Structural inequality, not immigration, is the UK’s problem

The answer to poverty isn’t to pitch one worker against another of a different nationality; it’s to combat the systems and structures that lead to such inequality.

The answer to poverty isn’t to pitch one worker against another of a different nationality; it’s to combat the systems and structures that lead to such inequality

In light of the European election results, it is clear that UKIP’s rhetoric has resonated among the public. With more MEPs than any other party and over 27 per cent of the vote, fear about immigration and the harmful effects of EU membership is widespread. UKIP’s popularity, however, means that it’s now more important than ever to scrutinise their rhetoric.

Of course, much has been written about the economic benefits of membership to the EU, and specifically, immigration. Reports have highlighted that migration increases the UK’s GDP, and aids public finances. Yet it’s been claimed that these economic benefits aren’t felt by low-paid workers, a viewpoint that may indeed be valid considering the worrying increase in inequality within the UK over recent decades.

Depending on the measurement, it is thought that the UK has the sixth or seventh largest economy in the world. We benefit from an excellent National Health Service and state education system until the age of 18. The notion that the UK is ‘under threat’ is absurd, and represents a huge misunderstanding of our place in the world. We are immensely fortunate to be born into such a lifestyle when comparing the UK to other countries.

Why aren’t others entitled to this good fortune and lifestyle? What is it out about Britons that, just because we had the luck of being born here, makes us more deserving than immigrants? UKIP’s rhetoric is shrouded in the pernicious notion of birth-rights – the language that ‘we’ deserve ‘our’ land, ‘our’ hospitals and ‘our’ schools more than others who differ from us only by birthplace.

Considering this, it’s unsurprising that Farage’s party are so often described as racist, when so fundamental to their philosophy is the idea that British people are more deserving than others. When Farage speaks about the ‘people’s army’, he talks about an exclusively British ‘people’s army’, which concerns itself with improving life for British people, at the deliberate exclusion of others.

Yet foreign migrants are as deserving as anyone born in the UK, especially when considering that they are often attempting to escape poverty or to better their economic position.

To prioritise the curbing of immigration on the political agenda is to enthusiastically embrace structural global inequality. And not only to embrace such inequality, but to benefit from it, to maintain our privilege at the neglect of others. For anyone with any sense of a belief in equal opportunity, social mobility or economic equality, the issue is fundamentally the same; to accept privilege and to deny somebody else of similar opportunity is inherently unjust.

This is what is so concerning about the EU election results. We had a chance to mandate our representatives to act on a number of issues; to combat global poverty, to take measures on climate change or to prevent international organised crime such as sex trafficking. The kind of issues that fundamentally require international co-operation, and that UKIP ignore in favour of nationalistic entitlement.

Despite the privilege that the UK grants us, it would of course be unfair to deny that the UK faces significant challenges. In recent years, inequality has increased rapidly, food bank usage has soared, and many, both in and out of work, are struggling with poverty.

But to group low-paid workers of different nationalities against each other is just another aspect of the divide and rule culture that will help to foster tensions and divisions between communities. The answer to poverty isn’t to pitch one worker against another of a different nationality; it’s to combat the systems and structures that lead to such inequality.

We need to better represent workers and their rights, an end to zero-hours contracts and the implementation of a Living Wage, which pays all employees enough to maintain a reasonable quality of life. Similarly, the housing crisis can’t be solved by scapegoating foreigners – instead, the government must take responsibility and increase the building of council homes.

Indeed, between 2002-2012, a total of 9,860 council homes were built, less than 4 per cent of the number built over the same period 30 years ago. This is clearly inadequate for the UK’s growing population.

It would be foolish and wrong to argue that UK poverty doesn’t exist. However, it’s absurd to respond to such poverty by victimising fellow low-paid workers in other nations, whilst ignoring the structural inequality that exists within the UK. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world, our fixation with immigration can only be described as a self-serving maintenance of our own privilege, which only reinforces the lottery of birth and stifles any essence of equal opportunities.

Farage claims that he’s leading a ‘people’s army’. In reality, he’s a public-schooled, millionaire City trader, playing divide and rule with oppressed communities. He knows who benefits from inequality and injustice, and he has no intention of changing it.

George Gillett blogs here

42 Responses to “Structural inequality, not immigration, is the UK’s problem”

  1. johhnyboy

    Who gives a crap where he went to school. Blair went to Fettes, Orwell to Eton, Atlee to Haileybury. Focus on ideas/the ball, not background/the man.

  2. OldSlaughter

    This is very poor for many reasons.

  3. Sparky

    “We benefit from an excellent NHS service.”

    Wrong. The chairman of the mid-Staffordshire scandal investigation, Robert Francis, QC said that if the NHS was an airline ‘planes would be dropping out of the sky all the time.” He also notes that there are 12,500 deaths a year by NHS staff, with surgeons operating on the wrong part of a patients body every week. This is the truth about the NHS, so beloved of socialists.

