The UK Turf War


Once again immigration is the topic of conversation for the UK, and as usual it hasn’t taken long for the UK press to revel in the delight of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘scapegoat’ rhetoric.

If the news is to be read literally though, it would be enough to frighten the pants off any level headed individual just going about their business; an influx of foreign workers stealing jobs and benefits, who plan to eventually take over the country for their own ends! Sounds sinister!

All of the talk, press and otherwise, does raise important questions though. Is this truth or merely scare tactics? Also, just how fair, equitable, free and humane does it all sound? It is immigration, but we are talking about people right and not merely cattle?

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but now that the UK has had to lift its restrictions to their job market, fears have escalated, by what seems like over-night, to a boiling point.  Should the UK nation be afraid, is there about to be a turf war?

I was nosing around the net, wondering if all the hullabaloo was in fact worth the media frenzy. What I wanted to know was whether the people of the UK really gave a damn about who from the EU might or might not take up UK residency. It didn’t take too long to stumble upon something curious.

The below text has been copied from an actual on-line petition set out on the HM Government website. Its creator, a member of the UK public, along with 153,811 signatories, seemed to obviously feel that there indeed would be a mass of Romanian, and Bulgarian immigrants desperately making their way to the shores of the UK.

“In 2014 EU restrictions are set be removed, allowing nationals of Bulgaria and Romania ‘free movement’ to the UK. The move is similar to the one that granted access to around 600,000 Polish immigrants to enter Britain over recent years.

Despite Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU in 2005 (Savvy Senorita edit – it was 2007), restrictions were put on the number who could move to Britain. However, those restrictions will be abolished in 2014 (Savvy Senorita edit – I.E now).

Once the restrictions are lifted all new comers will entitled to claim benefits, housing, child, job seekers etc. There is currently an estimated 1.5 million people seeking work within the two countries

The impact will also put pressure on housing, infrastructure, schools, and heath care. All at a time the government are cutting pensions, jobs, public services and the armed forces.

I request the government suspends the easing on these restrictions” 

I then took a look at the newspapers. There were ample comments left upon The Daily Mail and Guardian’s websites; replies to the articles telling the world about how our MPs feel or fear about immigration. In one such article, (posted in the Guardian: link below), it was claimed that David Cameron believes that the immigration levels for Romanians and Bulgarians is now reasonable enough; the responses to this article however provided a somewhat different perspective;

“We need mass immigration as a pro business policy Cameron is completely wrong.

Think about the benefits, house prises rise make home owners wealthier and Britain can remain competitive by getting cheaper labour.

We live in an increasing globalised world and we in the EU have China to compete with. He couldn’t be more wrong.

In addition without immigration we would have to spend an exorbitant amount training our own feckless and work-shy, and the price of house keeping would rocket.

The EU must not allow him or his party to get away with such inflammatory comments”.

These quotes demonstrate two very different ideas about immigration, both of which are actual opinions held by people living in the UK.

OK, so I know there maybe those out there who feel that any level of immigration is too high, and others who think that the doors of a country ought be flung wide open (each to their own); but isn’t there a happy medium?

What I mean is, can’t we talk immigration without becoming so emotive? Can’t we leave all the scapegoating, racism and the overly P.C comments behind, and focus on what could be the real issues of immigration for the UK?

I want to ask the powers that be, and the people;

Can any country allow mass immigration? Does any country have the capacity to offer that? Is it economically viable? Could they offer employment, housing, services and support (et al) to everyone that comes to, and resides in the country?

Is immigration a one way street – the people from the poorest nations moving to the richer ones? Is immigration about making money for a country or spending money? Do we all really have freedom of movement? How many people would up-sticks and re-locate to another country? Is that even possible with the economy and the lack of job opportunities? Also, EU countries differ from the UK; different languages, educational requirements, alien benefit and health care systems which not every resident will have access to.

Why is the UK immigration fears/policies subject to mass interjection from other countries? Why has it become such a contentious subject? Every country has its own ideas regarding immigration, yet, I don’t see every country being asked to explain themselves. Is UK immigration a national or international issue? Whose country is it to govern, and make those decisions about immigration? Have the UK Government merely become some middle man in all of this, without the real power to decide what happens in their own country? More importantly, does anyone care what the public think and want?

Is the UK a ‘soft touch’ for the world? Is the UK being racist in its cautious approach to immigration?

Is the UK Government trying to appease everyone, and pleasing no-one at the same time? Is immigration a way of making amends for a shady past history as ‘colonial conquerors’, do they feel guilty?

