The socialist answer to UKIP

We examine UKIP’s manifesto.

UKIP: “Migrants are a drain on UK resources, including benefits and NHS”

Researchers at University College London report that European migrants pay out far more in taxes than they receive in state benefits, a net contribution of £20 billion between 2000 and 2011. This is true for migrants from the “new” EU members such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria as well as the “old” EU countries.

Of 1.44 million people claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance in 2011, 8.5% were non-UK nationals. Fewer than 38,000 claimants (approximately 2.6%) were from EU countries. Job losses and redundancies hit migrant workers as well as UK-born workers.

In the NHS, 11% of all staff for whom data are available are not British; 14% of professionally qualified clinical staff; and 26% of doctors. The NHS would collapse without migrant workers.

The real “drain on resources” is into the pockets of the rich. Just 10% own 44% of all household wealth.

The real clash of interests is between workers (British-born or migrant) and bosses (British-born, or oligarchs from overseas).

Workers, both British born and migrant, should unite to benefit from the mass migration which is a by-product of capitalist globalisation, and stop bosses using it to undercut conditions and super-exploit vulnerable migrant workers.

UKIP: “The country is now having to face an unsustainable level of net immigration of 225,000 each year” and “businesses should be able to discriminate in favour of young British workers”

225,000 is 0.3% of the population. Historically many thriving countries have had much higher net migration rates; lots of countries, from Sweden and Norway through Switzerland to Singapore, have much higher rates today.

Only about half the UK’s population growth is due to migration. If UKIP were really concerned about Britain becoming “overcrowded”, they’d be campaigning against babies!

There are 845,000 empty homes in Britain, not including flats above shops and properties which need renovation to be habitable. Britain suffers more from inequality of housing than from absolute shortage of housing.

What is unsustainable is cuts to services, landlords’ profiteering, unemployment and pay freezes. The wealth of the 1,000 richest individuals in the UK increased by 15% last year alone, there is enough to provide for everyone, UK-born or migrant.

UKIP attempts to appeal to UK-born workers by giving them a scapegoat — the migrant worker taking their job. But everyone who wants one should have a decent job.

Local authorities should build and renovate houses. Hospitals and schools and libraries and social services should be better staffed. Job cuts are being made in those sectors, not because of immigration but because of Government policies to favour the rich.

UKIP: “Those coming to work in the UK must have a job to go to and must speak English.” “Official documents will be published in English and, where appropriate Welsh and Scots Gaelic.”

The 2011 census found that only 1.6% of the UK population could speak English only poorly or not at all.

8% of the population have a first language other than English, but most of those speak English okay, well, or even fluently!

If there’s a problem, it’s that the Government is cutting funds for the teaching of English to speakers of other languages, not that migrants don’t want to improve their English. Adult education has suffered a 34% cut over the last few years and another 9% cut in 2014-5.

60% of migrants from western and southern Europe arriving in the UK, and 25% of those from eastern Europe have a university degree, compared to 24% of the UK-born workforce.

Publishing official documents in multiple languages is important to prevent migrants being exploited or being unable to claim their rights. Publishing them in English only is just petty. UKIP members benefit from signs in English in many non-English-speaking countries when they go abroad!

Stipulating rules which mean new migrants must first have proof of a job in the UK to travel here gives further power to unscrupulous “work agencies” who promise to set up employment and exploit workers charging huge agency or accommodation fees, or paying below the minimum wage.

UKIP: “UKIP supports a simplified, streamlined welfare system and a benefit cap.”

UKIP will not just attack migrant workers, it will continue with Tory benefit cuts for all workers.

A 2013 Ipsos Mori poll found that the majority think that £24 of every £100 of benefits is fraudulently claimed. But official estimates are that just 70 pence in every £100 is fraudulent, that is about the same as the amount overpaid due to officials’ error, and much less than the amount of benefit due but unclaimed because of bureaucratic and other obstacles.

