Immigration

Every now and then you read something in the newspaper that makes you laugh, even though it probably shouldn’t. Then the laughter is interrupted by the worrying thought that it’s April already and you’ve fallen for an April Fools’ prank. Then you realise, silly, that it’s no joke; you can resume with the laughter but really ought to get a grip on yourself if you seriously thought it might be April already. What’s wrong with you?

Earlier this week Last week (sorry), I read this. In order to “correct the impression that the streets here are paved with gold” (did he mean gold-coloured chewing gum?), Britain is allegedly poised to launch advertising campaigns in the EU’s two newest yet poorest member states, Romania and Bulgaria, so as to stop anyone there from thinking that a move to Britain means all will be plain sailing (as if, didn’t they see the snow?) when restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians living and working in Britain are relaxed at the end of the year.

What, and betray our Big Society by saying it’s a Big Joke? I won’t hear a word of it.

We tend to be grumpy in Britain. And sarcastic (see above). And xenophobic, but that’s another thing. You might well recall how many of us expected the Olympics to be a load of rubbish and then, when the games turned out to be rather good, we grudgingly accepted this but now grumble often about the athletes appearing far too much on our television screens, like we haven’t seen enough of them already and we’re supposed to still give a damn for their achievements. I’ll admit, I could happily slap one or two of them.

If you’re thinking at this point that this post looks rather long, it is. If you wish to be serious about the important issue of immigration, we’d obviously love to hear your thoughts and experiences. If not and you can’t bear to read on, sod it, stop reading right now and just look at the Guardian which featured readers’ hilarious tongue-in-cheek posters as alternatives to deter potential arrivals to these windswept shores. ‘We hate ourselves, we’ll probably hate you too’ says it all perfectly, I feel. So very British.

But allow me to try to be serious about this, my seriousness interspersed with sarcasm, because otherwise I’ll just feel bad for not trying harder later. I apologise for the stacks of facts and figures, I got a bit carried away.

Britain is a migrant nation and always has been. That’s the first thing.

The second is, Britain is the world’s seventh-richest nation. I know. The seventh. Really, it is, that’s not a typo. Forget what you’ve heard about Third World-style handouts of food rations being given to the desperate who are now reliant on food banks to keep them going and put out of your mind, please, any shocked, awkward embarrassment at Save the Children having to launch its first ever campaign in its 93-year history to raise funds exclusively for British children, last September, when it was revealed that 3.5 million children are living in poverty in Britain (that is to say, they have a family income of less than £17,000 per annum), 1.6 of them severely so, making a total of nearly 13 million – out of a population of some 62 million – now living below the breadline. I’ll say it again: Britain is the seventh-richest nation in the world, not that you’d always believe it.

That’s why they are coming, you see. These immigrants. Hordes of them. With their children. Wanting houses and benefits, maybe even jobs and an education, the parasites. Be afraid, fellow Britons: they want your houses. I do love the Daily Mail. It makes me laugh out loud every day.

Even though the vast majority will be hard-working, morally upstanding, many highly educated with excellent English, and will contribute much to society, including paying taxes and creating jobs, and are, in fact, less likely to claim benefits than people who were born here – fact (like the last wave of Eastern European migrants we still hear so much about, only a tiny minority rely on out-of-work benefits), we still fear them. Even though a decade ago, the government’s own research was suggesting that immigrants pay in a whopping £2.5 billion more in taxes than they take out in benefits.

Indeed, some 30 to 40 per cent of NHS workers were born abroad, with one in seven of all migrants in the UK employed in the health and social work sector, an awful lot of them professionals (I include my own doctor and dentist, in that). I hope they don’t decide to leave all at once. Have you tried getting an NHS dentist? Joking aside, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all who helped build an institution we are justly proud of and hence spent ages oddly triumphing during the Olympics opening ceremony. (Sorry, I won’t mention the Olympics again. I’m so bloody sick of the Olympics and thought the Mary Poppins bit went on too long.)

Many will do the jobs that Britons, for some reason, if you believe that too many Brits are work-shy or just plain snobby, somehow consider beneath them. The latest dubious unemployment figures show 2.49 million out of work in Britain (and that’s not to mention those who are just too fat to work; the total number of obesity claims has doubled in three years, costing the taxpayer more than £28 million last year). If immigrants in Britain are so low skilled, and slender, but still manage to take jobs from the British, how does that make the British look? It should make us feel pretty bad about ourselves, yet the shame all too often ends up replaced with a lot of loud and melodramatic huffing and puffing. Does nobody applaud the courage of somebody starting a new life in a new land? There’s nothing stopping Britons moving out in search of better opportunities, either. In 2010, 1.4 million Britons left for other EU countries. Only Romania (2.2m), Italy (2m), Poland (1.9m) and Germany (1.7m) saw more nationals leave.

