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Thursday 6 May 2010
Letters: Perspectives on foreign labour
We do need those workers
Our mainstream parties need to confront the concern of voters that foreign workers are taking the jobs of British people and explain the benefits they bring to the country.
Eighty per cent of foreign workers are from the EU and have a right to work in this country as British people do in Europe. We expect similar rights and benefits when we live and work in Europe. And similar rights have to be accorded to citizens of EU countries in Britain.
These people are young, skilled, hard-working and productive. The employers of foreign workers are hard-nosed businessman who are intent on maximising profits and getting the best people for the job. Why should a British-born worker be given preference to one from east Europe? Foreign workers are accused of accepting lower wages, so lowering rates. This is exactly what is required to bring down our cost base and make British goods and services more competitively priced. As we come out of recession these are the people we will need.
The remaining 20 per cent of foreign workers come from outside the EU and they also bring much-needed skills to the NHS, universities and Industry. In the case of the NHS, we are actively recruiting from the Philippines highly trained doctors and nurses without whom the NHS could not function. The concern that immigrants place demands on our infrastructure is valid but our elderly population also present demand. Unlike them, the young foreign workers are making a major contribution to both the infrastructure services and to the economy.
Immigration has a relatively small effect on Britain's total population. There was a net inflow of 46,000 EU migrants and a net deficit of 8,000 non-EU migrants last year. We have an ageing population who are one of the main causes of an increase in our population. We need young, skilled people who will help provide support for older people, so let us welcome both fellow Europeans and those from non-EU countries. They enrich our culture.
Terry Pugh, Baildon, West Yorkshire
Concerned about immigration
Although Dr Robinson (letters, 30 April) is correct, he appears to have misunderstood Mrs Duffy's concerns.
Whether the workers from the EU are immigrants or merely exercising their rights of freedom of movement is totally irrelevant to the point made by Mrs Duffy. This is that these workers are taking jobs which otherwise could have been given to British workers or even workers from the old Commonwealth to whom Britain owes so much.
The three issues raised by Dr Robinson merely corroborate the concerns that so many people have about the level of immigration.
John Rogers, London SW16
Our jobs were exported
Again immigration has featured strongly in the campaign. It usually comes down to immigrants taking British jobs from British workers. I wish someone would raise the other issue related to jobs.
Since the Thatcher regime and the rise of globalisation, manufacturing jobs have been exported from Britain to "emerging countries". I have no problem with being treated by a Polish dentist or a Filipino nurse but I wish I could buy something manufactured in the UK or even the EU.
J W Wright, Calne, Wiltshire
Cameron is no Obama
The Tory slogan, "Time for Change" is a blatant steal from Barack Obama's election campaign and a phoney attempt to try to recreate in the UK the wave of optimism generated by Mr Obama's 2008 US election on a platform of hope and reform.
Beyond the slogan, the Tory campaign bears little resemblance to President Obama's radical reforms that are transforming the US health service, regulating the failing banking sector and giving hope to millions in poverty.
Despite Cameron's cosmetic attempts to alter Tory policy and challenge deeply ingrained Tory prejudices by belatedly recognising gay marriages and urging us to hug a hoodie, at their true blue heart nothing has changed.
Nor must we forget that Tory commitments to deregulation of the financial sector and opposition to the nationalisation of Northern Rock would have led us into a far worse recession and higher unemployment.
Cameron's current commitment to Thatcherite-style swingeing public-spending cuts alongside inheritance-tax breaks for the very rich few will surely hurt the poorest, damage the recovery and produce a double dip recession.
To borrow the words of a certain US senator I say, "Mr Cameron, I admire President Obama. President Obama is a friend to the oppressed and dispossessed. Mr Cameron you are no President Obama".
Paul Rooney, Beckenham, Kent
We need change. We need a government with 60 bankers and financiers on its benches, funded by and financially beholden to bankers and hedge-fund managers and with a vice-chairman who is a "non-dom" based in Belize.
We need a government which cuts Sure Start nurseries, puts up VAT to 20 per cent and gives 3,000 of the richest families in Britain each year a £200,000 tax cut by raising the inheritance-tax threshold for a married couple to £2m. We need a government for which holding a vote on repealing the hunting ban is a priority. We need a government which has marginalised itself in Europe by allying itself with fringe parties whose MEPs attend Waffen SS reunions, ban gay-pride marches and attack the election of Barack Obama as "the end of the civilisation of the white man".
