Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Immigration: Heads Buried in Westminster Sand

Cast your minds back to late April 2010, the day Gordon Brown’s microphone was left on following his encounter with Gillian Duffy and, after her reference to Eastern European immigrants, the word he used to describe her.

Fast forward back to today and we discover that nearly a third of people in Britain admit to being race prejudice (compulsory survey warning – the survey only sampled 2,000 people) and this is a significant rise since the all-time low in 2001.

Add to that the somewhat stunning success of UKIP in the recent elections, especially their ‘win’ in the European elections which, frankly, the Labour Party should have won hands down at this point in the electoral cycle and we can see that there is a large portion of the British people who are concerned about immigration in Britain.

An interesting, somewhat ironic, counterpoint to the survey news this morning were the images of immigrant camps and around 800 immigrants being cleared out in Calais, hardly images that will alter the views of those concerned with immigration.

Yet despite this obvious national concern with immigration the Westminster parties seem to treat those concerns somewhat contemptuously or, perhaps more accurately, simply failed to recognise the concerns of a sizable number of the electorate despite the endless warning signs of what is happening.

The Conservatives have been banging on about what they have achieved in terms of immigration yet are totally failing to convince many people of this. Obviously the images of the camps of people waiting to flood into Britain from just across the Channel do not exactly back up their narrative.

The Labour Party appear to have failed to learn the lesson from Gordon Brown’s experience and while they have been focusing on the cost of living issue they have failed to address the reason why many people feel there is a cost of living crisis, which is that to many immigrants have taken British jobs and are pushing down wages in the process. While not inherently true it is a popularly held belief and, as such, needs to be addressed by a party that wants the electorate to put them into Government next year.

Obviously the Liberal Democrats have suffered a killer blow because of this issue. Having been staunchly pro EU the implication is they are pro EU immigration and therefore quite happy with EU immigrants taking British jobs and, unless they take a stance that recognises the concerns of many of the electorate 2015 could be an even worse year for them.

Immigration is a potentially toxic issue which the politicians in Westminster would prefer to go rather than tackle it head on but by burying their heads in the sand they further increase the disillusion with politics in this country. They appear to seek power simply for powers sake rather than power to answer then concerns of the ordinary people who give them power in the first place.

The warning signs of increasing voter concern about immigration have been there since 2010 yet failure to truly address those concerns has resulted in the rise of UKIP which,  in turn, could give the three main parties in Westminster a real headache over the next 12 months.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Immigration and the Need for Sensible Debate

As we plunge headlong toward the European Parliament elections on May 22nd there seems to be little doubt that IMMIGRATION will be the hot topic of debate throughout the campaign, largely spurred by the rise of UKIP of late.

UKIP has managed to control the immigration agenda with its message of EU immigration puts Britain’s out of work.

Yet this message is over-simplistic and the ‘mainstream’ parties have failed to address this, allowing UKIP to control the immigration discourse. Over the next couple of months we really and truly need to see much more measured and logical debate on the subject, particularly because it is more than one single issue which means there should, in reality, be more than one debate on the issue.

There are at least four separate issues within that all-encompassing word ‘immigration’.

There is the issue of asylum. The blanket attack on immigration does not allow for the consideration of those whose lives are at risk by staying in their own country, are we, as a modern society, prepared to sit back while men, women and children are murdered by regimes which hold no care for human life, only their own greedily acquired thirst for power? While we can take action to try to halt those regimes from operating, these things take time and, in the meantime, obviously we, as a society, need to ensure there is no blood on our hands by leaving those at risk to die.

Then there is the issue of immigration control from outside the EU. Successive Governments have taken action to curb this but there is still a need for qualified workers in the UK to fill the skills gaps that exist. This is less an immigration issue and more a national one. Why do these skills gaps exist and why do Governments not take greater action to ensure that we have, for example, the right number of Doctors trained to meet national needs. By focusing resources on the skills gaps and ensuring that Britain has the necessary skilled workers to meet demand then this form of immigration naturally reduces.

Thirdly, and we are coming to the contentious issues now, is the free movement of peoples through the European Union. The is serious concern among many people about the effect of workers coming in from Eastern Europe, not only in terms of ‘taking’ jobs from British workers but also about pushing down wages.

However, this is as much about the effects of recession as it is about immigration.

When times are good and jobs are plentiful we need those migrant workers to fill the roles us natives often shun! Even now many migrant workers are needed to fill roles in social care to enable providers to operate, if we were to leave the EU and put in place a blanket ban on immigration our already crumbling social care system would be put into more crisis and the lives of many put at risk. Naturally it would be better then to work within the EU, and ask, if Eastern European members are in a state of poverty that forces their nationals to seek work elsewhere what is the EU doing to ensure those nations benefit, economically from membership?

Finally there is the issue of illegal immigration. We have all seen those images of migrants waiting at Calais to climb under lorries or jump on trains and this, to my mind, is the most important area of tackling immigration. It is ILLEGAL, therefore a criminal activity. It also fosters greater illegality as people traffickers con many out of money, and their livelihoods, smuggling them into the UK.

In terms of the EU debate it is obviously better to work within the EU to prevent illegal immigration. Those waiting at Calais have already entered the EU at some point and it is that issue that needs to be tackled, where are they entering and why are they not being stopped. That can only be tackled through cooperative working within the EU.

