Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I counted them all in... errr...

The Government is finally cracking down on immigration – and if you believe that, you'll believe anything.

The Coalition's first stab at it is aimed at cutting the number of "skilled migrants" we welcome to these shores.

But there are two snags: the numbers don't add up and they're aiming at the wrong target anyway.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told us this week it was time Britain did something about mass immigration.

She complained: "Over Labour's time in office net migration totalled more than 2.2 million people – more than double the population of Birmingham.”

At last, you might think, a politician is doing something about the big issue that dare not speak its name.

But look at the numbers and you discover Mrs May is actually doing little or nothing to reduce the 196,000 people a year moving to this country.

Please note, by the way, that the figure of 196,000 is not the total number of immigrants, it’s the net figure. In 2009 we saw total of 567,000 immigrants – but that was offset by 371,000 people who left this country.

These are official Government figures so, inevitably, they can’t be trusted. It’s pretty much guesswork.

As a Commons committee pointed out the other day: “Until exit checks are implemented in the form of e-Borders, it is not possible to count individuals out of the country, and so figures on the inflow and outflow of migrants cannot be matched.”

Mrs May is reducing the number of “skilled workers” allowed into this country without a job offer from 14,000 to 1,000 – a big cut, you might think.
This is for people of “exceptional talent” – footballers, nuclear scientists, ballet dancers and the like.
At the same time, Mrs May is increasing from 13,700 to 20,700 the number of people welcomed into this country if they already have a job offer.

Taken together, it would appear she has cut the total number of skilled workers allowed into the country from 27,700 to 21,700.

It’s only a cut of 6,000 but, at first glance, it seems like a modest step in the right direction. But that’s not the whole story.

The Government has imposed no limit at all to the number of people allowed into Britain under “intra-company transfers”.

That means thousands more people are exempt from any limits at all if their employers want to move them to Britain – more American bankers, for instance.

Last year, intra-company transfers added another 22,000 people to the immigration numbers.

This shows Business Secretary Vince Cable has won the first round in the alleged battle to curb immigration. He was lobbied hard by the CBI and other employers’ organisations which said industry needed the ability to move staff from one country to another without let or hindrance.

Mrs May has put a couple of limits on these transfers. They must earn at least £24,000 a year to be allowed here at all and, to stay longer than a year, they must be paid at least £40,000.

But few companies would want to move low-paid staff around the world anyway, so these limits are just window-dressing.

At best, Mrs May has cut immigration by 6,000; at worst, because of intra-company transfers, it won’t be reduced at all.

Either way, few people are bothered about the temporary importation of highly-skilled individuals who may well be of benefit to the British economy.

What we have is a minor adjustment to an almost irrelevant group of people masquerading as a bold new initiative to tackle immigration.

Mrs May’s plans will do nothing to meet David Cameron’s pre-election pledge to cut immigration by at least half, to “tens of thousands” a year.

The real numbers are in three categories which, so far, Mrs May has not dared to touch: students, family members and EU citizens.

We are told there’s nothing we can do about migration within Europe. We have open borders and anyone can go anywhere.

We could do something about it – but our politicians refuse to do so. They would rather be “good Europeans” than good Britons.

As for family members, the Government could change the rules on arranged marriages and the ability of one immigrant to bring over a large number of relatives.

It won’t because it’s afraid of falling foul of human rights laws – yet “family reunification” accounted for 48,000 immigrants last year, 64,000 in 2008 and 69,000 in 2007.

That just leaves students. Mrs May has already said she wants to cut the number supposedly looking for education below degree level.

The numbers are staggering. Last year, according to unreliable Government figures, 311,135 students came to Britain bringing another 30,170 dependents with them.

How many “students” were on bogus courses or dropped out and disappeared? No-one knows.

Meanwhile universities, desperate to boost their income now British students must mortgage their futures to get an education, have found a champion in Vince Cable.

He won’t let the Tories do anything drastic.

So will the Coalition get tough on immigration? It doesn’t seem likely. Rather like the statistics, on this issue the Government doesn’t know if it’s coming or going.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

You've got to be cruel to be kind

The Government plans to make the long-term unemployed get up in the mornings and go to work. And if Archbishop of Canterbury condemns it then common sense tells us it must be a good idea.

He thinks making the work-shy get off their backsides will drive them to despair. But whenever Governments come up with a sensible plan you can be sure Establishment figures will be rushing for the barricades.

As if Archbishop Rowan Williams didn’t have enough trouble in his own vestry, he’s set himself up as the champion of unemployed.

Caring for the poor and dispossessed is, of course, what the Church of England is supposed to do. The Archbishop may think he’s being true to his calling.

But if he really wants to help the needy then giving them money to stay at home watching daytime TV is not the way to do it.

We have the deserving poor. For them, a life on benefits is a daily humiliation. They desperately want to work and they should be given every help to succeed.

We also have the undeserving poor – people think a life on benefits is theirs by right.

Why should they give up “Bargain Hunt” in exchange for some grotty job which doesn’t leave them any better off than they are sitting around doing nothing?

