Monday, 5 November 2018

Freedom of movement: "a timebomb of social tension"

A highly relevant piece appears in the Guardian today highlighting the tensions between immigrant communities in our inner cities. It stops short of being John Harris poverty safari. Helen Pidd has produced a valuable and timely article. (When do I ever say that?). I will want to do a longer essay around this subject but I just wanted to take a few notes as I'm somewhat occupied today. First off we have this:
The last, most scientific, attempt at estimating the UK’s Roma population, by Salford University in 2013, put it at just under 200,000. That has almost certainly ballooned. As EU citizens, mostly from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Romania, Roma do not have to register on arrival. So local authorities tried to make their own estimates based on school admissions and GP registrations – neither terribly reliable considering the Roma mistrust of authority, stemming from deep-rooted discrimination in their home countries.
This is crucial because it busts open a lot of remainer narratives and statistical extrapolations in that authorities are relying on pure guesswork as to how many have come to the UK. They tend to do casual labour, not all will register with GPs and so the chances of obtaining accurate metrics are nil. 

The whole reason we have a census every ten years is so that local authorities can plan and allocate resources. The decisions to open our borders put all that planning and forecasting in the bin. It is therefore inevitable that public services will be stretched. 
Like many new arrivals, the Roma have tended to stick together. They rent poor-quality private accommodation in the cheapest areas and toil in the sort of unskilled, low-paid jobs many Britons snub. Big families cram into two-bed terraced houses.
This is by no means restricted to the big cities. It turns smaller towns into crime ridden ghettos. Housing overcrowding is a major issue. It is the means by which migrants can cut overheads so they can afford to take the jobs that Brits (who have to all the financial obligations that come with a settled life) cannot.  
In many rapidly changing neighbourhoods, tensions over noise, antisocial behaviour and litter quickly surfaced with the more established residents. Usually of immigrant background themselves, many of them had worked in the same minimum-wage jobs on arrival as the Roma but had managed to buy their properties.
As much as we are importing the barely socialised the antisocial behaviour is entirely deliberate specifically to drive down property prices so that they can buy up a street for a song. That's great for them but not so great if you bought a house their with a view to trading up one day. I have seen this dynamic as Muslim have gradually colonised neighbourhoods, being of such a nuisance that white working class want to get out as fast as possible. The moment the for sale sign goes up there's a Pakistani knocking on the door offering to buy with cash. 
Six miles north-east of Page Hall is Eastwood, a suburb of Rotherham. Ever since she was elected to represent the town in 2012, Sarah Champion MP has been receiving complaints about litter, fly-tipping and antisocial behaviour, blamed on Roma arrivals. For a long time, the complaints came from white British and British Pakistani people who had bought their homes before EU enlargement, said the Labour MP. “There are people who put all their savings into their homes and find how they are worth less than they paid for them. They are stuck. They can’t leave the area. It’s a nightmare,” she said. A two-bed terrace on Milton Road, one of the most fly-tipped streets, sold in 2015 for £38,000. Four years previously it had been bought for £59,950.
Most recently, postal workers said they were so frightened delivering in Eastwood after being mugged for their parcels that they no longer went out alone. “They are terrified because of the level of intimidation,’ said Champion. She went out on a round with two postal workers: “If I wasn’t with two post people, I would have been running away. I was really shocked how bad it was.”
This is a familiar tale to me having helped two friends move house, making a loss in an era where the rest of the country is seeing massive gains in value. This was circa 2004 just before prices skyrocketed and mortgages closed off meaning that they were then frozen out of the housing market.

The rest of the article reads much the same, with settled and stable communities being turned into transient slums. It's a big improvement on the sickening dishonesty we usually see in the comment pages of the Guardian. Long time readers will know I've made similar points on this and other blogs. 

So the situation as is, is that the working class are having their communities ripped apart and their assets devalued and putting pressure on rents as more houses are carved up into flats - and pressure on wages. Before you know it you have a wellspring of resentment which the London metropolitan will simply write off as bigotry and ignorance and to even suggest these things are happening is simply far right populism. It is because the BNP were talking about these things when nobody else dare that they hoovered up a million votes before their migration to Ukip.

Of course the reply from remainers and other spreadsheet sociopaths is to simply firehose the plebs with more welfare and "build more houses". This is essentially the modern version of "let them eat cake". There are serious structural defects in the property market which aren't resolved by added capacity and investment tends to go into student apartments and yuppie shoeboxes. Inevitably when we do leave the EU and all of these zombie developments start to crash in price Brexiters will get the blame. You won't find anybody in the slums of Bradford or Sheffield shedding a tear. 