Leaving the EU would actually make matters worse. Not only would Britain have no leverage over people coming into the EU illegally, there is also the likelihood that those who currently have free movement within the EU would seek to enter the UK illegally.

Over the next few weeks there will be a lot of nonsense spouted about Immigration. It is times for politicians and the media to ensure that the real issues and sensible debate about those issues is at the forefront.

Twitter: @TonyButcher

Monday, 10 March 2014

Unemployment, A Personal Perspective

When I was made redundant at the end of November last year I optimistically thought getting a new would not be too much of an issue.

After all I am relatively well qualified, plentiful in terms of experience and a person with a lot to offer many different firms. Unfortunately the reality has been somewhat different and so I thought it worth sharing my thoughts on the experience so far.

The whole experience is mentally challenging. Many times I have myself slipping deeper into frustration and a sense of worthlessness, thankfully I can, usually, recognise the signs of when this is happening and manage to readjust my thinking but I imagine there are many people out there, in the same boat, who do not realise what is happening and that their mental health is becoming seriously challenged.

One reason is the apparent invisibility that you take on as an unemployed person. Endless applications seem to be swallowed by a black hole where you receive absolutely no acknowledgement of your application or any response, even to tell you that you do not have the job. The rare occasion that rejections are actually received they are so impersonal, automated messages that leave with no idea of why you have been rejected. Without this knowledge it is difficult to know what to do in the future to try and at least secure yourself an interview.

The more you fail to generate any sort of responses the more you feel invisible, frustrated and, at times, even stupid.

Added to this obviously is the pre-election fever by Government politicians keen to tell us that the economy is growing and more jobs are being created, well if that is the case where is mine! Or, if you are in a darker mood, why can’t I find one of those new jobs, why does nobody want to employ me?

Added to this is the technological age’s job searching methods that prove to be frustrating and exasperating. There are so many jobs websites nowadays and there is a need to check many of them just to try and ensure that you miss nothing yet at the same time many of these sites overlap so you find yourself looking at the same job a number of times because all sites are carrying it. The when you do try to apply you are redirected a number of times only to find that you don’t have all the criteria they are after anyway!

The worst of the sites is, undoubtedly, the Governments own Universal Jobmatch. Although it has been in the news for allegedly offering sex jobs it is also a haven for multi-level marketing jobs which disguise themselves with an imaginative variety of different job titles to lure you in. The site also fails in helping you match work to your skills, currently it is recommending, for me, a Head Chef role and a Veterinary role, despite being qualified in neither!

Obviously none of this is good for the soul and the longer it goes the more soul destroying it becomes.
Yet despite that it must be treated as a learning experience and I encourage anyone sinking in the same boat right now to put your lifejacket on and not get dragged down by the feelings of isolation, worthlessness and rejection.

To fellow job hunters – good luck and keep positive. To everyone else “I can do that, give us a job”


Friday, 7 March 2014

Thoughts on Ukraine

Did you watch the first episode BBC’s 37 Days?

The story of how the assassination of a member of the Austrian royal family in Serbia led, 37 days later, to the outbreak of the First World War with its unthinkable loss of life and impact on the World the affected the rest of the 20th Century.

Or, perhaps, many of you recall the events of the late 1930’s, when Germany began to ‘annexe’ areas of other countries on its ever extending borders.

All this may seem like history now but there are parallels with what is happening in Ukraine and Crimea.

Most of us may think why worry about a country we know little about or have any real interest in yet the political rhetoric being ramped up should be worrying for all of us.

The word ‘annexation’ has been used extensively to describe Russia’s military moves into Crimea, and the word ‘appeasement’ was used by one British reporter in a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron. All echoes of the late 1930’s.
Thankfully nowadays we know a lot more of what is happening and what politicians and diplomats are saying so we can have a greater insight into the issues and, hopefully, have greater influence on the outcomes and it is vitally essential that we do that.

In my view Russia needs to pull back.

They do have some legitimate concern, access to the Black Sea ports in Crimea has always been important to Russia, there is a sizeable ‘minority’ of Russians living in Ukraine and Ukraine is important Russia’s economy. Yet the apparent aggression of dealing with those concerns is excessive and wins Russia no friends when a more diplomatic solution would be considerably more beneficial, particularly economically, for Russia.

The ‘West’ needs to shut up! 

Unfortunately the rhetoric from the White House and EU leaders is hollow and making them look stupid. Claiming that Russia’s actions are against International Law, to quote President Obama “the steps Russia has taken are a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty, their territorial integrity — that they're a violation of international law”. Erm what about Iraq Mr President? If International law can be judged by precedents then the U.S. and Allies have paved the way for Russia’s actions.

The argument that the proposed referendum on Crimea moving toward Russia is unconstitutional is also hollow. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the current Government in Kiev, the fact remains that, it is, an unconstitutional one. The current Government is one imposed on the people of Ukraine and until there are fresh elections to legitimise that Government Russia will always have half an excuse to ‘protect its interests’.

What I would like to see is sensible diplomacy. Both Russia and the West must step back from their current positions. Both must work together to push forward elections in Ukraine and the creation of a Government elected by the people of Ukraine. Personally I would like to see the UN oversee those elections with suitably neutral officials!

Only once there is an elected Government in place then the talking about the future of Crimea and the future of the people of Ukraine can begin.

On Twitter: @TonyButcher
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