The weather was just too nice to stay indoors so I ventured out to Fletcher Moss Park to which people had flocked, lying on the grass, reading books, sitting on the many benches, playing games and generally being decadent, this being a double whammy of a sunny Bank Holiday.
The restaurants in the village were full with tables overflowing onto the pavement. Anxious to convince themselves of the luxury of sunshine, people went to great lengths to adopt a Mediterranean air, scarcely clad (some quite pleasantly so), sleeveless and sunhats while consuming salads and Chardonnay even on the shady side of the streets where it was a touch chilly to be honest. Funny people.
And of course the outbreak of convertible cars, roofs down or open, maybe blasting some music. Where did they spend the winter? Why is it that open-topped cars are so popular in rainy Britain? It is a puzzle but I must say it is very pleasant on those 5 days a year as long as you don’t mind the leaks on the other 360.
Here in Manchester people are from all parts of the world. It isn’t quite London but we are awash with languages, dress and custom from overseas. Two Spanish girls giggling while trying to ride the same bicycle in the park, families with small children playing cricket, students with Frisbees, people clearly from the Middle East or East Asia here in little ol’ Didsbury. Very pleasant, very international, very human.
Worry not – today was also a beautiful day but we are promised it will rain tomorrow. Phew.
But this led me to wonder why the recent elections in England’s shire (ie non-urban) counties have returned so many councillors from the UK Independence Party which ran largely on an anti-immigration policy. Are we really so hostile to foreign people? I think not.
So why UKIP’s electoral success? Why is it that for the past year there have been continuous negative comments and scare campaigns about the number of Bulgarians and Romanians who may settle in the UK next January? The British government has been trying to convince said people that Britain was an unpleasant place to live. Some politicians apart, it most clearly is not. Of course in our anglo-bulgarian family this is not only embarrassing but deeply insulting.
It all started with the wave of EU migrants in 2004. The government of the day commissioned research in 2003 which concluded that about 13,000 per year would arrive. ‘per year’ seemed to have been dropped and it got reported as 13,000, or minimal.
But the assumption was that all EU-15 countries would accept migrants. If Germany in particular applied transitional arrangements, the research estimated that number would increase to about 48,000 a year or, for the highest estimate of proposed migration to Germany, to 83,000 a year. In the event, all but Britain, Ireland and Sweden imposed transitional ‘arrangements’ (blocked immigration from the EU-8 completely) and the eventual arrivals were 66,000 a year according to the Office for National Statistics.
The report was about right, except it was mis-handled completely by parliamentarians clearly incapable of – or unwilling to – read the report, including Chris Huhne (currently a guest of Her Majesty for lying) who claimed to be a ‘former economist’. I’m glad he is no longer in parliament, let alone government, if that’s the standard of his literacy.
Wind forward to last year and the prospect of more EU-originated migration. Rather than dig into the report and find the source of the discrepancy, the government has seen it as an opportunity to blame the previous government for mishandling the issue. They did, but as now the present opposition, instead of pointing out the error, they have rolled over and said nothing. Pathetic parliamentarians, one and all.
Prime Minister Cameron thought he had an open goal and used it to maximum advantage to embarrass the opposition. This played nicely into the hands of UKIP, which has pointed out that it is EU migration, another nail in the Brussels coffin.
Cameron now has to find a way of responding to UKIP. He can’t without splitting his party. The inevitable result will be to move the Conservative party to the right, aided and abetted by former Conservative finance minister Nigel Lawson who has suggested that the UK would be better off outside the EU. Cameron forgot that Europe is the Conservative’s Achilles heel – UKIP is Cameron’s nemesis.
Under this smokescreen, no-one seems to have commented on two economic aspects of migration which transcend this latent nationalism.
- It is to the UK’s benefit to have an increase in well-educated, adult and willing workforce for which the UK has paid nothing by way of education and health care and which will help address the demographic geriatric time-bomb;
- The mirror of this is that the countries that have raised, educated and generally paid for the new migrants end up with the cost – exactly the problem that we will have (partially) avoided: an ageing population with no young people to support it.
This feature is common to all ‘donor’ countries – people from southern Europe to India ask why the UK is taking all their doctors. By coming to the UK, particularly professional people as well as entrepreneurs can make a good income and send substantial money ‘back home’. In their native countries, there is often no other way that even skilled workers can support their extended families. In Portugal, we are told, people cannot now afford the doctor which used to be free. So there is no work for them. Tragic. So as long as there is a reverse flow of funds, migration is a win-win for both countries.
The UK has not built enough houses over a long period of time and now, under the present austerity-centric administration, finds it cannot generate enough jobs. The answer to both these problems, and the way to grow the economy and solve the deficit crisis, lies in solving the supply of housing and jobs, not by reducing the demand for houses and jobs.
Which takes sensible management, not nationalist hubris.