The Immigration Dividend

by Noah Tucker

Speaking in 2013, the Labour Party’s (then) Shadow Home Secretary coined an apt phrase for one of the worst features of British politics when she declared:

“…we won’t enter an arms race of rhetoric on immigration – and we hope the Prime Minister won’t either.”

But in other parts of that speech, Yvette Cooper took the initiative in that competitive spiral of anti-immigrant (not merely anti-immigration) policies and rhetoric, including the pronouncement that British child benefit and tax credits should not be paid to EU migrants for their children who are living abroad [1].

And in November of the following year, Ms Cooper and Rachel Reeves, who was at that time the Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, stepped up the ‘arms race’ with the declaration that the Labour Party would impose a two year ban on unemployed workers from other EU countries claiming JSA and other out-of-work benefits. Upping the ante for the Tories, David Cameron announced that EU citizens moving to the UK would be blocked from access (initially for up to four years) to in-work benefits including Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits. Dubbed the ‘emergency brake’, agreement to this proposal was later flagged up by Cameron as the biggest achievement of his negotiations with other European leaders prior to Britain’s referendum on EU membership.

Such escalating moves to deny benefits and services to migrant workers and their families exemplify the venomous and contradictory nature of the attitude to immigrants promoted by British establishment politicians. The policies and the rhetoric surrounding them are designed to rouse the indigenous or settled population against people from abroad; channeling dissatisfactions- which would more accurately be directed against austerity and rising inequality- into a nationalist vindictiveness which succeeds only in hurting the targeted group (particularly children, who are the beneficiaries of most of the benefits that will be lost) without bringing any gain whatsoever to working class UK citizens.

In their statements and public policy positions, right wing Labour politicians during and since the Blair years have employed the political method of triangulation- positioning the Party closer to the policies of the Conservatives in order to occupy the supposed ‘middle ground’.In practice, on some issues including that of immigration, the Tories then moved further to the right in order to maintain “clear blue water” between themselves and Labour, resulting in a competitive rightward stampede by both main parties; the Labour Party has echoed- or, worse, sought to sound more strident than- the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Conservatives; with the important difference that, unlike for the Tories, this has never resulted in any electoral advantage being gained by Labour.

In fact, the reverse has occurred, as the political beneficiaries of the discourse- which, encouraged rather than challenged, shifted in an even more xenophobic direction- have been the Tories and the ‘ultra-right’ parties. In 2015, Ed Miliband was persuaded to make ‘controls on immigration’ one of Labour’s five pledges for the general election. The Party’s election ‘pledge card’ highlighted the anti-immigrant proposals put forward by Yvette Cooper and Rachel Reeves, including the punitive declamation that “People who come here won’t be able to claim benefits for two years”-, fueling the falsehood that immigrants flock to the UK in order to take advantage of the benefits system, and feeding the corrosive myth of the ‘something for nothing benefits culture’.

To be fair, in the immigration section of the manifesto there were also a few worthwhile policies including “We will make it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers” and “We will end the indefinite detention of people in the asylum and immigration system”, but these were drowned out by statements such as “We will require people working in public-facing roles in public services to speak English”: fanning prejudice by elevating a non-issue (or at the most, a miniscule issue) to the level of a general election manifesto commitment.

“Fairness” and divisive nationalism

Through the election of its new leader, the Labour movement has expressed, among other things, an overwhelming rejection of the Party’s involvement in that kind of politics – but it has not yet put a stop to it. This was clear from the response of former cabinet minister Alan Johnson, Chair of the Labour Party’s pro-EU campaign ‘Labour In for Britain’, to Cameron’s so-called ‘emergency brake’. Alan Johnson supported the proposal while readily admitting that it will do nothing to achieve its stated aim of reducing migration from European Union countries. The Daily Telegraph reported:

David Cameron’s ‘emergency break’ [sic] proposal to restrict benefits to European Union workers will do nothing to curb migration, Alan Johnson has said.

