Tuesday, January 26, 2010 

The VIP treatment.

Here's one of those especially crass Sun articles written with the type of feigned ignorance so prevalent in the tabloids:

ILLEGAL immigrants are getting the VIP treatment when booted out of Britain - with personal security escorts costing almost £500 each.

Yes, you read that right - the VIP treatment. I don't know what VIP means to you, but I somehow doubt that those who considered themselves such would put up for long with what the average failed asylum seeker or illegal immigrant faces prior to their deportation, often provided by the same private security firms. The last report into Colnbrook (PDF) immigration removal centre, ran by Serco (glossy corporate, touchy-feely everything is wonderful page), where many are held prior to their deportation due to its location near to Heathrow, found that it was struggling to cope and that safety was a significant concern.

That though is nothing when compared to the true VIP treatment when those lucky enough to be leaving are taken to the flights to return them to their home country. The reason why "personal security escorts" are used is twofold - firstly because there are few officials and staff within the UK Border Agency who are authorised to use force and as result many first attempts to deport individuals are abandoned because those whose time has come dare to resist - and secondly as many within the UKBA are not prepared to actually see the policies which they implement put into effect.

In a way, you can't blame them - the horror stories from some of the chartered flights are visceral in their intensity. On one of the first chartered flights back to Iraq a detainee smuggled a blade on board and slashed his stomach, while another concussed himself after banging his head repeatedly against a window. Those were probably the ones which weren't restrained, with others either handcuffed or even wearing leg irons. Charter planes aren't always used though - there was the notable case of a British Airways flight to Lagos where the passengers in economy class mutinied after seeing the plight of a shackled detainee who wouldn't stop screaming, with the supposed "ringleader" arrested and charged only to be cleared over a year later of "behaving in a threatening, abusive, insulting or disorderly manner" towards the crew.

Then again, you wonder what the Sun expects. After all, according to them we roll out the red carpet in welcoming immigrants and asylum seekers in the first place, and the commenters on the piece certainly agree. Might as well extend the gesture when we forcibly throw them out as well then, surely? It does though also prove that simply the government can't do anything right - let too many come here in the first place and spends too much when it gets rid of them, regardless of the much higher cost of keeping them detained here before their deportation - why it bothers when there is simply no political benefit in keeping up such brutal but also ineffective policies remains a mystery. Perhaps, just for the Sun, we could think up something that would negate the need to deport them at all; there are after all many lessons which we can learn from history...

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009 

Drop your bombs between the minarets...

Stopped clocks and all that, but I think Daniel Hannan very succinctly nailed the reasons why the Swiss vote on banning minarets was, as he put it, regrettable (ht Neil):

The decision by Swiss voters to outlaw the construction of minarets strikes me as regrettable on three grounds.

First, it is at odds with that other guiding Swiss principle, localism: issues of this kind ought surely to be settled town by town, or at least canton by canton, not by a national ban.

Second, it is disproportionate. There may be arguments against the erection of a particular minaret by a particular mosque – but to drag a constitutional amendment into the field of planning law is using a pneumatic drill to crack a nut.

Third, it suggests that Western democracies have a problem, not with jihadi fruitcakes, but with Muslims per se – which is, of course, precisely the argument of the jihadi fruitcakes.

Hannan could have even done without the first point entirely: he's quite right in his second that the construction of any conspicuously large structure, religious or otherwise, should be considered on a case by case basis. A blanket ban on minarets is egregiously illiberal, it goes without saying; it is, in this political era of "sending messages", the equivalent of telling Muslims not to get above themselves. This might be a free, democratic, multicultural country where freedom of worship is cherished, but don't go getting any ideas that your place of worship can have a fancy tower, that's beyond the pale.

The most troubling thing about the Swiss vote is that everyone imagined that something which was of a minority interest, Muslim-baiting, which despite the efforts of some has not yet become a spectator sport, would result in a minority turning out to support it. As it was, there wasn't an overwhelming majority in favour of the ban, with 57% on a 53% turnout supporting it, yet it was still a major surprise that it passed. Equally lacking was the intellectual case for the ban: the claim that the minaret has no scriptural basis, while accurate, is also irrelevant; there isn't, as far as I'm aware, any verses in New or Old Testament which advocate the construction of church spires, which could equally be construed as a architectural statement of religious power, but then not many of those are being built these days.

When you reduce the exact reasons for the vote down to their respective bare minimums, you're left with unpleasant choices to make about why it was passed: either that 57% aren't taken with large structures; they're openly xenophobic and are resistant to change of any sort; or they believe the scaremongering about Islamification and are worried about immigration. As it is, it's probably a bit of all three. Almost any planning applications in this country are routinely opposed by either nimbys or bananas (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything), regardless of their merit; some of those who supported it will have been openly racist and worried sick of how we're all dhimmis; while likely the vast majority just aren't convinced about the merits of immigration and believed that minarets are, as was argued, the thin end of the wedge.

Unfortunately, this reflects badly on Europe as a whole: while we've enjoyed the benefits of immigration for decades, even while complaining about it, we seem to have decided that now the drawbridge must close. Watch any political debate programme and you'll only probably hear the Liberal Democrats make the case for immigration now; the other parties will of course laud immigration in the past, but conspicuously say that now we need caps. When we're afraid, out of fear of opprobrium, to support immigration both in the past and now, we hand the likes of BNP the entire floor with which to work. The same goes for defending Muslims from those who wish to portray them all as niqab wearing militants determined to establish hand-chopping emporiums on the high street: for too long we've been prepared to shout "racist!" without backing the argument up. Then again, we also aren't helped by Sayeedi Warsi when she does the equivalent of declaring some Muslims takfir for disagreeing with her (while they did the same with her). We need to reach out to everyone, regardless of views, entrenched or otherwise. The alternative is the superficial but significant statements of intent, which was just what the Swiss vote was.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009 

Dumbing down Michael Gove style.

I'm not the biggest fan of Ed Balls, but anything that makes Michael Gove look like an utter tit is fine by me, via John B:

While over at Lib Con we're promised a series of articles on immigration, which look set to be essential reading.

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Monday, April 27, 2009 

Immigration and the Gurkhas.

Causes don't come much more righteous than the campaign for retired Gurkhas to be allowed to settle in this country. Following Friday's derisory if not downright insulting decision from the Home Office that would at most allow only 100 to emigrate here, the Sun and doubtless other papers are preparing campaigns, or in the Sun's case, a rather inaptly named "crusade" for their right to live here. Even the British National Party, which only last week talked of how other immigrants could never be considered British because they are of "foreign stock", supports their cause.