How about that good old-fashioned British sense of superiority? When Brits move abroad, they either go there to do very important jobs or are merely jolly old “ex-pats” (said with a smile) living out retirement in the sun. Yet too many of those moving in are “immigrants” (said with a frown) who are presumed lazy with sinister motives, castigated for retaining their languages and cultures and criticised for not integrating. Do people not move abroad for exactly the same reason: a better standard of living, increased opportunities? I’d imagine so and would love to hear what the Spanish, for example, think of the Brits who have made Spain their home. I mean, I’m sure they all make the effort to speak fluent Spanish, join in with local traditions and choose not to remain, aloof and obnoxious, on the safe fringes of society with other English-speakers, expecting the locals to make themselves understood in a foreign tongue instead of the other way around…

Anyway, it is true that when former Soviet bloc countries joined the EU in 2004, we were told that no more than 13,000 Poles, for example, would come to Britain each year. Within two years, 264,560 had arrived. The immigrant population of England and Wales increased by 2.9 million – from nine per cent of the population in 2001 to 13 per cent in 2011, from 4.6 million to 7.5 million. In the decade to 2011 Poland showed the largest percentage increase in the top 10 countries of birth; Poles are now the second biggest group of foreign residents living in Britain, behind Indians.

As the minimum wage in Romania and Bulgaria is half that in Poland (73p per hour in Bulgaria, 79p in Romania, £6.19 in the UK), it is assumed that this can only mean that more migrants will come, expecting the good life.

But in 2004, only three countries opened borders. This time, all EU states will lift restrictions, giving far greater choice of destination. I find the presumption that Britain will be many people’s first choice incredibly arrogant. It’s been said that Bulgarians are most likely to emigrate to Spain and Greece, because of the favourable climate and lower travel costs, while Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov has pointed out that Bulgaria’s economy is mostly connected to Germany’s, with more business links to Spain and Italy.

Yet allow me to go on a bit longer with the statistics.

The UK as a whole has the fourth largest population of EU migrants (2.2 million) after Germany (3.76 million), Spain (2.6 million) and France (2.47 million). The last UK census, in 2011, revealed that the number of people who were born abroad is close to one in eight. Some 7.5 million residents, representing 13 per cent of the population, were born outside the UK, up from 4.6 million or nine per cent a decade ago, London being home to the most immigrants, with 37 per cent of the capital’s residents born abroad and 24 per cent of them not UK citizens.

This seems like a good point to throw this in: ‘I feel like a stranger where I live’, wrote one Londoner recently.

So, just to make it clear, it seems that some in Britain are of the firm view that we don’t want you foreigners coming in, taking our jobs, stretching our already-stretched services, thank you very much. Truth be told, we want to ship some people out, not invite more in. For example, in some of our cities, one in three households are completely jobless. We’d like to ship those out for starters. We have one of the highest rates of ‘workless households’ in the EU, because it pays to be on benefits, and those blasted single mothers are the worst. Sorry, Daily Mail again.

What was I saying? Oh yes: Britain’s full, so please move along.

Unless you’re rich, that is, in which case, please step right this way. They’re actually moving all the undesirables out of London, all the layabouts and the riff-raff, to make it nice and smart for incoming rich people. Some might call that social cleansing, palming off their social problems onto other, poorer parts of Britain.

Take former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, now demanding a decent £150,000-an-hour for public speaking engagements and under investigation for corruption in France, who is very rich indeed and whose wife is also very easy on the eye (win-win), another wealthy Frenchman tight git with more money than he could ever spend bidding adieu to his homeland in order to avoid larger-than-liked tax bills. He’s welcome to come to Britain, obviously. Actor Gérard Depardieu chose Russia, but he’d also be welcome. Not for them paying tax at 75 per cent. Oh, President Hollande, with your wacky Marxist idea of making the rich, who can afford it, rather than the poor, who clearly cannot, pay that bit extra in order to reduce the French deficit. What are you like?

(Britain’s richest got richer over the last year, by the way, so they could also afford it. The wealthiest 1,000 people in the UK are now worth a record £414.26 billion, up 4.7 per cent on the previous year. The threshold to even make the top 1,000 rose by £2 million on the previous year: you now need at least £72 million to make the list.)

Now, I do appreciate the scare-stories of cheap imported labour, wages being undercut, migrant families living in cramped conditions with two or three families sharing a house, and how all this causes social unrest. All of which is ideal for the wealthy, let’s not kid ourselves, because it means more money for them. They don’t even have to pay poverty-level wages if migrants will accept even less and will live in sub-standard housing to boot.

And, yes, wages are lower in Romania and Bulgaria, but so is the cost of living, and benefits in relation to living costs in Britain are pitiful no matter how easily they are supposedly obtained. But that’s great too, because low-income families pay as much as £1,280 a year more for basic goods and services (such as gas, electricity, insurance, credit) than better-off families do, meaning more money for the rich men.

Such disparity and inequality across Britain, Europe and indeed the world. Maybe we should be more concerned about that, not who moves where in order to improve their lot in life?

Evidently, some say, it’s far too easy to claim welfare in Britain – immigrants included. There is no shortage of stories proving this case. Here’s a recent one of a young mother, albeit British, fraudulently claiming benefits when she would have been considerably better off with the combination of child benefits and tax credits she was and still is entitled to. These make wonderful stories to stoke up resentment among struggling working people. They also make Britain’s benefit system a bit of a joke.

