Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Won't somebody rid me of this troublesome MP?

Well, Paul Uppal's back from his extended holiday from his responsibilities. Sadly, he's far from refreshed. Once again, he's hawking jaded and predictable talking points around like a child who's learned to use a potty.

Some years ago, a prominent immigration lawyer told me that the two main drivers of immigration are, first, the perception—right or wrong—that we have an overtly generous welfare system in the UK; and secondly, lax human rights legislation. Does my right hon. Friend agree that in this statement and through our welfare reforms, we are tackling those issues head-on?
The shadow Home Secretary talked about a bond. Does my right hon. Friend not find that ironic and perhaps politically opportunistic, given that, when in power, Labour considered such a measure but chose to put it to one side, but in opposition they sing a different tune?

Oh dear. I've suddenly got Morrissey's 'Asian Rut' song going round my head. It's not pleasant. Why Morrissey? Because like Uppal, Morrissey's the son of immigrants who has somehow managed to find common cause with fascists like the BNP and their Conservative fellow-travellers. There's something utterly sickening about a man casually raising suspicion of immigrants for political advantage in general - but doing so after having been the beneficiary of a humane immigration policy.

Let's note in passing that Uppal always has a useful source to quote - a constituent who uses Parliamentary language to express opinions identical to Uppal's, for instance. Very convenient.

I like the 'right or wrong' bit (and for the sake of kindness, let's assume the 'overtly' is a transcription error rather than one of vocabulary). It makes him look impartial, when we all know very well that he means 'wrong'. For information, here's what refugees are entitled to:

  • Almost all asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on state support – this can be as little as £5 a day to live on.
  • Asylum seekers do not jump the queue for council housing and they cannot choose where they live.
  •  The accommodation allocated to them is not paid for by the local council. It is nearly always ‘hard to let’ properties, where other people do not want to live.

And here's what immigrants (non-EU ones have to prove they've got a large chunk of cash before they arrive) may claim:
anyone who does not have ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain)or British citizenship will have "no recourse to public funds" marked in their passports; this includes visitors, people on spouse visas, students, work visa holders, etc. However, once someone has ILR they have the same entitlements as British citizens in the same circumstances, they can access JSA, Housing Benefit, go on the council waiting list, etc.
OK? Not exactly the land of milk and honey.

Moving on. What exactly is a 'lax' human right? Is it Britain's recognition that all humans have the right to life, safety and a family? Which rights, exactly, would he like to withdraw? Shelter from torture? From all of us? Or just the vulnerable? Does he want to withdraw his own parents' human rights? Or just some nebulous 'others'?

I'd have thought that the 'main drivers' of immigration to the UK are exactly the same reasons which brought his parents here. The British Empire (I notice Uppal and his friends never condemn that violent and unwelcome mass movement of people to other peoples' countries) spread English round the globe and sucked in the labour and goods of its constituent nations. When it withdrew, people like Paul's parents found themselves a long way from their national origins and were naturally drawn to the colonial power because it was rich. Personally, I think the UK should be paying reparations to the countries it looted, and abandoned without industry, economies and democratic government.

I'm sorry to be so personal, but I've got to, provoked by Paul's cynicism. He make no distinction between refugees and economic migrants - but nor would I wish to. My family is partly made up of economic immigrants from Ireland. Given what the UK did to Ireland and other countries, you could argue that we're owed something. More importantly, migrants contribute hugely to the economy - Paul's made millions and I'll presume - for the sake of argument - that he pays tax. Without migration, Paul wouldn't be here (I'll resist the obvious point).

What the Tories want to do is impose a massive cash bond on immigrants. The idea is that we keep out the poor. I think this is sickening. Many of the most innovative and creative contributors to society have been dirt poor, and worked their way up. Would Paul's parents have got in if they'd had to find £19,000?

Even more so than usual, I find Uppal's behaviour sickening and cynical. To pull up the ladder behind him in pursuit of BNP votes is his lowest point yet. I hope his constituents - many of them poor, hardworking Asians - agree with me.

1 comment:

Historian on the Edge said...

Last year I attended a conference on early medieval migration where I gave one of the plenaries, in which I made a plea for a more ethical and socially responsible attitude to the subject by modern writers. The other plenary was by Leo Lucassen from Leiden, a historian of modern migration. Leo gives lectures outside academia wherever he can to counter what he calls the 'fact free politics' of right-wing demagogues - sadly the whole immigration debate has become 'fact free'. Anyway, one of the many interesting points he made was that analysis of later 20th-century migration shows that (maybe counter-intuitively) stronger border controls and reduced benefits for migrants make immigration go UP. This is because most migration before the mid-70s was fairly circular 'career migration'. You left - say - Algeria and worked for a few years in the West, sending money home, and then went back for a few years, maybe returning later. And so on. What harsher border controls etc tended to mean was that such immigrant workers *didn't* go home for fear of losing the rights they had acquired, or of not being able to return. So instead they brought their families over. Food for thought...