As could have been expected, the Gurkhas and their rights are being compared unfavourably with those who have also settled here in recent years who have not been welcomed with such open arms. The Sun lists, variously, those who slip in here to sponge off the taxpayer (mostly a myth), students granted visas to bogus colleges, the Afghan hijackers, and those who smuggle themselves in from France. The Sun, it should be noted, seems to have been rather kinder to the eastern Europeans who have entered the country to work since 2004 than the other tabloids, mainly perhaps due to it directly appealing to them in specially published papers. Nonetheless, no one could confuse the Sun with a paper that supports fully open borders, like say, the Guardian or the Independent.

The problem with the emphasis on the Gurkhas is that it means even less attention for those already here that are suffering under the vagaries of our asylum and immigration system. Almost everyone agrees that not allowing those who are awaiting the decision over their status, as well as those who are designated to be "failed" asylum seekers to work is a ridiculous situation which impoverishes all involved while contributing to the "black" economy and so robs the exchequer of tax revenue. Then there's today's little short of horrifying, if not in the least bit surprising report from the children's commissioner regarding the detention of children at Yarl's Wood (PDF). Mark Easton provides a summary:

What sort of country sends a dozen uniformed officers to haul innocent sleeping children out of their beds; gives them just a few minutes to pack what belongings they can grab; pushes them into stinking caged vans; drives them for hours while refusing them the chance to go to the lavatory so that they wet themselves and locks them up sometimes for weeks or months without the prospect of release and without adequate health services?

It highlights how we have completely different attitudes when it comes to outsiders. Even though we have one of the highest child incarceration rates in Europe, we would still regard the locking up of those charged with or convicted of no crime as being abhorrent. Yet this does not stop us from doing it to those whom, in the vast majority of cases, were genuinely fleeing oppression and then find their families experiencing much the same in a so-called civilised country. Undoubtedly, some are out to take advantage of our hospitality, and some are simply economic migrants claiming asylum, but even then their children are not complicit in or responsible for their actions. There has to be an alternative.

To get some sense of perspective, the number of Gurkhas that might take advantage of the full right to settle here is estimated at around 36,000. The Sun uses the word "just" before that number. The number that sought asylum here in 2007, by comparison, was 23,430. You can't imagine for a moment any tabloid newspaper using "just" before reporting that figure. Indeed, the hysteria at the beginning of the decade, when asylum applications hit a high of over 100,000 a year was such that the clampdowns which are now in effect were introduced, with targets for how many "failed" asylum seekers would be deported each year the main innovation. Such targets make no allowance for the personal situations of those who are abitrarily decided to be the next to go, including the likes of Ama Sumani, who was sent back to Ghana regardless of the fact she could not receive treatment for her cancer there. She was dead within two months. The Lancet called it "atrocious barbarism", and it's hard to disagree. Not treating with respect those who fought for this country might be described similarly, but surely we also owe a debt to those who come here seeking sanctuary to at least treat them with more than an ounce of humanity.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009 

The Lindsey refinery protests and the political implications.

The general disarray over the Lindsey protests and the wildcat strikes in solidarity on the wider left is indicative of the general malaise which has fallen upon those who should, in a recession caused by allowing capitalism to run completely rampant, be reaping the benefits. Here is a cause which is clear - supporting workers who want to work, the same workers so often slandered as lazy and more content with sponging on benefits, but who are being denied jobs because of the absurd vagaries of outsourcing across continents, combined with corporations taking advantage of rulings at the European Court of Justice.

There was certainly initial cause for concern, it must be admitted. The appropriation of the xenophobic "British jobs for British workers" slogan, stolen by Gordon Brown from the far-right, itself illegal under European law, suggested that these protests might not have been to demand jobs but instead the first public rumblings of discontent over New Labour's open door immigration policy's effect on the ordinary British worker. There were indications that the protests, rather than being union organised, were the first signs that the British National Party was effectively starting to make headway amongst those more likely to be union members than members of the far-right. These, thankfully, seem to have been misplaced: the BNP were sent packing from Lindsey yesterday, despite their lies about being welcomed, and another site has quickly been exposed as a BNP front. Even more encouragingly, another site which seems to be directly linked to the protesters, bearfacts.co.uk, seems to be far more representative of the protesters' position: militant, and unrelentingly left-wing, with clear demands.

The socialist left, always divided, has been getting its ideological knickers in a twist. The Socialist Workers' Party, always wanting an idealised working class rather than the one we have in reality, quickly denounced the apparent nationalist sentiment and appealed for international working class solidarity. While there is something in this argument, considering the movement of construction workers across borders, this ignores the key facts in this dispute: that the workers in Lindsey were depending and expecting that these jobs would be available to them, when Total's outsourcing meant they didn't even get a look in. This was what sparked the protests, not that foreign workers were being employed in a fair process. The Socialist Party seems to be the only political grouping with representation on the unofficial strike committee, and unsurprisingly are fully behind the action, stressing that this is aimed at company bosses, not at foreign workers themselves.

At the other extreme, the response by the Labour party has been completely dreadful. Whether because Brown has been spooked by his ridiculous, ill-thought out slogan coming back to haunt him, or because organised labour is something which the Labour party had hoped it had cowed, his idiotic statement that the strikes were "not defensible", before going on to claim that he had meant something completely different from the words that had emanated from his mouth at the party conference in 2007 showed just how bankrupt his thinking on the recession has become. His pledges of retraining are too little too late and completely miss the point when there are jobs here that no one needs to retrain for but which they have no chance of filling. That Mandelson, the architect and espouser of completely relentless free trade with no regards whatsoever for the consequences for ordinary workers barely disguised his contempt while dismissing the protests on the grounds that there must "no return to protectionism", as if workers protesting for jobs were demanding isolation and self-sufficency, was no surprise.

Labour's woeful attitude can only be contrasted with the Conservatives' apparent rediscovery of moral or ethical capitalism. While this will always be a contradiction in terms, David Cameron's positioning of his party as being more likely to tame economic policy than Labour is welcome, however shallow the actual substance is behind it. We should be under no illusions that many Conservative policies, such as on welfare, inheritance tax and the "broken society" are inherently reactionary, but we really are starting to edge towards the time where it becomes impossible to be even slightly content with the status quo any longer. Their immediate response at the time of Brown's "British jobs for British workers" remark was to challenge it and show it up as both xenophobic, unworkable and unimplementable, and while they too denounce the strikes, they have been far more receptive than their supposed left-wing opponents have been.

