The protestors of Boston deserve a better answer on immigration


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12:36 pm - November 22nd 2012

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by Alice Sachrajda

Protests were held in Boston earlier this week, in response to an estimated 9,000 foreign workers arriving in the small Lincolnshire town during recent years. On Tuesday, protestors announced plans to hold further demonstrations.

The people of Boston have real concerns that need to be taken seriously by politicians and government and their protest was peaceful, unlike many in East London and Luton in recent years.

Expressions of frustration like this go deeper than national debates about population or economic growth suggest. Politicians should question both how immigration impacts on our national identity, and whether communities can cope with the levels of immigration we have seen in recent years. Ed Miliband’s mea culpa on immigration earlier in the year was an acknowledgement of this.

The flows of migration from Eastern Europe after 2004 were unprecedented and sudden, and the pace of change was, in some areas (Boston included), extremely challenging for communities to manage. Nevertheless, we need immigration for a successful, thriving economy and we should accept that more and more people have both the desire and ability to migrate across borders.

In order to create a successful immigration policy the government needs to take action in three areas.

Firstly, they must enforce immigration rules and police our borders competently.

Then, they should harness the benefits that immigration brings to our economy with a flexible approach to work visas.

And finally, they need to help people to manage the impacts that immigration has on their particular local communities.

Action in all three of these areas is required. Labour in government focused on border controls and proposed a point-based system for work visas but failed to address people’s local concerns.

The Coalition has focused on the first, at the expense of the second. While the far right speaks to local concerns but disregards economic growth.

Politicians need to work harder at listening to communities and responding to people’s local concerns. The peaceful protestors of Boston deserve to be listened to, not fobbed off with empty promises about a net migration target.


Alice Sachrajda is Research Fellow at IPPR think-tank

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Reader comments


and their protest was peaceful, unlike many in East London and Luton in recent years.

That’ll make it easier to ignore then.

Anyone who objects to immigration is ipso facto a bigot, and therefore, ought to be ignored.

3. Chaise Guevara

@ vimothy

Do you even read articles before responding to them?

No. I don’t read the comments either.

Is it actually “National Reminding People Who Aren’t Horrible Bastards That Labour Are Just As Bad As The Tories” Day?

No, we shouldn’t fucking listen to “local people’s concerns”. “Local people” have “real concerns” because they are racist pricks. End of.

And the peaceful bigots of Boston should be tear-gassed. Last time there was a revolt in a place called Boston, we treated it with excessive leniency; let’s not make that mistake again.

I think I won that one.

It wouldn’t be the ‘Liberal Conspiracy’ blogg if we went a whole week without a complete failure to recognise the underlying causes of social unrest and an apparent failed attempt to engage the public. I know it is Thursday, but there is still a day to squeeze a ‘How can we connect with the public’ blogg too. Christ the Left can be as every bit as blinded by ideological baggage as the Right at times.

There are people who are simply racist (xenophobic), no matter what you show them. There are people who will always see ‘others’ (whatever the definition) as bad people. Attempting to pander to them is a waste of time, because it will never work and when you pander to stupid people you end up with stupid policies.

The Left should have learned their lesson pandering to the anti disabled lobby; you end up with a dog’s breakfast of a policy where people who can ‘move a box’ are deemed eligible to work, even if they have no mental capacity to follow simple instructions. It is harder to explain complex medical conditions to a fuckwit than nod along with their net curtain diagnosis. The upshot being the anti-disabled lobby are still nasty ignorant cunts and countless disabled people have had their lives ruined. A solid win win for the Left, I am sure you would agree.

Anyway the other group of people in these protests are not necessarily racist but are genuinely fearful of the livelihoods and lifestyles. Why not go along to one of these protests and talk to people? Nobody is complaining that they are expected to eat Polish sausage instead of black pudding or that vodka has replaced blue nun on the shelves. Look behind the racism and you find the SAME challenges that the Labour movement has been challenging for a hundred years or so. A squeeze on the terms and conditions, wage cuts, unemployment as an influx of labour pushes down the price of labour. Dig a bit deeper and you will find that people are expected to take zero hour contracts, or have seen the amount of unpaid overtime rise, or that they dare not take time of sick for fear of losing jobs and a whole host of other things associated with a sudden rise in the labour supply. Older and/or less qualified people are simply being out competed on the labour market by younger, fitter Eastern Europeans. That is perfectly understandable and happened through out our history, the clever thing is how we deal with it humanely.

One anecdote to round this off. A whisky bond near me paid off about a dozen long term workers. The ex employers went in to hand back uniforms and go through redundancy packages, the canteen was full of Polish agency workers ready to take on their jobs. That cannot be tackled via ‘border controls’ that can only be tackled by tough legalisation to curtail these parasite agencies undercutting decent people’s wages.

Now THAT is the challenge for the Left, not ‘how do we stand against working class racists’, but ‘when are we going to stand up to big business’.

Too profound? Okay, fair enough. ‘What about these thick white scum? How can we further attack them?’.

It would be interesting to see what Boston’s job/dole centre looks like. Are there many people signing on?
Are older and less attractive English workers finding themselves passed over by employers who prefer the hard working eastern Europeans? I was in a cardboard factory in Leeds yesterday. The fork lift driver was eastern European, as were a couple of people working at machines, who were doing what looked like mind numbingly boring jobs.

A domographic shift in a lot of other places in the world would not go as smoothly as it’s done in Linconshire I bet. It does drasticly change some aspects of the local society.
On the very early morning buses, immigrants make up a much higer proportion than they actually are locally I have found.