For a long time now I have argued that much of this resentment could have been contained with just basic good governance - having street inspectors to deter fly-tipping and clear up the mess - and police and environmental health taking robust action on noise complaints, but they stopped doing this long because anybody uttered the word "austerity" not least because of how the culture of local government has been bureaucratised and governed by KPI culture - which is in fact the more insidious influence of the EU

That though is not so easy when you have migrant communities who actively challenge the authority of local government which is something I have seen in Muslim areas in Bradford. Tribalism is a factor and they are keen to put on a show of force to remind the police who is really in control. We are drifting toward American style ghettoisation. Being that just as things start to settle the government needs another boost in growth it opens up the doors to another disruptive wave of unskilled migrants who are nether welcome nor needed. Meanwhile we appear to have an open door to Pakistan even though it is a weapons grade shithole.

Unsurprisingly this Guardian article has remainers in full spin saying that Brexit doesn't actually solve any of these issues. They might be right in that the damage is already done and is largely irreversible. All Brexit can really do is stop it getting any worse and remove the incentive to come. What I do know though, is that f the referendum is reverse and those in the Northern inner cities are told that their vote didn't matter in 2016, the tolerance that exists now will be gone. If you thought the Brexit vote caused a surge in hate crime just wait til you tell the working classes that they don't matter.

In a lot of respects Brexit is a culture war because for a long time we had Gordon Brown denying any of these things were happening, and now we find Sarah Champion removed from the Labour front bench for speaking the obvious in respect of child sexual exploitation. We can see that these are issue the left does not want to confront and would rather indulge in politically correct navel gazing and pushing SJW fads. 

Meanwhile we have prestigious academics fabricating narratives and lying through their teeth about the economic and social impacts of freedom of movement. Particularly the thoroughly dishonest Jonathan Portes. They shore up their weakling arguments with happy clappy fluff about our freedom to live and work in Europe - a meaningless entitlement, useless to those with family obligations or those who simply can't afford travel. Which is most of us.  

At the heart of this is a middle class who does not want the disruption of Brexit. The denial in respect of these issues tells us that they don't know what is happening and they don't care just so long as they are not inconvenienced, they still have their holiday perks and the current economic climate keeps propping up the value of their own homes and investments even if the price of that is a collapse of social mobility and boiling pot of racial tension -  and those not born to wealthy parents are permanently frozen out of the housing market.

Economics aside, people want stable, settled communities because that much is a natural human instinct which is never accounted for in the calculations of open borders economists. It is not a sin to want to control immigration. The EU, though, being primarily concerned with the free movement of capital and to save corporates the bother of having to train anybody will insist on freedom of movement. You can have democracy or trade but not both. If that is the ultimatum then I am not surprised Brexiters are pushing for a hard Brexit. 

As it happens the symptoms I outline would make for the basis of a workable Article 112 case in the EEA process, but our politicians are not capable of that level of sophistication, not least since it would mean admitting Brexit voting northerners have a point. 

What Britain needs is a fundamental economic reordering. The current settlement is underpinned by an unfair immigration policy that has major negative externalities and it mainly serves the already privileged. Brexit knocks out that exploitative tier of the economy forcing a correction along the lines of what it should be were it not for the distortion. 

The adjustment will not be pretty but culturally, politically and economically it is very necessary because the baseline is a truer reflection of current economic performance. Current growth is largely underpinned by immigration which masks failing economic policies while adding to the overall decay in governance as it struggles to meet the ever more diverse challenges. It cannot be patched with EU regional funding and with massive care and pensions liabilities mounting up we need to force the issue and find another way of doing things. The cradle to grave welfare state must end. 

I am of the view that this will hit the former mill towns and coal towns the hardest but these are places long since robbed of their pride and purpose and no regional funding is ever going to bring it back. Brexit will cause agglomeration to the nearest centre of economic gravity causing an exchange of people allowing lower middle classes invest their capital in the places vacated by those warehoused on welfare. This is the best way to regenerate our towns while utilising our redundant human potential. 

Ultimately there isn't going to be an economic revival until we have resolved the acute political dysfunction and healed the rifts - which is not going to happen if we stay in the EU. Not now, not ever. The existing sclerotic settlement ultimately stands in the way of an economic re-ordering. Brexit kicks the props away. The subsequent movement in the economy is what will crate the new opportunities. For that though, freedom of movement as we now know it must end. This matters more than being able to obtain strawberrys all year round.

Ultimately the economics must come second to reuniting the country. This cannot be done with an aloof political class with entirely alien values. The message of 2016 must be heard and acted upon. Should we fail to address the acute divides exposed by the 2016 vote then the illusory prosperity we enjoy now is doomed to failure as we slide toward civil unrest and hardening factionalism. Trade deals can be rebuilt. The fabric of our society, though, is not so easily repaired. 

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