Derek Simpson's proposals for resolving the protests and the solidarity strikes are a good start, but they are only that. While the unions cannot because of the anti-trade union legislation take formally part in the secondary action, they could be doing so much more to put pressure on Labour to challenge the European Court of Justice rulings at the very least. As Lenin points out, Labour's stance from the very beginning has been to provide opt-outs from European legislation which protects workers on the continent but which leaves those here as some of the most vulnerable and easy to be sacked, all to the delight of the CBI and the right-wing press. Whether it's the 48-hour working week or the chapter of fundamental rights, our politicians have long kept rights from British workers which others can take for granted. Polly Toynbee is also right to point out that unions, contrary to the myth and the way any strikes are now covered, are becoming ever weaker, with fewer strikes than ever before.

One of the main fears was that the recession would cause an already cruel country to become even harsher, more selfish and introverted, individuals left blaming each other or the entirely wrong people for their hardship. Instead, as the strikes have shown, despite initial misinterpretations, working class solidarity is still alive and well and capable of causing great political discomfort. The challenge now is to turn this solidarity into a campaign movement which fights for all workers, regardless of nationality, to be given a fair chance of employment and extended rights across the board. That will be much more difficult even than turning up at 5:30am outside a refinery in driving snow.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008 

They've only stolen all our jobs!

What goes through the minds of journalists working on a newspaper when they know that the information they are putting out is either demonstratively false or likely to be found to be demonstratively false? An example, if an obviously extreme one, is provided by Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie in their history of the Sun concerning the paper's coverage of the Hillsborough disaster:

As MacKenzie's layout was seen by more and more people, a collective shudder ran through the office [but] MacKenzie's dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch. [Everyone in the office] seemed paralysed, "looking like rabbits in the headlights", as one hack described them. The error staring them in the face was too glaring. It obviously wasn't a silly mistake; nor was it a simple oversight. Nobody really had any comment on it—they just took one look and went away shaking their heads in wonder at the enormity of it. It was a "classic smear".

No one can on the Daily Star can possibly make the same excuse for today's front page, unless Dawn Neesom is rather more fearsome than she has been made out to be and prepared to use her kick-boxing training against her own hacks,ly Star, Daily Star-watch, Muslim bashing, churnalism, racism, immigration, immigration figures, or Richard Desmond himself was personally involved:

They haven't just taken all our jobs; they've stolen them from out of our hands!

There is instead a rather more simple explanation for the Star's front page, the Express's copy/paste and the similar effort in the Sun, doubtless amongst others: churnalism. As 5cc quickly found out, the origin of these claims is that old favourite of utterly unbiased and completely reliable figures on all matters immigration, Migration Watch. Their press release on the subject has everything that put-upon tabloid hack needs for a quickly cobbled together story; all that has to be added is the huge headline and red lettering.

And, as 5cc explains, it's crap, unsourced or badly sourced like the tabloid stories themselves. As he also points out:

The great thing about this one is that it contradicts its own conclusion with the real reason so many jobs have gone to immigrants in recent years:
The British born working age population also fell during this period, so the proportion in work remained unchanged at 75.4%.
So when the report goes on to say:
These employment statistics are not, in themselves, absolute proof that the employment of British born workers has declined as the result of East European immigration but it is hard to find another explanation.
It looks a bit silly. The other explanation is just one paragraph above.

The journalists responsible for pumping out this bilge in most of the circumstances almost certainly don't agree with or indeed believe it. They just do so because if they didn't they find themselves out of a job. Even so, it does represent something of a continuing campaign by the Star to be the most "outrageous" paper when it comes to tackling such thorny issues as Islam and immigration. A couple of years back you might remember it took a NUJ mutiny for the paper not to run a page 6 "burqa babes special", while more recently it led with "BBC PUT MUSLIMS BEFORE YOU!". In today's paper, apart from the front page splash, there's a similarly doubtless half or not even half-true report about how a "multi-faith area" in Lewes prison had a crucifix removed from it, lest it apparently offend Muslims. The reason for why "the multi-faith space" must supposedly double up for both faiths is made plain in the last independent inspectorate report into the prison:

Worship facilities were very poor. The Christian chapel was at the top of a steep flight of stairs and inaccessible to prisoners with mobility difficulties, the small multi-faith room had been taken over for other use two months previously and Muslim prayers were held in an association area on F wing with no carpet or ablutions facilities. A new multi-faith area was due to be built as part of the rebuild. The coordinating chaplain had identified some basic errors in the design and it was unclear whether it would provide enough room for the number of prisoners expected to want to use it.

The article claims that the "independent board which monitors prisons admitted the Lewes cross was dropped after discussions with a Muslim priest", but if this is a reference to the actual prisons inspectorate, there's nothing on their site to suggest this is the case or contained in the report from over a year ago. It's the apoplexy of Phillip Davies that makes it all slightly worthwhile:

“It’s barmy politically-correct madness no doubt dreamed up by some white middle-class, lentil-eating, sandal-wearing do-gooder.

“This kind of thing does so much damage to race relations because it builds up resentment.”

Doesn't it just? I bet the percentage of the population that read the Daily Star and care about the facilities for different religions in prisons are absolutely fuming. I can't recall whether it was Simon Hoggart or the parliamentary column in Private Eye which described Davies, often mistaken for David Davis, as an "unpopular populist", but for passive aggression on the behalf of the outrageds of Tonbridge Wells who have never heard of him he deserves some sort of prize.

That label of unpopular populism probably applies equally well to the Daily Star itself. After all, anyone really that disgusted or concerned by the twin outrages of uncontrolled immigration and Muslims on the rates must have abandoned the Star a while ago: the Mail or the Express do that stuff without all the distracting women with huge tits in-between. The paper defended itself a while back with the claim that it wanted to give its readers a smile in the morning, and in fairness it's a rare occasion when the paper does go in for such front pages as today's or the one attacking the BBC, far more concerned as it with the tit situation already mentioned.

Which leads us to probably the best, most likely unintended juxtaposition of the gorgeous pouting Danielle Lloyd with the headline next to her. Lloyd, for those with slightly shorter memories, was one of those along with the single-monikered Jade and S Club 7 reject Jo whom bullied Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother. Lloyd's most well-known contribution, apart from asking in the thickest in both senses of the word Scouse accent whether "those people who eat with their hands are Indian or from Chi-nah", was that Shetty "should fuck off home". Unlike Jade, who had to develop cancer before she could be successfully re-admitted to reality television, Lloyd continued in her furrow, much thanks to the readers of Zoo and Nuts not being too picky when it comes to the ideological status of the women they one-handedly admire the aesthetic beauty of. After all, doesn't Lloyd's success in her work suggest that as yet those filthy foreigners haven't managed to steal the jobs of our hard labouring British glamour models? Isn't that something to proud of, that the Daily Star promotes home-grown talent regardless of the foreigners' insidious attempts to thieve such jobs? British boobs for British men, and nothing but the best shall do!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008 

Giving false hope.

