Economics and politics - comment and analysis
11. September 2017 I Will Denayer I Countries and Regions, Europe, General, General Politics

UKIP ideology now governs the UK

The stupidest thing I read recently is an interview with Emmanuel Todd in Liberation. Todds explains that:

“A small miracle occured in the UK: the Brexit vote has been accepted by the elites. The Conservative party is now implementing the popular will. To me, this is the sign of a functioning democracy: elites implement the decisions made by the people. This is not populism, because populism refers to a people that no longer has any elites. Goodhart (…) speaks of ‘decent populism,’ a magnificent expression.”

Todd, a first class political scientist, coming from an Austrian Jewish family, does not smell the stench. In the meantime, Nigel Farage addresses a rally of the extreme right wing Alternative fur Deutschland in Berlin after having been invited by Beatrix von Storch, the granddaughter of Hitler’s finance minister Lutz von Krosigk. He declares, under loud applause, that “we need to think the unthinkable” – a reference that will not be lost on anyone. Across the channel, Theresa May’s entire demented policy can be summarised in one little sentence: “the immigrants are our misfortune.”

It is beyond comprehension that Todd can miss the fascist tendencies in the UK and on the continent. There is the withering away of common sense, the inability to communicate and stick to facts (see below), the sick and dangerous scapegoating of immigrants, the hatred towards asylum seekers, refugees and everyone not British, the explosion of hate crimes (or what shall we call a rise of more than 100 per cent?), the abuses of human rights, the deportations (see here and here), the poisoned political culture of the little Englanders: anyone who stands up to the xenophobes is branded a traitor to the country. May’s government is hell bend in turning EU immigrants into second rate citizens (in the best case!) – it seems that Todd’s ‘popular will’ that the democratic elites are so good to implement is turning the UK into some sort of a right wing dictatorship.

Facts don’t matter

Theresa May is a liar. In every decent country, in every decent political system, May, who left a toxic legacy for years, would have been sacked a long time ago. Look at what she “achieved.”

Last week, Sir Stephen Nickell spoke out on how his work has been misrepresented by leading Brexiteers. Nickell is the author of an influential piece of economic research that has been frequently heralded by Brexiteers as evidence that EU immigration undermines native British wages. But Nickell emphasises that this impact is, in reality, “infinitesimally small” and that his findings have been widely misrepresented.

During the Brexit campaign, Iain Duncan Smith cited research by Nickell and Saleheen to argue that workers’ average wages fell by 10 per cent because of EU immigration over the past decade. The claim was repeated by Boris Johnson (of course) and Gisela Stuart. The research, originally published in December 2015, is still being cited by Brexiteers. It was behind May’s claim at the Tory party conference (last October) that

“I know a lot of people don’t like to admit this, (but to) someone who finds themselves out of work or on lower wages because of low-skilled immigration life simply doesn’t seem fair”.

As if May gives a damn about people out of work or poor people (most of which are working) – a point also made by Cable. May, as a good Tory, will, of course, not back McDonald’s workers (who earn as little as £4.75 an hour) for decent pay from the UK company’s boss who last year pocketed £11.8 million. We know, because Corbyn asked her during the latest PMQs. With hundreds of nurses demonstrating outside parliament against the public sector pay cap and the Tory strangulation of the NHS, May replied she would not spend money on “this, that and the other.” Besides, she went on to explain, it is all the fault of the immigrants, who are “depressing” wages (see here).

