the Lib Dems who came fourth. This was achieved in spite of Brian Paddick being given equal coverage to Boris and Ken with Jenny being treated by the media as an also ran.

As for the Lib Dems themselves, they now have fewer councillors than at any point in their history. Perhaps this is a trend that will see these Tory appeasers returning their lowest number of MPs at the next election. Their claim, that they are preventing the worst excesses of the Conservatives, ring increasingly hollow. They are nothing more than Tory-enablers who, but for their enthusiastic participation in the Coalition, the Conservatives would have been able to force through many of their most extreme measures.

Finally, the relative success of the far right in Europe is extremely worrying. While the BNP lost all the seats it was defending in Britain’s local elections, Marine Le Pen in France and Golden Dawn in Greece sends a chilling warning to all democrats across Europe. I will write more about this soon.

(Note: An earlier draft of this post referred to Rising Dawn. This has been corrected to Golden Dawn)

Lib Dem betrayal and police heavy-handedness is seeing the politicisation and radicalisation of a generation

It was a successful policing operation, according to the Metropolitan Police.  No students died! 

We are entering a fascinating period in the political life of the UK.  The Government have lost control of the streets.  Tens of thousands of students up and down the country are being politicised by the Lib Dems collusion with the Tories and radicalised by the heavy-handed policing tactics being deployed against them.

It is like the poll tax protests all over again and very different from the inner city riots of the early 1980s.  In the 1980s it was alienated youths, often black youths, who had no hope for the future and who were being treated heavy-handedly by the police. In 1990 it was working and middle classes uniting against the unjust Poll Tax.

As now, a popular cause was targeted by a political elite, fortified by their deluded self-belief and secure in their Westminster Palace, that made an enemy of the country as a whole.  The sight of police horses charging young people on the streets of London will have appalled many people, not least middle class parents whose children were the targets of the horses and the victims of police batons.  The students are being politicised, and so too are their parents.

The Met Police appear to have just one tactic – kettle to contain.  Not only is it not working, it has already undermined public confidence in th police.  There is anger at the increase in tuition fees, and it is right that it is aimed largely at the Lib Dems.  If the Coalition Government had hoped that that level of anger  would now receded, they are to be disappointed.  The betrayal of the pledge by Lib Dems, including Norman Baker, coupled with the treatment of student protesters (the majority of whom were non-violent and law abiding) will see this run and run.

The Human Cost of Job Losses

We are all bracing ourselves for the result of the Comprehensive Spending Review when we will know the scale of the cuts e are facing.  Workers in the public sector will, initially, be in the firing line.  But those in the private sector should be equally concerned.  For every job lost locally, there will be one person less spending in local shops, using buses and taxis, and using local leisure facilities.  And with local government cuts, the amount spent in the local economy falls. 

All this results in more job losses and a vicious cycle gather pace.  But that is just the financial fall-out.  The human cost is so much greater.

Michael Moore, in his depressing, yet excellent book Downsize This! refers to research carried out by economists at the University of Utah, that for every 1% rise in the number unemployed, homicides increase by 6.7%, violent crime by 3.4%, property crime 2.4%, and deaths by heart disease and strokes rise by 5.6% and 3.1%, respectively.

VAT is a mildly progressive form of taxation claims Vince Cable as supporters abandon the Lib Dems in droves

According to a poll published today, 48% of Lib Dem voters are now less inclined to back that party, and they  say that their change is as a direct result of the VAT increase.  How has Principled Vince responded.  He writes “No decision to raise tax is taken lightly, but VAT is more contentious than most. One reason is that VAT is often denounced as if it were the most regressive tax of all. However, the truth is more nuanced. As a proportion of expenditure, it is in fact mildly progressive”.

Yesterday I wrote of Cable: “The sight of Vince Cable bumbling and stuttering through feeble and half-hearted defences of his party’s total sell-out of his policies, his sound economic analysis and his principled stand on the banks, is pitiful.  Actually it is beneath contempt”.

Appearing on the Andrew Marr programme, as I write this, Cable dismissed the VAT Bombsell allegation made by the Lib Dems against the Tories “That was during the election campaign” and that the Lib Dems are now in coalition.

I wonder how Cable will justify the latest analysis of the ConDemNation budget.  It shows that the measures will hit the poorest six times harder than the rich.  The poorest 10%, those with an annual income of less than £14,200 will experience a 21.7% cut.  The richest, those with an annual income of over £49,700, with experience just a 3.6% cut.

How could someone who was so right about the banking crisis become so wrong about the impact of cuts on ordinary people?

Why the Lib Dems are the most unethical political party in the UK

Tory VAT Rise

 ‘Nuf said?