Tag Archives: economy

Update on Outraged Question Time Tory

She’s now a member of the Labour Party and for once, the Labour Party has managed to get some decent press out of something.

“No sane, logical or moral person within the UK in 2016, would ever want the conditions of inequality growing at such a pace as to break the back of society, with disastrous consequences for those with limited opportunities. The malice and contempt shown by this government in their attempts to undermine and oppress societies poorest and most vulnerable citizens is inexcusable.

“But if someone has a passion to show the country a new political direction with the commitment to social justice and high standards that Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues represent, then now is the time to create some momentum to bring about change.” – Michelle Dorrell

On another note, while Labour is focused on the EU campaign and everyone is (more or less) happy with Corbyn’s stance – by which I mean the vocal, furious right-wing disrupters are momentarily distracted – it’s a nice, quiet period in which Labour seems to actually be getting on with its job in Opposition instead of burning its own house down.

 

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Yeah. But No.

So now that the EU campaign is officially on, we’re in for two months of one side making a claim and the other going: erm, no. At the moment it seems like it’s more the Remain camp putting its foot forward and the Leave camp squawking its indignation like chickens disturbed mid-meal. Perhaps that’s the nature of a campaign that has the government involved? it will use its might to lead the headlines.

This morning, then, the Treasury goes to bat with the cost of Brexit (over £3,000 to each family or something)  which Osborne describes as an act of self-immolation.

Predictably, Boris Osborne spluttered something.

Vote Leave basically said: nah. Not that they put forward different stats for you to compare or anything, but hey. What a time to be alive.

Project Fear is alive.

Project Perpetual Indignation is lit.

What I find most striking is the Tory Brexiters, who are now decrying Osborne’s economic expertise and the Treasury forecasts, when they seem happy enough to bank on both to proceed with austerity.

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Notes on a Fiscal Policy

Tonight the fiscal charter is being discussed. From what I can see, George Osborne continues to steal Labour’s rhetoric – “Now we are the true party of labour” – but reality belies this, such as the cuts to tax credits and the rise in people earning below the living wage (the real one) even as unemployment falls. Oh and the firesale of national assets – Royal Mail, shares in RBS…

I suspect it will pass anyway as some Labour MPs are plannng to abstain. It’s a shame that Labour’s bitterness and inner tumult is hampering its effectiveness as an Opposition. George Osborne is a political master; the fiscal charter was always a trap and unfortunately the simplicity of the stupid idea is easier communicated than the arguments against. But, here are some great tweets on this anyway.

Like, for instance, Osborne rejecting this silly idea in 2010

 

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What’s in a name

Migrant.

Refugee.

Immigrant.

Expat.

Alongside the usual froth over immigration figures blasting through the government’s nonsensical immigration target – to the extent that immigration figures are at their highest since 2005 – there’s a debate about what to call the people knocking at Europe’s door seeking sanctuary and a new life. Migrants or refugees? People?

First things first.

Britain’s immigration figures are high because the economy is recovering well (or at least better than our neighbours with the exception of perhaps Germany) and even if inequality is still a major problem – it’s a big draw for people. But immigrants are also part of the reason that Britain has this recovery.

We (migrants). Built. This.

“It is not a message that you will hear from many, if any, mainstream politicians but, as the government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has pointed out, mass migration has been a key factor fuelling Britain’s economic recovery.” – The Guardian, 27 August 2015.

And despite the government’s best efforts to foster a hostile environment for migrants, the world continues to turn, even if community relations are somewhat the poorer for the divisive rhetoric and measures. Even business says that the immigration cap is damaging for the economy. Nevertheless, this year will see yet another immigration bill tabled, hot on the heels of last year’s. I am not looking forward to seeing what fresh nonsense is put on the table and I can only salute those like Migrant Rights Network, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants and Migrant Voice are doing to lobby for change.

(Interestingly, it also shows that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare vandalism is primarily ideological. The recovery* is not happening because of punitive welfare sanctions, the bedroom tax or harassing the sick and disabled.)

Moving on from that topic before I break something…

Language matters. Al Jazeera was lauded for its stance on using the word “migrant” to describe the people crossing the Mediterranean. After all, it reasoned, the vast majority are asylum seekers. UNHCR figures show  an estimated 293,035 people crossed the Mediterranean so far this year.

2,440 were lost at sea.

The top 5 country nationalities were Syrian (43%), Afghan (12%), Eritrea (10%), Nigeria (5%), Somalia (3%) and other (27%).

Al Jazeera correctly identified that the word “migrant” is tainted:

“The umbrella term migrant is no longer fit for purpose when it comes to describing the horror unfolding in the Mediterranean. It has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises and distances, a blunt pejorative.”

Their decision prompted a lot of soul searching at the Independent, Channel 4 News and others news outlets. However, campaigning organisations, like the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London (RAMFEL), Migrant Voice and Migrant Rights Network say that we should reclaim the word.

“By rejecting the term and using ‘refugee’ instead as a means of arousing the empathy and compassion we should be feeling towards these people, Al Jazeera gives credence to the illiberal voices telling us that migrants are not worthy of our compassion.” – Judith Vonberg, Migrant Rights Network.

I have been thinking about this. Language is not fixed and words are not confined to their dictionary definitions. We act upon language, conferring upon it depth and meaning. There is no doubt that migrant, perhaps as it’s so close to the word immigrant, is seen as a dirty word. Interestingly, it’s a word we use for Black and Brown people, not White people, who are tourists or expats. Let’s not pretend that has nothing to do with why this word, like the people it describes, is considered so problematic.

Migrants don’t just move countries. I have friends in London from Scotland, Wales, Leeds, Ireland. They’re migrants. Just like my friends from Uganda, Canada, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. If you move, you’re a migrant. And it’s a human enterprise to move in search of safety, or a better life. When it comes to the people crossing the Mediterranean, some are fleeing for their lives from war; others are fleeing poverty. The “economic migrant” is that second group that Vonberg identifies as the one we’re supposed to harden our hearts to. After all, poverty (in Iain Duncan Smith’s Britain and more broadly, in the neoliberal frame) is the fault of the poor. You’re not a winner. Your country may be dysfunctional but you should fix it. I’m not saying the solution to this is for everyone to up sticks and leave but I don’t have the right to sit as judge on jury on those that do. If it were my family, my life, what would I do?

I am an economic migrant. I came for study, I stayed to work. I changed categories. That’s life, we’re moving through categories. I also came on a plane, in comfort and safety because I had the choices available to me to do so. If you’ve had to take your life in your hands and put your body and perhaps your children’s bodies in a boat not knowing if you’re going to live or die — where’s the choice in that? Some people leave death behind them and don’t know if they’re going to make it to the other side of the water. That’s not a choice. That’s desperation. That’s a humanitarian crisis.

I agree with Al Jazeera, the word migrant has become reductive. And I agree with Vonberg, we shoud reclaim it. Media houses should try to be as accurate as possible when describing people – people.

I would like to see the end of the phrase “migrant crisis” though.  Migration is not a problem to be solved and yes, there is a crisis, but it’s a humanitarian one.

And perhaps one of compassion, too.

*such as it is. I mean, that’s another discussion.

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