No sooner has the general election campaign begun than a great lie about immigration has swamped the news headlines.
The Tories and most of the media reported as fact the claim that 99 percent of new jobs went to immigrants under Labour.
It’s a classic example of what’s called the “correlation fallacy”.
This involves taking a string of unrelated facts and claiming that one causes the other.
For example, it is a fact that the number of pensioners getting Listeria (food poisoning) has doubled since Labour came to office in 1997. It is also a fact that the rate of immigration from eastern Europe into Britain has doubled since Labour came to office.
But putting the two together and creating the claim that migrants from Eastern Europe are killing “our” pensioners with food poisoning is simply nonsense.
This is how this week’s claim about immigrants taking all of the available jobs works.
The reality is that the total level of employment in Britain has risen by just over 2.5 million since 1997, to 28.99 million.
And around 1.67 million new jobs have been created.
It is also a fact that the number of people who were born abroad that are now working in Britain has increased by 1.64 million.
What the Tories and the right wing press have done is put these last two facts together and drawn an invalid conclusion.
So because the number of new migrants working in Britain is virtually the same as the number of new jobs, they claim that the new jobs have gone to immigrants.
But there is no proof for this.
The Tories claim that Office of National Statistics figures back them up. But what the figures actually show is that 50.3 percent of the new jobs created since 1997 have been taken by British nationals (around 1.38 million).
Their figures also show that actual employment rates for British nationals remain at the same level as 1997—at 73.5 percent.
It is also true that the number of people employed in Britain who were born in Britain has risen by 791,000—to 25.26 million.
It is also important to remember that there are not a fixed number of jobs at any one time.
So the assertion that “foreigners” (foreign-born people) have “taken” jobs that would otherwise have gone to British people is factually incorrect.
If the press wanted to, they could even spin the story the other way round, and say that of the 1.67 million new jobs created, 1.4 million had gone to British nationals!
But that is not the story the press want to sell you this week.
They want British workers to blame migrants for unemployment, job cuts and wage freezes.
The reality is that the bosses are using the recession—the slumps in capitalism—to sack workers. Immigrants didn’t demand that tens of thousands of jobs be cut in the manufacturing industry, for example.
The bosses and bankers expect workers to pay the price for the deep crisis in global capitalism.
Behind the numbers lies the reality that this argument is actually about racism.
The immigration story is typical of the divide and rule policies the bosses use to control the working class—playing supposed “native” workers off against migrants.
The recession was not caused or made worse by how many people live in Britain.
It was triggered by the greed of those at the top of society, and by economic crisis built into the capitalist system.
Unfortunately the 99 percent figure won’t be the last lie of the election—but so far it is the nastiest.