The former Home Secretary said that he supported the principle of preventing EU migrants claiming in-work benefits for four years, but did not believe in-work benefits were a “draw factor” for migrants.
Asked if the measures would restrict migration, he said the benefits curb “was never going to do that” […]

He told the BBC’s Today Programme: “The issue of in-work benefits is not a draw factor…

“For British people the problem is not xenophobia, it’s not anti-Europe, it’s not any kind of racism – overt or covert; it’s a fairness argument, it’s that you should be putting something into the system before you draw anything out.”

Despite his denial of xenophobia, Johnson’s ‘fairness’ argument (chiming in again with Conservative rhetoric about the ‘something for nothing’ culture), feeds off and encourages a divisive nationalism.

As Alan Johnson knows very well (given that he was a minister in the New Labour government which introduced Child Tax Credits and Working Tax Credits) the benefits that will be impacted by the ‘emergency brake’ were specifically aimed at reducing poverty, hence are non-contributory. They will continue to be so, for individuals and families of UK origin [2]; thus for example where the worker has recently left school or college; was out of employment while caring for children; or indeed, is a British citizen who was previously living abroad; and who may therefore have paid not a penny into the UK income tax and National insurance system- nevertheless they and their children will be entitled to claim the full applicable amount of these benefits.

So the principle of “putting something into the system before you draw anything out” will only be imposed on the families of ‘foreign’ workers from the EU, not those of UK origin. How can that be based on a ‘fairness argument’? Conversely, how can it possibly be represented as unfair that a tax credit equally benefits two children whose parents have different countries named on their EU passports but who may work side by side, doing the same job and drawing the same pay, perhaps even living as neighbours; and between whom there are no differences in the amount they have, as individuals, contributed to the UK exchequer? Here the poison of nationalist ideology plays its part. The equal treatment is regarded as unfair because of an understanding that having contributed (or otherwise) depends not on what that individual or family has or has not done, but on on membership of one or other of two ascribed groups: with ‘we’ the British being assumed to have, as a community, already paid our way, whereas ‘the foreigners’, collectively, are supposedly drawing out of the system before putting something in.

In reality of course, migrants from the EU (including, when considered separately, those from Eastern Europe) make an overall tax contribution considerably higher than the payments they receive in state benefits, and their net financial contribution per person is also greater on average than that of people of UK origin.

Of course the ‘emergency brake’ will do nothing- nor is that its intent- to alleviate the problems which people commonly regard as being made worse by immigration from Eastern Europe: competition for jobs, downward pressure on wages, and pressure on the availability of public services.

That a policy proclaimed as a ‘brake’ on immigration is predicted to result neither in any perceptible reduction in immigration, nor amelioration of any of the problems ascribed to immigration, should not at all be seen as a failure of the policy, but rather as a major plus point for its originators. Success for the Conservatives, and other establishment and right wing politicians, on the immigration issue is based on balancing on the one hand, the political advantage won for them by fanning anti-immigrant feelings, and on the other hand, promoting the interests of the big companies and the very rich, who accrue big gains from the economic benefits brought by inward migration.

The context of prejudice

These benefits have a long and significant history. Skills and production methods brought by the Huguenots, who left France due to religious persecution, and also by Dutch workers and technicians who moved to England, were key in preparing the way for the early industrial revolution in Britain, fostering technological development in several important sectors including textiles, metalware, paper production and printing.

Of the industrial revolution itself, as Frederick Engels remarked in 1844:

The rapid extension of English industry could not have taken place if England had not possessed in the numerous and impoverished population of Ireland a reserve at command.

Noting that Irish workers (who were accustomed to lower rates of pay and worse living conditions than were the English workers) were migrating to the main industrial centres in England, Engels commented:

With such a competitor the English working-man has to struggle […] Nothing else is therefore possible than that, as Carlyle says, the wages of English working-man should be forced down further and further in every branch in which the Irish compete with him. And these branches are many. All such as demand little or no skill are open to the Irish.

