>Central and East European migration – the Guardian/UKIP axis

>A bizarre debate on BBC2’s Newsnight addressing what is now suddenly seen as the problem of migration from Central and Eastern Europe –the product of local authorities complaining they will have to put up council tax because of strains on local services due to large numbers (which no one can very clearly estimate, we are at best talking about a scenario). Newsnight duly obliged by filming an on the spot report from Slough as negative as its earlier report on Poles in the UK had been positive.

In the studio debate there was a very odd series of exchanges between the UKIP’s probable next leader Nigel Farrage and the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee. Awkwardly for both, they agreed with each other almost 100% in not very different versions of the pull-up-the-drawbridge-they’re-stealing-our-jobs argument. Farrage was blustering away that CEE migrants were doing the locals out of jobs and causing unemployment – perhaps thinking of the work that outgoing UKIP leader Roger Knapman had done on his house by East European decorators. Toynbee agreed with him right down the line from a sort of social-democratic protectionist standpoint saying that CEE migrants were driving down wages, stopping employers investing in training and and benefiting only the wealthy, by keeping prices in restaurants down.

The last remark sounded like an odd piece of middle class guilt, as I suspect she probably eats in London’s pricier restaurants more than most. Hope she’s a generous tipper. Personally, I didn’t feel too guilty today buying a cup of coffee on the train for £1.60 from an obviously Polish catering person called Danuta. No sign of prices being held down by migration on the Stansted Express then. (The train then promptly broke down for half an hour – perhaps we should get some Polish track maintaince staff?. )

Polly Toynbee’s comment that high levels of CEE migration ‘preventing the proper working of the market’ was also very odd. As a social democrat she should realize that it is for the state (if anyone) to regulate social standards and as a pro-European she should know that the market we live in is the European Single Market not a national one. Her position was that we should impose labour restrictions on Bulgaria and Romania was also odd and inconsistent, delaying the ‘problem’ for a few years.

Here UKIP’s ‘solution’ of national sovereignty and closed borders was at least more logically consistent, although Farrage still went through contortions, showing touching concern for an organization he wants to leave by pronouncing himself against Eastward expansion of the EU. He is , however, favour of ‘trading’ with other European states. I’m sure other EU countries – Poland in the forefront – will just jump at the chance of agreeing such terms with a newly ‘independent’ UKIP-run UK, which I guess would be like a giant version of Frimpton on Sea.

Only the IPPR spokesperson seemed to talked any sense at all, eclipsing a lacklustre performance from Labour MP Fiona McTaggart, who was floundering saying that CEE migration was, but also wasn’t a problem…. CEE nationals who have come to the UK, he explainde, are mostly employed, tax paying, childless and have no access to social housing or benefits and will in the long term be relatively to integrate – a very small, manageable challenge for our multi-cultural society.

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