Whenever a politician says that they want to have a debate, they don't really mean a debate in the terms that us mere mortals interpret it, as in an informed exchange of views possibly leading to changing of opinions. They mean a debate where they can control the flow of information, where they're fairly certain of what the outcome of the debate will be, and where they themselves can then close down the debate should it get out of hand.

When Phil Woolas then says that he wants a "mature debate" on immigration he means that he wants to get in first, set the tone for where the debate is going to go and also knows already what the policy outcome of said mature debate is going to be. A sure-fire way to get a mature debate going is by poisoning the well. According to Woolas, the lawyers and charities working on behalf of asylum seekers, for example, are not doing so out of compassion, the goodness of their hearts or because no one else will, but because they're an industry. By being an industry, they are in actual fact playing the system, giving false hope and causing more harm than good. Similarly, at least half of those that come to this country and claim asylum are not fleeing persecution, but are instead just pretending to be, play-acting as having suffered in order to be admitted when they are nothing more than simple economic migrants. Woolas also said that an asylum seeker than had succeeded in staying here after going through six layers of appeal "had no right to be in this country but I'm sure there is an industry out there [with] a vested interest."

How right he is. There are companies and individuals out there that have a vested interest in the asylum process. One such is Kalyx (they "care for immigration detainees with compassion and understanding"), a business with a social purpose, that was ranked as the worst performer of ten in an investigation into racism in detention centres, where detainees described "banter and taunting as ... part of the natural relationship between a detainee and custody officer".

Similarly, despite the best efforts of this industry and its attempts at undermining the law, it failed in managing to stop Ama Sumani from being deported back to Ghana, despite the fact that she could not receive treatment there for her cancer. She survived for just two months, and died before the £70,000 that her supporters managed to raise for her could be sent to her. The Lancet called it "atrocious barbarism". It took the intervention of the former ambassador to Uzbekistan to potentially save the life of Jahongir Sidikov, an opposition activist that faced almost certain torture and possible death if sent back, as he very nearly was.

We can instead leave the real undermining of the law to the politicians themselves. In June Jacqui Smith declared that homosexuals could be deported back to Iran as long as they were "discreet". Earlier in the year it decided that up to 1,400 Iraqis could be sent back to their home country as "ordinary individual Iraqi citizens were not at serious risk from indiscriminate violence". 1,000 Zimbabweans were also destined to be sent back to enjoy the rule of Robert Mugabe, where a coalition government is still yet to be sworn in. Additionally, last year the Joint Committee on Human Rights issued a report which said the government was using the policy of "destitution" deliberately against asylum seekers in order to force them out, and generally make things as unpleasant as possible. An independent review of the asylum system found that it was "marred by inhumanity in its treatment of the vulnerable" and that it was "denying sanctuary to those entitled to it".

It's been apparent from the beginning that Woolas was appointed immigration minister in order to get up the arses of the likes of the Sun and the Mail and stay there. At a recent CBI conference Woolas argued that Sun readers had an "intelligent" grasp of the immigration debate, who understood "complex issues better than so-called experts". Woolas' comments on asylum seekers' lawyers are today being approvingly run alongside the "bogus asylum seekers" phraseology which has been banned by the PCC for being a contradiction in terms.

On tackling the BNP, Woolas says that "[I]n a democracy you've got to beat them, and you don't beat them by pandering to them. You beat them by thumping them politically in the face." What's apparent is that Woolas intends to beat them by stealing their very rhetoric, thumping them politically in the face by taking their lies and distortions and presenting it as fact in order to influence a debate. This is the very worst way to try to tackle the grievances which the likes of the BNP give rise to. By stealing their rhetoric you give the impression that you're going to implement their policies; thankfully, even the likes of Woolas have no intention of doing that, and they can't on asylum seekers in any case because of our international obligations. This though only leads to the likes of the Sun building a minister up to them bring them crashing down harder than they ever thought possible when their words don't turn into actions. John Reid experienced this: he talked tough, told them exactly what he was going to do only to predictably fail, with the result being his appearance on the paper's front page minus a brain.

This would be fine if it didn't have implications on the ground. But it does. Rhetoric against asylum seekers isn't just used against asylum seekers, it's used against immigrants as a whole, especially those who have recently moved into communities and are as a result instantly noticeable. By suggesting that asylum seekers' lawyers and charitable organisations play the system when they are in fact only trying to do the best they can, and when the government itself has been so repeatedly criticised for its treatment of them is not just unpleasant, it is downright risible. The false hope for many who seek refuge here is that they will be treated with respect, that they will be welcomed into a society which puts the treatment of the vulnerable as amongst the very top of its priorities. Instead they often find themselves locked up, racially abused, and used to score political points in the most base manner. Phil Woolas ought to be absolutely ashamed of himself.

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Friday, November 07, 2008 

Frank Field and preventing a British Kristallnacht.

For some reason the Guardian doesn't seem to have published today's response column from Frank Field online. One has to wonder if this might be something to do with the arguments made by Field in it. Responding to an article by Paul Oestreicher on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, in which Oestreicher referred to Field but once, quoting Peter Selby's attack on him, Field defends his call for "balanced migration" by saying that his ultimate aim is, and I quote directly, "[T]he aim must be to prevent a mini Kristallnacht in this country."

To suggest that this is a wholly distasteful comparison and allusion is an understatement, but it is perhaps one that is more appropriate than Field realises. Kristallnacht was sponsored and abetted by the German government. Field's argument that is as "unemployment rises there is a danger of increased tension as British citizens lose their jobs." This is almost identical to Phil Woolas's completely unprompted comments that "people losing their jobs makes the immigration issue extremely thorny", and that it had been "too easy to get into this country in the past and it was going to get harder." It's true that during recessions tensions are bound to rise, but those tensions very rarely turn to major unrest or riots without the deliberate involvement of those with the most to benefit from such unrest. The riots in northern England in 2001 were almost uniquely sparked by the activities of the British National Party and National Front in the respective towns. What you do not do when tensions are liable to rise is then stoke the fire: Woolas may have been addressing what he thought was a coming problem, but he also through his statement suggested that it had been too easy to get into this country, when that is simply not backed up by the facts, as Diane Abbott pointed out. He was pandering to those whom have been arguing such for years, encouraging the kind of victimhood which the BNP feeds of off. Woolas was quite openly pointing towards who's really to blame for the economic mess, and it wasn't his party. From someone that had accused the Tories' Sayeedi Warsi of pandering to the BNP over very similar comments, this was hypocrisy of the highest order.