Haven’t the wishful thinkers and disgusted moral high horse-riders heard about how people, British people no less, many of whom, I don’t care what anybody says, should be in receipt of benefits, are no longer entitled to them? That people are killing themselves because it has been decided by some heartless box-ticker assigned with the task of getting a certain number of people off welfare that they are fit to work when, clearly, they are not? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like to see abuse of the system and accept that Britain has its fair share of feckless and bone idle (or just annoyingly canny, like these two); I just don’t believe we have nearly as many benefit scroungers, of any nationality, as we are led to believe.

That said, the benefits bill is large. I also know that it’s already hard for teachers teaching multi-language lessons, budgets having to stretch to cover myriad interpreters. The health service, too, will be further burdened with more new overseas arrivals. Am I supposed to believe that this government cares about health and education? Please. If it did, it wouldn’t be cutting like cutting’s going out of fashion and there’s absolutely no chance of that happening in austerity Britain. And what difference does it really make, financially, where the patient or pupil hails from other than requiring translators initially? Are there hysterical calls for people to stop having babies? It seems to me that mothers and their little ones depend on the NHS an awful lot more than other sections of working-age society. Should we similarly demonise them for wanting to live in Britain?

I wonder how many people in Britain begrudge the specialist treatment afforded Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl shot in the head by the Taliban in October, by the NHS, whose family will now likely remain in the UK. The Pakistani government is meeting all her expenses, by the way.

Overall, in the last ten years, births and net migration have contributed equally to UK population change – each resulting in an additional 2.4 million people. So immigrants really are only half the problem.

Something could be done to ease some of this tension, of course. Politicians want a 32 per cent pay rise, so maybe they could try to justify it by creating jobs for people (so many are out of work, after all). I can think of a few useful ones: checking on the rotten landlords, the unscrupulous agencies organising black market labour (thinking of the tragic circumstances that ended with 19 Chinese drowned whilst picking cockles in Morecambe Bay in 2004, paid just £1 for a nine-hour shift), the self-employed not declaring income, employers failing to pay their employees the national minimum wage. Build more prisons if you must, preferably in some rich person’s back yard (that, too, would create construction jobs as well as raise a few smiles), to throw those who break the country’s laws in for a short while, but do ensure once and for all that people are paying their fair share – starting with the richest – and you just might find, crazy as it sounds, that there’s enough wealth to go around to keep everyone happy and comfortable, including those who have chosen Britain ahead of other countries, which I find quite flattering if not a little surprising, all things considered. If you hadn’t guessed by now.

Government could see to it that eligibility for benefits requires a longer minimum period of residency and that more children living abroad will no longer be eligible for child benefit, as is the case across Europe (only the UK, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Germany and Latvia pay child benefit for children who live elsewhere in the EU; and it costs Britain £1 million a week to do so). That ought to do it.

Then raise wages, reduce working hours, employ more people. It’d be great. Give people more money to spend and more time to spend it; it doesn’t matter where those people come from so long as they pay their taxes and keep money circulating. It could provide extra support to schools and hospitals where there are large numbers of newcomers. It could mean the boarded-up shops come back to life, the streets will be cleaner, the buses will run on time. If Britons don’t wish to be a nation of shopkeepers any longer, because now they’d rather be in finance or marketing or some such, that doesn’t mean that the shops are no longer needed nor that somebody else won’t do a better job of running them (as we have already seen, let’s face it). And if the environment is more pleasant, people will take more pride in it and in themselves. And if that were the case, fewer people would need to whinge about immigration in the first place, because we’d all be happier with no need to find things to be bitter about.

Wait, silly me, Tories are in power. (Another left-wing rant coming up.) They want to crush the working class; always have, always will. They want to keep wages low, for they are the ones reaping the benefits, and indeed would benefit further still if people were willing to work for even less. These are the same Tories who don’t want to train young people any more; don’t want to increase the minimum wage, hence the need for tax credits to supplement poverty wages (and they’re cutting those); don’t want poor kids going to university; don’t even want them joining the army.

And those most likely to vote Tory, the well-to-do, secretly thank immigrant workers for increasing their generous wages at the upper end of the income scale whilst at the same time they mostly couldn’t give a stuff if they’re also depressing wages at the bottom end. They are the very ones who want to – indeed, the only ones who can afford to – hire ever cheaper nannies and gardeners and then fire them without too much fuss. Do they care for the non-unionised workforce if they’ll clean their gutters for half of what the regular chap charges? Like hell they do. How do you think many of them got so rich in the first place? How have they held onto their wealth when everyone else is struggling to make it to the end of the month?

My biggest concern about immigration is for the catastrophic environmental consequences of more people, but of course, where they come from is irrelevant and it’s still the same planet we’re collectively damaging. One way or another, by 2035 the UK population is projected to increase by 11 million, from 62.3 million to 73.2 million, an increase of 18 per cent. I find this prospect absolutely terrifying. Yet consider, if you will, that homelessness in England has risen by almost a quarter, according to Crisis. I wonder why that is. Shelter notes that rents have risen by nearly £300 on average in the past year. Maybe that’s got something to do with it. (I won’t mention Margaret Thatcher’s selling-off of council houses, leaving inadequate social housing stock still, but hope somebody else does.)

Nobody should be homeless in the world’s seventh-richest nation in the year 2013.

