Three left-wing answers to the questions posed by UKIP

Don't despair, there are progressive answers to the questions posed by UKIP.

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Don’t despair, there are progressive answers to the questions posed by UKIP

Everyone seems to have a theory as to how the left can defeat UKIP. For some it means robustly calling out the party as ‘racist’; for others it means treading more gently and highlighting the economic benefits of European integration.

For UKIP’s growing base of support, the reasons for the party’s surge in the polls are obvious: voters are fed up with the identikit ‘political class’ and want politicians to reduce immigration and pull Britain out of the EU. The solutions therefore are obvious: stick two fingers up at Brussels and pull up the drawbridge on fortress Britain.

But aren’t there perhaps some progressive answers to the questions posed by UKIP?

Indeed, on some of the areas where UKIP is currently allowed to hold sway, the left has some powerful arguments it could deploy to push back against Farage’s toxic fearmongering.

We must make immigration work for unskilled workers

Most people on the liberal left will know the statistics almost of by heart: migrants from the EU make a substantial contribution to public finances in Britain and are far less likely to claim out-of-work benefits than working age UK nationals. That said, the effect of immigration on a person’s wage packet depends largely on where they sit in terms of social class: on average low-wage workers lose out while medium and high-paid workers gain, according to the respected Migration Observatory.

Over the long-term the negative effects on employment and wages tend to be mitigated by growth; but in the meantime it’s important to address the plight of unskilled British workers who are worried about the effect immigration could have on their wages. This means recognising that the immigration experience differs across the social classes. Racism should be called out wherever it rears its ugly head, but it isn’t enough to write off swaths of the working class as hopelessly xenophobic. How are you going to ensure that they are not undercut at work by workers from the continent with lower wage expectations?

This leads me to my next point…

Trade unionism should be celebrated

It is absolutely vital that we recognise the important role that trade unions can play in assuaging some of the fears people have about immigration. After all, anyone with any kind of socialist or social democratic background ought to understand why employers might opt for Eastern European workers over their British counterparts. British workers have higher wage expectations, a better understanding of their rights at work and are more likely to seek out trade union representation than migrant workers.

Rather than trying to force British workers to compete in a race to the bottom with migrant workers, the left should see its primary task as to unionise migrant workers and educate them as per their rights at work. In an economic sense, a British worker has far more in common with an Eastern European worker than he does with his employer after all.

Recognise that integration is not a dirty word

In embracing the best of multiculturalism too often progressives ignore the potential challenges that come with it. A community of people from different backgrounds sharing values and broadening each other’s cultural experiences is what multiculturalism should be; an assortment of isolated communities that barely interact with each other is actually monoculturalism, and isn’t a cause for celebration.

Too often when a politician calls for migrants to learn English they are accused of pandering to anti-immigration sentiment. And often they are. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a progressive case for migrants to do the things that will help them to become full members of British society. Socialism ultimately starts at the community level, and progressives shouldn’t allow demagogues like Nigel Farage play on public concerns about integration (or a lack of it). The left should have its own answers as to how we create a sense of community in the places where the level of immigration is high.

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This is an updated version of an earlier post, which, I think, is relevant once again

8 Responses to “Three left-wing answers to the questions posed by UKIP”

  1. Lucy Sky Diamonds

    My god no wonder people are moving to the right.

  2. blarg1987

    The whole issue about europe and immigration is that neither political party left or right has actually provided evidence either way, UKIP say as part of europe we have to let people in, they are entitiled to beenfits etc, yet the other side say that is not the case. What neither side has done has actually gone here is the actual piece of legislation that proves or disproves the argument. Thats what needs rectifying.

  3. blarg1987

    The whole issue about europe and immigration is that neither political party left or right has actually provided evidence either way, UKIP say as part of europe we have to let people in, they are entitiled to beenfits etc, yet the other side say that is not the case. What neither side has done has actually gone here is the actual piece of legislation that proves or disproves the argument. Thats what needs rectifying.

  4. beerey

    TFEU

  5. Jacko

    Translation:

    “When we were in government, we spent 13 years prioritizing mass immigration, even though large chunks of our traditional voter base tried to tell us they had serious concerns.

    We did this because over the years the Labour Party became less and less about representing the interests of the ordinary man in the street and more about furthering/launching the careers of a small collective of London-centric middle-class academics, researchers, bloggers, journalists and assorted professional left-wingers who preferred incestuous intellectualism to connecting with real voters.

    So convinced were we of our own moral and intellectual superiority that we would answer our critics not with consideration and concern but with moralizing screeds of anti-racist invective that made us feel very self-righteous.

    We didn’t understand that this intellectual cabal was beginning to strip the party of its connection with the very people it was created to represent. Recently we’ve started to see movements away from support in previously staunch areas. We have to change strategy.”

  6. blarg1987

    But who is telling the truth? As neither side refer to any part of the TFEU to back up their claims.

  7. Bones

    …perhaps worth recognising in this article that some British works are female!

  8. Stephen Latham

    How about this idea. Impose a substantial land tax on large estates, and on second homes. This would release space for building homes, and reduce the price of large properties which could then be converted into multiple dwellings. As well as providing accommodation for the immigrants we need, it would increase emigration of the useless rentiers, therefore balancing the net immigration figures.

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