Likewise, Field seems to be taking the opportunity afforded by the recession to gain supporters for his immigration "reforms". His invocation of a "mini Kristallnacht" as something which can only be avoided if his slamming shut of the door is introduced is not worthy of a politician that stood up to the government over the 10p tax rate. He tries to shut down dissent to his ideas by claiming that they are overwhelming supported by the public, as though this means they are unquestionable. Then finally, to add insult to injury, he states that "[A]ny outbreaks of anger will be denied public support if voters know that the labour market is closed to new migrants from outside the EU." In other words, unless we adopt my proposals, it will be understandable if the public supports the indiscriminate targeting of "foreigners" like that which occurred in Germany in 1938. And Field has the audacity to suggest that his policies should not be confused with the position of asylum seekers, when he seems to be tacitly suggesting that riots would be understandable in the current circumstances, in which asylum seekers, legal workers, illegal workers and long time citizens of this country would all be tarred with the same brush. What a thoroughly boorish and unpleasant man Field really is.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008 

Express-watch: Distorting a government report? Surely not?

Let's keep this one relatively brief, as I have no intention of giving the Express any more hits for their blatant rabble rousing. You might recall last year that the Express distorted a Sheffield council report which was a plan for averting possible tensions in the city into a "ethnic baby boom crisis" which was due to precipitate "race trouble".

They've done much the same thing today, albeit on the front page, with it screaming that even MPs now "FEAR RIOTS IN BRITAIN".

The report which the Express is referring to is from the Communities and Government Committee, available here, entitled "Community Cohesion and Migration". Not once in the entire report is the word "riots" used. Nowhere in the report do the MPs responsible so much as suggest that they fear riots or even mass disturbances will break out as a result of a failure to integrate. About the closest they get is here, in the conclusion:

The continued under-funding of migration pressures at the local level increases the risk of community tensions escalating, particularly given that the majority of people in the UK already believe that some groups, such as immigrants, get unfair priority access to public services.

The Government needs to take immediate action to address public concerns about migration, and to defuse tensions before they lead to disturbances.

The report incidentally debunks that immigrants get unfair priority access to services, something the Express didn't see fit to mention. The committee then suggests that tensions need to be defused before they lead to "disturbances"; not that they fear riots are going to break out. It for instance states this:

Some degree of tension between individuals is not necessarily problematic and can be seen as an indication of a healthy democracy. The problem is when tensions escalate to a point where they negatively affect community cohesion. Open disturbances between migrant and settled communities are rare. Thankfully, to date no disturbances have occurred on the scale of those which took place in Burnley, Bradford, and Oldham in the summer of 2001 between settled Asian and white communities—though there have been localised disturbances in areas such as the Caia Park estate, Wrexham, and Boston, Lincolnshire.

Although they may not be widespread, we are still concerned about tensions between migrants and settled residents, and how through addressing the underlying causes of these tensions disturbances may be prevented from arising. Our evidence, particularly from our visits, indicated that there are many tensions relating to practical issues and fears over the changing nature of communities, and the pace of that change, as well as concerns about the pressures placed on public services from migration.

Again then, they're concerned about tensions which may lead to disturbances, they don't fear that riots are about to break out. The Express is engaging in blatant scaremongering.

Let's go through the Express report in a little more detail:

IMMIGRATION is the single biggest cause of public concern, an influential group of MPs warned yesterday.

Actually, they didn't. Directly above the report introduction, they quote a MORI poll from January 2007 which found that 1 in 5 were most concerned about migration, above even crime and terrorism. To suggest this might now be slightly out of date would be stating the obvious: the current hot concerns are the economy and knife crime, with immigration having taken a back seat, especially as there is ancedotal evidence that suggests that there are now more Poles returning home than coming to work in Britain.

The MPs’ devastating report concluded that migration has had a significant impact on communities and local services – greater even than crime and terrorism.

Again, it doesn't. That's quoting from the MORI poll and not the conclusions of the report at all. The closest in comes is in these two nuggets:

Public concerns about the effects of migration cannot simply be dismissed as racist or xenophobic. Tensions often arise on real practical issues, such as the proliferation of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). (Paragraph 16)

The rapid pace of change experienced by many communities has led to increased local public concern about migration and can negatively affect community cohesion. (Paragraph 24)

The Express:

It also revealed that tensions were rising between some settled ethnic communities and new arrivals because of increased competition for “race equality” resources.

The report:

The Community Development Foundation (CDF) told us that it was aware of new patterns of racial prejudice and hostility between settled Asian and Caribbean communities and new ethnic minorities, who MAY (my emphasis) resent the increased competition for ‘race equality’ resources.

There are of course problems, as the report makes clear, in some communities where migration has suddenly exploded where previously there was little to none. The Express though for some strange reason doesn't mention that of two of the three places visited by the committee which have experienced problems with migration and tensions as a result, both Burnley and Barking and Dagenham have a large British National Party presence. The BNP have four seats on the Burnley council, while they have 12 in B&D. The BNP might have moved in on such fears, but they could also have helped them to spread through their campaigning. Still, isn't it nice to see the Expresss doing its own bit for community cohesion?

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Friday, May 16, 2008 

Scum-watch: Breathtaking chutzpah over an Afghan hijacker.

How times change.

Two years ago, the Sun was outraged over the decision that the 10 Afghani men who felt their only way to escape the hell of life under the Taliban was to hijack a plane should be given leave to remain in this country. Their front page was one of the most mendacious of recent times, implying that the men who had escaped from a tyranny which the Sun supported the subsequent overthrow of were interested only in sponging off the state and having everything handed to them.

It therefore takes an amazing amount of chutzpah for the Sun to today splash on one of the biggest non-stories it's ever put on its front page. Having previously smeared the men as wanting to not work when one of their main reasons for wanting to be given leave to remain was so that they could repay their debt, it now considers it a huge news story that, err, one of the men has a job. Or rather, that he works for a company which has a contract to clean a British Airways training centre, which means he has a pass to, in the Sun's parlance, "secure areas".

If anyone can tell what the point of the Sun's anguish is, it would be nice to be informed. It can't seriously be suggesting that Nazamuddin Mohammidy is likely to repeat his previous offence, or that he's any sort of extremist when he escaped from the most fundamentalist Islamic government of modern times. No, this seems to be purely an exercise in trying to make the biggest possible mountain of the slightest molehill. The only reason the Sun knows about Mohammidy's current employment is because he was stopped by police on suspicion of being an unlicensed taxi driver, and when checking out he was who he said he was, discovered that he was in breach of bail after being accused of assaulting his landlord. While that suggests he's not necessarily an angel, if that wasn't already manifest, it also means that he's not housed by the state either, another of the Scum's smear tactics first time round.