Bulgarians and Romanians, and anybody else thinking that the UK looks like a nice place to live, please know what you are letting yourself in for. Please know that you are likely to be exploited – legally – by the types of people that run the country now, for they are the landlords charging extortionate rents, the employers profiting from forced unpaid labour (it’s called Workfare, you should definitely google it), the economists resistant to raising the minimum wage so that it can truly be a living wage – they didn’t want a minimum wage introduced in the first place, in 1999 (the USA brought in a minimum wage during the Great Depression of the 1930s, for goodness sake) and fought tooth and claw to oppose it. You will find that the cost of living is high indeed, just about everything is more expensive than in other parts of Europe, from train fares to food prices (these have risen by 32 per cent in five years, which is nearly double the European average, partly due to wet summers destroying harvests). You will be used to break strikes which will make you unpopular with striking workers, like these were. Without good fortune you will join the despised underclass unless you aspire to be middle class (‘working class’ is not enough) and say all the right things at all the right times to all the right people.

You’ll love the convenience of doorstep lending and high interest loans to tide you over until pay day. Just put the telly on in the daytime, if you can afford to, and you’ll see, every twelve minutes or so, just how many friendly loan sharks there are looking to help you in Britain. I don’t know why they’re called sharks; they’re great big smiling fish, really. After all, they want to help you whereas the banks don’t. Strange, that, seeing as we gave them money when they needed it.

In other words, come to Britain and get fleeced.

We voted for a coalition of over-privileged, right-wing, anti-European bigots, most of whom have never done a real day’s work in their lives but are somehow best placed to tell you, me and everyone how much of everything is just about enough to get by. Still want to join us?

So, Bulgarians and Romanians, if you want to think twice about relocating to Britain, I won’t be offended, I would totally understand. Just please know, as I’m sure you already do, that the vast majority of Britons would much rather see good, honest workers coming in than idle rich and, should you fit this criteria, brave our inclement weather and tolerate our grumpiness, I say: Welcome to the mad house, please enjoy your stay.

Still, I often think of leaving it. Germany looks much better…

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour's official blog, The Blog ('Features' previously being its rather naff title), affectionately - or lazily - shortened to 'FEd'.

51 thoughts on “Immigration”

  1. Great blog. I couldn’t agree more with the views.

    We need our media to stop scaring the masses with false information. Instead we should be helping people to understand the facts and link this in with information to help people to gain a understanding of European history (recent history).

  2. I live in Mississippi, USA and we have a large, very large, Latino population. Most that I am acquainted with are hard working for indecently low wages. I have no answers to the problems this causes. The only part of it that really gets my hackles up is that most Americans believe that if a Latino doesn’t speak perfect English, then they must be of inferior intelligence. In other words, just plain stupid.

    I am a disabled Army veteran who proudly volunteered to serve my country. I fell off of a telephone pole while on duty thirty years ago and I am still plagued with back and hip problems. I get fair medical benefits, but if I were the one making the decision of how much a disabled veteran should be paid, I would have to hang my head in shame. I am not looking for a hand out, but I need the help supplementing my income since my injuries prevent me from earning a decent salary. I am made to feel like a bum looking for a handout just like some of the immigrants you refer to.

    I wish I had an answer for all of this, but I don’t. All I feel I have a right to ask is please don’t assume that an immigrant is stupid and mentally inferior because they don’t speak perfect English Also, be aware that every county has its own set of problems and that their grass is not always greener.

    1. I am made to feel like a bum looking for a handout just like some of the immigrants you refer to.

      This I find disgraceful. The way the UK treats the elderly and disabled and its veterans is appalling, expecting far too many to subsist on a pittance. The US, too, it seems. That both these proud nations have such incredible wealth leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

  3. Well FEd, I was thinking the post looked long before I got to the part where you acknowledged it but the thought of you mounting your latest steed and charging headlong into the melee (where are those accents when you need them) is always appealing and I shall pull up a comfortable chair later and do you justice.

    Of course you are competing for attention with the terrific news (for anyone with any Leicester connections) that Richard III did indeed come to be at rest under a local authority car-park – under a space marked ‘R’ for heaven’s sake .. how elitist is that? … having it appears been poleaxed and stabbed in the arse … a precedent I am sure you are happy to have been established.

    Of course, the Royal family have been leading the charge of immigrants over the centuries (rather impolitely in the case of Guillaume le Bâtard) so I expect all patriots are firmly of the view that it is a good thing when they cheer on our German Queen and her Greek consort.

    More follows …… eventually.

    1. Well, I did cut a few bits out, conscious of rambling, thinking I should probably make the effort to edit myself at least a couple of times, and one part that got chopped was this:

      Confirmation that human remains unearthed last year in a city council car park are those of Richard III prompted quips that the last Englishman in Leicester had been found. Leicester has one of England’s largest Indian populations.

      In researching this further (I do tend to go off pointlessly researching things and then forget what I was supposed to be writing about), I found this, from the Independent and September 2007, speculating that within 12 years Leicester, with Birmingham a few years behind, would be the first British city where the white population would no longer be the majority: ‘Leicester to be first city where white people are minority’. Seems worth throwing in with any discussion about immigration, even though the article does clearly state that increased births to young British Asians, rather than increased immigration, would be responsible for these projections.

      Note also this, from January 2011 and the Daily Mail (who else?): ‘White children in Birmingham ‘a minority’ this year because of immigration’.

