A few weeks ago we had to listen to UKIP’s fuhrer, Nigel Farage, wanting to completely pull up the drawbridge and ban all potential immigrants from the UK for the next 5 years at least. (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jan/07/ukip-ban-immigrants-nigel-farage). His statement appears to be little more than a sensationalist populist attempt to win votes by the time-honoured strategy of scapegoating. He claims that Enoch Powell was right in the basic principle of his notorious ‘rivers of blood’ speech, the most controversial political speech in recent British political history. Be under no illusions that Farage is a dangerous racist extremist.
The contempt UKIP directs against immigrants from poorer EU member states, for leeching off the state and burdening our economy, is also massively misplaced. According to a recent European Commission report, immigrants from EU countries to Britain paid more in tax than they received in benefits. Poles, for example, have actually made a net contribution to the UK in economic terms and have been readily absorbed into Britain’s labour market. The 2011 census counted 579,000 Poles in the UK, down from the 1.2m Poles issued with National Insurance numbers, suggesting a substantial number had returned to Poland. Furthermore, trade between the two countries has grown significantly since 2005, indicating that amongst those Poles that returned to Poland many used their UK business ties to help increase bilateral trade between the two nations. My personal connections with Poland bear out all these points.
The merits of economic growth as an objective are another debate, but given that the three neoliberal, capitalist parties all worship at the alter of economic growth, they are spiting their gods with this refusal to acknowledge the contribution of immigrants to our economy. Farage, to be fair, does acknowledge this, stating that damaging economic growth is a price worth paying in return for communities feeling more united and the unemployed getting more jobs. But failing to address a skills shortage that immigrant labour is currently required to fill won’t allow wider employment rates to pick up. Putting the social impact of migration against its economic benefit assumes they are mutually exclusive, when they are patently not. The implication that EU immigrants have undermined strong united communities is completely unfounded. The example of the Polish community, who have integrated well here in the UK, demonstrates this and undermines the basis for Farage’s support for Enoch Powell’s rivers of blood speech.
With his more recent proclamations, Farage is now looking to target the most vulnerable people on the planet. The Tories are content to merely target the most vulnerable people here in the UK, focussing their ideologically driven austerity programme on the poor, the disabled, the disadvantaged, the dis-enfranchised.
Farage won’t stop there. He would bin the Tory leadership’s last remaining grain of humanity (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2348990/Im-proud-increase-foreign-aid-says-Osborne-despite-Conservative-calls-scrap-ringfence.html) and completely suspend the £11 billion foreign aid budget. In Farage’s blinkered, naive little world, charity begins, and ends, at home. Spend that £11 billion on things like compensation to flood victims in Somerset he says. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2552969/Ukips-Nigel-Farage-calls-foreign-aid-budget-used-help-flood-hit-communities.html). Sounds perfectly reasonable many would say. It is perfectly reasonable to expect the people suffering from the floods to expect some serious help, but who should bear the burden?
That £11 billion goes on things like this:
- Helping give rudimentary education to refugee children in places like Syria, increasing the prospect of them having a future in the homelands again one day
- Helping to end the practice of female genital mutilation in the name of religion
- Helping the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, for whom the Somerset floods would seem like a puddle caused by a shower
- Funding vaccination programmes that save millions of lives
“The flooding crisis is obviously a very serious event and it is vital to get help to the people affected,” said Richard Miller of ActionAid, “however taking money away from the world’s poorest people is not the answer.” John Hilary, executive director at the anti-poverty charity War on Want, added: “The British government should not divert money from its overseas aid budget to help UK flood victims. There is enough money to support disadvantaged people here and in developing countries.” Save the Children boss Justin Forsyth said everyone was “moved and concerned” by the impact of the floods, but he added: “To raid this money, that literally saves millions of lives, would be immoral – imagine raiding £100m from vaccines. It will lead to children dying in some of the poorest parts of the world. This is a time for our country to pull together not find scapegoats and play divisive politics with people’s lives.”
Here is a thought – rather than make the poorest pay for all the problems they don’t contribute to creating, why not get the mega-rich bastards to pay from their obscene hoards of cash generated by causing most of the problems we are talking about? The five richest families in britain are worth over £28 billion – 2.5 times the whole aid budget. Take half of that and they would still have more money than they could ever spend leftover! (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/britains-five-richest-families-worth-as-much-as-poorest-20-per-cent-says-oxfam-9195914.html)
Keep your grubby little hands of the inadequate aid budget, Farage, and start talking about the Robin Hoood Tax, carbon taxes, mansion taxes, and sorting the bankers out.
It is no wonder that Farage’s name is quickly becoming a well used euphemism – already in the urban dictionary, if not yet in the OED