We need a government whose shadow home secretary suggested that B&Bs be allowed to turn away gay people, a party which cynically surfs a wave of resentment over Polish plumbers promoted by its media supporters yet has no way of stopping them from coming here.
Christopher Clayton, Waverton, Cheshire
Tough times for Tories
I think your leading article (front page, 5 May) is a little harsh in its criticism of Mr Cameron. The present voting system is unfair, biased against the Tories and is heavily biased against the Liberal Democrats. The AV system proposed by Gordon Brown is equally unfair, much less biased against the Liberal-Democrats but strongly biased against the Tories.
Thus Mr Cameron has to win a majority to avoid the risk of the Tory party being wiped out in future, and his approach is running with that in mind. I hope we will find that after today, his attitude will change. The Labour Party showed interest in changing the system only when they thought they were going to lose. They have shown no willingness during the past 13 years.
Frank Walters, Bristol
Whatever the outcome of the election, I would like to congratulate the editorial team of The Independent for their balanced reporting throughout this campaign. From the Cameron fan club headed by Bruce Anderson to the Tory-bashing of Johann Hari, to the matter-of-fact style of Steve Richards, this newspaper has served its readers well.
The letters pages, although mostly subscribed to by democratically motivated people, has also provided views from those towards the right and beyond. Other newspapers are treating their readers like lemmings, but your front-page leading article contains exactly the appropriate content.
Thank you for letting us make our own choice (OK perhaps, as long as it's not Tory), now that we are more aware of the consequences.
Robert Stewart, Wilmslow, Cheshire
Brought to book
Those who may be wavering between casting their ballot for their Tory or Labour candidate should bear a couple of things in mind, especially given the recent comments from Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England.
In the event of a Tory-led government, and based on their past record, we can be certain that after the back-slapping and glad-handing are complete, the first piece of news from David Cameron, having seen "the books", will be that the economy is in a far worse state than the outgoing Labour government had admitted. With immediate effect, we will be looking at massive increases in taxation of all forms, and huge cuts in public services, and the sobriquet "tax on jobs" will be quickly forgotten.
Should we have a Labour-led administration, they will be forced to face up to the real facts they have so carefully disguised in their campaign and, to avoid utter collapse of the economy, deal with the situation for which they have been responsible in good part.
Given that whoever leads the next government is likely to be out of office for a generation I am not sure I care which of them leads the next government. Personally, I intend to vote for the other guy.
Peter Coghlan, Broadstone, Dorset
I am perplexed by the politicians, and others, who seem to relish slashing public spending in this recession, regardless of the costs and the consequences.
As an economist of the "old school", I do understand the distributional and potentially inflationary implications of internal borrowing and appreciate the ever-present need for financial prudence in the public sector.
But while the British economy is still in need of crutches just to get on its feet, could someone please explain whether this kamikaze passion for an all-out attack on public spending comes from some economic reasoning, or is it an article of faith?
Hamid Elyassi, London E14
Time for a coalition
I like David Cameron's words on national insurance and no ID cards. Gordon Brown makes sense on unfair rewards for millionaires. Nick Clegg's priority for the lowest-paid, Trident and PR seem welcome. Tories and Lib Dems seem right to argue that the rich don't need child tax credits.
Labour and Lib Dems want better classroom conditions for all our schools rather than fragmenting the system with choice but Tories want smaller schools, and I know parents already influence results. I like Clegg's ideas on Afghanistan and Europe but Labour has a newly tough policy on immigration.
How can I vote? Scotland seems to have found the answer, and reckons it works, a hung Parliament in which issues are decided by maximum political and public consensus. If that is uniquely suddenly possible is it suddenly so undesirable?
Mervyn Benford, Banbury, Oxfordshire
Whoever becomes prime minister will not enjoy the support of a majority of the voters and probably not of a majority of MPs either. The measures his administration will have to take to deal with our dire economic situation will make the government extremely unpopular with the voters. In 1931, Ramsay MacDonald was in a similar situation.