      Interestingly, the Daily Mail, switching its venom from Asians to Eastern Europeans, just last week reported that ‘White Britons are now a minority in Leicester, Luton and Slough and Birmingham is set to follow by end of decade’.

    2. There is no doubt that one of the favourable effects of immigration has been the fantastic array of restaurants and forms of cuisine available … the standard of Curry house in Leicester is second to none. As Richard III might indeed have said, “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sag aloo”.

  4. (I won’t mention Margaret Thatcher’s selling-off of council houses, leaving inadequate social housing stock still, but hope somebody else does.)

    Probably best that you don’t mention all the utility companies the old witch sold off too. Especially not as they make huge profits while people freeze – especially the really poor ones on pre-payment meters who get charged more for paying in advance. With that added bonus that the utility company will never cut their gas/electricity off. They get to do that all by themselves when they can’t afford to top it up. Then again she was all about individual responsibility and choice, wasn’t she?

    1. Heating or eating tonight? Seems absurd that people in the seventh-richest country should be asking themselves that question.

      I’m not going to say anything about the industrial towns up and down the land, decimated, nor all the skilled people she left on the scrapheap. She sucked the heart and soul out of each and every last one of those places, the very places her bastard children in this government of rosy-cheeked multi-millionaires now want to dump London’s poorest, like that’s not going to cause a hundred problems. No, I won’t say anything about that. I’ll just curse the evil witch a bit longer.

      I thought Meryl Streep was brilliant in The Iron Lady, though. She almost had me feeling some sympathy for the old bag.

  5. I thought Meryl Streep was brilliant in The Iron Lady, though. She almost had me feeling some sympathy for the old bag.

    😮 Get a grip!

    Unless there’s a scene in there where Meryl Streep gets stoned I won’t be watching it any time soon.

    1. I agree with you, Fed. Though I thought the movie was too focused on the Alzheimer’s… it was almost like it couldn’t decide whether this was a movie about Thatcher or Alzheimer’s.

      1. it was almost like it couldn’t decide whether this was a movie about Thatcher or Alzheimer’s.

        That’s true.

  6. Extremely interesting and educational to an alien. How diverse and alike we are at the same time. Fundamentally sympathetic mind-set, Fed. Complicated, huge issue. I wish I could comment more intelligently… sorry.

  7. Immigration. Nothing new. As they used to say in the C17th, it’s not what you know, it’s Hugenot. Normans, Dutch, Europeans Jews, Poles, West Indians, Ugandans, Vietnamese, Bangladeshis … and that’s just your average Premier League team. I’m from Norman stock myself. In Norfolk that still makes you a bit of a newcomer. Bloody ungrateful I call it. At least we built some decent cathedrals and kept the pillaging at a respectable level compared to the Vikings. The Celts were probably most adversely effected, but to be fair most of them emigrated or went off to be colonial masters (or were deported for failing to doff their caps) elsewhere.

    London is one of THE most cosmopolitan cities on Earth. Always has been. Seems to have rather thrived on it historically, although no doubt we can blame recent Polish banking immigrants for the collapse of the financial system. Bloody good fighter pilots though.

    I dare say immigrants have always been scapegoated … Easy targets, outsiders. Ask any Nazi. Forget that, as a trading Nation with a handy Navy and a ruthless ability to bribe the locals, our wealth depends almost entirely on the absence of a ‘little Englander” mentality.

    You outline interesting facts Fed about the relatively minor impact of immigrants on population growth. Relative to the scare stories anyway. And how easy it is to point to a culture of abuse amongst child-grooming Pakistani gangs and ignore a great tradition of child-molesting teachers, care workers, disc-jockeys. People are people.

    You also point out the hypocrisy of expecting the rest of the World to be grateful for hosting our ex-pat cliques with their insistence on exporting fish and chips, polo clubs and shouting “Oi, where’s the fuckin’ bar, John” around the World.

    It’s unfortunate that the recent EU based immigration has been less carefully managed (although immigration does tend to come in waves) because it feeds the fires … A pity it also comes at a time when jobs and housing seem in short supply so that people competing at the lower-paid end of the job market (where highly qualified immigrants normally find themselves) bear the brunt. It’s certainly a shame that (and if) immigrant labour is used to undercut the minimum wage or if generous / civilised / exaggerated (* delete according to taste) benefits can be exploited. I mean, non-immigrants would never do that, would they.

    I’d prefer to see more attention placed on encouraging the use of English than trying to accommodate 40 different languages in official publications. Anything that eases integration and prevents ghetto-isation is a good thing, although ghettos look more attractive when attempts to move out of them are met with concern about ‘lowering the tone of the neighbourhood’. How we laughed at “Love thy neighbour” back in the day.

    We are, as you say a wealthy Nation. Our problems are relative more than they are absolute. I tend to think we should focus on the positives, our tradition of tolerance, our chippy preference for speaking our mind (or at least grumbling) and expecting not to be locked up for it, our cultural richness. If you can find a good thing about Britain that doesn’t have some connection with talent or input from outside our shores, I’ll buy you a beer … Or maybe a take-away. Pizza, Chinese, Indian, hamburger, kebab … Your choice.

    1. As they used to say in the C17th, it’s not what you know, it’s Hugenot.

      :)) Love that, Tim.

