UKIP leader Nigel Farage must be delirious at the spectacle of all three of major parliamentary parties’ leaders dancing to his anti-immigration tune following the Eastleigh by-election.
After shameful performances by Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, David Cameron took his turn in Ipswich to spotlight a largely non-existent problem in search of electoral gain.
He warned people coming to Britain not to expect “something for nothing” as though tens of thousands of Bulgarians and Romanians are massing at the Channel anticipating lives in idle splendour on welfare benefits in a luxurious council house.
Only someone totally ignorant of the scale of welfare payments in Britain or the difficulties of securing local authority accommodation could propose such a fantasy with a straight face.
“Something for nothing” is the expectation of the royal family, landed aristocracy and millionaire beneficiaries of inherited wealth who clutter up Cameron’s Cabinet.
Migrants come to Britain from poorer European Union member states in search of work, as official figures testify.
Around 93 per cent of immigrants make no claim on the welfare state, but our politicians ignore reality to deal in abstractions because they fear the Ukip effect.
The spectre haunting many unemployment-ridden working-class communities is the fear that immigrants will be hired in preference because of their willingness to work for lower wages.
This is actually an argument for recruiting all workers into trade unions and for extending the cover of sector-wide pay bargaining to the scale that applied before the systematic break-up of these arrangements by Tory governments in the 1980s.
Cameron has set out to pass himself off as a tough-talking, resolute leader who will bring a new governmental firmness over immigration by enacting a raft of measures to make it more difficult for incomers to access state benefits.
How was he to know that most of what he was proposing is already available under existing legislation? He’s only the Prime Minister.
His “local residence test” is an irrelevance. Councils can already prioritise homes for local people and many do.
Similarly, his proposed six-month cut-off from benefits for new arrivals who cannot show that they have been actively looking for a job and stand a genuine chance of finding one can be applied under existing rules.
These are points that Miliband could have made rather than contribute to the myth that Labour in government was lax in controlling immigration and that he feels the pain of Labour voters thinking of backing Ukip.
Farage and his party have succeeded in passing themselves off as an alternative to the existing three main parties.
They have been assisted in so doing by their opponents’ scaremongering when there is little, apart from withdrawal from the EU, to choose between their economic and social policies and those of any other neoliberal outfit.
Miliband ought to have taken a leaf from Mark Serwotka’s book in responding to this latest scapegoating campaign.
Not only did the PCS union leader reject the odious “benefit tourist” slur but he pointed out the basic fact that the current severe housing crisis cries out for the positive solution of building many more council houses.
There is no justification for any Labour leader to take part in a squalid competition with other party politicians to deploy flesh-crawling rhetoric about how mean they can be to work-seeking immigrants.
Are you listening, Mr Miliband?