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

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

43 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.

Comments are closed.