      I agree with you about encouraging the English language (less so in Wales, obviously; the Welsh language should come first or at the very least be on an equal footing with English and be taught in all schools from the age of three irrespective of the pupils’ nationalities, if the powers that be want to prevent the language from dying out, but that’s another matter for another time and place). Did you hear yesterday about the Middlesbrough primary school (where pupils are aged between five and 11, for anyone not familiar with the British school system) sending letters to all parents asking for their help in correcting their children’s common English errors?

      I’ve nothing at all against regional accents, dialects or even slang, I find all that stuff fascinating as well as amusing at times and would hate to lose them, but it’s about time that someone clamped down on “I done this, I seen that, she should of, I ain’t got…” and the one that really annoys me: “She was sat there.”

      But to bring myself back on-topic… I had to laugh at the local TV news yesterday, where an Asian taxi driver was being interviewed in Cardiff. He spoke perfect English very clearly, he was more than likely born in Cardiff. I suspect he was because he spoke at blistering pace and every pause in his speech was filled with a “You know, like.” :))

      I’m not sure what his parents or grandparents would make of that, but it did make me think of this juicy issue of immigration and integration and how many different strands make up the debate.

  8. Re Sarkozy’s supposed move to London in order to ditch 75% tax.

    Just wanted to point out that – here – only very few ‘sensationalist’ newspapers reported that. No evidence at all that it’s true.

    Is The Daily Mail a reliable source of information in the UK? I would think it’s just a shitty tabloid…

    Not that I’m pro-Sarkozy, as you probably know… And I also know ‘there’s no smoke without fire’… but slander is a dangerous weapon.

    As for him being “under investigation for corruption in France”, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, right?

    1. Is The Daily Mail a reliable source of information in the UK?

      Yep, very. You can always tell who the government is going to f*ck over next by who the DM has been demonising in the preceding months.

    2. Ha Ha ! Have you seen this?

      Is it true or not? Anyway, who cares? As said at the end of the article:

      You decide though. Who is the better beneficiary: the needy children or the tax man?

      For me, the answer is obvious… 😉

  9. Hey Fed,

    You’ve posted quite a doctorial thesis here. Many interesting and relevant insights. Do we even have social scientists study these things anymore? Is sound Science governing our policies, or only politics run amuck? We can no longer hide from the machine. It is going to run us over, unless we can find better drivers.

  10. So the Government are going to ‘investigate’ why so many people died at Stafford Hospital…pretty obvious I should think, they got rid of all the hard working nurses and in their place put high salaried administrators looking for ways of saving money!…care, compassion etc. No Way.

    Lovely interview with Roger Daltrey the other night re their tour… ‘Thought you were the band that wanted to die before you got old?’ Daltrey replied, saying ‘I’ve seen the state of the National Health Service and changed my mind!’

    Years ago you didn’t need a University degree to be a nurse, starting as an Auxilliary on the wards, just looking after the patients, seeing they were fed and watered and clean and warm and getting better! …caring concern and common sense (remember common sense used to apply to a lot of jobs and activities!)

    Hopefully one day we can dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in!

    Cheer up, soon be Spring!

    Best wishes
    Heather

    1. I’m just appalled by the investigation into Stafford Hospital. I really don’t know what to say, it’s so sickening.

      I agree with you, though: it seems there are too many administrators diverting money from the wards and too many nurses who, for whatever reason, clearly shouldn’t be nursing anything more serious than hangovers.

  11. News item on TV (right now) about housing stock boarded up after the loss of the factories in an English town. During the item and behind the two people talking about a bygone era, was our very own favourite acoustic guitar, playing the opening to Wish You Were Here. 🙂

    One of your links described how there are parts of Britain where there are some households where no one has worked for 40 years, this is because the factories or mines or whatever industry used to support a community, has long gone.

    The people who used to live in the boarded up houses have obviously migrated to seek work and were brave enough (as you said Fed) to go out and do it.

    Back to the guitar though, 🙂 as the volume of the people talking was turned up, the guitar sound faded down, the last thing I could hear was the sound made by fingers sliding along the strings. (I confess to not being able to identify which version therefore who was playing, but hell, it’s Floyd related).

    ash (still thinking about a very interesting post)

  12. This will take me at least a week to read, sort out the links, digest and post something … through the eyes of a true immigrant in every sense of the word.

  13. Boy, what should I say/write? My father was an immigrant when he met my mother here in Bavaria. We lived here and there, ending up with me and my family here in Germany, while my mother (father’s dead) and sister lives in Greece. Immigrants wherever you look… Born here, I consider myself a native, and love my country, but I wouldn’t praise Germany too much.

    FEd, you Britons have a saying I love: the grass is always greener on the other side, which I was reminded to with your last sentence…

    Taki

  14. FEd,

    Are you sure you’re not writing from the U.S.? I could swear you are sitting in an office in a town here, perhaps somewhere close to the border between the U.S. and Mexico, like Phoenix, Dallas or San Diego (though it’s anywhere here really.)

    We hear a lot of the same complaints (from a lot of the same types of people) as you are hearing there. Our governments sound alarmingly quite alike too, alarming is the key word here.