Rather than this being about Mohammidy, this seems to be more about asylum seekers and "human rights law" in general than any real concern about his working at Heathrow. That can be the only conclusion reached when the paper quotes "Sir" Andrew Green claiming that this proves the asylum system is being "abused", something which is not in the slightest bit proved by this case. We don't know the circumstances behind his alleged assault on his landlord, but it could quite easily have been a dispute which got out of hand. Apart from that, he's doing exactly what the government and Sun demands both asylum seekers and immigrants do: work and live off their own steam. The only abuse here is that the Sun seems to think it's in the public interest to hound those who somehow cross them or who might incredibly tenuously be linked to extremism. This was the case with its recent stalking of Abdul Maneem Patel, who was called "evil" and a "terrorist" after being released early from a six-month sentence for holding an explosives manual, found in a sealed box under his bed, for an older associate of his father.

It can all be so different if you can conceivably be of commercial benefit to the Sun. I noted recently a surprisingly positive leader on Polish immigrants, which would never have appeared in any other of the tabloids. One of the reasons for the softening of their stance might just be because they're considering producing one-off Polish-language versions to coincide with Euro 2008, where Poland rather than England will be participating. Now just what would the gor blimey likes of Jon Gaunt think about that?

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008 

Scum-watch: Going soft on immigrants, but not on "Town Hall Hitlers".

In another sign of the Sun's increasing move towards something approaching liberalism, at least outside of the criminal justice system, here's a surprisingly positive leader on immigration:

THE vast majority of immigrants are decent, law-abiding people — whichever country they come from.

They work hard, claim few benefits and are grateful for what Britain has to offer — not just in higher pay and better conditions, but in friendship.

In return, most Brits are hospitable and ready to make room for well-behaved newcomers, as long as they play by our rules.

The experience of Polish builder Piotr Szepsel and his wife Anna is typical.

The couple have mixed in with neighbours and made many new friends. Piotr is a regular at his local pub and an avid Arsenal fan.

The couple work all hours to keep their heads above water, pay their taxes — and refuse to accept welfare.

Now they want to stay and raise their baby daughter, Anastazya, as a British citizen.

They are a credit to their own country — and to ours.

WE benefit from their skills and industry. THEY gain from a country which is genuinely tolerant to its migrant communities.

Now, as patronising and emphatic as it is on how immigrants must assimilate and not rock the boat by bringing any funny ideas with them, not to mention the insolence of considering claiming any benefits, can you seriously imagine a similarly mostly positive editorial in the Mail which didn't have a sting in the tail, let alone the Express? Undoubtedly, one of the reasons why the debate on immigration has become "deracialised" as Trevor Phillips said is because the latest wave has been, to use a Greg Dyke quote completely out of context, "hideously white". It's not because race itself is no longer an issue, it's because race is at the moment not involved in the discussion, or only is at the very periphery, for example in the hysteria over "Fagin's Heirs", where the Roma were wrongly implicated, or as the tabloids refer to them "gipsies". Fittingly, those who will be hit by the government's points system and restrictions now coming in will be the non-whites, while the eastern Europeans will continue to be able to come and go as they more or less please.

Some of this current approach could be linked back to Murdoch himself: he might be a stupendous hypocrite on most things, but even he realises that he can't get away with bashing immigrants too much, although "foreigners", especially the French, still get in the neck regularly. It would be nice to think that the Sun is perhaps reflecting its readers more accurately than some of the other press, but going by the reactions on MySun whenever immigration is mentioned, although hardly representative, that seems unlikely. It could be related to James Murdoch's appointment as the overseer of the UK News Corp business, as he's known to be more liberal than his father, having convinced him of the virtues of going green, but he's certainly no less tenacious over the BBC, as evidenced by his pathetic bleating about the iPlayer. The most compelling explanation though is that Wade and those around her are figuring out exactly where they want their paper to sit, still assuredly on the right, but not as stuck in the mud as the Mail and Express, moving with the times as those two inexorably age.

Don't be fooled though. The Sun can still be just as unpleasant, idiotic and over-the-top when it needs to be or when Murdoch's own interests are threatened. The signing of the talk radio blowhard Jon Gaunt and the giving of a column to the executive editor Fergus Shanahan ensures that all those bases are still covered. Shanahan's column today is typically boneheaded and offensive, a poor Richard Littlejohn-esque knock-off, tarring all councils with the same brush by using the example of one-offs, such as the man convicted for not having his bin shut and the family spied on by the local council using the powers under RIPA (not anti-terror legislation, as news organisations continue to misleadingly claim), finishing with the flourish that a vote for the Tories is the best option because "at least... you know they are desperate to impress". Those desperate to impress are always the best people to put in charge.

Oh, and not to dwell too long on the on-going Madeleine madness, but the Sun's incredibly one-sided account, which could only have been produced with direct cooperation with the McCanns, has this charming break in the middle of it:

For most of the last 12 months Kate McCann has been the embodiment of suffering — her face wracked with the unbearable agony of a mother whose child was taken to an uncertain fate. The slideshow pictures below show her pain, month by month.

Here's someone suffering - and you too can gaze on 12 different pictures of them doing so for no other reason than voyeurism. Lovely. Some things are set to never change.

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Friday, April 18, 2008 

Migrants stole my baby part three.

Unity attempts to get to the very bottom of the whole migrant crime statistics controversy, and while even by his standards it's lengthy, it's well worth reading in full just to realise how fraught and difficult it is to even begin to be able draw conclusions from the data currently available. The only solution to this is for the government and the police to bang heads together and come up with a proper, easy to understand system for identifying the origin of those charged with offences, not just arrested or connected with "crimes solved". We might be waiting a long time.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 

Migrants stole my baby part two.

You can tell just how much the Grauniad's report yesterday on how migrants have not brought a crime wave with them and how, unsurprisingly, they're not committing more offences than anyone else overall has wound up the Daily Mail and Express by the vehemence of their response today. Along with the recent immigration report by the Lords committee that, despite tabloid coverage, concluded migrants had on the whole not significantly benefited or been detrimental to the country, the crime angle is the one sure fire hit which they can rely upon to really fire minds against the current immigration policy, with their impact on public services and negligible use of benefits following closely behind. For it to blown apart just as they appeared to be getting the upper hand could not possibly be tolerated.

Hence why both have come out all guns blazing. The Express leads with "IMMIGRANTS BRING MORE CRIME", which is patently untrue as the report has already made clear, but more interesting is the Mail's account of how the Guardian report supposedly came to fruition.

