Archive for the ‘immigration’ Category

Ralph Musgrave‘s economics blog makes a case for a program of time-limited payments to companies who hire the unemployed, although I’m not sure if Musgrave is thinking of it as a permanent feature of the welfare state rather than an emergency response to depression. I might quibble with a couple of aspects – for example, it seems possible to me that businesses might exploit it by churning workers every three months to collect the subbo as often as possible – but I think that could be mitigated with a bit of thought.

It’s all very sound, but it only misses one thing: the policy exists and it’s called the Future Jobs Fund, and it was about the first thing the coalition found to cut.

On the other hand, the archive is also full of bad ideas. I note that the pre-Queen’s Speech trailing is talking about “a British FBI” and stuffing everything you can think of into “a National Crime Agency”. This idea was repeatedly briefed out to the Sundays by David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, and John Reid, and its reappearance is a sign that the government is so directionless the circulation of bad ideas round the Home Office files is beginning to influence it. The last time they came up with it, the result was the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, and nobody seems to know what that’s for.

Further, after things like the old National Hi-Tech Crime Unit were rolled into it, fairly quickly it became necessary to re-create them at the police force level because they were no longer responsive to the needs of the police. Apparently, the problem this is meant to solve is that the immigration queues have got out of hand. John Reid decided to save the world by making immigration officers wear a remarkably, depressingly crappy uniform and putting up signs reading UK BORDER, as if wet feet or a big hole in the ground didn’t make it plain.

Now Theresa May wants to hurry up the queues by stuffing bureaucracy A into bureaucracy B. We are clearly at about 2007 in the last government’s timeline. Alternatively, perhaps we never left Late Blairism.

So, if you wanted really informed commentary on the Theresa May/Brodie Clark upfuck (now there’s some slash), where would you go? Wouldn’t you want to ask a distinguished civil servant? I bet you would. Specifically, a career immigration officer with 39 years in the service. Who’s just retired, and is therefore allowed to be snarky.

Now you can! Because my dad has a blog.

I’ll always remember the day he brought home the video briefcase. I think it’s safe to tell the story now.

What Sunny said. One of the most depressing things about the Labour leadership candidates’ focus on The Very Real Concerns is that it enforces a deeply negative, ungenerous, and futile definition of what those Very Real Concerns are. If you’re concerned about – to be brutal – the labour share of national income, and how it might possibly nudge up a tad, about housing, about unions, about green issues, you’re out of luck. Your concerns are not Very Real ones.

These issues only get to the status of being Very Real if you can somehow work an immigrant in there. It’s a circular process – the Serious People are only interested in Very Real Concerns if the Concerns concern immigrants. Why? Because only concerns concerning immigrants are Very Real Concerns that interest Serious People.

Of course, this is probably because it’s hard to use a privatised immigration detention centre to build council houses. Once you’ve acquired certain skills, habits of mind, contacts, networks, etc, you will try to apply those solutions to everything. Part of the problem, of course, is that toughosity has a zero lower bound, a bit like the interest rate; there is no utopia of immigration detention.

One outcome of all the MySociety work for this election was the survey administered by DemocracyClub volunteers to all candidates. The results by party are graphed here, with standard deviations and error bars.

Some immediate conclusions: Surprising egalitarianism. Look at question 1, which asks if the budget deficit should be reduced by taxing the rich. Only the very edge of the error bar for the Conservatives touches the 50% mark; the only parties who have any candidates who don’t agree are the BNP and UKIP. Also, question 4 (“It would be a big problem if Britain became more economically unequal over the next 5 years” – agree/disagree) shows that there is a remarkable degree of consensus here. The three main parties of the Left – the Greens, Lib Dems, and Labour – overlap perfectly, and even the lower bound on the Tory percentage is over 50%. Only the ‘kippers and the fash even skim the 50% mark at the bottom end of their distributions. This may actually not be a statement about far-right thinking, because of…

Extremist internal chaos. On every question except the one about immigration for the BNP and the one about the EU for UKIP, these two parties have huge error bars for every question. As soon as they get off that particular topic, the error bars gap out like the bid-offer spread in a crashing market. Clearly, they agree about very little other than their own particular hate-kink. So the result in my first point could just be because they always have the widest standard error and deviation.

Immigration, or a field guide to identifying British politics. If you’re a Liberal, Labour, or a Green, you’ve got no problem with immigrants. Even the upper bounds only just stroke the 50% line. All the parties of the Right, however, overlap around the 80% line. Need to identify someone’s partisan affiliation quickly? Wave an immigrant at them. The other culture-wars question about marriage is similar, although the gap is smaller and the error bars bigger.

The consensus on civil liberties. Everyone, but everyone, thinks there are far too many CCTV cameras about. All parties overlap at between 68-78%…except for Labour. Labour is the only party that supports CCTV and it supports it strongly. There is just the faintest touch of overlap between the top (i.e. least supportive) end of the Labour error range and the bottom (i.e. most supportive) of the Tories’.

Trust and honesty. Liberals, Labour, and Conservatives all think politicians are honest. No doubt this is because the respondents are themselves politicians. Interestingly, the exceptions are the BNP and UKIP. Very interestingly, the BNP is united in cynicism, whereas the UKIP error range gaps-out dramatically on this question. The Greens’ error range converges dramatically on exactly 46% agreement – they are almost perfectly in agreement that they don’t agree.

Art and culture; only ‘kippers, BNPers, and a very few extreme Tories don’t support state funding of the arts.

Britain is a European country and is committed to the European Union. You can’t argue with the data; the Tories and Greens average between 20-30% support for withdrawal, zero for the Liberals and Labour, and even the upper bound for the Tories is well under the 50% line. Obviously, the BNP and UKIP want out, which is obvious and after the election result, arguably trivial.

