I have been knocking on hundreds of doors recently to ask if I can help with any council matter and I have found a few UKIP supporters. The conversation has usually started with immigration but when I talked about my daughter's recent move to Australia then that seemed to be perfectly acceptable. There was general agreement that immigration was alright as long as there was work to be had which did not affect local workers. My daughter's move was fine because her skills were in demand and it would also have been alright if employers could not fill their vacancies. So the fears that these people had about the free movement of labour were actually fears about unemployment.
There was also a concern that immigrants should not be jumping any queues for social housing or taking benefits from a system to which they had not contributed. This is exactly how I would feel if I moved to Australia. I would not expect to be able to sign on, to be given a house or a job.
Today's news is that the Government is clamping down on 'benefit tourism' There may well be some people who would uproot their family in the pursuit of a better life but I don't think this sort of pioneer would also think of moving across the world so they could sit in a council house without a job and endure the vilification of their neighbours. However these are the kind of conditions that would have to apply in order for UKIP to achieve its prediction that millions of them will turn up in Britain. Worse than that, UKIP are branding them as villains.
The trouble for the voter is that if they raise concerns about immigration then they fear being labelled "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly" despite their legitimate concerns over the economy, housing and benefits. As for employment, the free movement of labour has to be a good thing. It benefits people like my daughter, it helps employers in this country and it helps the whole of Europe.
The discussion has to move on from 'closet racism' and concerns over immigration to the economy but the trouble is that UKIP have exploited fears of open floodgates. If David Cameron lurches to the right and puts immigration to the top of his agenda then he will miss the point of what is concerning the electorate. He will not be any better at allaying immigration fears than UKIP. What is needed is an explanation of why we need the free movement of labour and the right safeguards in place which would allow employers to fill their vacancies.
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