The liberal Left had been right throughout, and the influx of one million eastern European migrants in less than four years - contrary to the claims of some chief constables - had created little pressure or trouble.

The source was good. A report by the Association of Chief Police Officers, prepared for the Home Secretary, had reached this firm conclusion.

Except it had done no such thing. The report itself, leaked in full yesterday, bore no relation to the BBC or Guardian headline claims.

"EU accession migrants are continuing to present challenges across a range of policing activity," reads one paragraph.

There are "notable changes in crime patterns, including extortion, 'dipping' [pick-pocketing], human trafficking and a growing sex trade", warns another.

Most curious of all, there is not a single mention of a migrant crimewave, let alone about one being "unfounded" or a "myth".

Did it really bear no relation to the BBC or Guardian headline claims? Let's go back to the Guardian's report:

The report says: "While overall this country has accommodated this huge influx with little rise in community tension, in some areas sheer numbers, resentment and misunderstanding, have created problems." It adds that the immigration from eastern Europe has been different to previous arrivals, because it happened much more quickly. The report says that new migrants may be more likely to commit certain types of offences. Polish people are linked to drink-driving, and problems have arisen in central London with some Romanian children being used by adults to commit petty robberies.

There are also problems with people trafficking and exploitation, but while these may be more likely in some migrant communities, other types of offences are less likely to occur.

Well that's strange then, isn't it? The Guardian report did mention nearly all those things that the Mail now reports, just in a different fashion, considering that the Guardian didn't have access to the full document which the Mail and Express now apparently have. The easy way to sort the whole mess out would be if us lower mortals could also get access to the full report, but it seems for now that it'll remain confidential. The Grauniad has also expanded slightly on its original points in today's follow-up:

Peter Fahy, chief constable of Cheshire, who co-authored the study, said: "Migration has had a significant impact on UK communities in past years, but while this has led to new demands made on the police service, the evidence does not support theories of a large-scale crime wave generated through migration.

"In fact, crime has been falling across the country over the past year. Cultural differences such as attitudes to offences like drink-driving may exist, but can be exaggerated.

"The influx of eastern Europeans has created pressures on forces in some areas, including local rumour and misunderstandings fuelling tensions which police have had to be proactive in resolving, and leading to significant increases in spending on interpreters, which can also make investigations more complex."

Back to James Slack's analysis of the original Grauniad report:

Even if accurate, the coverage would have begged several questions, not least who had claimed there was a migrant crimewave in the first place?

Hmm. I wonder who could have done such a thing?

The influx of Romanian migrants has led to an explosion in crime in this country, it emerged last night.

As recent members of the EU, Romanians have had free access to Britain only since January 1.

Yet in the first six months of this year, police say, they were responsible for 1,080 offences.

This is from the Daily Mail, 19th of September last year, written by.... James Slack. The Daily Express also claimed in January that "migrants send our crime rate soaring", which as Fahy points out, they haven't, as crime overall has dropped by 9%.

Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Julie Spence - whose intervention last year was the report's spur - had warned of pressure on her local force, and problems with sex trafficking and eastern Europeans drink driving.

Neither she nor any other respected critic had suggested the new arrivals were committing disproportionate levels of overall crime (indeed, it is widely accepted - not least by the Daily Mail - that the vast majority are here to work hard).

What is true is that the migrants are as likely to be arrested by the police as a British citizen, but - when this happens - consume more resources by virtue of speaking little or no English.

Gosh, could that "the Daily Mail line" be anything to do with the Federation of Poles complaining about the Mail's coverage? Obviously Slack isn't including himself or the Express as respected critics, as both, as we have seen, claimed that new arrivals were committing disproportionate levels of overall crime, the Express claiming that crime by migrants had soared by 530%.

Rather than debunking the Guardian's original article, all Slack is doing is actually confirming that its story was accurate. He agrees that migrants are no more likely to commit crimes than the average British citizen, which was the Guardian report's main point. Where the Grauniad erred slightly was that it didn't put enough emphasis in how when arrested migrants obviously use more police resources, and translation costs therefore come into the equation, something that the report makes clear, but it can hardly be blamed for not doing so when it didn't have the full report in front of them, especially considering that their source was Peter Fahy, the co-author of the report, who should himself have communicated that robustly. In any case, today's follow-up contains a lengthy quote dealing with just that from Mail's favourite police officer, Cambridgeshire's Julie Spence. Its fears that the Guardian's report would affect the extra money the police were asking for from Jacqui Smith today when they met her were also unfounded; new funding was promised.

For the Daily Mail and especially James Slack to be moaning about the Guardian slightly misreporting an important study is the height of chutzpah. Such has been Slack's record in distorting figures and baiting and switching that you can't take a single article he's ever written seriously. This blog and others have on numerous occasions recorded the Mail and Express scaremongering, churning and in some cases downright lying about immigration. It ought to come down to trust; do you regard the Mail or Express to tell the truth or be more accurate about immigration, knowing their track record, or do you overall regard the Guardian, or any "broadsheet", or the BBC to do so? Opinion polls on trust on individuals and organisations in public life show that it's overwhelmingly the latter.

Speaking of lying, to bring it back to the Express, here's how it justifies its "IMMIGRANTS BRING MORE CRIME" super splash:

IMMIGRATION from Eastern Europe has led to a huge surge in crime, police chiefs will tell the Home Secretary today.

Oh, so the report doesn't say that then, there's no evidence whatsoever to back it up, but it must be true because "police chiefs" will say so. Then there's the blatant exaggerations of its content:

The damning report will be presented to Jacqui Smith in a key meeting, at which many chief constables will demand extra funds to cope with the effects of Labour’s open-door policy.

In an alarming message, the report warns: “EU migration has brought with it a huge surge in the exploitation of migrants and organised crime.”


The findings provide yet another devastating sign of the pressure Labour’s immigration policies have had on our towns and communities.

Which just goes to show that you really can make black into white and white into black.

Elsewhere, 5cc clarifies further the claim that 1 in 5 crimes in London are now committed by foreigners with figures from his own freedom of information request.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008 

Migrants stole my baby.

It turns out then that migrants only commit a level of crime proportionate to that of every other citizen, in an amazing report by the Association of Chief Police Officers themselves. This at the same time as other sections of the press have been trying to claim that 1 in 5 crimes in London are now committed by foreigners, or at least those of foreign origin. Except, as Unity explains, those figures are bogus also, although Laban Tall in the comments disputes this to an extent. It would be nice if we could argue about the current levels of immigration, something quite rightly at the centre of many voters' concerns without febrile scaremongering taking over, but that seems to be increasingly difficult.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008 

Immigration and where to go from here.

