Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Despite grand speeches, he has no plans to protect the interests of British workers

Share

If you saw the headlines this week you would think the Prime Minister had scored a huge victory. It seems that, at last, he has listened to voters and brought in the policies they have been asking for.

But as with so many of this Government’s attempts to swing the news its way, the headlines don’t tell anything like the full story.

During the European election campaign there were many issues I wanted to address that were directly connected to our open door immigration policy to the EU. I managed to take on a few: the huge increase in supply of unskilled labour driving down real wages, the effects on housing and other local services. But there was one point I failed in getting the right kind of debate on, and that was in-work benefits.

But thanks to David Cameron and his attempts to woo back Ukip voters, I don’t need to struggle to make that argument any more – because he has laid the groundwork for me. His claims that immigration curbs and benefit changes will “put Britain first” got Fleet Street into research mode.

All of a sudden, the papers which were his attack dogs during the spring – The Sun, the Daily Mail and even The Times, who delighted in running scandalous and generally untrue stories about Ukip and me in particular – started howling about the huge bill which comes from in-work benefits.

The sum is around £5bn, and would not be touched by Cameron’s latest pronouncements, because under EU law anyone from an EU country can claim in-work benefits, British or not British, recently arrived or long-term resident. That’s how the EU works.

Its desire for “a level playing field” - allowing free movement of capital, goods and people – does not take into account the huge differences in social security systems within the member states. Consequently, rather than the land being as smooth as a Provençal bowls lawn, the benefits topography shows massive gradients which lead to migratory flows from poorer countries to richer ones.

For Cameron’s changes to really address the cause of many British workers’ anger, he would have to change the benefits rules to protect their interests. And those aren’t headlines he is prepared to risk.

I do not believe that Brits want to be nasty when they call for a tightening of the rules on social security for economic migrants, rather that they believe in fair play and think that people should have paid into the system before they can take out of it.

We could put the benefits system onto a more contributory basis, and it would leave the majority of non-migrant workers unaffected. But it would, by its very nature, have a disproportionate effect on younger workers and women who take time out to have a family because they are the people who will have paid less National Insurance contributions.

This week’s announcement also highlighted the complete disconnect between the European Commission and the average British worker, with spokesman Jonathan Todd claiming that there was no evidence that EU migrants go to other countries to claim benefits. Again he has missed the point.

 

Yes, people move to work but what we are talking about here is the in-work benefits migrants can receive on top of their salary such as tax credits and child benefit. If they send those benefits back to family living in their home country, it is a serious contribution to their income. David Cameron has said before he does not think that child benefit should be paid to people with children living outside the UK – but these new proposals do nothing to address that.

What Cameron has demonstrated this week is that for him politics is about making grand speeches. It’s not about what comes after that – the detail, the research, the impact. Only about 10,000 people will be affected by Cameron’s proposals – hardly the kind of changes the British people have repeatedly said that they want.

But then, we would only be able to have a free and fair immigration system based on the needs of this country if we left the EU.

 

These Games show off what we all have in common

If the Scottish Nationalists were hoping that the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow would spur a “Yes” vote then from my reckoning it hasn’t gone to plan. During the brief snatches of sport I have been watching it has been great to hear the crowd giving huge cheers to all the competitors from the home nations: yes, even Team England.

I am sure Alex Salmond was hoping the sight of English and Welsh athletes going head to head with Scottish competitors would draw out an “us and them” feeling, but instead it has generated unity between the nations who usually compete together as Team GB.

And even though England’s cricketers have finally won something, we’ve needed the great results from the Commonwealth Games to lift the spirits of the gloomy British sports fan.

READ MORE:
Why I'm shouting about the tragic demise of the quiet carriage
The Ebola outbreak teaches us an important lesson about aid  
The reality of life under Israel's Iron Dome

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat