Gordon Brown’s recent promise of “British jobs for British workers” has reignited the debate about immigration. The right wing press is repeating tired headlines about Britain being overcrowded. The fascists will try to exploit those headlines to target vulnerable migrants.
Yet the same media encourages us to invest in Bulgarian property or move to the Dordogne. There are few features on Polish care workers who look after hundreds of elderly people in the north of Scotland. Nor will the media explain that the NHS relies on foreign doctors and nurses.
But another element has crept into the debate. Increasingly those who do argue that immigration benefits Britain are neoliberals who claim British people are “work shy” and too addicted to booze and benefits to want to work.
What they want is for employers to be free to employ whoever they want at whatever wage levels, hours and conditions they want.
Migrants are vital to British society. In welcoming them we should insist they and everyone else in this country receives a living wage and decent welfare provision.
Incapacity benefit cuts
Hitting the vulnerable
Newspaper Headlines claiming that 2,000 people are too obese to work were used this week to disguise New Labour’s nasty attack on some of the most vunerable people in Britain.
Benefits secretary Peter Hain wants to cut 20,000 from those claiming incapacity benefit. What New Labour dismisses as “sicknote culture” is a sign of the reality of work in Britain.
More than 2.5 million people claim incapacity benefit, not because they are scroungers but because they are ill or disabled. This is often as a result of work related injuries, or from the consequences of years of manual labour.
The stress of living on low wages and lower benefits leads to mental ill health, particularly depression. Benefit cuts – and the threat of them – are likely to make more people ill.
New Labour is also busy slashing civil service jobs in departments that are supposed to be helping people into work and cutting jobs for disabled workers in Remploy. Instead of facing draconian tests, disabled people should be helped to contribute to society rather than being presented as a “burden on society”.
Not a natural disaster
Thousands have died and millions more have had their homes and livelihoods destroyed by a cyclone in Bangladesh. This calamity is described, like the regular flooding that afflicts the country, as a “natural disaster”.
Cyclones are the result of sometimes unpredictable natural forces, but there is no reason why they should wreck so many lives. The technology required to forecast “freak weather” – and protect people from its effects – exists.
Bangladesh needs properly constructed storm shelters. It needs a flood defence and irrigation system, and public healthcare provision. The West has promised some of this to Bangladesh before, only for plans to be scaled down and withdrawn after the media has moved on.
With these basics millions of lives could be saved every year. But, as the trickle of international government aid demonstrates, the most that the poor of Bangladesh can expect is a relief operation to patch up their battered lives.