Anyone who objects to immigration is ipso facto a bigot, and therefore, ought to be ignored.

I’m sorry you feel that way. I myself believe they’ll be ignored due to their protest being peaceful, it’s no coincidence that Maurice Glasman talked about moving Labour closer to those who sympathise with the EDL roundabout the same time as EDL rallies often resulted in smashed windows and general arse ache and trouble for the authorities. Protests are also called demonstrations, think about what’s being demonstrated by people gathering peacefully and being placidly herded by the police.

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 10 Cylux

“Protests are also called demonstrations, think about what’s being demonstrated by people gathering peacefully and being placidly herded by the police.”

Hopefully, moral superiority. I take your point that peaceful protests are less newsworthy and seem less urgent about their demands. But the upside is that you don’t pollute the cause with photos of censurable behaviour – and that’s without getting started on the moral and legal issues of said behaviour.

This is what we have come to expect from the IPPR.

“Enforcing the immigration rules” This sounds tough but in fact means nothing unless one discussed what those rules should be and for what purpose.

“Helping people to manage the impacts of immigration on their local communities” This is equally vacuous and fails to recognise that communities can be substantially and often irreversibly changed by mass immigration. Essentially this amounts to telling people to get over it.

“No, we shouldn’t fucking listen to “local people’s concerns”. “Local people” have “real concerns” because they are racist pricks. End of.”

Rubbish. Immigration is a problem because it has been managed so badly in recent times.

1) Failing to plan for significant population changes leads to inadequate infrastructure, housing, etc. Whether immigrants are involved is irrelevant.

2) As Jim has pointed out, inadequate control of the labour supply has inevitable negative affects for employees, and the reverse for employers.

As for the argument that we need immigrants for the jobs the locals won’t do … well, that really is racist.

14. Chaise Guevara

@ 13 Jack C

“Rubbish. Immigration is a problem because it has been managed so badly in recent times. ”

I think this swings both ways. Sometimes racist views are hidden under the mask of “genuine local concerns”; sometimes genuine local concerns are waved away as “racist views”.

“As for the argument that we need immigrants for the jobs the locals won’t do … well, that really is racist.”

This IS rubbish. A UK resident may have more of a sense of entitlement (and I don’t mean that as a criticism) than someone from a war-torn failed state, because the standard of jobs held by those around them is so much higher. Exchange rates may make a low wage seem like a bonanza to said immigrant, because it’ll go much further at home. You’re committing the very same sin of ignoring all possible factors but racism that you were complaining about a moment ago.

Chaise,
That’s not quite the point I’m making. I was referring to the idea that there are x number of jobs that can’t be filled by the existing population because no one wants to do them. I agree that many immigrants have lower expectations, this is obvious. However, given that we have a minimum wage, and that we were, and are, quite a long way short of full employment, turning down an unattractive job in favour of staying unemployed is simply inexcusable.
All jobs are respectable (at the low end at least).

I myself believe they’ll be ignored due to their protest being peaceful

They’ll be ignored because no one cares what they think. People in the policy bubble look at it more or less exactly like Pope John Band. Can you prove that you’re not witch? Well, why aren’t you drowning, then?

It doesn’t matter if the protests are violent or not. If the protests are violent, then your robot masters will look at ways of stopping them, freezing them out, and getting back to business as usual. There won’t be an end to the present regime, ever. It’s a done deal. Wheeling out Maurice Glassman to shock the Guardian readers with his talk of actually listening to people and pretending to give a damn is a bit of theater designed to stop ‘em falling asleep in their seats. It’s no fun if there’s no struggle.

Anyway the other group of people in these protests are not necessarily racist but are genuinely fearful of the livelihoods and lifestyles. Why not go along to one of these protests and talk to people? Nobody is complaining that they are expected to eat Polish sausage instead of black pudding or that vodka has replaced blue nun on the shelves. Look behind the racism and you find the SAME challenges that the Labour movement has been challenging for a hundred years or so. A squeeze on the terms and conditions, wage cuts, unemployment as an influx of labour pushes down the price of labour. Dig a bit deeper and you will find that people are expected to take zero hour contracts, or have seen the amount of unpaid overtime rise, or that they dare not take time of sick for fear of losing jobs and a whole host of other things associated with a sudden rise in the labour supply. Older and/or less qualified people are simply being out competed on the labour market by younger, fitter Eastern Europeans. That is perfectly understandable and happened through out our history, the clever thing is how we deal with it humanely.Well said.

18. Chaise Guevara

@ 15 Jack C

“However, given that we have a minimum wage, and that we were, and are, quite a long way short of full employment, turning down an unattractive job in favour of staying unemployed is simply inexcusable.”

Yeah, but jobs may not be being created because they’re hard to fill – or because locals expect extra pay for working nights, for example. If immigrants are more likely to take and stick at these jobs, they support whatever industry it is we’re talking about.

Chaise,
I’m all for immigration as a concept, and have been grateful for it in circumstances you describe, ie hiring at a time and in a region with very low unemployment.

However, Boston in the last three years could not be described as short of labour.

I also don’t doubt that some of those protesting are racist, but this is unlikely to be the main concern. Move 9,000 working age “indigenous” Britons there in the next 3 years, and the complaint would be just the same.

You say “we need immigration for a successful, thriving economy”. Where is the evidence for this statement?. None,I suspect, in places such as Boston.

@ John B

“And the peaceful bigots of Boston should be tear-gassed. Last time there was a revolt in a place called Boston, we treated it with excessive leniency; let’s not make that mistake again.”