Has the UK given up on its people – do they invest enough in what resources and talent they already have? Why would the country require an extra work-force from abroad, when the UK already has those who are in need of training/re-training, educating, employment, self-employment, good wages and steady/secure jobs? In fact, can the UK Government deal with the issues/changes and problems the country already has? Are they actually taking on too much responsibility by accepting more people they won’t be able to ‘do right by’?

Will there be a mass exodus from one country to another? Will the Romanians and Bulgarians swamp the UK, and take over the country? Why do people live in fear of immigrants stripping the country bare? Immigration is nothing new for the UK; it has always been multi-cultural and accepted people from far and wide, why then is the country now so angst ridden?

Is immigration a good business and economic policy? Is it investment and profit? Is it more people claiming benefits and abusing the system, sending money back to their families in Romania or Bulgaria? Is it escalation of crime? Is is merely public cynicism and distrust? Is it greed and shady dealings? Is it appeasement or enlightenment?

I personally feel the UK cannot close the doors to immigration, but there are certain discrepancies with how the UK handles the subject. I don’t doubt that UK immigration and policies per se are being vetoed or strangled by the EU. I question though, who benefits from all the upper echelons (in the UK and EU), wrangling amongst themselves because of their own agendas? Well, it isn’t the people they are supposed to represent and that is for certain.

I believe immigration has become a convenient red herring in many ways, an issue placed before the public to distract from the real issues on the table, the real failure of those in charge.

With or without immigration, the UK still has serious issues; how is the Government going to convince the UK public that they can do what they say they will? When all the scapegoating and smoke screens have gone, what is left? A Government who doesn’t really know what they really stand for, and which way to turn in any crisis without squabbling like children.

I wonder, when there is nothing to fight over, what remains to fight for?

I will leave you with a quote (another reply) to that article in The Guardian (I mentioned earlier in this post: link below);            

“The UK is not concentrating on “job building” it is penny wise and pound foolish, driving wages down to a minimum base and sitting complacently on a million unemployed and millions under-employed. We have so many things that need replacing and repairing, upgrading and restoring here, but the governments we have seem happy to suck up to businesses who cream profits off-shore and let the citizens scrabble around in the mire for part-time low paid work.

We have work that needs doing, but lack the courage to invest in our people to improve the quality of life for everyone”.

Check out the article at: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/27/cameron-romania-bulgaria-immigration-reasonable

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The Unemployed; An Easy Target?


The Tory Government are once again on the war path, seems that once they have the bit in-between their teeth they are unable to let it go!

Unemployment benefits and the unemployed; these are the Tories NEW official target now. These are the new scourge of UK society.

At last the Tories have stumbled upon a policy they obviously believe will bring the UK people firmly back on their side, and now they won’t stop the cull. Any policy that outlines how to cut these benefits, how to reduce them, minimise them, and how to rid the country of the unemployed is fair game to them.

Are these policies a good idea???

I have mentioned in many other posts that there has been a need to reform the benefit system in the UK for LONG while. Plenty of taxpayers money has been going into the hands of recipients who don’t deserve it; I have direct experience with this type of work, so I was used to witnessing this inequity everyday. I was always infuriated by how genuinely in need people lost out under the system’s rules! However, the new Tory Manifesto regarding the latest proposed measures is a step too far, or maybe a step backwards.

The Tories not only want to cut benefits for people living North of London, but also want to target claimants who are classed as overweight too.

The reasons behind this new proposal??

People living North of London have a lower cost of living; which is the worst excuse for cutting a benefit I have ever heard. Poverty is still a factor whether you live in London or not! Also, those who are overweight will have to abide by their Doctors rule and loose weight to be able to continue claiming a benefit. The overweight claimants have to comply with what is deemed healthy, so not to drain the NHS or other UK support systems of precious resources; but what about the bureaucracy that currently drains the NHS of resources? Will that be dealt with too, as that squanders the money before any patients are even seen!

This Tory manifesto has other proposals too; axing the retirement age and lengthening the school day by up to three hours. Great, so when can a hard working person claim their much deserved pension? Also, they struggle to keep kids in school now, so good luck with applying those extra hours to the day!

This whole ‘Manifesto’ screams that the Tories are not willing enough to deal with the whole rotten picture, and the core of the problems. It seems the Tories have become lazy, and are now opting to target pockets of people to vent their wrath upon (the scapegoats of UK society); in a hope this will save them money! How wrong could they be?!

How about actually adopting a comprehensive package to solve unemployment in the UK, rather than one based on prejudices and nonsense?

One where; businesses are encouraged and job opportunities are actually produced. Where the actual advertising of jobs is given back to the Job Centres, and taken away from the grasping and ‘closed shop’ employment agencies that hold on to them all now. Where retraining is available to all ages, and not just for the over 50’s and under 24’s. Where education is advocated too, and not just in the form of Vocational training. Where Maths and English skills are valued and encouraged; I have seen countless of people who are illiterate being told it doesn’t matter by the Job Centre, when clearly it does! Where regional development policies are advocated; local councils and agencies work together to seek a tailored solution to the myriad of problems which afflict areas suffering from the worst and persistent unemployment! Where help is agreed which is actually required and needed; instead of cutting funds, invest into communities. How about also thinking about how to help other regions other than merely London!

As far as cutting benefits for the overweight go, well, I have never heard anything so ridiculous! This one factor alone is far from a cut and dry issue. Who is classed as overweight? Anyone without a perfect BMI and that is over 60% of the UK population, if not more. Who classes you as overweight? Your Doctor, therefore people will immediately boycott going to their GP. This will stack up serious health issues over a fear that anyone overweight, and claiming a benefit, will now be a GP’s target. If they don’t dance to their GP’s tune they won’t be eligible to claim a benefit they require to survive upon! Also, NOT every person who is overweight is on a benefit, nor is every person who is overweight work shy!

Is this judgemental nonsense what the Tories want to include in a serious political policy? What is the next step here?? I didn’t realise the UK would be so happy to live in a ‘police’ state! One final thing to consider is that there are plenty of people working, and also in Government jobs who are overweight too; so what is the proposal for them??

I know benefits and unemployment are difficult situations to remedy, and the solutions are not easy. Yet, nothing will be easy when those issues have been left to languish so long without attention. If the Government are going to tackle the issues and problems, then, do it right or don’t bother! Otherwise, the UK will be left with more follies hampering it’s progress, and more problems to rectify in the future.

Recession? You Need Free Market Principles.


The many strands of recession

This post comes as a direct response to a ‘conversation’ I had with another person regarding recession, current economic climate and political solutions to Government debt and failings.

My intention is not to appear biased in favour of UK political preferences or experiences. I just want to raise the topics that were initially put to me, and answer with my thought on them. So, here is the basis of the initial conversation:

‘Free Market Principles (*description located at the bottom of the post) will save the US from falling into the same problems as Europe and the UK now face’.

I have been wondering just how many of these principles, and in what measure, are actually already adopted in countries all over the globe? Could it be that countries already going through recession ignored these principles and therefore floundered? Could these principles alone be the answer to and solution for future recessions? Are a set of inflexible principles capable of such a feat? Are reasons for recession so ‘cut and dry’?

Well, the person who argued the merits of Free Market Principles used certain failings as a measuring tool to highlight what had brought about recession; unemployment, Government debt, taxing the rich, ‘big Government’ as opposed to limited Government, and the over reliance on grand scale public welfare or social welfare policies classed as the ‘Nanny State’.

Now there are issues which can be debated.

Those of you, who may read my blog, you might be already familiar with my take on the UK Government and welfare system – NHS and state benefits. See below for further links:
Poverty In The UK
The UK Welfare State
The Declining Health Of The NHS

These systems are not perfect, and I will be the first to admit that, but like anything there is more to the issues than may initially appear. That is why no issues which any country or Government face at the moment can be so easily deemed a failure or because of recession. The background information for that failure should be first discussed first.

Let me also add, no country is perfect and neither are ANY Governments. There are many mistakes made, and many issues then created as a result of bad policies or decisions.

On to my thoughts:

I am not going to break down exactly how Free Market Principles apply or should apply. As I mentioned earlier I want to see behind the reasons for failures, to talk about the ‘tools’ used as a measure of failure.

Government Debt:

Initially I question the sweeping generalisation of Government debt as a simple cause for recession. Some nations like the UK for example have had to have debt to survive 2 world wars. Without debt the country would never have scraped through such detrimental hardships brought about by the wars.

Factors that lead to any Government debt are a ‘chicken and an egg’ scenario; many issues, like those the UK faced in the war eras have been running on since that time without being fixed. Deep flaws in policies and decisions have occurred as Government has grown and changed its form over the years. The welfare State for example has its very origins in the aftermath of the 2nd World War, and since then it has out grown its initial remit, but this change has never been fully represented in the entity it has now become (I will discuss this later). Hence, issues linking to failure.