Official figures for benefit fraud show it running at only one-tenth the level of tax fraud. And outright tax fraud, in turn, is much less than the amounts of tax avoided by big corporations gaming the rules.

We think that whilst jobs are being cut and not created, society should tax the rich to provide a decent standard of living for those unable to find a job or unable to work.

UKIP: “Inheritance tax will be abolished”

Inheritance tax is levied on inherited amounts over £325,000 per individual (£650,000 for a married couple). This is not a tax that mostly hits workers. It is a tax that mostly hits the rich.

But not very hard: the rich find many ways of avoiding it. In 2011/12, the tax was paid on only 19,000 estates, only three per cent of all deaths.

UKIP says abolishing inheritance tax helps the “squeezed middle”. The “squeezed middle” is a fallacy, based on assuring one section of workers that they are better than others. UKIP, like the Tories, would abolish inheritance tax as a symbol that they want to favour the rich while squeezing the worse-off.

UKIP: “UKIP will cut the foreign aid budget by £9 billion pa, prioritising disaster relief and schemes which provide water and inoculation against preventable diseases.”

In 2013 the UK spent just 0.7% of its gross national income on foreign aid. That’s £11.4 billion. To cut that by £9 billion would leave only £2.4 billion, about 0.14% of the gross national income.

Over the centuries Britain’s well-off raked in vast “overseas aid” by squeezing and exploiting the people of Britain’s colonies. Not to redistribute a little back to poorer countries — and it is only little, and with many strings — would be shameful. Tax the rich who continue to exploit the world’s workers to redistribute the wealth!

UKIP: “UKIP will abolish the Department of Energy and Climate Change and scrap green subsidies. There will be no new subsidies for wind farms and solar arrays.”

If there is no concerted governmental effort to tackle climate change, the poorest will suffer quickest. The poorest live in the most flood-prone areas of the world and have least ability to move away from rising sea levels. They rely on sources of food likely to be affected by changing climates.

In fact, whole future generations will suffer.

The top five oil companies alone — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell — earned a combined total of $93 billion in 2013, or $177,000 per minute. Yet UK tax breaks for the oil, coal and gas companies continue.

Government subsidies for green technologies should not be scrapped. The big energy companies should be taken into public ownership and redirected towards planet-saving technologies.

UKIP: “UKIP supports the principle of Free Schools; existing schools will be allowed to apply to become grammar schools and select according to ability and aptitude.”

Even the outgoing Ofsted boss, Michael Wilshaw, says: “Grammar schools might do well with 10% of the school population, but everyone else does really badly”.

Around 18% of school students across England are eligible for free school meals; in grammar schools, only 2.7%. The grammars are, as Wilshaw says, “stuffed full of middle-class kids”.

“Free schools” set up by parents and small businesses in richer areas are just another way to separate off their children from the majority.

We argue for well-funded comprehensive education: increasing staff in schools, decreasing class sizes, and breaking the tyranny of the exam boards.

UKIP: “UKIP recognises and values an overarching, unifying British culture, which is open and inclusive to anyone who wishes to identify with Britain and British values, regardless of their ethnic or religious background”.

British “national culture” is the result of centuries of outside influence. These islands would be a dim, dull backwater if it were not for successive waves of immigration.

Why should “British culture” be defended against further outside influences, now, in the 21st century?

Isn’t a good thing we now listen to rap music and Beethoven, read Australian novels and watch US films, see foreign players in British football teams? Why would anyone expect us to listen and read without also being influenced and somewhat changed by the experience of these “outsiders”?

Not all “foreign culture” is good, and not all “British” bad. And vice versa. Culture should be assessed critically. If there is something oppressive or violent in a national culture, be it domestic violence, female genital mutilation, “gay bashing”, or the back-to-the-1950s narrow-minded chauvinism of UKIP, it should be challenged.

The idea that “values” are valuable because they are “British” is as stultifying as the claims by the few mathematicians who remained in Germany after 1933 that their maths was good because “German intuition” was superior to “French” logic.

Originally published in the socialist newspaper Solidarity.

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