The advantages that the influx of Irish labour produced in terms of the development of the English economy were not perceived, by the English workers, to result in improvements for themselves- rather, as Engels’ collaborator Karl Marx was to observe, there was much resentment by English working class people against their Irish colleagues:

Every industrial and commercial centre in England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life […] He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the “poor whites” to the Negroes in the former slave states of the U.S.A.

Today the advantages derived from employing workers from overseas also fall into distinct patterns; ranging from, at the higher paid end of the Labour market, access to a much wider pool of skills and knowledge; to, at the lower paid end, a supply of workers who are prepared to perform demanding tasks, often in uncomfortable conditions, for lesser rates of pay than most UK-born workers with comparable skills and qualifications would accept for such work. Much labour that is in the lower paid categories of employment is currently carried out by immigrant workers. Over a quarter of workers classed as ‘operatives’, and more than a third of those in ‘elementary occupations’ are of non-UK origin, a high proportion of whom are EU citizens from Eastern Europe.

However, despite their high concentration in lower paid occupations, EU migrant workers in the UK, including those from Eastern European countries, have on average a considerably higher level of education and qualifications than their UK-born counterparts- so, for a particular rate of pay, and in a given occupation, employers are in general likely to be accessing workers who are more highly educated when they hire non-British EU employees.

It is important to note that the current downward effect of economic migration on wages in some sectors is expressed in the context of a ‘liberalised’ labour market, characterised by reduced trade union power, private ownership, and cuts in the public sector. The immigration from Britain’s (former) colonies from the 1950s to the ‘mid- ‘70s, while much of industry was nationalised, trade union membership and influence were rising, and public services were expanding, did not stand in the way of the substantial improvements in pay achieved by manual and ‘less skilled’ workers in that period. It is notable that the upsurges in support for specifically anti-immigrant organisations and political figures during that period, associated with openly racist rhetoric, coincided with economic crises and events which, however temporarily, threatened that ‘forward march’ of working class living standards.

Another way to look at this is that the economic gains from inward migration- as with the benefits of other changes, for instance improvements in production technology- are shared more and more unequally, increasing proportions going to the owners of capital and the very rich, and less going to the majority, particularly the lower-paid, the more that society reverts back towards pure capitalism.

There is clearly a ready potential available for unscrupulous media outlets and politicians to exploit. But as surely, people’s direct experiences are not the main factor in creating a mood of anti-immigrant indignation, or, with the anti-immigrant narrative barely challenged, its harmful impact on the electoral fortunes of the Labour Party.

Research shows consistently that a high proportion of people regard immigration as a major problem for the country, but relatively few see the issue as a problem in their own locality or for themselves personally; furthermore, anti-immigration feeling among the ‘native’ population is lowest where there are relatively high numbers of immigrants, and vice versa. Indeed, it was in London, and in the other urban areas of England with substantial proportions of non-UK born residents, that the electorate, including the white, UK-born voters, gave big swings to the Labour Party in the 2015 general election.

Sharing the dividend

Thus there is potential also, for a Labour Party which renounces anti-immigrant rhetoric and punitive policies against migrants, and instead proposes to ensure a fairer distribution of the economic gains of immigration. Some recent party policies contain what could be described as the malformed seeds of such proposals; one being the Migration Impact Fund, which was set up by Gordon Brown’s government in 2008.

This was a shoddy initiative in three ways: firstly, the funding for it was raised by levying an additional £50 charge on the price of a visa for the (usually not at all wealthy) people from outside the EU who apply to stay in the UK; secondly, the amounts available to be allocated to local authorities were miserably low, with a meagre £30 million available per year for the whole of the UK. Thirdly, as the name of the scheme demonstrated, instead of aiming to redistribute the benefits of migration, it highlighted the downsides of immigration on local communities and provided a paltry, imperceptible sum to mitigate for these.

On taking office in 2010, the Tory / Liberal coalition abolished the scheme, although of course they maintained the £50 increase in visa fees.