    “We have an excellent state education system until 18.”

    Do we? 20% of adults are functionally illiterate. 40% are functionally inumerate. Employees complain they have problems finding young applicants with basic skills such as arithmetic, time management and team working. Half of universities say they have lost confidence in A and A* grades and now have to set their own exams to differentiate between applicants.

    “Why aren’t others entitled to this good fortune? What is it about Britons, just because they had the good fortune of being born here, that makes us more deserving that immigrants?”

    That statement, perhaps more than any other I’ve ever read on this site illustrates just how far out of touch with the sentiment of ordinary people the Left has become.

    I’ll answer your question Mr Gillett. None. No-one wants to deny schools and hospitals to immigrants. That’s not the debate. The debate is about the numbers of immigrants that come here, particularly the huge numbers that came here under a Labour government.

  4. Jimmy

    And the free market US health service, vastly expensive, is so great, I suppose. Frankly, I’m fed up with right wingers using any excuse to talk down the NHS. Although they deny it, we all know they’re trying to get rid of it – and will do if there is a Tory majority after 2015.

  5. Sparky

    It’s not a question of ‘talking down the NHS’. I’m quoting the findings of the Mid-Staffordshire investigation. They’re facts. You may not like them. But it’s reality. Tens of thousands of people are dying on the NHS systen each year through neglect and medical blunders. Don’t believe me? read the report for yourself. It’s a reality that has been swept under the carpet for decades. And I made no mention of the US system.

  6. Sparky

    It’s written by a kid at university! That’s the standard of contributors on here.

  7. sladmac

    This article implies that there is no difference between British workers and Non British workers and they are both equally deserving and should be treated the same. That may be a very noble sentiment but the fact is that only British people can vote in the General Election and therefore Labour needs to ensure that it reprsents British People first and only once it has ensured their needs are met should it worry about the rest of the world.

    The sad reality is that Immigration drives down wages and drives up house prices/rents and is bad for the working class British person whilst being good for the rich.

  8. Jimmy

    So you just like to smear the NHS, denounce it as ‘socialist’, and complain when I mention the free market American system. So what’s your solution?

    Of course the NHS has its problems, as do other health systems. The vast majority of the British people deeply cherish it and are not going to be fooled by evil right-wingers who want to get rid of it.

  9. Jimmy

    We couldn’t have an article written by someone who has been at university could we? No, we just want to hear from graduates of the University of Life.

  10. JH

    Re health, it is right to question how we can improve the NHS, but what alternatives would you look to for answers. You haven’t mentioned, but what about the US system – thousands of people die each year there too, because they can’t afford medical insurance. Or at least this has always been true in previous years.

    On education, the CBI and others CONSTANTLY bring out the same reports ‘graduates can’t tie their shoelaces’ or ‘school leavers don’t recognise their own reflections’ etc. This is a shameless appeal to authority, but I’ve spoken to researchers there who admit it’s drivel. It is businesses opportunity to pass the buck for their own appalling training and development practices.

    We’re not great compared to other developed countries by lots of measures, and it’s a lot to do will locking so many people out of opportunities. I’m not sure it helps locking even more talented people out, is my view.

  11. Trofim

    But everybody’s been to university. My dog’s been to university, and his fleas have got degrees.

  12. tf

    Fantastic article, couldn’t have written it better myself. Ukip’s “us against them” rhetoric and the national sense of entitlement here in Britain is horrifying to watch and should be consistently challenged.

  13. treborc1

    The problem with knocking Farage is of course he’s offering what many people want, a vote on the EU, today we had that great man Blair speaking about why we should not get a vote basically because he knows best and we should basically listen to him.

    Miliband actually said he has no time or cannot be bothered with the EU he has other more important things to do like making jobs for us and getting all those hard working peoples to vote labour.

    I think we should have a vote on the EU I cannot vote Tory but I can vote UKIP for now anyway, but with labour now going off seeking hard working people what can one say

  14. Tom O'Connor

    Agree with sladmac and Sparky. And frankly, if the author was where my disabled wife and I are, socially and economically speaking, he wouldn’t be considering himself to be privileged.

  15. Disheartened Non-EU Migrant

    Actually not only British people can vote in the General Election, please see http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/who_can_register_to_vote.aspx. So I voted in the recent elections.

    I am an immigrant myself – a non EU one from the Far East, part of the Commonwealth – and believe many, many years ago, something similar happened in my country – it wasn’t called immigration at that time but colonialism. It was the British and many other Western “superiors”. It was not our choice and we did not have a say whether we get colonised or otherwise. Ask any of us – we would say that colonialism of course, whilst is a form of oppression of the locals, it has also enriched us in many other ways – healthcare, education etc. So I am sure the truth is immigration is not an issue. An open door policy is an issue – you need to control immigration not shun all immigrants as benefitting from this country. Let me assure the taxes I pay to this country (where I am not entitled to benefits and quite rightly where I do not expect such benefits) are far more than what a minimum wage individual in the country would earn. So how is that even possible I am putting pressure to the system? That is not it, I came here to study and spent £15,000 a year at one of Britain’s top university for my tuition fee, not adding my living expenses in those years that I and many other foreign students contribute to the British economy.

    I think whilst it is a strong sentiment in the British public – again quite rightly to feel this way – the immigrants in this country are forgotten in the debate. We are paying the price to be humiliated in public – categorising us as one size fits all – all the good we have done seems not be highlighted at all. When I came to study in the UK, universities hungry for foreign money came over and marketed not only university courses but also job prospects.

    I think the UK needs to get a grip on its immigration policy and stop being one big hypocrite just because every 4-5 years you vote in different governments who change policies according to what you need. I think the immigrant community has had enough and to be honest – I always tell people go to where a country welcomes you to expand your horizons. Unfortunately, the UK is no longer such a country. I have built my life here and that’s fine. I will contribute in the community I live in and I love this country as much as my own. I am not the stereotypical “immigrant” that people like yourselves and the media portrays us to be. I am sure there are many like me who somehow are forgotten.

    The UK needs to have a backbone – set and stick to something. Not decide A one day and B the next day just because it doesn’t work. You are dealing with lives – not just those who come in but those in the country. The open door policy has made as you claim impacted the British public – who voted that government in? The UK in the EU was a decision made by the UK government – who voted that government in? It’s almost like buying a house and then when interest rates go up you decide “You know what Mr Bank I can’t pay this anymore it just doesn’t work with my salary”. The Bank comes after you doesn’t it. You have to fix it by selling the house or the Bank will sell it for you after repossessing it. Selling the house is not easy – can be done but not easy you probably need to take a hit if the market is s***t. But hey, deal with it.

    Conclusion – take control of your borders. I was amazed that this country has no exit checks. Make immigration offence serious than it is. Stop acting you can handle asylum seekers so that you look good in the international community – truth is you can’t handle normal immigration even of skilled workers so really no point being a hypocrite dealing with asylum seekers – do this only if you have that spare capacity but looking at things you don’t. Some applications take years and by that time applicants automatically qualify for citizenship applications – how screwed up that is? The EU free market – unfortunately comes with the bigger package of the EU membership – but I think it’s a crappy idea – again hypocrisy. Let’s face it you are never going to have economic equilibrium are you with nearly a 30 country union? The idea is great and all looks great but be realistic. Stop blaming immigrants – we wouldn’t be here had you not welcomed us in the first place. Do not play host if you cannot – simple – but say it on the outset. Many other countries can play host no big deal but when you say you can you stick up to to what you say. Stop counting international students in your migration numbers – yes the UN definition is one thing – but this is where it sets you aside if you have intelligence/common sense. A degree course is 3 years so you are including these international student migrants spending cash in this country contributing to the economy in billions of pounds in your net migration figure that you’d like see the number go down? Well tough luck there! These students cannot work/have restrictions on the number of hours they can do – and to be honest – be as restrictive as you can the majority of the international students would not care, so how are they taking British jobs? I think the Government and the British public are not at all engaged making the public delusion by high level figures. You should look who make up the proportion of immigrants and NEVER categorise us as all in one bag of things. We too are professionals from all around the world and truth be told can only take these public bashings to a certain extent.

  16. Mike Stallard

    “Yet foreign migrants are as deserving as anyone born in the UK, especially when considering that they are often attempting to escape poverty or to better their economic position.”

    Actually the problem is rather deeper. We are the target of a huge gold rush. People from poor countries flood in after the riches which they think belong here. Free schooling. Free health. Astounding pay. No corruption. Fewer hopeless drunks. Decent Police.

    Once here they bring their baggage with them, of course, do they not.

    In a way it is the very old problem of plague. Do you let the Londoners into your village when they are fleeing the plague?

    We are a country which honestly believes in socialism – from each according to his ability. We believe in co-operation, in helping other people, in spending our lives in thrifty living so we can look after our families and the vulnerable.

    In this we are unique. Most other people do not believe or act in this way. Socialism works in Britain but not in many other places. I am tempted to repeat “There is Methodism in their madness.”