He realised it was unsustainable and accepted the King's invitation to form a national government, sacrificing in the process the loyalty of the Labour Party and almost destroying it. Most of his supporters in Parliament were ideologically opposed to him.
If the new prime minister is to escape a similar fate, it is essential that the next general election, which will probably be fairly soon, be on a proportional basis. This would facilitate an administration which enjoyed the support of a majority of the voters and would thus be able to take the unpalatable measures that will be necessary.
Simon Gazeley, Bath
My hope for the general election is the same as I expressed on 16 March 1981 when I crossed the floor of the House of Commons as the only Conservative to become one of the 13 founder Members of Parliament of the SDP.
We sought then what the nation desperately needs now, for politicians of all parties to work within a loose coalition to get us the electoral and parliamentary reform of both houses of Parliament to ensure that government in future represents the majority of the electorate.
It is no longer acceptable that a party with less than 50 pert cent of the votes cast can govern alone. The Scottish Parliament has shown us that coalition government can work efficiently and well, as have many European countries. Why not the UK?
Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler, Thurso, Caithness
Learning from history
So why is it stupid to vote Conservative? If we ignore history we are are condemned to repeat it. Throughout the 20th century, the Conservative Party opposed every move to improve the conditions of working people. In each case, after the implementation of the progressive policy and its popularity the Conservative opposition became support, but the party has never been innovative or pro-active in improving the conditions of most of the British people.
Old-age pensions were introduced by the Liberal Government elected in 1906 and their introduction was delayed by vehement opposition from the Conservatives. The National Health Service, thought up by a Liberal and implemented by the 1945 Labour government, was strongly opposed by the Conservative Party.
The minimum wage introduced by the 1997 Labour Government was strongly opposed by the Conservatives. There is no reason to think that "the stupid party" has changed in the 21st century.
John Davies, Colchester, Essex
After the 1997 and 2005 elections, you published my letters referring to the need for voting reform. On the first occasion, tactical voting had helped remove a discredited government. On the second, it had helped reduce the majority of a government whose appeal was declining.
On neither occasion was there any guarantee that tactical voting would achieve a reasonable overall result: it depended too much on the vagaries of what has been aptly been called a "potty" electoral system.
Now a real opportunity arises. While no one can actually vote "for a hung parliament", tactical voting holds out a real prospect of electoral reform. For those who support it, the rational course – under the present system – is to vote for the party that is receptive to reform and is more likely to win (or at least reduce a Conservative majority) in a particular constituency.
Then, perhaps, the hope I voiced 13 years ago will be fulfilled: that this will be the last time tactical voting is necessary.
Professor Graham Shipley, University of Leicester
Problems with AV system
I think John Curtice misrepresents the Alternative Vote (AV) somewhat in his analysis of the electoral system the Labour Party favours (27 April). He (correctly) says that a party coming first in the popular vote could come third in terms of seats, but he does not point out that this is the case only if we measure votes by the first preference that is given.
If we take into account that lower preferences are part of the vote and should also be included in an assessment of how "fair" the system is, then that most people prefer a candidate other than the first-placed one (in terms of first preference votes) might be something we would want to consider.
AV should mean parties and MPs will try to appeal to a majority of voters rather than just a plurality of them, and should discourage extremist parties and candidates.
Dr Eoin O'Malley, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University
Our best PM
It is good to see a picture of Clement Attlee in your letter pages (3 May). How would he have fared in a television debate? Not well, I think, coming over as boring and not convincing in argument in that situation. Yet he was arguably our best prime minister since the Second World War. He quietly moulded and controlled a very strong cabinet and government, exemplifying the oft-quoted old Chinese philosopher, "A leader is best when people scarcely know that he exists".
Colin Maude, Skipton, North Yorkshire
Is this election to be won on the playing fields of Eton, lost on the streets of Rochdale or decided in the television studios of Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester? Or will some red-top proclaim, "It was us wot won it"?
Philip Moran, London N11
Makes you cross
The problem with democracy is that whoever we vote for we always end up with the country being run by politicians.
Peter Scales, Elvaston, Derby
Send letters by email to email@example.com and by post to: Letters to the Editor, The Independent, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF BY fax to: 020 7005 2399 Please include your street address and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited.
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