In 2014 the Labour Party mooted a revival of the Migration Impact Fund; but, not daring to propose anything that might lay it open to the accusation of increasing public spending, the proposal was that the European Union would be persuaded to set up and fund the scheme on an EU-wide basis and from within the existing EU budget. Certainly there is a strong case for the EU to provide proper financial support to Greece and other poorer EU members that bear the costs of being the European ‘front line’ of the refugee crisis. But how and why an EU-level migration impact scheme would or should benefit regions of Britain- which is not only one of the richest countries in the EU but which also currently reaps a massive overall economic and financial benefit from immigration- has not been explained.

Leaving aside the ‘dynamic’ positive impacts of inward migration on economic development, and considering only the financial inputs and costs of new immigrants for the British government and public sector, a conservative estimate puts the net fiscal benefit to the UK of immigration since 2001 as approximately £2.5 billion every year. A modest fraction of this sum (let us say 20%), allocated to local authorities by the British government on the basis of a formula combining local levels of immigration and social need, would make a very perceptible difference to councils’ ability to provide decent services. Such a proposal (though without a suggestion for the amount of funding to be allocated) is supported by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

It is crucial that the scheme is given a positive title such as the Immigration Dividend, as key parts of its function will be to make the benefits of migration more apparent, and ensure that these are felt via redistribution. It should be financed within the increase in public provision which is necessary in any case to recover from the effects of austerity; an increase which should itself be funded from higher taxation (both in the rate of taxation and the amount of tax actually collected) on the ultra-wealthy and big business- who have been, directly and indirectly, the biggest financial gainers from immigration.

More broadly, the Labour Party’s rhetoric and policies must show that united, rather than divided by nationalistic ideology and xenophobia, and moving away from the ‘free market’ towards nationalisation, expanding public services, the repeal of anti-trade union laws and the promotion of trade union representation, we can ensure that economic benefits, not just from migration but from other changes including increased international trade and advances in technology, are gained by working class people and are felt widely in society, rather than being accrued or squandered by those who already have the most.

Footnotes:

[1] This facile proposal will probably result in additional public expense rather than savings, as parents are likely to respond by bringing their children over from the home country to reside with them in Britain; thus the costs of the children’s schooling will be paid via the UK treasury.

[2] On the other hand, in the longer term the denial of benefits to EU migrants is likely to become an additional ‘thin end’ for the wedge of the ongoing cuts and abolition of welfare benefits for UK citizens.

References:

Yvette Cooper, speech on immigration:

Article by Rachel Reeves:

Public perceptions and media influences:

Fiscal benefits of migration:

37 comments on “The Immigration Dividend

  1. Matt on said:

    Noah,

    many thanks, a really useful article!

    Do you (or anybody else out there?) have links for reliable material on the effect immigration is having on wages in our current situation?

    Cheers,

    Matt

  2. Tony on said:

    “In the most shameless section, he implied that immigrants were the main cause of drug dealing and crime. They would be thrown out. For that excursion into Tebbitry, he was rewarded with the endorsement of the retired Tory polecat. In an ugly phrase that would come to haunt him, he talked of ‘British jobs for British workers’

    This was a slogan of the BNP and a promise that could not be kept unless Britain left the European Union.

    The speech was nevertheless rewarded with a prolonged standing ovation from a Labour Party currently happy to worship the man who had put them back ahead in the polls”.

    Gordon Brown’s Conference speech 24 September 2007.

    Quotes by Andrew Rawnsley

    , “The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour” by Andrew Rawnsley (Viking 2010) hardback edition, p502.

    Lest we forget.

  3. I was recently involved in a live Brexit debate on RT.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AHJNFetl78

    My position on Brexit is that I believe it will win the referendum on June 23rd based on the traction gained by the anti immigration argument. If and when it does come to pass, and if as anticipated the national voting spread reveals a majority in Scotland supporting Remain, I will immediately support the call for a second referendum on Scottish independence and throw my weight behind an independent Scotland within the EU.