    We are vilifying the Latinos right now. Past villains include the Mafia types from Italy, the ex Nazis from Germany and the Polish, for any reason, etc. etc. Of course we all know the Mexicans come here to live off our entitlement programs and burden our social welfare system. They sneak across the border to have their babies who are therefore automatic citizens and can collect (what is NOT rightfully theirs) from our good taxpayers. This is a very popular gossip topic. They all come bringing in criminal activity (drugs, murder, illegal guns, add anything you think of.

    Stereotyping is a favorite pastime in the U.S. You have given me a lot to think about and I will try to write an intelligent comment later, right now my mind is reeling.

    Very good blog.

  15. The only good thing, for you and me to think about the arrival of immigrants is this, they bring fresh, strong blood to a gene pool. However, that is for generations thousands of years down the line to benefit from. Not you and I, today.

    There is always fighting over the immigrants arrival and need for resources.

    Exactly the same as a troop of monkeys moving from one area to another in search of in season fruit. Or one gang of meerkats driving another off their patch.

    If Britons want to keep immigrants out, we have to make sure there are no jobs for them by filling all positions ourselves. Tricky though. . . when an employer wants to recruit from abroad when he thinks the foreigner is better able to do the work he wants done at a cost he finds more profitable.

    I think it is business that drives the demand for cheap labour and the more competitors there are for a job, the more able the boss is to select the cheapest labourer. Business will therefore always welcome immigrants who are desperate to improve their lives and will accept less wages than an indigenous population (who thought life was rosy 20 years ago so had a family and a mortgage and a bank loan and are now out of work because the boss brought in cheap labour by closing the business and moving it 100 miles away).

    I jokingly propose that the way to solve it in a relatively short time, is to drive down population numbers by as much as half so employers are struggling to find workers, so have to pay more. . . by bringing back Bubonic Plague!!!!

    After the great plague in the middle ages, landowners couldn’t find enough workers to work the land. To get and retain workers they had to improve working conditions and pay bigger wages. Otherwise, the workers moved to where the landowner would pay more!

    Of course, we can’t do that :)) so what can we do? Wisen up, snap up the jobs before immigrants get here (and are exploited as cheap labour), canvas our MPs, tell them as a nation we want jobs for British people, tell them we know what’s going on with this cheap labour market and that we don’t like it.

    So simple, why didn’t we all think of that?

    It’s all easier said than done, the will has to be there. We don’t have unions any more. As individuals we don’t have much chance of effecting change.

    It’s better for the government and employers to keep people happily on benefits which are lower than the poor wages paid to immigrant workers. So long as the population keeps rising, there will always be a source of cheap labour.

    Cynical? You bet your life. Maybe I’m just depressed and what I see isn’t real. 🙁

  16. I know this is completely off topic. . . you know this horse meat scandal? Has anyone else wondered where are they getting all the horses from?

    I never see large herds of horses in the fields, I see cows and sheep.

    There must be an awful lot of horses involved for a major suppliers’ entire stock of a product to be horse meat instead of beef. So where have all the horses come from? And where are all the cows that they didn’t use?

    ash

    1. I really don’t want to think about it, Ash. I just hope one good thing comes from this and people eat less meat from now on.

  17. Being a very happy immigrant in this very British blog, I want to show a strong desire to integrate best into this lovely society by using its beautiful language properly, so…

    TGIF!

    Bien? Or is it TFIF?

  18. All this rabble is making me homesick. Left the mother land at a young age bound for Oz. The grass is not green at all here, more of a straw colour, particularly at this time of year. Nice enough place to visit, but if I had my time again, I would have come home as soon as I was old enough to leave. But life happens, shit happens! Whereever you are there are problems, the UK does not have a monopoly on this.

    What you do have is a beautiful land with rich heritage, unlike the cultural wasteland that is Oz. You can’t blame people for wanting a slice. My dream is to one day step foot again on the land of my birth, with all its problems and faults. I wish I was there (cheesy, sorry). Oh! to touch the green, green grass of home (even cheesier, sorry again).

  19. One race, the human race! We all live on the same island in space. One would hope our main concern would be to care for one another and our planet. When we fly there are no borders/dividers.

    In the state I live in we have had a very limited medical program. When my three sons were young we would be able to get a doctor’s appointment. Then when we showed up for it we would be rescheduled because a Mexican mother with eight children had an emergency. This happened more often than not. The people on the health program were mostly illegal Mexicans. So the farms/businesses that employed them reaped the benefits because they did not give them any benefits (at this point in time employers do not offer many, if any benefits: sick pay, medical, unions are being broke apart). I do not blame the Mexican people for wanting a better, safer way of life. They are usually very kind people and very hard workers. My family immigrated to the USA legally not long ago (my grandmother’s generation) to escape Hitler’s nightmare.

    So that is why I think the ‘One race, the human race’ is an appropriate saying for this blog.

    You all take care.

  20. To add to my previous blog.

    When my grandmother’s family escaped from Kaiser/Hitler’s Germany nightmare they were fortunate they had homes/land to sell to buy passage and also had the required “sponsor” that was required. When arriving in the USA they were put in a “holding camp”. They were required to learn the English language, learn the constitution, and pass all medical physicals. They were in the “holding camp” for nine months. One of the family members was too old to pass the physicals. He was sent back to Germany where they executed him for being a traitor.

