19/11/2013 06:55 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

If Only Paul Sykes Was a Real Philanthropist

The immigration debate heightened over the weekend by the political re-entry of "philanthropist" and businessman Paul Sykes. He's pledged up to four million pounds to support UKIP, accompanied by an advert targeting Romanians and Bulgarians coming to work in the UK.

Paul Sykes has made a lot of money - benefiting from free trade to China by selling them our old buses, playing a key role in the early days of British internet, as well as flogging land to the developers of Meadowhall shopping centre near Sheffield.

All in, he's worth over £500million. His Wikipedia page describes him as a "philanthropist," although his donations to political parties seem to outweigh his charitable donations.


Personally, I'd rather property tycoons like Sykes put their cash into affordable housing, in the tradition of the great Victorian philanthropists (a Peabody estate pictured above), rather than supporting nationalist parties who choose prejudice over economic reality.

Immigration has been shown time and time again to have a strong impact on the public purse - the chart below illustrates this neatly and for the curious FactCheck have a wider explanation.


We shouldn't expect Sykes to be the next Peabody or Guinness sadly. The Yorkshire Post reports that his latest property investments in Harrogate will be rented out to travelling executives, not locals, despite the fact that Harrogate alone has 3000 people waiting for a council flat. Sykes seems more interested in lining his own pockets.

In Sheffield, where he made millions developing Meadowhall shopping centre, the waiting list for homes stands at 84,500. And in Barnsley, where he was born, 6000 people are waiting.

If only rich men like Sykes would pitch in to help solve the housing shortage, as the real patriots of Victorian times did, then perhaps immigration would be less of an issue for debate.

This post also appeared on Unequal Measures, a blog about inequality and solutions.