And we all know there are some people on benefits who actually manage to do very nicely thank you – because they claim benefits and work in the black economy.

Sadly, our welfare system has been distorted by such people. It’s no longer a safety net to catch people when they fall, it’s a cosy blanket to wrap everyone up and keep them warm.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith is talking sense when he argues that a life in work must be made more attractive than a life on the dole.

It cannot make sense for the taxpayer – or to people on benefits – to discover a life of idleness pays better than a bit of hard graft.

The Archbishop says: “People who are struggling to find work and struggling to find a secure future are, I think, driven further into a sort of downward spiral of uncertainty, even despair, when the pressure’s on in that way.

“And quite often it can make people start feeling vulnerable – even more vulnerable as time goes on – and that’s the kind of unfairness that I feel.”

He is right to say the five million people on out-of-work benefits are not “wicked, stupid or lazy” but he’s wrong to claim they are being penalised simply to save money.

Actually, those suffering from uncertainty and despair must do so from having no hope, nothing to look forward to and nothing to do.

Being stuck at home all day with no money and nobody to talk to isn’t much of a life.

Getting out and about, working with other people and re-learning some self-discipline must be a good first step on the road back to real work.

That’s not a punishment, that’s a benefit. For most people, it would restore some of their pride, give them a new purpose in life or, at the very least, a reason to get up in the morning.

Ambitious young students give their services free to potential employers for weeks at a time just to get some experience and so they have something extra to offer when it comes to real job interviews.

The same must apply to people who are out of work for a long time. At least if they get their hands dirty doing something socially-useful, it shows they’re trying.

True, there is a shortage of jobs at the moment. But there is also a surplus of imported foreign labour because so many Brits can’t be bothered to take the work that is on offer.

Of course, if Iain Duncan-Smith’s plans succeed, it will save us all billions of pounds. But that’s not the only reason he’s right.

Living on benefits is hard and not much fun. But for some people it’s become a way of life. The Archbishop should recognise that sometimes it’s necessary to be cruel to be kind.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Not with a bang but a wimper

Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament and now, 405 years later, David Cameron has done the job for him. At least no-one was hurt.

The European Court of Human Rights has decreed that prisoners in British jails must be allowed to vote in elections and, six years after that decision, we’ve caved in.

We’re told David Cameron is “exasperated and furious”.

As a response, that’s as pathetic as having to share our armed forces with the French.

As a betrayal, it’s even worse.

The Prime Minister came to power promising to scrap the legislation, imposed by Tony Blair, which created the human rights industry in this country.

Labour signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, something we had resisted doing for decades.

It was originally drawn up to save less happy lands from dictatorship. It aimed to defend the sort of human rights violated by people like Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy and, of course, Hitler.

Mercifully, we have never suffered that kind of evil Government so we never had a need for laws which enshrined our basic human rights – we had Magna Carta in 1215 and it served us well enough.

But in their desperation to be “at the heart of Europe”, Tony and his cronies gave us human rights which, in turn, gave every terrorist, murderer and whinger an excuse to take the Government to court at our expense.

Before the General Election, Cameron and Co pledged to scrap the human rights legislation and replace it.

Their plan for a British Bill of Rights would probably have been no great improvement but it was a start.

That plan has now been dropped. Instead, we must admit that British sovereignty no longer exists.

Our Parliament has decreed several times to ensure prisoners can’t vote. Yet one European Court ruling and elected representatives become irrelevant.

Mr Cameron’s decision to cave in proves our Parliament might as well not exist. Our
laws are made by unelected foreign institutions we have no control over. It’s as if we had surrendered to a foreign power.

It is disgusting that prisoners, people who have committed serious crimes, should have a say in choosing how we are governed.

One of the many offensive aspects is that the Government has caved in as a result of a case brought – with Legal Aid, of course – by a mad axe-man.

John Hirst killed his landlady with an axe. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. He got out of jail after 25 years.

While he was inside, he discovered a desire to vote. Having taken the Government all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, he is out of jail and able to celebrate.

This vile specimen had the effrontery to post a YouTube video where says: “Well, I’ve got the joint, I’m going to celebrate. I’ve got the bottle of champagne and I’m going to celebrate because last night it was announced that prisoners have now got the vote, which I’m really chuffed about.

“I’m now going to celebrate for the 75,000 prisoners who will be getting the vote. That includes murderers, rapists and paedophiles. All of them will be getting the vote because it’s their human right to have the vote.”

Thanks to an assortment of judges, many from some of the farthest-flung corners of Europe where human rights have only just been invented, murderers, rapists and paedophiles may yet decide the course of British politics.

This, in itself, is a staggering betrayal by Mr Cameron. It shows, among other things, that he is the willing victim of his coalition with the Liberal-Democrats.

They, in fairness, actually believe prisoners should be allowed to vote – though they kept pretty quiet about it before the election. They also believe in Britain being run by Europe.

Now they’ve got their way – another case of the Lib-Dem tail wagging the Tory dog.

The people who now make British laws are the European Court judges. Among them are human rights expert Ganna Yudkivska, from the Ukraine; university lecturer Nebojsa Vucinic from Montenegro; and Khanlar Hajivev, president of the supreme court of Azerbaijan.