    For then it will be inarguable that the working class in England has been won to racism and the reactionary politics of UKIP.

  4. I believe it will win the referendum on June 23rd based on the traction gained by the anti immigration argument.

    I believe Britain will vote to remain. All the recent polling and this supposed “leave” traction will do is mobilise the “Remain” vote. The British are a notoriously small “c” conservative bunch and I think such a cataclysmic step is beyond them.

    That’s not to say that the “Remain” campaign hasn’t been terrible up to now, especially Cameron’s role and the pushing of the fear factor in a way which is about as subtle as a lead cosh.

    Agree with you about Scotland should it happen.

  5. For then it will be inarguable that the working class in England has been won to racism and the reactionary politics of UKIP.

    Lexit will claim it as a progressive step – even revolutionary!

  6. jock mctrousers on said:

    John: it will be inarguable that the working class in England has been won to racism

    Yes, we’d have to disband the people and elect another, or whatever it was that Brecht said – import another? Well, John supports open borders – at least he’s open about it.

    Yes, all studies have shown that mass immigration increases GDP ( how could it not, by definition?), that nearly all wealth increase resulting (if any) accrues to the top 10%, and the only damage is a ” slight decrease in the living standards of the lowest paid workers” – that is those who are turning up at food banks, spare bedroom scroungers and the like – would you call them lumpen proletariat? Racists?

    Got that? Mass immigration is no problem because it only hurts the poorest of the poor, possibly terminally. Only a racist could have a problem with that.

  7. George Hallam on said:

    jock mctrousers,

    An excellent post.

    Inevitably, I have a few quibbles.

    Could you give a source?

    Any increase in GDP depends on the generation of more monetary activity.

    There is also the negative impact migration has on the donor country, but only an internationalist would be concerned about that. 🙂

  8. John on said:

    jock mctrousers: Mass immigration is no problem because it only hurts the poorest of the poor, possibly terminally. Only a racist could have a problem with that.

    The enemy is no longer capitalism it is migrants. What a resounding victory for the far right.

    Lenin’s ‘useful idiots’ are in our midst in our time.

  9. John on said:

    jock mctrousers: Yes, we’d have to disband the people and elect another, or whatever it was that Brecht said

    Brecht also said that the worst illiterate is the political illiterate. And the political illiteracy of the pro-Brexit left, the monumental ideological collapse they have suffered, is such that there is no coming back.

    You’re gone. On the dark side. Lying down with the dogs and the dregs of the far right.

    Farewell. It was nice knowing you.

  10. jock mctrousers on said:

    George Hallam: Could you give a source?

    Do I NEED to give a source? You’ve seen this argument as often as I have; every time the topic comes up someone comes up with studies which show that immigrants pay more in taxes than they take out the system (no, I’ve NEVER seen a source for THAT!), and increase GDP (like I said) and it’s all hunky dory except that there’s a slight ‘downward pressure’ on the lowest paid… that last bit is always like an afterthought, as if it didn’t matter. I’ve seen it suggested that the damage to the lowest paid can be ‘mitigated’ by redistributive measures like tax credits… well, how did that work for ya?

    And thank u George Hallam for pointing out what I forgot to mention here; what on earth is socialist about depriving poorer countries of their most valuable resource, their skilled labour, so our elites don’t have to shell out the tax to train our own?

    John: The enemy is no longer capitalism it is migrants

    Yes, just cry ‘racism’! That always clinches it.

    John: You’re gone. On the dark side

    What side of the barricades are YOU on? Oh! We can’t have barricades! OPEN BARRICADES!

    Or to put it another way: does mass immigration make it easier or harder to organise a fight against capitalism, or even just its worst excesses? ANSWER: harder, MUCH harder! And there is a growing general awareness of this. Even if not articulated or understood as such, people sense that mass immigration makes us all a sitting duck for the boss class.

    John: Farewell. It was nice knowing you.

    Where are you going? To the Open Borders club? Is it a big club? Big enough to fill an office in Thames House, for instance?

  11. jock mctrousers on said:

    To be fair, John has sort of addressed my points in his original post… sort of!
    First thing: mass immigration is treated as an imperative, a goal in its own right. Secondly, take the quote below: is this ‘inarguable’? Sources? Or is it a mixture of wishful thinking and science fiction? Who’s going to do this? When?

    ” … a conservative estimate puts the net fiscal benefit to the UK of immigration since 2001 as approximately £2.5 billion every year. A modest fraction of this sum (let us say 20%), allocated to local authorities by the British government on the basis of a formula combining local levels of immigration and social need, would make a very perceptible difference to councils’ ability to provide decent services. Such a proposal (though without a suggestion for the amount of funding to be allocated) is supported by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

    It is crucial that the scheme is given a positive title such as the Immigration Dividend, as key parts of its function will be to make the benefits of migration more apparent … “

  12. Noah on said:

    Matt:

    Do you (or anybody else out there?) have links for reliable material on the effect immigration is having on wages in our current situation?

    Bank of England Staff Working Paper No. 574: The impact of immigration on occupational wages: evidence from Britain – Stephen Nickell and Jumana Saleheen.

    “We find that the immigrant to native ratio has a small negative impact on average British wages. This finding is important for monetary policy makers, who are interested in the impact that supply shocks, such as immigration, have on average wages and overall inflation. Our results also reveal that the biggest impact of immigration on wages is within the semi/unskilled services occupational group.”

    “Once the occupational breakdown is incorporated into a regional analysis of immigration, the immigrant-native ratio has a significant small impact on the average occupational wage rates of that region. Closer examination reveals that the biggest effect is in the semi/unskilled services sector, where a 10 percentage point rise in the proportion of immigrants is associated with a 2 percent reduction in pay.”

    http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/research/Documents/workingpapers/2015/swp574.pdf

  13. George Hallam on said:

    jock mctrousers: Do I NEED to give a source? You’ve seen this argument as often as I have; every time the topic comes up someone comes up with studies which show that immigrants pay more in taxes than they take out the system (no, I’ve NEVER seen a source for THAT!), and increase GDP (like I said) and it’s all hunky dory except that there’s a slight ‘downward pressure’ on the lowest paid…

    Sorry I asked.

  14. brianthedog on said:

    More evidence of those disgusting working class types. I suppose giving them a democratic say shouldn’t be allowed as they are all thick racist bigots. Why don’t these idiots not listen to middle class journalists and the political elites. The world’s gone mad and don’t these inbred peasants do as their told by their betters. (sarcasm alert)

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2016/jun/14/labour-supporters-brexit-stoke-on-trent-eu-referendum-video

  15. Andy H on said:

    Few seem to be listening to white working class brexiters to understand what’s driving their views and why immigration has touched a raw nerve for them. My interpretation from conversations in my area (usually staunch labour, but incidentally one of the few places to elect BNP county councillors in their surge a few years ago) – it may be representative, or it may just be my small corner of the world, but I thought it may inform the conversation:

    They liked their community they way it was. No one ever asked them if they would be happy to swap increased economic growth for such a fundamental change to the cultural and religious make up of their community and the people in it. They see it as a change imposed on them by others, and not only have they no way of rejecting or stopping it, there is a feeling that they will be called racists. There is a feeling of betrayal, that if those in charge are not going to defend their culture and community, then no one will. The council / politicians / those in charge are more interested in helping others who haven’t grown up here – its a fairness thing, mixed with some tribalism I think.

    I don’t find very much in the way of real bigotry or racism – what I do find is that like many people across cultures they like living next to lots of people with the same shared experiences, religion, culture and experiences growing up. This is / has been taken away from them, and the abstract discussions on the economic benefit not only mean nothing, they don’t get to the heart of the people and no one gets what the issue is. No one speaks up for them in the way they want. They don’t want more outsiders coming in to atomise the community any more – its not that they think muslims / poles / etc are bad people, its just they like their own community and don’t want to lose any more of it.

    Take from that what you will. @John – interested in your view given you seem to be writing off the English working class as un-redeemable right wingers.

  16. brianthedog on said:

    brianthedog:
    More evidence of those disgusting working class types. I suppose giving them a democratic say shouldn’t be allowed as they are all thick racist bigots. Why don’t these idiots not listen to middle class journalists and the political elites. The world’s gone mad and why don’t these inbred peasants do as they’re told by their betters. (sarcasm alert)

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/video/2016/jun/14/labour-supporters-brexit-stoke-on-trent-eu-referendum-video

    Pretty certain the Pottery factory that Guardian journalist John Harris visited is a GMB unionized site. Working class trade union members one after the other saying they are voting to leave.

    But hey they are just thick racists proles, right?

  17. jack on said:

    jock mctrousers: Do I NEED to give a source? You’ve seen this argument as often as I have; every time the topic comes up someone comes up with studies which show that immigrants pay more in taxes than they take out the system (no, I’ve NEVER seen a source for THAT!), and increase GDP (like I said) and it’s all hunky dory except that there’s a slight ‘downward pressure’ on the lowest paid… that last bit is always like an afterthought, as if it didn’t matter. I’ve seen it suggested that the damage to the lowest paid can be ‘mitigated’ by redistributive measures like tax credits… well, how did that work for ya?

    So, no source then and no evidence?

  18. brianthedog: But hey they are just thick racists proles, right?

    I very much doubt they are thick, I don’t know what you mean by “proles” in this context. I don’t dispute that they are trade union members, probably GMB members who were formally in the Unity ceramic union.

    As you know with union members, some will be racist, most will not. However, I also know from my own experience talking to people that the driving motivation for voting Leave for most people is immigration and antagonism to migrants.

  19. brianthedog on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Just to be very clear I don’t think the workers at that factory who were interviewed and were likely to be GMB members were thick or racist. It was reference to your co-blogger who thinks that anyone who calls for a vote to leave the EU is a either a dog, racist and a fascist.

    A lot of people have an issue with what they call immigration but what is in reality uncontrolled free movement of labour within the EU from East to West. Capital is exploiting workers leading to brain drain and underdevelopment in the east and low paid workers in the UK seeing their wages supressed and more competition for public resources that are being cut back by EU driven austerity.

    We have to ask why so many working class people are feeling so alienated and ignored and see the EU referendum as an opportunity to be heard. The left has abandon the working class in many ways so we should not be surprised when the right steps in to feel the gap.

    I’d be interested to know what is your answer and solution to people saying to you that immigration (uncontrolled free movement of labour) is the main driving force for voting to leave, because I feel that often the labour movements response that its a only ever a good thing and there is nothing we can do about it is falling on death ears and feeding into the right wing.

  20. brianthedog,

    Quite clearly John and I are different people, and we don’t always agree. Specifically, we are not arguing the same thing over immigration and the EU debate where I do think that “social dumping” has had a negative impact on the Labour market.

    As I don’t have the same view as him, I am not going to defend his position.

    Nevertheless I think you have misunderstood him on this, I am pretty sure that John is arguing that because the mainstream Brexit campaign has weaponised the issue of immigration to the degree it has, then left exiteers are making a strategic error in pushing for a Brexit that would – in the actually existing political context – only benefit the right and institutionalise xenophobia.

    Sadly the nature of internet polemic is that it can become unruly

  21. Gavin on said:

    brianthedog:
    Andy Newman,

    A lot of people have an issue with what they call immigration but what is in reality uncontrolled free movement of labour within the EU from East to West. Capital is exploiting workers leading to brain drain and underdevelopment in the east and low paid workers in the UK seeing their wages supressed and more competition for public resources that are being cut back by EU driven austerity.