You’ve just confirmed the intellectual bankruptcy and personal seflishness of your position. You have no argument in favour of the mass immigration that well-heeled economic migrants like yourself have personally profited from, except to advocate force against those who are disadvantaged by it and not surprisingly don’t much like it.

You have no evidence at all that the protestors are racist, but it suits your dishonest complacency to say so, because otherwise you might have to consider that for some people in the real world there are downsides to experiencing employment and infrastructure scarcities.

Still, so long as it’s not you on the receiving end, why would you care? You can even tell yourself you are being principled.

I suggest Bostonians could read this on the economic impact of immigation by Emeritus Professor Robert Rowthorn:
http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/Rowthorn_Immigration.pdf

“The injection of large numbers of unskilled workers into the economy does not benefit the bulk of the population to any great extent. It benefits the nanny-and housecleaner-using classes; it benefits employers who want to pay low wages; but it does not benefit indigenous, unskilled Britons, who have to compete with immigrants willing to work hard for very low wages in unpleasant working conditions.”

23. Chaise Guevara

@ 19 Jack C

“I also don’t doubt that some of those protesting are racist, but this is unlikely to be the main concern. Move 9,000 working age “indigenous” Britons there in the next 3 years, and the complaint would be just the same.”

It’s a tricky one. It seems kind of ridiculous to dictate where people can live and work, but immigrants will naturally be drawn to areas with other people of their extraction – they may have friends or family there – and using positive incentives like offering them cut-price rent in areas that need labour would be called out as unfair (with some justification).

You have no argument in favour of the mass immigration that well-heeled economic migrants like yourself have personally profited from

It’s fair to say that as an economic migrant, I’m well aware of the massive difficulties and challenges associated with migration, which frankly dwarf the challenges associated with sitting on your arse doing fuck all and whining about the fact that the corner shop sells Zwiec and funny smelling sausages.

So yes, I have a great deal more sympathy and respect for the hardworking, motivated Eastern Europeans who the bigots of Boston are whining about than I do for the bigots of Boston; in an ideal world, everyone on that march would be body-swapped with someone starving in an African village.

It’s worth pointing out here that the places where economic migrants live, more or less definitionally, are not the ones where unemployment is a structural problem.

If you live in Rotherham or Merthyr Tydfil, then it’s quite possible that there are no jobs around, for all the government’s demonising rhetoric about job seekers. While economic migration is worthy and should be lauded, it’s not reasonable to expect or demand it of people. These communities need support, benefits, subsidies and an end to demonisation. And there aren’t any Poles there.

On the other hand, if you live in London or Boston, or pretty much anywhere southeastern, there are jobs to the power of infinity nearby, enough for both yourself and any passing Pole.

26. domestic extremist

Well said 8 Jim and 22 Bob B.

The ruling class (Labour and Tory wings) add insult to injury by first importing labour to drive down wages and conditions so as to enhance profits, and then accusing the victims of unconstrained capital ‘s manipulations of the labour supply of bigotry and racism. Contemptible.

Why would an economic migrant migrate to somewhere where there are no jobs?

Of course they go to places where there are jobs, that’s the whole point. And when they get there, they increase the supply of labour, lowering wages and pushing up house prices and rents.

And even if you don’t care about the economic effects, it’s not that unreasonable to want to live in an actual community and not a holiday village for guest workers.

28. Just Visiting

John B

> there are jobs to the power of infinity nearby, enough for both yourself and any passing Pole.

I’m not sure that your use of ‘exaggeration for dramatic effect’ there works very well!

You’re making it too easy for people to point out that you’re certainly wrong.

Infinity was the wrong word!

29. Just Visiting

vimothy

> Why would an economic migrant migrate to somewhere where there are no jobs?

Well, for some, they will make a better living even on the dole, or get better healthcare, better education for their children no matter where in the UK they go.

If any of those benefits are important to them – and if they are indeed available to them, (not all immigrants get the dole from day 1): then they may choose to go not where the jobs are, but: where rather to:
* where the cost of living is lowest
* where there is already a community of their own culture / family.
etc

who have to compete with immigrants willing to work hard for very low wages in unpleasant working conditions.

It’s worth pulling this one out as to why this is the case, how is it that economic migrants can work for low wages in unpleasant conditions while living in the UK with it’s associated living costs?

Well, for a start they live collectively, reducing the individual rent and tax burden, they also eat collectively, reducing the overall food bill, any dependants will likely be back home where the exchange rate is likely to mean that their upkeep will be considerably less than someone with dependants living in the UK. It’s also unlikely that anyone would have informed them of all their rights as employees within the UK, making them easier to exploit, and that also feeds into the fact that there are jobs only available to immigrants that aren’t available to the locals, which has nothing to do with work ethic and everything to do with obtaining cheap compliant labour.

So how do the locals compete with that? Simply, they can’t, aside from scrapping such notions as the nuclear family and living 4 couples to a house sharing one another’s resources. Though the locals have got far more in common with migrant workers than they do with those exploiting both of them for cheap labour. Workers of the world unite! As some bloke once said.

31. Derek Hattons Tailor

@14 The “we need migrants for our economy” is plutocrat talk for attacking local wages and conditions by exploiting migrant poverty. The guardianistas who spout this shite are supporting it because they they think that all migrants are the doctors and lawyers they see around them at work or in their local gastro pub. They aren’t. They are working shitty jobs for shitty money having undercut the local workforce who have the audacity to expect a living wage where they actually live. If migrants send that money home, where it goes a lot further, how does that benefit the local economy exactly ?
As John B pointed out, London is not the rest of the country, and no one from London has the remotest concept of a local economy where even crap jobs are hard to come by.

