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

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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas