Rotherham seems to have confirmed the view that if you put a red rosette on a Donkey in an election there the Speaker of the House of Commons would have to learn to say “eeyore”.
The UK Independence Party did come second in yesterday’s by-election. But consider the backdrop. There was a wave of publicity generated by the local Labour council’s spectacularly stupid decision to rip two vulnerable East European children from the care of two UKIP members on the ground that their allegiance meant they couldn’t cope with the kids’ cultural needs.
It made UKIP look like the victim and made the officials from the Labour council that took the decision look like bullies motivated by a damaging and out dated dogma.
And yet the Bradford/Galloway style earthquake failed to materialise when Rotherham’s voters went to the polls. What ought to materialise after this is a little more scrutiny of UKIP’s policies and a little more debate about its naked populism. UKIP is certainly a growing force. After all, national polling puts it third. So let’s take a look at its policy on one of the most contentious issues on the political scene at the moment: immigration.
What’s someone who writes primarily about financial issues, with a sideline in disability (see past blogs) doing straying into these choppy waters? Indulge me a moment. UKIP wants a five year freeze on permanent migration, followed by a 50,000 a year cap and various other measures to tighten things up (you can read about it here). Now I’m not going to take on the immigration debate fully. But I am going to look at one aspect of it because it does have an influence on the economy, investment into Britain and jobs.
UKIP is not a “racist party” as it has been reported that idiotic Rotherham council officials suggested. But the party doesn’t give the impression that it’s overly fond of Johnny Foreigner - i.e. anyone who doesn’t have a British passport and doesn’t speak English.
This carries economic consequences. Take David Cameron’s immigration cap, a milder policy than what is espoused by UKIP. There have already been concerns raised by businesses about their ability to transfer in staff whose skills they need (skills which might not be available here).
See this report from the FT: Car makers, who employ a lot of people in areas of the company that desperately need it have voiced similar concerns. Here’s a report from The Guardian, and here's one I made earlier.
Which demonstrates that the City isn’t exactly comfortable with it the cap. Financial companies tend to have operations in a multitude of countries and they like to move themir people around them. Wonder around any investment bank and you will hear a veritable Babel of foreign accents. UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage was a banker in an earlier life so he ought to be aware of that.
Of course UKIP could always argue that it’s happy to see skilled migrants coming here, exemptions can be made for companies transferring staff in and it’s just the EU migrants it really doesn’t like. Oh, and the unskilled workers. But it’s the tone that worries me. And it worries some of the businesses I speak to.
This country is in desperate need of inward investment if we want to pull ourselves out of recession. We need inward investment if we ever want to diversify our economy so it isn’t so over-reliant on the City of London.
Rotherham could, should, be one of the places which might stand to benefit from that investment, if the Government offers the right inducements. The place is just a few miles away from where I was born. The people of South Yorkshire are pretty sensible as a rule. They’ve made a sensible choice this time. Hopefully some good independents will stand for its council to send a message to Labour that it can’t take them for granted.
As for the rest of the country: We live in an interconnected world, and this Island, in particular, has always been a trading nation whose doors have been open to that world. This is not an argument for uncontrolled immigration. But it is a warning. If we float draconian policies - even if they are only being floated by a populist protest party - there may be consequences. To say Brits can bally well do without Johnny Foreigner is self-defeating, and potentially suicidal from an economic stand point.
Want an example of another country that has shut its doors and said “we can rely on ourselves”. It’s called North Korea. Cold, grey, dilapidated and starving, do we really want that?