Three crucial issues are misrepresented in the increasingly hysterical “debate” about EU immigration into the UK.
First, Eurosceptics claim that EU immigrants are “taking British jobs”. In reality they are taking jobs that Britons could have, but won’t do at the wages on offer. This is not only the case at the bottom of the scale: 2,300 Polish doctors have come to work in the UK, but in the last year alone over 500 British GPs took their skills abroad.
A second assertion is that the cost of accommodating immigrants damages the British economy. In fact the UK’s vaunted “economic success” depends on a constant supply of labour prepared to work hard for low pay. Any restrictions the government manages to impose on economic immigration will hurt employers first, and the rest of us later.
Finally, eurosceptics endlessly point to Norway and Switzerland as countries which can make their own rules, free of EU red tape. The reality is that both countries maintain their access to European markets only by accepting all aspects of EU freedom of movement regulations – as well as 95 per cent of other EU regulation.
Both are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, and both belong to the Schengen agreement abolishing borders and passport controls within Europe.
Eurosceptic politicians know that most of their claims about EU immigration are demonstrably nonsense. Nevertheless, they appear to be prepared to spout whatever they think might maintain their party in government or themselves in jobs. Where is the genuine leader, of any party, who will cut through the obfuscation and win the arguments by telling the truth? Voters do not like to be taken for fools.
I wholeheartedly agree with Ian Richards (letter, 24 November) in that the economic benefits of immigration are undeniable and that the country would be in a sorry state were we to leave the EU. However, Ukip is capitalising on the areas of the country that have seen inward migration on a massive scale with no corresponding increase in local spending. The Government would do well to remember that there are costs at a local level associated with immigration, as well as benefits.
The people in these areas have raised valid concerns about provision of housing, sanitation, education, and medical and dental services, and have long been decried as racist by the media and politicians.
While I am in no way supportive of Ukip in general, I applaud the fact that the immigration issue is actually now being discussed and that there’s a chance of people’s concerns being properly addressed rather than ignored.
First they came for the immigrants from outside Europe.
Then they came for the (almost non-existent) EU immigrants who come here just to claim welfare.
Now they’re after the EU working poor (getting rid of tax credits for hardworking immigrants in menial jobs).
I’m an Irish immigrant who’s worked hard and paid taxes here for almost 20 years. I wonder when it will be my turn.
Young, poor and unrepresented
Your headline “The young are the new poor” (24 November) is impossible to disagree with. Even more sadly, the problems of the young can only get worse. Their prospects are dire as your article details, and all indications are that future demand for unskilled or semi-skilled labour can only get less.
Technology will ensure that work can be done, and therefore profits made, with less and less involvement by human beings. Can anyone imagine employers not taking this chance with both hands?
Only a complete rethink of social and financial conditions will even begin to solve the problems that loom, and there are no signs that any political party has even considered them, much less begun to work out a solution.
Andreas Whittam Smith (20 November) raises some very pertinent questions in his excellent piece on the widening wealth gap.
Of course it cannot be right that chief executives and other board members of most public companies “earn” 120 times the average salary of their full-time employees. Why does no political party rail against this “conspiracy in the nation’s boardrooms”, which rewards custodianship rather than entrepreneurism?
Of course, investment in deprived areas would raise the overall economic output of this country. Why does no political party understand this?
Yes, correcting gross inequality is an obvious political programme in search of a political party.
It is a sad fact of modern British politics that the main parties are increasingly appealing to the fringes of the political spectrum.
Having spent the last two weeks on jury service, I am reminded that the vast majority in this country are decent, hardworking and right-thinking people, broadly at the centre of the political spectrum, who no longer have any political party representing their views on what makes for a just and equitable society.
Tweet from inside the Westminster bubble
As Premiership footballers are failing to realise, tweeting gets you into trouble. If Ed Miliband has saved Emily Thornberry from being hounded by the press, he has done her a favour. Her failure to realise the tweet would get into the papers and round the political world underlines a bigger problem – the lack of reality of the political class.
As Hazel Blears MP has pointed out, the number of politicians who have no experience of life is rising. They live in the Westminster bubble and hob-nob with each other in a world of gossip and chit-chat.
Maybe discovering someone with the English flag on their house seemed worthy of attention in the world Ms Thornberry lives in, but who in the real world would pay it a moment’s notice?
If the political class thinks tweeting is a good idea, what chance do they have of understanding anything serious – such as the rise of the SNP and Ukip?
We often and rightly go by appearances, even though sometimes they lead to error
If, in an election with Ukip as front-runner, a Labour politician sees a house decked with English flags, she may well sigh and judge the residents Ukip supporters; she may even tweet the image, showing what she is up against. Isn’t it time that politicians and the media grew up, instead of blowing up every possible interpretation of every action?
Emily Thornberry may have been contemptuous of White Van Dan, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility that she was prepared to work hard to improve his lot. Was it Charlie Brown or Snoopy who said “Humanity’s all right. It’s people I can’t stand”?
Polite Jewish response to incitement
In a predominantly Jewish area of London on Saturday, a group of protesters appeared unannounced handing out anti-Israel leaflets with a Palestinian flag behind them and with anti-Israel slogans around them.
While their action was potentially inciteful to the local community, people accepted their right to free speech and argued politely. No protection was needed. The most extreme form of challenge took the form of neatly tearing up the leaflets and handing them back to the protesters (so as not to litter the pavement).
I wonder how pro-Zionist and Jewish protesters would fare down in Tower Hamlets, in east London, with an Israeli flag draped behind them and pro-Israeli slogans and leaflets?
Stephen Spencer Ryde
Finchley, London N3
Hit the bosses, not the banks
We have had yet another spate of fines for the misdeeds of banks. A substantial proportion of the fines diminishes our pensions, as pension companies are major shareholders of the banks.
The directors of banks are responsible for whom they employ and the actions of their employees. Is it not time that company law was amended so that directors, rather than their companies, would be directly penalised for the behaviour of their employees?
Hamilton wins, Britain loses
It was good to see Lewis Hamilton proudly waving the Union Flag after he won the Formula One world title.
Perhaps he will follow this up by moving back from Monaco and start paying taxes in the country of which he seems so proud.