Business Eye: The immigration blame game

Alex Pratt
Alex Pratt

It would be lovely to think that the rise of UKIP in the local and European elections was down to a resounding national “No” vote to HS2 but there are more fundamental issues in play judging by the equally significant election news from other member states.

An anti-HS2 bent wouldn’t explain why in France, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration Front National defeated the Socialist Party gaining an extraordinary quarter of the vote, why the far-right Danish People’s party won nearly 27% of the vote and doubled its number of MEPs, why in Austria the far-right Freedom Party won more than a fifth of all votes cast, nor indeed why an MEP dubbed a neo-Nazi was elected in Germany.

It does seem that a growing disillusion with bland traditional political party lines and with politics as a whole has helped power a significant protest vote with major shifts both to the right and to the left in different member States.

Interest in the European project varies hugely between nations.

While we in the UK turned out in below average numbers registering just 36% against the EU28 average of 43% of the electorate, the international variance was huge ranging between 13% in Slovakia to 90% in Luxembourg.

My strong sense is that across Europe there is a deepening divide between the electorate and the European Project as a whole, fuelled by a growing sense of separation and distance between the individual and the machinery of power.

When we lose control we fight to get it back, and if we can’t do so we look for someone to blame.

The facts and the evidence can play second fiddle to our fears and emotions.

Is this why we have alighted on foreigners and immigrants as a major source of our woes?

It doesn’t seem to matter that the majority of immigrants here are fit, healthy, young, needed, in work and far less likely to claim benefits than for example our own retired migrants to Spain; that only 4% of migrants are asylum seekers who are not allowed to work and are not entitled to social housing; that a quarter of our doctors are not British; nor that one in ten British Citizens now lives overseas.

If being born abroad makes you to blame then this applies to Joanna Lumley, the Duke of Edinburgh and Boris Johnson, and let’s not forget that Dame Helen Mirren was born Ilyena Vasilievna Mironov and that even Saint George was born in Turkey.