A recap from the BBC website in May last year:

The number of low-skilled workers born outside the UK more than doubled between 2002 and 2011, according to the Office for National Statistics.

The figures show that almost 20% of low-skilled jobs are held by workers born abroad, up from 9% in 2002.

Workers coming to the UK from eastern or central European countries were the biggest single factor in the rise.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13561094

@31. Derek Hattons Tailor: “The guardianistas who spout this shite are supporting it because they they think that all migrants are the doctors and lawyers they see around them at work or in their local gastro pub. They aren’t.”

@30. Cylux: “Well, for a start they live collectively, reducing the individual rent and tax burden, they also eat collectively, reducing the overall food bill, any dependants will likely be back home where the exchange rate is likely to mean that their upkeep will be considerably less than someone with dependants living in the UK.”

Can both Cylux (a filthy Guardianista) and Derek Hatton’s Tailor be correct?

@ John B

” I’m well aware of the massive difficulties and challenges associated with migration, which frankly dwarf the challenges associated with sitting on your arse doing fuck all and whining about the fact that the corner shop sells Zwiec and funny smelling sausages.”

A contemptuous and contemptible strawman.

It’s been explained on this thread why people raising families and living as nuclear families cannot hope to compete with short-term single immigrants who temporarily live as group and (conveniently for employers) may not even be aware of their rights.

Here’s from your own CV:

“John Band is a London-raised, Sydney-based strategy consultant, marketing analyst and writer. He has experience ranging from blue chips to start-ups across the media, business information and consulting industries. He is the founder of Intelligent Analysis, a market analysis and strategy consulting boutique.

He has given presentations to leading industry groups and corporate audiences, and has been interviewed by media sources including the Economist, the BBC, the Financial Times and the Telegraph, usually on retail and consumer marketing.”

Oh, and “He also likes strange pieces of technology, good food and wine, and travelling to out-of-the-way places — ideally all combined.”

That is to say, you inhabit a different economic universe from the vast majority of working people – be they migrants or native to a place. Other people work while you produce expensive hot air. You seem to think that a slathering of multiculturalist self-righteousness makes you one of the caring liberal good guys. You’re actually just another cut-throat poorhouse capitalist ignorantly mouthing off about what he will never understand or have to experience.

@ John Band

And I see you state that you went to private school and Oxford, and have been employed by, amongst others, PricewaterhouseCoopers. I bet it’s been a struggle.

No one reasonable will hold your advantages against you, but it is arrogant and contemptible, coming from that privileged background, to dismiss tout court as racists or lazy people who mostly haven’t had anything like your own good fortune or prospects in life.

It’s easy to sneer, when you’ve been born near the top of the heap, that those at the bottom are lazy should just climb harder. It’s also dishonest.

36. Derek Hattons Tailor

“You’re actually just another cut-throat poorhouse capitalist ignorantly mouthing off about what he will never understand or have to experience”.

Just call him a complete cunt, it’s fewer words…….

@34. Lamia: “It’s been explained on this thread why people raising families and living as nuclear families cannot hope to compete with short-term single immigrants who temporarily live as group and (conveniently for employers) may not even be aware of their rights.”

Inconveniently for your argument, many of those “short-term single immigrants” bear children in the UK or migrate as couples with children. Many of them wish to live in the UK long term. Taking Poles as an example, there have been at least three major migrations of them to the UK in the last 120 years.

If you want to take racism and xenophobia out of the argument, talk about the real problems. Those “short-term single immigrants” have kids, health care requirements and need for decent homes. Just like everyone else.

Yes, I’m privileged. Top 1% of global income bracket. Hurrah!

Everyone born in the UK is also privileged; top 10% of global income bracket.

Difference is, I’m fully aware of and grateful for my own privilege.

they live collectively, reducing the individual rent and tax burden, they also eat collectively, reducing the overall food bill

I spent my 20s living and eating collectively, in order to be able to afford, y’know, the rent.

I now realise that this was an appalling development, in which I was directly contributing to the immiseration of native Londoners, who should all be able to afford to live and eat on their own.

Christ almighty. You reckon *I’m* the one who’s out of touch?

“I spent my 20s living and eating collectively, in order to be able to afford, y’know, the rent.

I now realise that this was an appalling development, in which I was directly contributing to the immiseration of native Londoners, who should all be able to afford to live and eat on their own.”

You’re not just smug and ignorant, your reading comprehension is defective. I referred to “people raising families and living as nuclear families”, i.e. in groups of two, three or more, i.e. also collectively, NOT “people living and eating on their own”.

So you lived with other people as a student (at Oxford) and then a young professional management consultant. nothing especially difficult about dong that for a few years when you are young. For people bringing up children, communal sharing with non-familial people indefinitely is not exactly a reasonable expectation, and unless you expect the children to be sent up chimneys, it takes up comparatively much more of one’s income than a single person with no dependents.

“Everyone born in the UK is also privileged;”

No they are not, and you ought to be embarrassed at such a crass and ignorant statement.

I spent my 20s living and eating collectively, in order to be able to afford, y’know, the rent.

I now realise that this was an appalling development, in which I was directly contributing to the immiseration of native Londoners, who should all be able to afford to live and eat on their own.