    You should also ask yourself why the working class in the East is so pro-EU at the moment. Over 80% of Polish society view the EU positively for example. Prior to EU entry, the Eastern European countries teconomies had already been deindustrialised and brought into the international division of labour as a peripheral economy. The process of joining the EU deepened this process (although it would have happened without it) as a range of new neo-liberal reforms were foisted upon it. But once in the EU these countries have gained a large transfer of EU funds that allowed governemnts (particularly in Poland) to raise public investment (these are the only significant positive transfer of capital to these countries since the end of Communism) Also, workers in these countries were able to move and find work in other countries (i.e. not only capital but also labour for the first time was free to move). The wish to close Britain’s borders would mean taking away this right and would further impoverish the working class in the East. The call for Brexit to control borders in the UK represents the supposed interests of a privileged section of the European working class – i.e. an aristocracy of labour.

  22. brianthedog,

    But it isn’t the Labour movement response to say that immigration is only a good thing. We oppose the impact of the Viking and Laval judgements, we oppose the Posted Workers Directive, and we oppose recruitment agencies that only take people on abroad (as Next did).

    We can and do also organise migrants, sometimes with success, to prevent their exploitation and prevent them being used to undercut wages and T&Cs of indigenous workers.

    We do need to control the social impact of population movement, whether internal within the UK or across borders.

    But the measured way the labour movement seeks to deal with immigration is a world apart from the bombastic and dangerous nonsense from Farage and co.

    The difficulty is that the Labour movement approach is completely drowned out

  23. Gavin,

    You are of course correct, and the paradox is that as trade unionists in an advanced 1st world nation our collective strength is often about defending a status quo based on such inequality.

    However, no one would argue that the unions are wrong to campaign against a UK workforce being laid off so that a company can get that work done cheaper abroad, as BA are currently seeking to do with their IT dept moving to India, against union opposition.

    It is not the union’s job to consider the positive impact those jobs would have on the Indian economy.

    The same issue – in principle – arises with the Posted Workers Directive, where workers could be engaged on lower wages abroad and then deployed in the UK

  24. Gavin on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Andy Newman:
    Gavin,

    You are of course correct, and the paradox is that as trade unionists in an advanced 1st world nation our collective strength is often about defending a status quo based on such inequality.

    However, no one would argue that the unions are wrong to campaign against a UK workforce being laid off so that a company can get that work done cheaper abroad, as BA are currently seeking to do with their IT dept moving to India, against union opposition.

    It is not the union’s job to consider the positive impact those jobs would have on the Indian economy.

    The same issue – in principle – arises with the Posted Workers Directive, where workers could be engaged on lower wages abroad and then deployed in the UK

    I absolutely agree with this. It is also not in the interests of EE workers to be exploited through social dumping. The huge challenge for the European labour movement is protecting labour standards, whilst supporting the free-movement of

  25. Matt on said:

    Gavin:
    I absolutely agree with this. It is also not in the interests of EE workers to be exploited through social dumping. The huge challenge for the European labour movement is protecting labour standards, whilst supporting the free-movement of

    And not just labour standards, but also access to housing, healthcare and schools.

  26. Gavin: The wish to close Britain’s borders would mean taking away this right and would further impoverish the working class in the East.

    Interesting that closing the border between the German Democratic Republic and West Germany had the immediate effect of stopping the brain and resources drain from East to West and led to the substantial growth in GDR living standards.Like the free movement of capital and labour, restrictions on the free movement of both underpin national sovereignty.

  27. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman:
    Nick Wright,

    “Hello, is that the 1960s on the line? What’s that? You want Nick Wright back?”

    Does this mean that Nick Wright is going to get a mullet and a fast petrol guzzling motorcar whilst being politically incorrect to those around him?

  28. John Grimshaw,

    If I had invented the means to grow enough hair to style a mullet my fortune would be made and no one would recognise me. I never learnt to drive until the mid 80s but I had a really good time in the sixties. As far as I remember.
    I model my political correctness on The example of John Wight.