Did you vote for any of them? No, nor me.

I’m sure they’re all honourable and learned. But what do they know about this country? Indeed, what do they know about democracy and the vote?

David Cameron is guilty not just of the usual politician’s double-dealing. He is guilty of betraying his country.

He has surrendered to a foreign power without the least resistance.

This is not just about whether 70,000 convicts should be allowed to vote. It’s about who runs Britain.

If we concede defeat to the European courts, we can be as “exasperated and furious” as we like but he has submitted to an unelected foreign dictatorship.

The only consolation is that when prisoners do get to vote, even they will realise it’s not worth bothering if our Government can’t be bothered to run our country any more.

Guy Fawkes thought we needed a massive explosion to destroy Parliament. David Cameron’s done it with a damp squib.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Tories suspend S Staffs party

The Conservatives have suspended one of its most successful constituency parties and axed three senior officers, two of them councillors.

The 500-member South Staffordshire Conservative Association has been put on "special support" with ex-Birmingham Northfield MP Roger King parachuted in as chairman.

Coun David Billson and Coun Sonja Oatley have been forced to resign from the association's ruling executive by the Party Board over unfounded allegations against their chairman Lyndon Jones.

Mr Jones has also been forced out and has quit the party over the "kangaroo court" which sealed his fate.

The departures follow a high-level two-month inquiry into allegations against Mr Jones carried out by the Tories’ Staffordshire Area Management Executive chaired by Mr Charles Boote.

The inquiry's final report concludes that “an undercurrent of bad feeling” was in danger of “spiralling out of control”.

It says there was “strong evidence of an attempt to undermine the chairman. In particular there have been unproven rumours of previous membership of the National Front or similar organisations and charges of rigging of a selection vote. Both of these could be highly damaging to the party were they to be reported in the press”.

Mr Jones was also accused of using his position to win a pay rise for his wife, who is the association’s organising secretary. But he was cleared by the inquiry which said he “behaved properly in absenting himself from key decisions affecting his wife’s employment contract”.

The report said South Staffordshire District Councillor Oatley had to go because she was guilty of leaking confidential information to members and undermining Mr Jones.

It says of Coun Billson, who is a district and county councillor, that he “has taken certain actions and made a number of allegations that have undermined the chairman. None of these allegations have turned out to be true and Coun Billson has presented no evidence to support them.”

Both councillors have been removed from the local party executive.

The report says of Mr Jones: “The chairman has exhibited a high degree of dedication to the association during his term in office.

The report also states: “However, he has permitted the paid employees to assume responsibility for issues with, and write e-mails to, volunteers that rightly fall within his remit. In doing so, the chairman has abdicated an important responsibility and has allowed situations to develop and fester.”

Mr Jones commented that as paid employees it would be part of an Organising Secretary’s job to respond to emails.

The report says the association must introduce new employment policies “as a matter of urgency” and it would be “inappropriate” for Mr Jones to remain as chairman.

Mr Jones said he had repeatedly told the area management executive that the Organising Secretary already had both a contract of employment and a job description, but he was ignored.

He became chairman 18 months ago following a selection where he was voted as Chairman by a large majority of the members and at the time of his election the Conservative Party wrote to the association confirming there was no objection to Mr Jones getting the post even though his wife was an employee.

A furious Mr Jones said: “I was never in the BNP and I never took part in any decisions regarding the Organising Secretary’s wages. I asked for advice from the party and they immediately suspended the association, told me we could not hold any more meetings, and launched an investigation.

“I do not know what I have done wrong. This is a stitch-up kangaroo court. They are really scraping the barrel if it’s because I didn’t personally reply to all the e-mails we receive.

“I have never been allowed to defend myself. As a convicted criminal I would have more opportunity to defend myself than this.”

He said some councillors may have been angry because he had tried to ensure the local party stuck to the Conservatives’ rules on the selection of council candidates.

Mr Jones added: “I am very disappointed I have had no support from our
MP Gavin Williamson after I was his chief aide and had three weeks off work for the General Election. I was with him every single day of the campaign,” said Mr Jones.

“As his Association Chairman, I would have expected his support. I am a working man who was doing a good job and feel very let down by the Conservative Party. Obviously I do not fit in.”

At the General Election, the Conservative majority in South Staffordshire increased from 8,847 to 16,950, making it one of the party’s safest seats in the country.

Coun Billson said: “I have been struck down from the executive, so has Mr Jones and one other person but I am not allowed to talk about it and that would be the situation at the moment.”

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Eric Pickles - a correction

Turns out I was wrong to complain the Staffordshire South Conservatives were only “bullied, browbeaten and betrayed” by Eric Pickles. They were blackmailed as well.

The Tories’ answer to John Prescott told them that if they insisted on choosing Nigel Hastilow as one of the six candidates to be interviewed for the seat, he would have no hesitation in suspending the whole association and imposing three candidates of his choosing on the local party.

When asked about the letter he sent me (see blog from January 17) he just shrugged.

More news about South Staffs Conservatives coming soon