In most countries there will be hidden issues, plastered over cracks that once recession hits them, they become highlighted and exasperated; these cracks then become huge holes, for example issues with unemployment. These issues may have been left lingering until a recession hits; when a country or Government is under the most scrutiny, then the issues have to be seen to be dealt with, then they gain attention.

Factors for unemployment do include going through a recession:

Yes, but other factors can lead to the final breaking point. Rapid changes in technology, disability, changes in business, changes in supply and demand, attitude towards employers, willingness to work, immigration, climate change, migration, perception of employees, employee values, discriminating factors in the place of work (may include discrimination on the basis of age, class, ethnicity, colour and race) and ability to look for employment all effect the figures initially before any recession begins.

Taxation is never a favourable topic:

Raising taxes is not especially popular either, and when the wealthy of the country are going to be effected, then that is seen as damn right outrageous. I will bring in France here: French Prime Minister has said there will be a 75% tax rate for people earning more than 1m Euros.

Now I don’t necessarily agree with the tax level France is opting for, but people should be taxed according to what they earn. Wealthier people shouldn’t have a free pass just because they bring ‘wealth’ into the country, because so does everyone who works and contributes to the economy of the country. It is merely that the wealthy have more money to be taxed or contribute to a country with, but they are part of the country too. The ordinary working person is affected more by fluctuations in tax during recession; on their salary and goods, and it is them who are generally Struggling To Make Ends Meet

Perhaps France opted for this tax increase for the wealthy as they didn’t wish to impose harsh cuts on public services that would affect the whole country. Look at the UK and the ‘Geddes Axe’; recommended slashing government spending in precisely the way today’s believers in ‘expansionary austerity’ recommend in time of rescission. Did it work for the UK in the 1920’s, no and consequently this spiralled UK’s debt levels. Pre First World War debt levels weren’t attained again until 1990. So cutting Government public spending isn’t always the answer.

Public services are a drain in times of recession though:

Well they have been a drain for years and why, well there are complex reasons. Let me concentrate on the UK’s NHS. This system has evolved over the years; peoples changing lifestyles, higher populations, larger catchment areas, more diagnoses of illnesses before unrecognised, Doctors running National Health and Private surgeries which clash, not enough medical staff, privatisation of the 1980’s, rising wages, Primary Care Trusts and the amount of ‘pen pushing’ bureaucrats hampering Government money being spent where it needs to be. In the UK ‘big Government’ as opposed to the limited version is not to blame for the failings, but rather that Government hasn’t enough of a hold and control over proceedings. They haven’t a clue what is going, and therefore the whole system has become lax, un-scrutinized and out of control. It is a lack of grasping the changes and implementing a policy that reflects this that causes the trouble, not recession.

The NHS is not perfect, but again neither is for example the US system, and the US isn’t in a recession like the UK. People in the US can’t afford insurance (30 million of them to be precise). So, how can limited Government eradicate any of these issues for any country?

OK let’s talk about who likes Free Market Principles.

Well, the conservatives who claim to have a profound love of them have no use for them; professing fealty to the markets is only a rhetorical strategy. Some would say they favour policies that distort the market in such a way that income and wealth flows to those at the top, but given that most people who cast votes in elections are not among that rarefied few, they have no desire to defend those policies on their merits. So, do they have a place in a society where the majority struggle to live??

But big Government ruins the countries wealth:

I feel a Government needs to know what is going on in their country, not be blind to it (I argue they are blind enough). It is a Governments duty to ensure its citizens when in need, receive help in the form of public services. They are there to respond to needs or why else do we elect them? What is the need for Government per se if they have no role in the country they govern?

I think everyone should be ensured they have a slice of the cake in the 21st century, even if it is a small slice, better than starving to death under the premise of ‘we can’t intervene we are a limited Government’.

People should not be allowed to flounder and disappear just like dust under a carpet; just because they aren’t a member of the ‘select committee’ (the wealthy) in society.

Boom and bust is worse under principles advocating intervention:

Well maybe, but then under a limited Government where there is no intervention is anything truly invested in; anything other than protecting and encouraging wealth? Pursuit of wealth above public needs can be detrimental to a flourishing society, as it reflects and encourages only a certain percentage of people and people’s lives. Not everyone can be wealthy, not everyone’s lives run smoothly.
I for one don’t want a return to a Dickensian way of life, I think I prefer intervention.

