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THE MYTHS ABOUT MIGRANT LABOUR AND LOW WAGE 


By Lee Jasper 

Friday, April 15, 2011.

Cameron whips up racism to hide the introduction of a permanent low wage economy.

In times of great economic crisis the temptation for politicians to whip up racism as a means of popular distraction is rarely resisted. Seeking to scapegoat “immigrants” and “foreigners” for the social and economic ills of the country is the last bastion of the political scoundrel.

This week, Cameron returns to his most popular domestic theme of late. Studiously ignoring the devastating social and economic impact of the spending cuts, remaining virtually silent on the mass revolt against the reform of the NHS, Prime Minister David Cameron has chosen to largely focus on Libya and speaking out occasionally against Alternative Vote (AV) electoral reform.

When it comes to playing the “immigration” race card our Prime Minister is a real eager beaver. Cast your minds back to February this year when Cameron claimed multiculturalism was a failed concept that fostered Islamic extremism. A speech delivered on the very day the racist English Defence League marched into Luton. I wrote about that speech at the time.

Now, the Prime Minister, just over two months since his last dangerous intervention, shamelessly re-enters the fray.  He accuses Labour of talking tough on immigration whilst doing nothing to bring the number down. Further he says that some immigrant communities refusing to integrate into the British society.

The PM also said,  "This approach had damaging consequences in terms of controlling immigration, but also in terms of public debate. It created the space for extremist parties to flourish, as they could tell people that mainstream politicians weren't listening to their concerns or doing anything about them."

Warming to his theme, he adds: "Migrants are filling gaps in the labour market left wide open by a welfare system that for years has paid British people not to work. That is where the blame lies – at the door of our woeful welfare system and the last government who comprehensively failed to reform it."

He argues that the Government's plans will cut immigration substantially.

"We said we would listen to people's concerns and get immigration under control. Today I can confidently say we are getting there. If we take the steps set out today, and deal with all the different avenues of migration, legal and illegal, then levels of immigration can return to where they were in the 1980s and 90s, a time when immigration was not a front-rank political issue. And I believe that will mean net migration to this country will be in the order of tens of thousands each year, not the hundreds of thousands every year that we have seen over the last decade."

There are several major flaws in Cameron’s analysis.  Firstly, he can no more control the growth of multiculturalism or globalisation than could the deluded King Canute hold back the tide. It’s just not in his gift to control immigration. The reality is that an increasingly aged work force and dropping birth rates and a reducing tax base means the economy needs human labour.

Secondly, Cameron is being disingenuous; as he knows that although he talks tough today about bringing the numbers down the reality is that big businesses, colleges and universities will demand the ability to bring in skilled workers wherever and whenever they are needed.

And of course there is the very real problem that British workers are far from willing to take those jobs that immigrants are more than willing to do. Remember the excellent BBC documentary The Day The Immigrants Left?  This programme explored what might happen when unemployed workers took on jobs occupied by migrants. The results were that the majority of those who claimed they could do the jobs on offer soon found themselves unable to cope with either the back breaking work, long hours or low pay. This reflects the sad fact that most British people do not want to do those jobs traditionally filled by migrant labour.

Finally, migrant workers are proven to be more motivated, work longer hours for less pay and start up more businesses than their British counterparts. Of course the linking of immigration with welfare benefit reform is the clue to the real political agenda.

This announcement is designed to whip up racism and to let those on benefit know that if they do not now take the jobs previously done by immigrants then they will lose their benefits.
That is the real agenda at play here using the touchstone of immigration to whip up racism as a distraction from the spending cuts whilst seeking to legitimate draconian welfare reform to force the unemployed into low paid jobs. This speech focus is to whip up racism and enforce a low wage economy onto an unwilling population.

Britain is immeasurably better country for the arrival of these hardworking and committed members of immigrant communities. Not only have they made an enormous economic contribution to the UK they have also changed the cultural fabric of the nation. If the immigrants left the UK tomorrow not only would the country grind to a halt but the nation as a whole would become a cultural hinterland absent of both difference and diversity. The fact that some supported the call for greater controls on immigration claiming they could not get local employment will now find themselves subject to welfare reforms that will force them to take low paid, part time, and seasonal jobs. There is a sort of deep irony here that I’m sure will be lost on most people. It illustrates the point that supporting racist policies has real consequences for all.

No doubt we will hear more about this subject in the run up to the local elections on May 5, 2011. What is clear is that the Government is expecting the worst and has decided that playing the race card may be politically advantageous.

Lee Jasper is a leading community activist and organiser. He blogs at http://leejasper.com

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