My comment @30 was not a value judgement, it was just an exploration as to why single young immigrants can so easily undercut the local workforce in terms of what they’ll accept as pay, and how they’ll accept more dangerous working conditions more readily. I.E. because they’re easier to exploit and will be likely living in a student-like fashion. A bloke in his mid 30′s with a wife and two kids simply cannot reduce the cost of his labour to a level to be able to compete. This is neither the fault of the bloke, nor that of the immigrant, but of those who constantly seek ever cheaper and compliant labour. It is, at it’s most basic, divide and rule – with one set of workers being used to undermine and undercut another.

It must be really hard for the police to police things like driving licences and insurance on foreign regesterd cars. And keeping tabs on any petty crime within the eastern European communities, as people can disappear if they think they are in trouble with the law. I see from spending time in my local library/benifits centre in east Leeds that the needs of poor non-Brits does change the whole feeling of a place. Quite a number of eastern European Roma people are in there, what looks like, daily.
Poorer migrants are much less likely to own computers for one, so there is always a lot of demand for the 15 or 20 computers in the library. It can get quite noisy in there too. They have a couple of security guys to keep people in line. The whole area is very shabby and poor. I find it a bit depressing actually, and am leaving for good on wednesday.

@42

so there is always a lot of demand for the 15 or 20 computers in the library.

I’d expect that demand to increase even further within the next couple of months or so once Universal Jobmatch (and more claimants are threatened with a ‘Jobseekers Direction’) starts kicking in. It should then increase even further once Universal Credit rolls out next year.
This is largely due to the DWP’s desire to monitor claimants jobseeking activities to ensure they’re spending 35 hours a week looking for work (presumably looking only on their new website, since they won’t be able to track cv’s sent out to paper ads, which thus far is sadly lacking).

No they are not, and you ought to be embarrassed at such a crass and ignorant statement.

Yes they are.

The fact that everyone born a UK citizen (I should have said “born a UK citizen” initially, since post-1983 the two aren’t necessarily the same thing – particularly relevant for children of non-EU temporary workers and of refugees without ILTR) has guaranteed access to universal healthcare and out-of-work benefits makes them immensely privileged compared with the vast majority of humanity.

The knowledge that you will never starve or die of readily treatable disease because you’re not rich enough is hugely important; the most important single advance ever made in society, and one which more than six billion of the world’s seven billion people don’t have.

Cylux: unlikely to make much difference, as the Roma migrants are mostly not eligible for JSA in the first place.

That thing ”Universal Jobmatch” is going to be an absolute nightmare. I was signed up for it last week and is actually one of the reasons I’m clearing off back to London. What can you do, claim that you can’t use computers? Really – when you see the kind of people who are signing at the job centre, many of whoom are pretty unemployable and incapable of getting up in the morning to do jobs that would only pay them a third more than their dole plus housing benefit .. then this new scheme is going to be more like harassment. At my local library they do have a dedicated job search area with staff and eight computers – so the job centre can just dirrect you to use those. Still, I really don’t like anything about it and it would be a pain in the arse to always be expected to be going in there.

Roma people might not be entitled to JSA, but the ones I’ve seen are definitely signing up for housing benifits and any others they can. Free school meals for their kids etc I’m pretty sure. And once they’ve been here for a while, even if they’ve never worked, they have to be treated equally.

I think some of the OP writers on LC should do some research in places like Boston, or east Leeds or any place that has high numbers of new migrants. Just go to these places and have a good look around.

@45 I was thinking more along the lines of people without home access to a computer joining the queues alongside the Roma.

The idea that immigration undermines local communities, relies upon the rather specious notion that there is such a thing as an homogeneous and unchanging local community. And simply put, there isn’t: even in a hypothetical society without any immigration, persons would still move around, affiliate with different groups and organisations, take part in particular cultures or sub-cultures, etc. Indeed, I’m sure those who demand no change in their local community, would be (rightly) appalled if measures were passed to ensure this, measures which restricted their ability to relocate from place to place.

The more ‘globalised’ the world becomes, the more people wish to move around – even if their ‘global’ movement only involves relocating from Leeds to Manchester. The key is not to demand the almost impossible, i.e. an end to population movement, but to accurately measure this movement, pass measures to mitigate against its negative side-effects, and also, to ensure that everyone in an area has the same basic rights and protections – I say basic, because there’s a reasonable argument that non-citizens should not be able to use the NHS (for free) or receive dole, but they should have the basic right to organise and be paid the national minimum wage. The previous Labour administration’s main failure was that they spurned government intervention such as this, in favour of the ‘hidden hand’ approach; i.e., they tought things would naturally work themselves out, that the cosmos would produce a natural balance.

What tickles me most in this context, however, is how many right-wing free-market advocates nevertheless carp on about the negative effects of immigration, as if there was no causal connection between the two. I suspect the higher-ups fully realise there’s a connection, they just see anti-immigration rhetoric as a way to win votes among groups who their economic policy does not benefit. However their supporters, the people who uncritically accept their arguments without realising the actual reality, are little more than useful idiots marching along to the party drum.

@48 Labour did little to address the problems of immigrants being more easily exploited because state institutions also benefited from the downward pressure on wages that exploitation created.

Cylux @47, indeed, point taken.
There’s quite a striking thing I’ve noticed since I came to east Leeds and was using the library – is that it is SO different to another library I know quite well, which is Croydon central.
In Croydon, the place is filled with students – (many of them black and minority ethnic) working on their studies, and the one in Harehills Leeds has none of that. The library is not a quiet place to go and study, as there are too many selfish and disruptive people in there. As it doubles as a benifits center, people come in to see about their benifits, and the people who have come with them drift over to the computers.