*Free Market Principles:
Individual Rights, Limited Government, Equal Justice Under Law, Spontaneous Order, Private Ownership, Subsidiary and the Golden Rule of honesty. Yet I am not going to focus on whether or not these principles, word for word, do impact and can solve recession. Instead I am going to think about reasons

Struggling To Make Ends Meet – Poverty in the 21st Century.


Ed Miliband (Leader of the Opposition Party), Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) and many others are now calling for, and indeed advocating the introduction of a living wage in the UK. What is this initiative? Well, it’s an hourly rate for working people, which is re-set each year to reflect the increases in costs of living. The rate of this living wage is based around what an employee requires to provide their family with the mere essentials of life.

The recommendations for these living wage rates are; £8.55 an hour in London and £7.45 an hour for the rest of the UK. Yet, these figures have already come under criticism for falling short of the real requirements of what workers need to survive.

Yet people are expected to now survive on a minimum wage. In comparison to the current minimum wage for those who are aged 21 and above, which is now a paltry £6.19 an hour; the figures above already prove a shortfall for the workforce. Most employers will only pay the minimum wage, regardless of the job, the duties and qualifications required. Cheap labour, exploitation and damn near slavery are what the UK work force is used to. With unemployment on the increase the employer ethos of ‘take it of leave it’ is never more powerful. People will put up with terrible wages and unfair working conditions or face unemployment. It isn’t exactly job satisfaction that keeps people working, inasmuch as sheer necessity. Workers in the UK are already being short changed of the basic requirements that are needed for them to actually live, so then how are they currently surviving without a living wage?

Well, when people don’t earn a living wage they have to work two jobs rather than one, get credit cards and loans merely to eat, and actually to travel to work! People are forced to live in poverty whilst actually working full time, their children aren’t eating properly, they can’t afford to heat their own homes and so and so on. What century is this anyway? Seems awfully analogous to something Dickensian.

Things have changed, relatively perhaps; but the premise remains the same.

So isn’t the living wage an answer to all those issues? Well, it is a fairer and more equitable option, where employees may actually feel they have value. Surely working people deserve to earn enough to live and participate in society, otherwise they might as well be outcasts. What are they working for exactly; and it isn’t just to pay taxes and pay bills (those days are, or I thought they were, over)! This isn’t a time of the landed gentry and farming peasants! People want to live a life! At the moment most people aren’t, so if the current minimum wage isn’t doing society justice then what are the issues with changing it?

Well, the UK Government are the issues. They aren’t sold on implementing a living wage, but crazily enough they are happy to provide benefits to subsidise low income families (those surviving off the minimum wage). In fact the amount of benefits being paid to those in work is on the increase! That means that society is already helping out low-paid employers, which to be honest really makes no sense. Doesn’t that outlay of benefits alone indicate that the wages are too low in comparison to the ever increasing cost of living and taxes? Why not then just solve the root of the issue instead of applying a sticking plaster that clearly doesn’t work; as people are still in poverty!

Yet, it isn’t merely about the cost of these benefits to the taxpayer; it’s about the cost of changing people’s work ethic. Actually demonstrating that is does pay to work. That people aren’t just working to pay the bills, and keep their heads just above the water line. That life isn’t all hard slog and little else; I mean isn’t that what the mill workers in 19th century thought about their lives? When will this working poverty and servitude ever change for the working people of the UK? It is a perpetual and entrenched vicious circle! What does society or the economy get out of such a system, nothing!

I thought we’d left the cotton mills behind?

For those who argue the UK couldn’t afford a living wage, that is somewhat naïve and morally wrong. What makes more sense; extra household debt (ethereal money that doesn’t really exist in the economy, and that no-one can afford to pay back), and money being given in benefits from taxes, or, money given in real wages whereby it can be properly invested into the economy?

I can see why this push for change is being blocked though; ordinary working folk could actually gain something rather than merely get less. I know; it’s a shocker and such an outrageous idea! How dare the ordinary people want more than merely working their hearts out for nothing other than paying their bills! What is the 21st century coming to?! Any new initiative meant to embetter a workers life comes up against opposition; the national minimum wage itself wasn’t looked upon favourably, neither were trade unions, equal pay, employee rights or the abolition of child labour, oh, and slavery.

How can a country prosper if their people don’t? Simple question, yet no one is willing to answer it!

Check out: http://www.livingwage.org.uk/

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