  17. Hogspace

    “Why aren’t others entitled to this good fortune and lifestyle? What is it out about Britons that, just because we had the luck of being born here, makes us more deserving than immigrants? UKIP’s rhetoric is shrouded in the pernicious notion of birth-rights – the language that ‘we’ deserve ‘our’ land, ‘our’ hospitals and ‘our’ schools more than others who differ from us only by birthplace”

    And there you have rampant stupidity. That is an argument for dragging Britian down to the standards of the 3rd world. The simple answer is there are Haves and Have nots in the world. Brits have spend centuries ensuring we are mostly a nation of Haves in the world. If you want to be a Have Not then FRO to Mauritania.

  18. Hogspace

    Please be first to give up your home, central heating, car and excess of food THEN pontificate at those of us who are more than happy to live a much better life than many others.

  19. Hogspace

    Jolly well said that man. Right on all counts.

  20. Hogspace

    Immigrants or their employers should be paying for schooling, healthcare and private housing for at least the first 5 years.

  21. Hogspace

    As a healthcare worker I’m calling you a liar and a fool.
    All UK parties, Tory, Labour, LibDem and UKIP are committed to the NHS and healthcare free for all British citizens at the point of use. It is a principle than will not change. Well not this century anyway.
    Do the services we provide need to be reformed, do they need 20% more funding overall? yes they certainly do.

  22. Hogspace

    No other major European country would accept the poor level of service and number of fatalities tolerated by the UK. No wheels need inventing. Just look at the service delivery, funding model and funding levels in Netherlands, Germany and France. Job Done.

  23. Hogspace

    In the North of England maybe but the rest of subscribe to “you keep what you kill” TYVM

  24. Jimmy

    Really? So why are right wing think tanks talking about ‘copayments’ (ie making us pay for a service as well as through general taxation)? And the NHS bill has led to massive privatisation, as was its core intention.

    Of course no party will admit to its intentions this side of an election, any more than the Tories did in 2010. Remember ‘no top down reorganisation’?

  25. Jimmy

    I haven’t seen much socialism in Britain.

  26. Mike Stallard

    Well then, try talking to a couple of Lithuanians. Or try answering an advert or two from Nigeria. Try doing a neat little deal in China. Own a farm in Zimbabwe. Live in a favella in Brazil…
    There are very few places in the world where you can own a house and live in peace.

  27. Mike Stallard

    Try having a disabled wife, then, in Spain. (I have met several of them).

  28. Mike Stallard

    If you are getting at me – I have got an honours degree from Uni and a First Class Honours with Distinction and Prize in the University of Life (with fleas).

  29. Hogspace

    Yeah and those vapour trails streaming off the wings of high flying aircraft are the spraying of mind control drugs by the Bilderberg group.

  30. sarntcrip

    STUPID NEW SYSTEM DOESN’T SHOW THE NUMBER OF DOWN VOTES

  31. sarntcrip

    HEALTHCARE WORKER FOR BUPA PRESUMABLY THE TORIES POLICY IS PRIVATISATION IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING LABOUR DIDN’T HELP WITH THE GROSSLY OVERPRICED PFI UKIP’S POLICY IS FOR UBER MARKET FORCES IN THE NHS

  32. sarntcrip

    ALL THE COUNTRIES YOU MENTION SPEND A MUCH GREATER% OF GDP ON THEIR HEALTH SERVICES QUITE RIGHT TOO

  33. sarntcrip

    WE HAVE NEVER HAD A REAL SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT EVEN WILSON’S WASN’TWE COULD DO WITH A DOSE OF CORRECTIVE SOCIALISM TO BRING BACK SOME BALANCE AND MAKE CAPITALISM WORK FOR EVERYONE SURE AS HELL DOESN’T RIGHT NOW

  34. sarntcrip

    IT WOULD BE LIELY TO CONTAIN LITTLE COMMON SENSE EVEN IF THE SYNTAX IS CORRECT. APOLOGIES FOR CAPS LOCK ERROR

  35. sarntcrip

    TEN APENNY

  36. sarntcrip

    HERE THE GOVERNMENT IS ENCOURAGING PEOPLE WHO CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY TO ENTER THE PROPERTY MARKET AN INEVITABLE RATE RISE WILL SEE MASS DEFAULTERS REPOSSESSIONS AND YET MORE PROPERTY END UP IN THE HANDS OF THE FEW

  37. Mike Stallard

    I have had a rented property for ten years and been evicted too. But I could not agree more with you. Even worse, as the banks lend more and more electric money, they fill up with useless bonds and then go broke. After that the inflation starts in earnest.

  38. Trofim

    The University of Life is by far the better teacher – wisdom is acquired at first hand, knowledge is acquired at second hand. What you gain from the university of life cannot be transmitted via books or orally. Some things have to be experienced.

  39. Mike Stallard

    Couldn’t agree more. PS Much more effective if shortened slightly perhaps.

  40. karn

    is it new ‘Caste System’ being in making; where one’s place in society is determined by birth rather than one’s merits and hardwork ?

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