As an example of the social problems the area has, three young teenagers come in regularly and are quite annoying and anti-social, and when the security guard challenged them as why they aren’t at school, one of them (about 13) just said they ‘didn’t go to school’.
He also called me a ”grassing c**t” one time when I called the security man over because he was being abusive to some other people in there.

You have an area that had traditionally high rates of poverty and unemployment, and then it becomes a destination for waves of poor migrants to settle, and it does seem to be a bit of a recipie for making a ghetto type situation. Shabby, poor, uneducated, and really not a nice place.

Feodor @48, while you are right in your openning couple of sentences, I don’t think ‘one’ should be so ideoligical about it either. Yes everything changes, and places that were quiet backwaters (like the Linconshire Fens) will become something else altogether just with the march of time.
I knew a guy from Wisbech years ago, and he explained how life worked for them there, where the year was taken up with periods of working on the land, and then other periods of unemployment, and I met him in Florida in the winter as he said he’d rather go abroad for a couple of months in the winter when there wasn’t so much work about.
That was in the 80s before the influx of eastern Europeans, who will no doubt have transformed the labour market locally.

Whether those local Fens people, with their rural ‘bur’ in their accents had any right to expect some continuation in that life of casual employment on farms, is probably a contentious issue.
If you still do this kind of work, all your work colleagues will be foreigners, many of them living cheaply in caravans or in multiple occupancy worker houses.

You needen’t go as far as to say this immigration has undermined the local community, but it probably has undermined a way of life and a local culture.
But that would have all changed anyway through the progress of time.

@#49, Cylux: Yes, I agree.

The NHS, e.g., now outsources most of its cleaning to private companies who employ large numbers of cheap foreign workers. And in a simple accounting scenario, this *might* be cheaper than if the state directly employed the cleaners – I say might because it seems to me that, once the companies commission is taken into account, the saving is probably minimal or non-existent, even though the average hourly wage of the cleaners has fallen; also, see note (*) below.

Irrespective of this, however, the bigger issue, the one which can undermine the government narrative that cheaper is better and preferable, is that cheaper also produces lower standards*. And further, the outsourcing model undermines hospital workers’ (ward sisters, doctors, etc.) ability to make sure cleaning is carried out properly: they simply have no real authority over private contractors; no effective means to ensure high standards.

*The number of horror stories one hears, alongside the spread of ‘super-bugs’ like MRSA, show that there are major problems with regard to how hospitals are cleaned. And moreover, the extra costs incurred when people contract diseases while they are in hospital, likely negates any saving that is gained by using cheaper, outside contractors.

Damon: ‘Feodor @48, while you are right in your openning couple of sentences, I don’t think ‘one’ should be so ideoligical about it either.’

I don’t quite understand what you mean about being ideological. Could you expand a bit?

And what’s wrong with using ‘one’ as one?

Damon: ‘But that would have all changed anyway through the progress of time.’

That’s exactly my point. And furthermore, I see no way in which one could prevent the march of time without having to resort to incredibly repressive measures, which in any case would prove very temporal, on account of the historical forces in play.

PS. Can someone tell me how I can italicise words? Cheers, :)

@53 (i)text to italicise(/i) – replace rounded brackets with > type brackets.

52: MRSA is a solved problem, a brief artifact of some poorly specced cleaning contract which was dealt with almost a decade ago, but which people both on the “NHS IS AWFUL” and “CONTRACT PROVISION IS AWFUL” sides of the debate dwell on because it’s more emotive and exciting than talking about the data-level changes that actually matter.

Across society, nearly all things are done by other people acting under contract: most companies are not vertically integrated mine-and-farm-to-factory-to-shop monoliths. So suggesting that contracting things out will inherently lead to a fall in standards is silly. It will do that only if you don’t include standards in the contract.

Your original point – that there’s potentially good reason for government departments, when contemplating saving money through wage cuts, to bear in mind that the government both taxes people and provides tax credit to people on low wages – is a very good and almost totally neglected one.

Feodor, I think LC can be quite ideological about things like this. By that I mean people can be unwilling to look at any negatives – or always just look for the positive in a spinning kind of way.
Maybe it’s just a cup half full/half empty scenario.
Where one person walking through a poor multi-cultural urban environment sees blight and a depressing ghetto-like culture, others might see the dynamic New England and all it’s children going to school together and seemingly getting along OK.
Apart from in places like Oldham though where racial school segregation developed.

Personally I find it can be both things at the same time. Some places are really grim looking. Who and what is to blame for that though is the $64,000 question.

Life at the bottom of society, and in and around unemployment and minimum wage jobs is pretty grim. You have the situation now where some estates in Hackney (for example) have youth unemployment rates of up to 50% … and in the meantime hundreds of thousands of foreign workers have come to London and been able to find jobs.
We saw some of the fallout from that with the August riots last year.

Not that you can do that much about any of this now.
The labour market has been transformed and casualised by agencies offering low wages.
In theory, people in places like Boston should have the right to say they don’t like what has changed in their town. People always coming and going. Not knowing your neighbours, or having neighbours who don’t share much of your cultural memory and history.

I have known a few Indian people who came to England to work in old people’s homes, and this is one of the areas where lack of a shared cultural memory (if that’s a way of putting it) is most obvious.
As professional as these Indian staff might try to be, there can be a cultural disconnect with the elderly people they are working with, as they have no idea (perhaps) even who Morecambe and Wise were for example.

These things do matter surely, but this sector has now succumbed to the agency and low paid ”improvements” of modern society. We import labour to look after our elderly, and pay unemployment benefits to our own people who are incapable of doing such work.