At this point, Corbyn said nothing. Was it not Corbyn who said, less than one year ago, at the Labour conference, that reducing immigration was not an objective? “It is not an objective to reduce immigration. It is not an objective to reduce the numbers.” Instead, Labour favoured a “migrant impact fund” to “give extra support to areas of high migration” (see here and here)? In the meantime, Corbyn has changed his tune. It is creating an ever increasing divide within the Labour party – and this time it is not because of the Blairites conspiring against him. When Corbyn talks about the “wholesale (sic!) importation (sic!) of foreign workers from Central Europe in order to (sic!) destroy (sic!) conditions” (i.e. wages), the capitulation to populism and the xenophobic Right has become a fact. When last Saturday, tens of thousands walked through London to protest May’s Brexit plans, Labour was nowhere to be seen. At the moment, the leaderships of both parties, instead of leading, are stuck in some sort of autistic obsession that transforms (or risks to transform) them into some ersatz-UKIP, accepting the insane fanaticism of the right wing xenophobes and the racists on the street. That May’s and Corbyn’s motives may be different is irrelevant. It is what they do that counts.

The 10 per cent claim was based on an important misreading of Nickell’s and Saleheen’s research’s findings. The actual results suggested only a 1 per cent fall in the wages of low-skilled workers due to immigration and this impact has been spread over a period of eight years. There was no negative impact found from immigration on the wages of skilled workers and professionals. “The wage impact is very small,” said Nickell in an interview with The Independent. “They (low-skilled workers) lose out by an infinitesimally small amount.”

Nickell and Saleheen did not speak out because they were forbidden to do so. Until last December, Nickell was a senior official at the Office for Budget Responsibility. He was, he told The Independent, “not allowed to get cross” about the public bowdlerisation of his research findings by the pro Brexit anti-immigration camp. His co-author Saleheen, who works at the Bank of England, has also been unable to speak out publicly to correct misleading statements. Speak the truth, risk losing your job. That is democracy in the UK these days.

Many more studies reaching the same conclusions

There are many more studies. The Migration Advisory Council looked at the effect of migration on wages. It reached the same conclusion as Nickell and Saleheen. A group from the London School of Economics also reached the same conclusion. The LSE study showed conclusively that EU citizens in the UK make a large positive contribution to the UK’s tax take, that they are less likely than the native population to be out of work, are less likely to use the NHS, are less likely to make use of social services (including social housing), that they are on average higher educated than the natives, that they are more likely to start their own businesses and that are more likely to employ people. As for wages, the evidence shows that, instead of immigration undermining average UK living standards, it enhances them (see here). Research by the Resolution Foundation think tank last year suggested that any downward impact of increased immigration on native wages over the past seven years in some sectors has been dwarfed by the overall general pay squeeze on all workers since the global financial crisis. This report also makes clear, in several places, that the negative effects on low wage earners are very small.

Falsehoods, lies and toxic fantasies

The problem is that elementary common sense is so far gone that to outline what academic research shows on migration “comes across as either an accusation of stupidity or a symptom of elite arrogance,” as Behr wrote in The Guardian (see here). Confronting people with facts, only makes them angrier and alienates them further (see here for a report by British Future).

The suggestion made by British Future is that there should be less stress on what the evidence shows and much more on engaging people in a conversation. But who will organise such a conversation? Every day again, the tabloids are publishing their racist bile, their hatred of anyone or anything not British, their utter stupidity. It is never properly rebutted by any mainstream politician. No one takes The Daily Mail and The Sun to court although the legal basis to do so clearly exists. People have been sold a simple but utterly incorrect story that their economic grievances stem from an influx of foreigners. Despite clear evidence that curbing migration will actually damage economic growth and prosperity and that it will make people worse off, Theresa May pushes forward AS IF this story is substantially true. The truth of the matter is that the tabloids and the some of the mainstream newspapers and some or most of the Tories and – although a lesser degree – some in Labour (remember the immigrant cups of 2015? – ‘End Immigration, Vote Labour’) and some of the trade unions and some of the Left (see below) have produced a discourse that is not all that different in nature from that of Nigel Farage. That this cannot be said, does not mean it is not true, besides many are saying it in the meantime (see, for example, here). This demented stalemate cannot end before politicians stop reinforcing public anger. But who will start? Who will say ‘we lied to you’? ‘It is not immigrants that are the problem, but our own (Tory and New Labour) policies.’

