UKIP, a political party whose polices are based on a profound fear of immigrants, has just had their first MP elected by the people of Clacton, a town which is over 90% white British, with hardly any immigrants.
Yet in London – one of the world’s most diverse ethnic cities, where less than 50% are white British and over 300 languages are spoken – UKIP did particularly badly in this year’s European elections. They retained their one and only London seat, but gained no more, whereas Labour doubled its number of MEPs.
So the real issue in Clacton cannot really be immigration – even though opinion polls reported that immigration was the number one concern for Clacton voters in this byelection.
The problem is actually poverty and deprivation, and this was exploited by the UKIP party who have a simple answer: it’s the EU and all those immigrants who are making you poor and fedup (even though hardly any immigrants actually live in your town, but we won’t mention that, will we?)
The politics of fear..
We know from history where irrational and fearful scapegoating of immigrants and foreigners can lead.
Clacton is the second most deprived seaside resort in England and has been nicknamed “Poverty on Sea”. Its unemployment rate is around 50%. In a town of 55,000 people, there was recently recorded just 501 job vacancies. The median household income in Clacton is £13,648 compared with £24,242 nationally. Clacton has the highest proportion of retired residents in the country. These are the real issues that need to be tackled.
How could mature, rational and compassionate politicians better combat UKIP and their dangerous mantra against immigrants? By standing up, boldly and confidently, to say that immigration is not the problem. The problem is one of poverty and deprivation; lack of employment opportunities; lack of investment in the poorest towns and areas of the country; a lack of hope for the future.
The blame game..
‘Free movement’ also works both ways. There are as many British migrants now living in the rest of Europe as migrants here from the rest of Europe. If all the EU migrants here went home, and all Britons in the rest of the EU came home, the population of Great Britain would be about the same as it is now. The numbers could not be better balanced.
Britons make more use of ‘free movement of people’ across our continent than any other EU country. Britain is Europe’s biggest exporter of people to the rest of Europe.
There is no evidence of a problem of ‘benefit tourism’. Citizens from other parts of our continent come here for jobs, not benefits: if there are no jobs, they mostly either don’t come, or just go home. Blaming immigration for our downfall is not only disingenuous, it has the danger of creating a nasty, xenophobic, intolerant society. Is that what we want for Britain?
Not many were complaining in 2004 when east and central Europeans first arrived here to enthusiastically work on our farms, in nursing homes, in catering, in building… and helped our businesses to thrive.
The complaints mostly came after the world-wide economic crash in 2008, but that wasn’t the fault of east Europeans, was it?
Eyes on the prize..
We need a political party to say it will devote energy and imaginative ideas into the difficult, forgotten and poorer parts of the UK, with a generous investment programme, to rebuild infrastructure; encourage new enterprise; build many more affordable homes; assist with re-education and lifelong learning initiatives; help the unemployed to train for new skills or even to start their own businesses; offer incentives to companies (yes, even foreign ones) to re-locate to the towns where people need more work….
The problem is not too many immigrants. The problem is too few enlightened politicians who can sell us a vision of Britain as a modern, cosmopolitan, fair-minded and forward looking European nation, where all citizens have the opportunities to make real progress…
See also: Clacton and the politics of fear - updated version of this article published by British Influence
— Jon Danzig (@Jon_Danzig) October 11, 2014
— British Influence (@britinfluence) October 17, 2014
Other articles by Jon Danzig:
- What Nigel Farage told British expats in Spain
- The free movement of people – it works both ways
- The value of being ‘citizens of Europe’