Cylux: ‘(i)text to italicise(/i) – replace rounded brackets with > type brackets’.

Testing, testing – cheers Cylux. :)

JohnB: ‘MRSA is a solved problem…’

I’ll take your word on this one John, perhaps I’ve fallen victim of a common trope – the horror! ;)

Would you accept agency nurses as a more appropriate example? They’re definitely more expensive, and they probably deliver a lower standard of care, at least if common anecdote is to be believed (a dangerous source of evidence, admittedly).

JohnB: ‘Across society, nearly all things are done by other people acting under contract… So suggesting that contracting things out will inherently lead to a fall in standards is silly. It will do that only if you don’t include standards in the contract.’

I never said contracting inherently leads to lower standards, just that it tends to dilute the mechanisms of authority which enforce standards.

And I don’t think it’s a problem that can be so simply solved, through better contracts. Rather, in some sectors of the economy (general manufacture e.g.) there is less need for such authority and competitive pressure can mitigate against poor standards, while in others (e.g. healthcare and defence) the need for enforcible chains of commands is much greater.

I think a key difference may well be that, in general, outsourcing occurs across different sites: you mine in Leeds, manufacture in Manchester, sell in Liverpool, e.g. However, in the two sectors highlighted above, operations generally occur in one site, which changes the whole dynamic of the labour process.

JohnB: ‘Your original point – that there’s potentially good reason for government departments, when contemplating saving money through wage cuts, to bear in mind that the government both taxes people and provides tax credit to people on low wages – is a very good and almost totally neglected one.’

Yes, I think it is. And moreover, I think you’ve articulated much better than I did… you bugger! ;)

Damon: ‘Feodor, I think LC can be quite ideological about things like this. By that I mean people can be unwilling to look at any negatives – or always just look for the positive in a spinning kind of way.’

If my comment came across in that way, that was not my intention. Surely my criticism of the previous Labour government shows that I see some negatives?

Damon: ‘We import labour to look after our elderly, and pay unemployment benefits to our own people who are incapable of doing such work.’

It’s interesting that you bring up the elderly, because while there is, without question, a shortage of jobs in this country, we also have an ageing population and declining birth-rates, something to which the only workable solution may well be immigration. Short of a four-child policy, that is.

Feodor, I wasn’t saying you were being particularly ideolgical, but that this site can be … I’ve thought.

One thing I’ve never understood about the declining birthrate situation and how terrible that is said to be – couldn’t we just have managed slow decline?
Do we have to have a population above 60 million?
If it was 50 million the economy would be smaller of course, but we’d all have a bit more room, and we wouldn’t have such a housing shortage.

If Ireland doubled its population, their econmomy might pick up, but you’d also have to double the built environment, and one of the best things about Ireland is that it is under-populated compared to England IMO.

@58 That’s a very good point, with the main demographic being affected by unemployment and in desperate need of employment being the youth, with fewer opportunities to get ahead and better yourself available for those of meagre means, and people living and thus working longer, I myself am confused about the need to get workers in from elsewhere and ‘top up’ the working population.

Damon: ‘One thing I’ve never understood about the declining birthrate situation and how terrible that is said to be – couldn’t we just have managed slow decline?’

You make a good point Damon, but two things seem worthy of consideration:

1) Western populations may be declining, but for the time being, global populations aren’t. Overcrowding elsewhere will therefore mean people will move to where there is more space, though I guess whether one accepts this depends on whether one sees population issues from a national or international perspective – there’s validity in both approaches.

And moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised if, as the demographic make-up of the New World changed, we saw people who have British family a few generations back moving here. I hope we get New Yorkers; I fear we’ll get Texans! ;)

2) Even a well-managed decline will be very painful, and while there’s much political will with regard to tackling youth-related problems, no political party wants to alienate the elderly – not only do they vote more frequently, it’s also far harder to paint Grandmas as ‘feckless’ than it is ‘feral youth’.

Cylux: ‘…I myself am confused about the need to get workers in from elsewhere and ‘top up’ the working population.’

To some extent, I agree with your sentiments: there’s a part of me that thinks the ageing population argument is a ruse utilised to cover-up attacks on living standards.

Only today I heard a neo-liberal ideologue state on a debate on welfare on Radio 4 that we’re getting older and poorer, and that, therefore, we must accept less.

Personally, however, I think we should be aiming for more, and if capitalist ideologues are now saying capitalism can no longer produce more with any consistency, then a major plank of the argument in favour of capitalism has been removed.

Now, what was the name of that bearded chap who used to always bang on about the declining rate of profit? And what was his solution when dealing with socio-economic systems that have become ‘fetters’ on the further development of the human race?

Sorry, overlooked this:

Damon: ‘Feodor, I wasn’t saying you were being particularly ideolgical, but that this site can be … I’ve thought.’

Oh definitely, but the clue’s kinda in the name: Sunny and co. view the world through liberal eyes and tend to attach a liberal narrative to any and every event. It seems they rarely have any moments of serious reflection, wherein they accept that reality fundamentally challenges their deep-seated assumptions.

Personally, I come for the comments not the articles: LC has a very diverse but well-moderated comments section, as good or better than any other blog I’ve seen.

Each to his own, I guess. :)

If the USA hadn’t doubled its population since the 1950s it would be quite a different place than what it is today. Less huge suburban sprawl for one thing.
Which is better though?
I’ve read of people reminiscing about LA and southern California in the 1970s even, where the traffic gridlock on the freeways wasn’t half as bad.
Maybe that’s just more nostalgia, but I kind of know what they meant.