    It would be logical that people learn the language of place they migrate to. But I have always enjoyed being around other cultures. Everyone has much to add to the fabric of life.

  21. Hi Fed! Here’s some free advice.

    Don’t move to Canada. Your situation there has been carbon copied over here. Besides, even if you are British, you’ll have a difficult time. There was an incident in my wife’s family, being refused to emigrate. Not enough money? I don’t know. Makes you shake your head.

    Come on March. Can’t wait for Mr. Bowie’s latest. I did not know he hung out in Berlin for periods of time.

    Til then.

  22. Immigration, it is a topic I have had to give much thought to. The only way I can relate, is to think of the people I have met who were immigrants and consider how I remember them.

    First there was the man I worked with at a medical center in Cleveland, he a physician, me a nurse. He was “sponsored” to come over here, and he knew absolutely no English when he arrived, he said it was very rough working as a laborer until he could learn enough English to take the state boards he had to pass in order to become a doctor here. He made me laugh because he never could keep his genders straight in English. We developed a wonderful relationship that lasted 3 years before he tragically died after contracting a virus that infected his heart. He was a wonderful man and I loved him deeply, a Hungarian immigrant who spoke awful, broken English, but could say the most beautiful things.

    Then there was a couple from Mexico who lived near my Uncle in California and I met them there. The man was tough, determined to stay in America because he had found what he needed here–Hope. He told me that his wife cried often because she missed her family in Mexico and wanted to go “home.” She worked caring for the elderly, he worked loading ships at the docks. Both worked hard, everyday. Both spoke wonderful English, but with a Spanish accent. They never missed bringing food to my uncle on weekends, my uncle was dying and it was hard to get him to eat, but he liked Mexican food. I was supposed to be caring for my Uncle, but being from Ohio, I couldn’t cook Mexican. I grew to like this couple very much and still miss their wonderful food. They showed me how hard it was to come to a new country, the daily trials and the culture they missed so much at “home”.

    I very much like what SuzySmith said above:

    One race, the human race,
    We all live on the same island in space.

    Bravo Suzy, that sums up how I feel about immigration.

  23. To FEd, (also Simon, Rudders…)

    Happy St David’s Day!

    Forget Enya, maybe you can imagine a Welsh male voice choir singing ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’ instead.

    Such beautiful peaceful landscapes, filled with history.

    With all my respect.

  24. Hello, FEd! Actually, I left Romania last year, when I was offered a specialist contract by a British independent recruiter… He had for me some offers in UK and one in Germany. Frankly, as a for ever and ever fan of the British culture, and a zero German speaker, I was tempted to take one of the UK jobs, but the guy strongly advised me to take the German one, as in UK “it’s not really clear what THEY want to do”. He advised me to wait for 3-4 years before thinking about UK again. I am fine in Germany for now, I mind my own business like any normal person would do, and actually nobody I met here cares that I’m a Romanian. I wasn’t judged or labeled in any way. The people I met, to my surprise, care a lot for me as a human being…

    My best to you all, and my wishes for health and happiness to David, on his birthday! Have a good Spring!

    1. My very best to you and yours and thank you for sharing your personal experience. Very interesting.

    2. Indeed, Tim. What bugs me is the arrogant assumption that the only people wanting to come to the UK – and I dare say it’s the same for many other ‘wealthy’ (whatever that now means) countries – are those without skills, drive, ambition and so much to offer. It’s rubbish. Dare I say, in many cases, those wanting to come in are usually a damn sight better in all respects than the people we already have?

      Too late now, I’ve said it. I did say it way back, up there, I suppose.

  25. Thank you Carolyn for commenting on my blog. Sure makes one feel part of. The “One Race, the Human Race” I saw on a poster back in the 1970s and have always liked it. The “Island in Space” was the title of a report I did back in High School about not polluting our planet and to take care of it so the planet can continue to care of us for generations…

    The teacher asked to keep it. When my cousin had the same teacher a few years later she had the poster I made on her classroom wall where she kept it till she retired. That was nice to find out.

    Anyway I wanted to say thank you.

  26. Suzy:

    “One Race, the Human Race
    We live together on this island in space”

    Sounds like song lyrics for David, doesn’t it? Great too. 🙂 Love it. The message sounds like it is about mankind and I think it’s wonderful. Congrats on the poster and the paper. Isn’t it funny the way one teacher can make such a difference in our lives?

  27. Just seen this on the news. 250,000 new school places are needed for rising fives from September. The birth rate has gone up.

    This country is in recession and suffering the worst cuts in public spending that I can remember. The term “austerity measure” was one I only knew from history books.

    Governments and local authorities have been promising cuts in classroom numbers since I was at school never mind when my children (now late twenties and early thirties) were at school.

    People will breed when they arrive to a better (than they left behind) life in Britain next year.

    We can’t afford to maintain existing expenditure, how are we going to cope in January 2014.

    I don’t care. . . I’m going to mars.

  28. Thank you Carolyn. It is amazing how what someone does or says to another can have a profound impact on an others life. Hopefully in a positive way.

  29. We tend to forget that the native people that conform governments, banks, corporations, have done more harm to our nations (in my case, Spain) than 6 billion immigrants could ever do.

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