THE BLOG

When it Comes to Immigration and Welfare, Just How Different is Ed From Dave?

12/04/2015 19:51 BST | Updated 08/06/2015 10:59 BST

It's election time, and yet again our countries leading politicians are bouncing popular policies around like a plastic football in a school yard. You only have to take a look at the parties' websites to see the same 'strong' statements plastered over their pledges to the electorate. From capping benefits, to a commitment to clamping down on immigration, The Conservatives and The Labour Party are, under the guise of austerity, isolating the less fortunate and continually blaming them for the state of our economy. The recent budget announcement has only confirmed this political narrative. Osborne aims to cut welfare spending by £12 billion and extend the public sector pay freeze whilst cutting corporation tax to 20%. Furthermore, economist and Labour politician Rachel Reeves has recently blamed the growth in food banks on a "failed welfare state" and claimed that Labour would be tougher than the Conservatives on cutting the benefits bill.

A similar aggressive stance has also been taken for the topic of immigration. Both Cameron and Miliband have taken to the stage and stated that Britain needs firmer border controls, harsher work restrictions and the implementation of a time-period where immigrants have to be totally financially independent. This would mean no access to benefits, the NHS, state education or social housing for up to five years. Cameron has bragged that his party has put forward "the toughest possible welfare reforms for foreign migrants", whilst Miliband has claimed that the views of those who support UKIP's immigration policies are not prejudiced but based on an unfair reality. This election is being battled on a pro-austerity, anti-welfare, anti-immigration, platform where there is apparently no alternative. This is especially true for two 'hot topics' of the election. From UKIP to Labour, the financially strained are being polarized by one political narrative.

Yet there is no denying that immigration is profitable for the British economy. A study produced by Professor Christian Dustmann and Dr Tommaso Frattini, for the Economic Journal, argues that immigration to the UK since the year 2000, "has been of substantial net fiscal benefit" to the country. They show that European immigrants who have lived in the U.K since the turn of the millennium, have contributed more than £20 billion to the UK public finances and provided 64% more in taxes than they received in benefits. We must also must consider how reliant our service sector is on immigration, with over 10% of the NHS workforce coming from outside of the United Kingdom. The pressure immigrants put on our welfare state is also minimal. Those who have arrived since the turn of the millennium are 43% less likely to receive any form of state benefits than UK natives. Yet these statistics are rarely highlighted in the immigration debate. A recent press association survey, highlighted that by 2013 "the tone of coverage (towards immigrants) was unequivocally negative", the focus was on either the threat immigrants posed to public order, or their abusive attitude to the welfare system.

This argument can also be taken into the subject of welfare spending. Whether it has been the bedroom tax, restrictions on disability benefits or benefit sanctions, those using the welfare system have been unfairly targeted. Despite George Osborne's recent claim that Britain is now, "walking tall again", we live in a country where half a million people have been driven to food banks, those with disabilities are unfairly losing their living allowance and 93,000 are declared as homeless. However, we are constantly told that these cuts, which hit the vunerable, are not only necessary but vital. Even Ed Balls, has admitted that if Labour were to come into power, benefits for working-age claimants will remain frozen and he would not reverse any of the cuts Osborne has orchestrated. Yet whilst these two parties are unpleasantly scrapping for the UKIP vote, there is a little attention being focused on issues that are actually bankrupting the country. According to the UK taxmans estimate the government is still failing to collect £35 billion which is being dodged through tax avoidance. We still have companies such as, Vodafone, Arcadia, Starbucks and Google, who are being allowed to operate in this country and make astonishing profits. However, their tax contributions are disgraceful and sometimes as low as 1%. Yet there are no discriminating mugs or vans with Philip Greens face plastered over them. There are also companies such as Cerca, Atos and G45, who through the purchasing of our public services are receiving tax payers money by the billion. Yet in 2012, neither Atos nor G45 paid any corporation tax whilst Serca and Capita continually pay derisory amounts.

Yet for some reason these issues are not being treated as a 'hot topic' for the election. Even though we have over half a million of people who are being forced to rely on food banks, some of the strongest immigration laws in Europe and the disgraceful 'work-related activity groups', which unfairly force those with disabilities back into work, this election is being fought on one political battle ground. From UKIP to Labour the poor and powerless are being unfairly blamed for the recession. Yet do not believe the rhetoric. It was neither the unemployed nor the immigrant which caused this financial melt-down. It was the fierce and brutal economic elite which sent the country into financial chaos. It was then the tax payer's money which bailed these institutions out. The British people deserve more. We deserve to live in a country where tax avoidance is treated as a true criminal activity. Where the welfare state is fully equipped to help those who need helping and where the public sector is not run for profit but for service. We also need to stop stigmatizing immigrants and realise just how much they contribute to our economy and culture.