There are left-wing answers to the questions posed by UKIP

Progressives shouldn't be running scared of UKIP. There are left-wing answers to the questions posed by the party, writes James Bloodworth.

Progressives shouldn’t be running scared of UKIP. There are left-wing answers to the questions posed by the party, writes James Bloodworth

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 recent surge in the polls are obvious: voters are fed up with the identikit ‘political class’ and want politicians to drastically reduce immigration and pull Britain out of the EU. The solutions therefore are obvious: stick two fingers up to Brussels and pull up the drawbridge on fortress Britain.

But aren’t there perhaps some progressive answers to the questions posed by UKIP? I think so, and without pandering to the regressive instincts of die-hard Kippers there are some areas where UKIP is currently getting an easy rise through a fear many progressives¬† have of confronting the party on its own turf.

Indeed, UKIP is being allowed to position itself as the only party that’s willing to talk openly about a whole range of issues that worry voters. This is dangerous. It’s also misguided, for on a number of the areas where UKIP is currently allowed to hold sway the left actually has some powerful arguments it could use to push back against Farage’s toxic fearmongering.

Make immigration work for unskilled workers

Most lefties will know the stats almost of by heart by now: 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 on the income scale: 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 prospects of work. This means recognising that the immigration experience differs across the social classes. It also means we must…

Understand the importance of trade unionism

Following on from my first point, it’s absolutely vital that we recognise the important role 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 happily 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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25 Responses to “There are left-wing answers to the questions posed by UKIP”

  1. Liam Fairley

    Another excellent and sensible piece, Mr B!

  2. swatnan

    Good stuff!

  3. James Bloodworth

    Thanks Liam.

  4. Theduckman

    A brilliant article. That is a Right step in the left direction (mind the pun). The only problem that has to be answered is what about housing immigrants but really well done

  5. uglyfatbloke

    Well put.

  6. Kryten2k35

    We should drop Farage off at Sealand and let him govern that.

  7. Sparky

    What a change from the ‘everyone who disagrees with us is racist’ approach which was the default position of virtually everyone on the Left until very recently. You’d read that in every article and comment on this site: immigration was amazing, immigration wasn’t too high, immigrants didn’t take British people’s jobs, they didn’t claim benefits, they didn’t depress wages, or put pressure on housing and the NHS, we lived in wonderful vibrant, diverse communities where everyone got on and shared a common vision of a ‘Britain we all call home.’ And anyone who disagreed was just a hateful racist.

    Of course, that approach won’t wash any more. I know it, Mr Bloodworth knows it, next-door’s cat knows it. The jury of public opinion on Labour’s extreme immigration policy has come back and the verdict is so much against Labour that the Left knows that it is completely untenable to go into an election clinging to accusations of racism. It would simply antagonize and alienate even more voters, especially the voters in the middle that decide elections. And once Labour realised that the opinion amongst swing voters had moved against it, that’s when it changed.

    So we see these touchy-feely articles which attempt to reposition Labour as the party which ‘listen’s to voter’s genuine concerns’ and would like to ‘assuage their legitimate fears’ about immigration. I don’t buy it for a moment. It was the Labour government that increased immigration levels to five times that of any level since the early 1960s. They partly did this out of their normal misguided socialist dogma but also largely out of an attempt to change the voter demographics in favour of Left wing voters.

  8. Anna Hayward

    The thing I like to get UKIP on is Health & Safety Legislation. They say they’re against it, so just shoot them with a few industrial accident stats and watch them squirm. Fact is, the current cuts to the HSE have already lead to a large increase in accidents, going further is going to mean more accidents and more lives lost. I put this to a UKIP supporter recently and he just stood there like a goldfish, opening and closing his mouth.

  9. LB

    The problem with this article is that its making up the questions, and then supplying deceiptful answers.

    Most lefties will know the stats almost of by heart by now: migrants from the EU makea substantial contribution to public finances in Britain and are far less likely to claim out-of-work benefits than working age UK nationals

    So they make a substantial contribution. You’ve got the condems saying they are getting tough. 3 months of 150 a week before you get a slice of the fixed welfare pot. That’s ¬£1.56 total NI paid and no tax. For a family of 4, you can then get.¬£26,798.25 a year in direct benefits. 12K a year for the schooling of your kids. 8K free health care. 10K free pension contributions.

    Since when is that a substantial contribution? The question is does a migrant make a NET contribution, not that they contribute less than 2p a day. Hence the deceit amongst both the left and right. The public have wised up. They can quite clearly see that all migrants on benefits are not paying enough tax to cover the cost of the benefits, the are net consumers. With a fixed pot, that means the poor get less.

    Similarly, when it comes to housing . The public are quite aware of supply and demand. It’s lesson one on economics. They know you can’t built enough property to cover 5.1 million migrants so prices go up. The supply of social housing is fixed, so people who need social housing lose out to migrants and the Bob Crows of this world keeping the housing the needy require for themselves.

    So how does any migrant on welfare cover the average 11.5K a year government spend?

    How are they going to pay citizen’s pensions when they are earning pension rights of their own?

    That’s why the poor are poor. You took their cash, spent it, and can’t even afford to return the pittance you offer as a pension.

    Meanwhile look at the debt, all of it. If you can’t even mention the trillions you owe for pensions, its not surprising people have lost complete trust in you.

    So what we have now is collective action. The public are acting collectively against the scum in Westminster. What have you got against collective action and a bit of democracy?

  10. LB

    Notice the replies.

    “We take on board you concerns”

    So what’s Labour going to about it?

    “We take on board you concerns”

    In other words. F-all.

  11. Sparky

    I’d like to see you write a piece describing exactly where the last Labour government’s immigration policy came from. Because when I walked down to the polling station in 1997, I didn’t think, “I’m voting Labour because I want much more immigration.” Because they didn’t actually mention it before being elected, did they?

    And when they were elected, who exactly was clamouring for more immigration? Grass roots Labour supporters? Were miners and dockers and postmen and train drivers contacting their local MP to demand more immigration? Hardly.

    The policy was invented by small group of middle-class socialist phonies who lived in Islington, Hampstead, Clapham and the like, and supported by their middle class socialist phoney friends in the BBC and the Guardian as part of unsolicited social-engineering. It was then supported by people such as yourself because by this time the policy had successfully been badged with the qualities of ‘modernity’ and ‘tolerance’ and ‘open-mindedness’. Of course, because something is ‘modern’ and ‘tolerated’ does not make it desirable. Pollution would fulfill both those criteria -one would hardly argue that it was desirable. But it was nonetheless the marketing trick that the Labour government pulled off. And this made it easy for them to smear anyone who voiced concerns as racists, and old-fashioned and narrow-minded.

    And this smear policy worked for a long time until the levels of immigration and its effects became so manifestly obvious that its opponents could not be explained away as racists. That’s where you come in again. “Take away the hotheaded racist accusations,” someone at Labour Party HQ tells you, “tone down the whole debate and write a conciliatory, inclusive piece about how the Left recognizes people’s genuine concerns. We can then demonstrate that we’re not as out-of-touch on immigration as people think we are.” I expect you’ll have regular pieces like this lined up to drop in before the next election.

  12. jaydeepee

    The ‘voters in the middle’ won’t be deciding the next GE so Labour should stop pandering to them and implement the policies that members want:
    A huge council housebuilding scheme,a rent act, bankers tax, mansion tax, jobs (particularly aimed at the young), more protection for public services and nationalisation or mutualisation of energy, rail and post and a repeal of both the Education Act and Health Act.

    UKIP have no answers to the problems faced everyday by the people of this country and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise.

  13. Ian

    Don’t think the UKIP way. Don’t talk about ‘housing immigrants’, talk about providing housing for the citizens of this country. An immigrant who has arrived and settled here legally, and is being productive, is no different to anyone already here!

  14. Sparky

    Really? They’re absolutely no different? Let’s see. Many of them have to learn English. None of them have paid into the system and yet from the day they arrive they use the NHS, schools, public transport. Each immigrant who comes here is an extra person competing for limited housing who would otherwise not be here. Many of them send money to their relatives abroad, money which is a direct leakage out of the country and does nothing to create wealth as consumption or saving ng in the UK does. Apart from that, you’re right, they are absolutely the same.

  15. Michael Simpson

    The argument you’re having with a series of quotation marks is a little odd, I have to say.

  16. Michael Simpson

    Housing wouldn’t be so limited if successive Governments, though notably the one in 80s, hadn’t sold off almost the entire housing stock as a manipulative electoral trick, while next door’s cat knows that immigrants put substantially more into the NHS than they take out.

  17. MWB

    A left-wing view might agree with an anti-EU stance particularly because the EU fosters neo-liberal capitalism. A broader critique of the EU is in today’s Guardian:

  18. Sparky

    In what way?

  19. Michael Simpson

    The sort of way a child has an argument with the guests Brian the Rabbit and Mr Duck at their secret tea party.

  20. Sparky

    That’s a terrible analogy.

    Firstly, the part in quotation marks to which you refer is clearly intended as a shorthand to convey a hypothesised relationship between James Bloodworth and the Labour Party. The ‘you’ refers to James Bloodworth, not to me. I am not having an ‘argument’ with anyone in the text. There’s only one person speaking.

  21. Dave Roberts

    We have the same problems in Spain. When Romania joined whatever it was we had six hundred thousand Roma arriving in the first two years. They haven’t really put a strain on the employment situation because they are mostly employed in crime of various kinds and begging. Our social services are strained to breaking point. All except the schools as Roma prefer to have their children earning money than studying.

    I was home a few weeks ago and on the Whitechapel Road in East London near where I was born. There were literally hundreds of Somali men in about five hundred yards hanging around in groups or in the many cafes that have sprung up. They certainly weren’t working and paying tax but certainly claiming benefits of some kind. Explain please.

  22. Michael Simpson


  23. Michael Simpson

    There are two cautionary migration tales here. The first of the British ex-pat who has the audacity to complain of immigrants arriving in a country they no longer live in, and the second the wave of economic migrants who, a little more flush with cash, left London’s east end for Hertfordshire and Essex, as the cockneys did in the post-war period. It may sound perverse now, but up until the 1980s London’s population was decreasing. As such, the housing stock was deteriorating and it was precisely because of the cheap rents in places like Whitechapel that newer arrivals made homes their there as the Irish and the Jews did before them. Now, I’m sure you are completely au fait with the notion of wealthier, largely white but completely middle class youngsters who are now pitching up in the area, forcing up rents to ridiculous levels and as a result pricing out Somalis, Bangladeshis, Cockneys and the rest?

  24. Sue Jones

    It’s the Tories however, that created a huge reserve army of labour in the UK through their uneconomic policies, and growing unemployment -much hidden by those off record – those on sanctions or workfare, awaiting appeal and mandatory review, those who died or are in prison – all of these people are not in the unemployment stats, as the government do not track them.

    This growing reserve army of labour deflates wages, reduces workers bargaining power and lowers working conditions and workers rights. Benefits have been reduced to below the cost of basic survival, and many cannot afford to eat and heat their homes.

    Migrants work for less,and a lot of the time take ons that no-one else wants. However, the important point is this: employees are employed – they don’t ‘take’ jobs. And greedy, exploitative employers pay their workers as little as possible. That needs to be recognised.

  25. darwins beard

    Do you acknowledge there is a difference between some who buys a house in another country at their own expense and pay taxes in that new place of residence ect, and someone who arrives in a country to take advantage of the system set up by people over generations of hard work (yes including migrants) ? Secondly do you think that telling someone how they should or should not feel about their country of origin especially in a country where the majority of people in the Capital city were not born in that country is right or proves that those least affected my mass immigration ie middle and upper classes/ university educated, home counties types are dictating what those most effected should think and feel about this prove this man right ?

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