Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Migration and the Greater South East

An infographic about migration into the Greater South East republished on Julian’s Musings Blog claims:

Polls show that on average people think there are far more immigrants than there really are. – 31%

Meaning?
– 31% of people polled thought there were far more immigrants, or
– on average people thought there were 31% more immigrants than there really were?
Presumably the latter, but that probably says something about people’s willingness to assume that someone who speaks with a foreign accent or who is not white is an immigrant.

These sort of facts provoke so many other questions. For instance in Clacton, where apparently 47% are worried about immigration (Daily Mail survey) we find:

As evidence of immigration as normally understood (i.e. non-British nationals coming to live in the UK) even this figure is reduced by the fact that the biggest group of the non-British-born, excluding those from Ireland, recorded Germany as their place of birth – 625 German-born compared to the next biggest group, Polish-born, with 473. The German-born figure includes a large number of people who were born in the 1950s and 60s to British armed forces personnel stationed in military basis in the Rhineland region at that time. A group of 713 Africa-born shows up in the census statistics, most being assumed to be people of Indian subcontinent descent – most being people born in Uganda and Kenya – who are part of the local business community.
Migration Rights 1 September 2014 : A note on Clacton – Why the concern over migration?

So in a constituency with a (2011) electorate of 67,447 (Boundary Commission) which when you include the unregistered (under 18’s and transitory unregistered etc.) probably equates to a population of around 100,000 give or take 10,000, the number of people who migrant-phobics regard as “foreign” must be vanishingly small. Yet when they go into Hospitals or Care homes they probably find that these institutions are being held together by a disproportionate number of staff who xenophobes would regard as, bluntly, aliens.

The “fact” that they then over-estimate the number of migrants by only 31%, is I think unsurprising.

Concern over immigration has to arise from two sources:

  • Racism, “pure” and very simple. This first will never be addressed by a government that is so busy pandering to a party that is so appealing to the xenophobic.
  • A generalised concern about (i) strain on public services and (ii) competition for jobs and housing. This will never be addressed by a government that believes in deregulation and small government as a mantra.

A government that believes in deregulation (or “light touch” if it must) will not enforce the Minimum Wage, the Working Time Directive, Health and Safety regulations or housing regulations. This makes the country a magnet for economic migrants. It’s not the migrants’ fault (they are just seeking a better life – and if from the EU doing so legally), it’s the government’s fault – they and their predecessors made the laws, they should ensure that they are enforced. Perhaps it is a deliberate yet covert policy to drive down labour costs in general so that companies can make bigger profits.

I have no doubt that, particularly in the South East, public services (mainly health, education and what remains of social housing) are under strain due to population increases. Such increases are due to lower infant mortality in indigenous families, people living longer due to better health generally and migration from within and without the UK towards the economic sink hole that is London.

The infographic referred to above says the population of the Greater South East is 22.7m and has increased by 9.6% over an inter-census period of 10 years. That is a (compound) increase of 0.92% per year or about 209,000 in a year – and only 66,000 of this is accounted for by net migration – slightly under a third. Two thirds of the increase is due to internal factors.

A small-minded “small-government” administration will not react to these changes – believing that the “market will provide”. They think either the market will provide extra resources (free schools, buy to rent properties etc.) or the market pressure of scarcity will dissuade people from wanting to live in the area. Even those who believe in market forces would have to accept that sometimes (like now) the state has to be big enough to intervene and expand public services to match demand – or more radically address the regional disparities within our country so that London does not continue to be the swallow hole that it is.

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