To read the front page of the Daily Mail, and some of the coverage given to the Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs report on immigration, you'd imagine that some huge revelation and expose had been published. As always, the truth is rather greyer.

Its findings are in general not anything particularly new or especially revelatory. The main major criticism is that the government, surprise surprise, can't get its figures right, or the ones that it does present and claim show its case are simply a smokescreen: hence the oft-mentioned £6bn figure doesn't refer to the crucial capita per head, which the Lords report concludes has in fact been close to zero. That's the actual main conclusion of the report in general: that the current levels of immigration have despite all the arguments made on all sides, resulted in a roughly neutral overall effect for the majority. Those that have most prospered have been the immigrants themselves (duh) and the already wealthy; those that have suffered the most have been the already low-paid and manual workers, who have had their pay even further undercut, although like much of the evidence presented to the committee, it tends to be contradictory and weak on exactly to what extent this has taken place.

The report is not against immigration per se, rather its key concern is the high overall population increase, which is immigrants minus emigrants, currently predicted to remain at around 190,000 a year. It needs to be pointed out that these figures, despite the corrected predictions and doom-mongering reports which they influenced last year, are unlikely to stay static. The immigration rates of the last few years, largely down to the accession of the A8 eastern European nations, or down to immigration which we either can't directly control or haven't got the inclination to directly control, are likely to be exceptional, with the indications being that the immigration wave from Poland etc has already peaked, and that there might even now be more returning than are now coming. The question is whether the emigration rate, which is also at an incredibly high level, with 380,000 leaving in 2005, is also going to peak and decline. If it doesn't, then in a few years we might well be having the exact opposite of the current debate, especially if the birthrate doesn't also subsequently rise, concerned about our falling population and all that entails.

Reading this blog, some, and even I rereading some of my posts, might have got the impression that I'm overwhelmingly in favour of the current level of immigration. To clarify slightly, what I do object to is scaremongering, lousy journalism and fiddling of the figures which goes on in the tabloids about immigration, and this report does nothing whatsoever to change that. The mid-market tabloid opposition to immigration is not out of concern for those that it disenfranchises and hurts, but rather part of the Little Englander mentality, with the Daily Mail/Express demographic being those most likely to have benefited from immigration, and most of their readers won't be complaining about immigration possibly resulting in house prices going up by 10%, as the report suggests. As the report itself makes clear, the middle and upper classes have gained the most: consumers have benefited through lower prices, and taxpayers have benefited through lower costs of public services, not to mention the increase in services with the infamous Polish plumber and his brethren. When the Federation of Poles recently complained about the coverage the Mail had given to them, they countered with a series of articles it had published extolling the virtues of the Polish working man and woman, while, predictably, assailing the lazy work-shy British who wouldn't do the jobs they were filling.

Reading some of the comments on the articles and posts that have followed the Lords report, this is where the extreme sides of the argument seem to fluctuate between: attacking the "chavs" and the underclass for sponging off the state for not having the work ethic of the immigrants, and going after Labour for imposing the current situation on us. It is undoubtedly Labour that has instituted the current position, but it's one which the Conservatives are certainly not about to change, their rhetoric on putting a limit on immigration and putting the case for a cap or not, which would be a sticking plaster only affecting 25% of the actual current total. All the main parties in fact are not for changing the orthodoxy behind immigration, which is neoliberalism itself. Let's be clear here: if it had been politically expedient for Labour to have limited immigration, it would have done so. Not because it would be popular, as it certainly would be, but rather because immigration, and with it the free-for-all of the most extreme elements of globalisation are the current drivers behind the only people that increasingly matter to this government: the City of London and the CBI, both of which depend upon immigration and defend it to the death. This could not be more borne out by two of the major points of Lord Wakeham and the report itself, that the mass immigration we have seen would not be necessary if wages were higher and if the minimum wage was higher or a living wage. Hence it makes perfect sense to pay a skilled eastern European a wage below what many here would deem acceptable or liveable on, but not to pay an unskilled British worker a wage that he could live on to do the same job. This is why the government has been fighting tooth and nail to oppose the backbench proposal to give agency workers the same rights immediately as full-time workers, which would help to level the playing field. Brown's alternative is another laughable commission. The Conservatives are hardly going to deviate from the exact same policy should they get back in power.

It ought to be remembered that the government itself was taken by surprise by the numbers coming from the A8 countries, as their predictions were influenced by the belief that the other European nations would too open their doors without any quotas on the numbers that could come. In the event, only Sweden, Ireland and ourselves did that, something we then changed by imposing a cap on the numbers when Romania and Bulgaria joined last year, a measure that was effective in keeping the numbers down. They could have changed the policy, but the impression that it kept costs down and kept the economy turning over, helped along by the support of the CBI etc meant that it hasn't been, and there are no indications that the Conservatives either would shut the door on eastern Europe, something they could do despite some of the reporting that it's not possible because of EU rules.

The obvious point of all this is that for far too long we've left the working class of all colours, not just the white section which the BBC recently focused on, to stew in its own juices without enough help or care for them and their own struggles. The metropolitan classes took a rare glimpse into some of the sink estates recently with the Shannon Matthews case, and they sure as hell didn't like what they saw, and said so volubly. As others identified however, that community came together at the moment when it most needed to; maybe because of the disappearance of a child, maybe because it was like that anyway. Any government of the day needs to work with that spirit and turn it into higher-waged employment, but it's been far easier to depend on the migrant than on the necessary training and funding needed to turn around the defeatism that sometimes prevails. Labour does seem finally to have got the message, with the introduction in schools of the diploma that will hopefully encourage increasingly vocational qualifications that mean something. What will not solve the problem is the posturing of Caroline Flint over evicting those who don't work, nor will the wholesale privatisation of the jobcentre and the contracting out to the private sector of the task of finding work.

The right balance therefore needs to be struck between the above while decreasing the dependence on migration without shutting the door entirely or imposing an arbitrary cap. The government's chief mistake in all this has not been its current policy, but to have never properly articulated exactly what that policy is, or even to know what the policy is meant to be. Like with so much else that New Labour has done, it's been ad hoc and written on the back of a fag packet. The only real surprise is that it's taken this long for it to be seriously challenged by a source which doesn't seem to have any vested interests in either the current position or an alternative one, and that's perhaps an indictment of how little evidence-based policy continues to play in the daily life of Westminster. The Lords report has therefore hardly proved the case of MigrationWatch, while also showing that the see no evil approach hasn't worked fantastically either. The chance of any real change though as a result remains depressingly slight, and the cry that you're all the same from the doorsteps will continue to ring as true as before.

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