Peter Hoskin

The tension over BJ4BW continues

The tension over BJ4BW continues
Text settings

In the wake of the Lindsey oil refinery strikes, there's evidence that Gordon Brown's deeply misguided 'British jobs for British workers' soundbite has provoked some dangerous trends.  Take the Harris poll in this morning's FT.  It finds that 78 percent of British adults think immigrants should be made to leave the country if they don't have a job (with around 50 percent strongly supporting this idea).  And that 54 percent of British adults oppose citizens of other EU countries getting a job here.  Compared to the other countries polled - France, Germany, Italy and Spain - Britain displays the highest levels of hostility to migrant labour.

The hope now has to be that the immigration debate doesn't turn sour; that the main parties don't start sounding tough on immigration for the mere sake of sounding tough; and that there isn't a major upswing in what Jim Murphy calls "recessionary racism," and support for racist parties.  Of course, this isn't to say that there aren't important questions surrounding immigration and cohesion.  There are.  But, likewise, there are questions surrounding British jobseekers, their motivation and their skills.  Indeed, a report out today suggests that UK employers prefer Eastern European workers to their British counterparts, as they are "better motivated, more punctual and have low levels of absenteeism".  The former group, and others like them, should not be made a scapegoat for the latter, nor for the wider failings of government policy.