As British politicians vie with each other to compete for the xenophobe vote, the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols has become one of the few establishment figures to criticize the UK’s cruel and inhuman immigration policies. The Archbishop’s main criticisms were aimed at the government’s family reunion policies, which prevent British citizens from living with spouses who earn less than £18, 500.
This charming piece of legislation has left nearly 18,000 families permanently separated, forcing parents to communicate with their children via Skype to the point when some kids have begun to refer to the computer as ‘Mummy.’
Nichols has pointed out, with the understatement that one might expect from the leading Catholic cleric in the country that ‘There is something deeply unsavoury about the inhumanity with which immigration targets are being pursued.’
But he also went further, and argued that:
[stextbox id=”alert”]’there is a moral responsibility on all those in public life, including the media, to avoid stirring up irrational fears that feed prejudice. The fostering of mistrust and dislike of those who come to this country is the promotion of unjust discrimination, and unworthy of any true political leadership.[/stextbox]
Too true. But that sense of moral responsibility has been conspicuously absent from the British media and political class for some years now. Today the government has announced that it will be rushing through new controls that will impose a three-month period before European Union migrants will be able to claim benefits, starting this January.
These measures are the culmination of nearly 12 months in which British politicians and large sections of the media have done everything possible to make the public believe that the UK faces a mass influx of Bulgarian and Rumanian migrants hellbent on living a life on benefits.
No one, least of all the government, has ever produced any evidence that such an influx will take place, let alone that Bulgarian and Rumanian migration is somehow synonymous with ‘benefit tourism.’
But ho hum, who cares about facts or evidence when there are votes to be won? Thus Lord Snooty, in his infinite wisdom, insists that these measures are intended to ‘ send the clear message that whilst Britain is very much open for business, we will not welcome people who don’t want to contribute.’
Cameron went on to say that ‘The hardworking British public are rightly concerned that migrants do not come here to exploit our public services and our benefits system.’ So why would that ‘hardworking British public’ be so concerned?
Could it be because the Coalition and the British media have relentlessly fed its worst and most ignorant prejudices for political gain?
Yes it could. And they aren’t the only ones playing this disgusting game. Take shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper’s response to the new proposals. Cooper might have criticized the government for improvising legislation on the basis of evidence-free research in order to satisfy the Tory swamplands.
She might have called the government’s proposals into question by referencing last month’s European Commission report on the effects of migration on national benefit systems. The report found that ‘On average EU migrants are more likely to be in employment than nationals living in the same country’ and that there was ‘ little evidence… to suggest that the main motivation of EU citizens to migrate and reside in a different member state is benefit-related, as opposed to work or family-related.’
The report also noted that ‘ in most countries, immigrants are not more intensive users of welfare than nationals.’ Insofar as the UK is concerned, it concluded that ‘ considering all unemployment benefits… the UK is the only EU member state where there were less beneficiaries among EU migrants (1%) than among nationals (4%).’
Cooper might also have asked why the government chose last week to delay the publication of a Whitehall report on EU migration to the UK because its conclusions were ‘too positive.’ Instead she did none of those things. This is what she said:
[stextbox id=”alert”]’Labour called for these benefit restrictions nine months ago. Yet David Cameron has left it until the very last minute to squeeze this change in. Why is the government leaving everything until the last minute and operating in such a chaotic way? Three weeks ago Theresa May told parliament she couldn’t restrict benefits in time, now the prime minister says they can.'[/stextbox]
So the only thing wrong about the manufactured Bulgarian/Rumanian scare, in her opinion, is the fact that the government has imposed its restrictions too late, and in a ‘chaotic way,’ whereas Labour would have done it sooner.
Remind me why I should vote Labour again? Run that stuff about a progressive left-of-centre alternative to Tory barbarism?
No don’t bother. Because what I see is a party so desperate for power that it has absolutely no compunctions about getting down there in the government in the immigration gutter in an attempt to convince the public that it can be just as nasty, all under the pretext of addressing public ‘concerns’ and restoring ‘confidence’ in the immigration system.
So yes, Archbishop, I agree that we need ‘true political leadership’ on this issue. But we don’t have that.
What we do have is a collection of unprincipled, cynical and opportunistic politicians who are prepared to do whatever they think is necessary to win the next election, and if that means pandering to xenophobia, racism and prejudice, then so be it.