The new Tory paper on migration and more lies   

According to the new Tory paper on migration, EU immigrants will have to be fingerprinted. Their rights to family reunion have shrunk. They will have to face the fact that, in most cases, they will only be allowed to stay for two years for low-skilled immigrants and to three to five years for high skilled immigrants. This achieves a long-held May goal: breaking the link between migration and settlement. Even if newcomers are temporarily allowed into the country they are stripped of any assumption that they might be able to stay. The paper later says that “a route” to permanent residency will be allowed, but set at five years. This is a mechanism to prevent any EU immigrant from settling down in Britain. The paper is quite proud of this, with its plan to “reduce the opportunity for workers to settle long term in the UK” (see here).

That the UK, in doing so, deprives itself of academics (55% of EU academics in the UK considers leaving), nurses, care workers, teaching assistants, fruit pickers and so on and so forth, notwithstanding protests from businesses, schools, universities, hospitals, farmers and many others, is, according to May and the Brexiteers, a price worth paying. Her army of Brexiteers is still fighting for “sovereignty,” achieving more self-harm by the day (see here). They will plough on. Contrary to what Todd thinks, they are led astray by an elite that lies to them, lies more and does not stop lying.

It is, indeed, the sheer lying that is paramount. Last week, Vince Cable told Parliament that Theresa May, as Home Secretary, had covered up nine reports that proved immigration had little adverse effect on wage and employment levels and showed the benefits of immigration to the economy. Vince Cable, former coalition business secretary (in Cameron I) told the House of Commons:

“When I was business secretary there were up to nine studies that we looked at that took in all the academic evidence. (…) It showed that immigration had very little impact on wages or employment. But this was suppressed by the Home Office under Theresa May, because the results were inconvenient. (…) I remember it vividly. Overwhelmingly, it has been the case that overseas workers have been complementary rather than competitive to British workers” (see here).

This is not the first time that May has faced such accusations.  May has insisted on counting foreign students in the government’s immigration target despite other Tories and all other parties pointing out that this leads to a false impression in immigration figures: most students go home after obtaining their degree. During the Brexit campaign, stories were told about hundreds of thousands of students overstaying. Last month, May’s claims of how many students stay on were proved drastically wrong when official figures revealed that fewer than 5.000 students a year stay on after their visa expires. The Office for National Statistics used new UK exit checks to work out that just 4.600 students overstayed their visa last year – nothing like the government made up “estimate” of 100.000 (see here). In the meantime, the evil has been done. The racists are yelling abuse on the streets, demanding “sovereignty.” Who will tell them that they are being played?  (see here)

Internal LibDem (Liberal Democrat) emails were leaked, providing evidence that back in 2014 “benefit tourism” was not an issue according to the Department of Works and Pensions, but that “Conservative secretaries of state are determined not to admit this.” These leaks prove that Theresa May, who – do not forget – campaigned during the Brexit referendum to remain, interfered with a government report to portray immigration negatively and exaggerate “benefits tourism.” And in 2016, May was accused of covering up evidence in yet another report that she did not like. Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg insisted that May, then Home Secretary, had tampered with a report proving no link between illegal drug use and draconian drugs laws, deleting sentences when “she didn’t like the conclusions” (see here).

“We might as well call it what it is. Britain is prepared to sabotage its own economy in order to stop foreigners from living here. It is happening because the demands of xenophobes are now the primary motivating force of government policy,” Ian Dunt writes (see here). He concludes: “All that matters is reducing immigration. Not for the economy. Not for wages. But because we have a UKIP government pursuing a UKIP policy agenda and pretending it’s the Tory party” (see here).

That is the truth of it. Every day again, this Tory UKIP government continues to suck democracy and reason out of the political system. The Tories are implementing the most anti-social policies of any European country. The victims of these inhumane, disgusting and counterproductive policies are yelling against the immigrants. They have become the UK’s misfortune. No mainstream political party stands up to this despicable and pathological charade. Does it remind you of something?