Damon: ‘Which is better though?’

The answer to this question is irrelevant unless you can come up with a viable strategy for how the population could be kept at the 1950 level. And I don’t see how that could be achieved without resorting to some extremely coercive measures: even with its one-child policy, China has seen its population increase.

i have the funny feeling that if these immigrants had black or brown skins,these protesters in boston would be getting pelters of the far left and so called anti racist groups in a deluge of accusations of racism,it seems far game for these boston bigots to get away with there zenaphobia because these immigrants from these eu countrys have white skins,thats wrong,and more worrying to me is the sympathy in left wing circles for these boston zenophobic bigots,that is also wrong and is full of double standards and hypocrisy from the socalist comrades.

All we want is a stable population. It’s nothing to do with race, immigration or emigration.

Robin: “All we want is a stable population. It’s nothing to do with race, immigration or emigration.”

That is extremely difficult to arrange without draconian controls over births and migration. Business organisations, especially the CBI, are being very explicit in voicing concerns about Conservative rhetoric on introducing tougher immigration controls because of the restrictions that will impose on business in recruiting the skills business needs for expansion.

Try this:

David Cameron’s immigration policy was under heavy fire on Thursday night, as London mayor Boris Johnson and the boss of the CBI employers’ organisation warned it was undermining the British economy. [!5 November 2012]
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/813f02be-2f48-11e2-8e4b-00144feabdc0.html

Feodor: Would you accept agency nurses as a more appropriate example? They’re definitely more expensive, and they probably deliver a lower standard of care, at least if common anecdote is to be believed – yes, with some reservations.

*If* the reason you’re bringing in agency staff is because you have good reason to believe the demand will be temporary, then they are a good idea: otherwise, you will end up employing people who aren’t needed or employing people in the knowledge you’ll end up laying them off.

If the reason you’re bringing them in is because they come out of a different budget or because senior management has imposed a hiring freeze irrespective of your department’s needs, then it’s a complete and utter waste of money.

Robin: so you’re broadly looking for somewhere with North Korea’s control over migration and China’s control over family planning then? Nice.

John B: ‘*If* the reason you’re bringing in agency staff is because you have good reason to believe the demand will be temporary, then they are a good idea’.

Yes, but two things:

1) From talking to people in the profession, the general impression I get is that most of the temps are there more or less permanently. And this doesn’t only apply to nursing: I remember from my school days temporary teachers that were almost constantly there.

2) Even if the demand is temporary, hiring staff on flexible hours contracts would likely be both cheaper and also ensure higher standards.

John B: ‘…so you’re broadly looking for somewhere with North Korea’s control over migration and China’s control over family planning then?’

You’ve hit the nail on the head there John.

Indeed, it always amazes me how, in practice, the proposals of those ‘patriots’ who wish to preserve ‘our’ way of life would lead to a radical overhaul of our democratic and legal culture – in other words, they would destroy the very way of life they claim to be defending.

58. damon

” One thing I’ve never understood about the declining birthrate situation and how terrible that is said to be – couldn’t we just have managed slow decline? ”

The issue is not really about the size of the population or the birthrate per se. What matter is the dependency ratio i.e. the ratio of workers at the highest earning stages of their career and the amount of retired people their taxes are supporting.

All populations can be expressed as a type of pyramid. That is that at any given time there will be more 25 year olds than 90 year olds. Those aged 90 on average are more costly for the state than those aged 25. What happened after WW2 is we got a bulge in the population pyramid from the awful baby boomers. That bulge in the population pyramid never disappears until they start to die off, it just gradually moves up until they reach the top. Moreover, the baby boomers did not have enough children to replace themselves. Therefore, more pensioners and fewer taxpayers of a certain age was arithmetically inevitable. At the same time as we had a gap in the population pyramid we had in increase in life expectancy. So more pensioners depending on a tax base with a big gap in it. Moreover, the increase in life expectancy is great but it also means big increases in those who are very costly for public spending, the 85+. The number of dependent elderly is forecast to hugely increase in future years

UK immigration from the 1990s was partially to fill the gap in the labour force and population pyramid where the baby boomers children should have been.

Now people will immediately say, but of course youngish immigrants will also age as if no one had ever thought about that. Immigrants aging is not a problem as they are replacing themselves. So the problem is not whether the population is going up or down as long as it is balanced. A declining birthrate is fine so long as people do not hang around too long after they retire. A combination of declining birthrate at the same time as an increase in life expectancy can only lead to problems. We are currently facing those problems ( around half the NHS budget is being spent on the retired )Immigration has ameliorated some of the problems but we still face a challenge in future years of supporting so many pensioners at the costly end of the population pyramid.


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  1. Sunny Hundal

    'For a successful immigration policy the government needs to take action in three areas' http://t.co/qjmbmXRk

  2. Jason Brickley

    The protestors of Boston deserve a better answer on immigration http://t.co/fi1Qo21p

  3. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – The protestors of Boston deserve a better answer on immigration http://t.co/SfpnfStU

  4. Richard Darlington

    RT “@libcon: The protestors of Boston deserve a better answer on #immigration http://t.co/FST44eXN” argues @IPPR's @AliceSachrajda

  5. jack russell

    'For a successful immigration policy the government needs to take action in three areas' http://t.co/qjmbmXRk

  6. Peter Shilton Godwin

    “@libcon: The protestors of Boston deserve a better answer on immigration http://t.co/9XwHHdQo” h"How do we make space for grown up debate?





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