So what exactly is going on with UKIP? It seems that an essentially anti-European party has garnered support from a rise in racist and anti-immigrant sentiment caused by the recession. UKIP’s popularity in the polls has scared the big parties, which have ramped up their own anti-immigrant messages in an attempt to recover support from their defectors. And all of this has resulted in a way of thinking which was decreasing being relegitimised.
I have to say, I think the big parties are by no means blameless in this. The Conservatives have been spouting anti-immigrant rhetoric for years, but Labour should certainly know better. They have signally failed to move away from a position of woolly political correctness to one of firmly and publicly taking a stand. Both Labour and the Conservatives seem to be so frightened of upsetting the voters that they allow all manner of old tosh to be spouted as though it were gospel truth without challenging it. Where is the vision and leadership in that?
To take some examples of the sort of thing they could, even should, be saying, and not just saying once, but saying loudly again and again:
1. Immigrants are not a drain on our welfare coffers. People who were not born in this country contribute more in taxes than they take out in benefits, so this country receives a net gain in wealth from immigration.
2. Our national health service is dependent on immigrant doctors and nurses to function. If we “sent them all back” tomorrow, it would collapse. One in three hospital consultants, around thirteen and a half thousand of them, were born abroad. It takes seven years to train a doctor so it would take years to replace them, if indeed we ever could. It is also highly costly; it costs £250,000 to train a doctor, so to replace those consultants, taking into account the training they would need to reach the higher level, would probably not leave us much change from five billion pounds. Can we even afford that?