Pacifist fascists; bellicose conservatives; divided lefties and ‘kippers. OK, so which parties are least keen on military action against Iran, even if they are caught red-handed building a nuke? The Greens are unsurprisingly 86% against with minimal error – perhaps the only occasion they would turn up a chance to oppose nuclear power! The other is the BNP – 82% against. Who knew we would find a scenario in which the BNP would turn up a chance to kill brown people? Labour, the Liberals, and UKIP would split down the middle – they overlap perfectly around the 50% mark. The Tories, however, are the war party – 39% against, with the lower bound well clear of the other parties. The UKIP result is strange – you’d expect them to be basically like Tories or like the BNP, but they are most like Labour on this issue, although they have a tail of happy warriors. The BNP is also the party most opposed to continuing British involvement in Afghanistan – even more than the Greens. Labour, the Liberals, the Tories, and UKIP overlap heavily around being narrowly in favour, although UKIP as usual gaps out when it’s not discussing how much it hates the EU.

Even the Toriest Tories say they support UK Aid. This one’s fairly clear – even the upper bound for the Tories is well below 50% and everyone else serious is much lower. UKIP and the BNP are strongly against, but their error bars are quite wide – clearly, they’re not sure whether they hate foreigners enough that paying them not to be immigrants is a good idea.

Summary: We’re a broadly social democratic European nation, with a few nutters for comic relief. And Chris Lightfoot’s Political Survey results (the primary axis in British politics is liberty-vs-authority, strongly correlated with internationalism-vs-isolationism, and the secondary axis is egalitarianism-vs-libertarianism, but there is surprisingly little variance along it) from 2005 appear to be confirmed.

The Institute for Public Policy Research has issued a report on the correlates of BNP membership and support (pdf).

Fascinatingly, they reckon that there is very little or no correlation between BNP support and key socio-economic indicators like GVA per capita, growth, unemployment, immigration, etc. It’s as if a typical BNP supporter was, well, a case of free-floating extremism. (A dedicated swallower of fascism; an accident waiting to happen.)

Oddly enough, this replicates an earlier result.

The Nottingham University Politics blog has a more nuanced response, but I’m quite impressed by the fact that two analyses based on two different metrics of BNP support – votes in the IPPR study, membership in mine – converged on the same result.

a question

Back in September, 2006, we were talking illegal immigrants and artisanal shipbuilding in West Africa, over at the Fistful.

one of the curious economic details you could notice was how the process was in fact exhibiting an increasing returns type feature, in that the increased demand for boats increasingly meant that a number of would-be migrants were actually not sailing but staying since they could make a reasonable living in the newly developing artisanal shipyard industry, with the consequence that more boats were being built as knowledge and experience (human capital) was being accumulated…

One other interesting detail is that the level of workmanship seemed good. They even use, as I say, 1980s style Volvo teams rather than Adam Smith like pin production lines.

As it happened, the crisis passed, and the big attractor – the Spanish housing bubble – collapsed not long afterwards. So, I was wondering what had become of that sudden industry churning out huge versions of traditional boat designs. After all, there is more than one use for a boat in the black economy.

And you know what? I’ve no idea. As far as I can make out, that particular route lost salience during 2007, almost certainly because of the macroeconomic crisis rather than the arrival of EU FRONTEX assistance. With that, it’s passed completely out of the news environment. I couldn’t find anything useful in the way of statistics either; Eurostat is just what you’d expect from someone’s dentist,

So, are there thousands of wooden vessels abandoned on the beaches? Does anyone know? (I’d like this post to grow if possible.)

The thing that pisses me off about Al-Qa’ida is that they insist on egging the government on. That said, I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than Phil Woolas wanting to have reports of any foreign student who misses ten lectures. I can’t think of many things more ridiculous and contemptible than Phil Woolas anyway, but this drowns the fish.

I should point out that he was on Radio 4 earlier today claiming that “biometric visas” were our first line of defence, because the visas were checked against a watchlist. He didn’t say, mark, that the biometrics were; after all, if they haven’t caught the guy yet, they don’t have his dabs.

Let’s think about it sensibly. I doubt there is a single student in the world who hasn’t accumulated 10 hours of non-attendance during their course of study; even if you reset the limit after every academic year, there will still be an absurd number of false positives. There are 330,000 foreign students in the UK. How many might miss 10 hours of classes in a given year? For some courses, you’d only need a couple of days off sick. An outbreak of freshers’ flu at the right schools could stage a denial-of-service attack on the whole gig. How many reports are they prepared to follow up, to what degree of thoroughness?

Further, and I know this is a pathetic argument long since raped by history, the idea of a university implies a commitment to intellectual freedom and a certain respect for the fact that the students are adults who attend of their free will.

But even if you forget everything else, as a security measure this is quite incredibly cretinous. The threat it is designed to mitigate is that terrorists will pose as students in order to infiltrate the country, or rather that they will actually become students in order to do so. Of course, they may also do this to prepare an attack on some other country. Anyway. If you have registered at a university in order to pose as a student, it’s obviously part of your cover story that you go to lectures. Depending on what you are planning, you might even be hoping to get access to things you need for the attack – information, a good chemical or biological lab, perhaps time on a supercomputer – in which case you’ve got to go to the lab or the library regularly as well.

This is a security measure which is designed to miss anyone who matches the attack profile it’s designed to detect. Further, the more serious, disciplined, and well-organised the attacker, and the more technical and demanding the subject they choose to study – in short, the more dangerous – they are, the less likely it is to detect them. It even provides them with an explicit target number of classes they must not miss. It is quite brilliant in a negative way.

It is especially hilarious that several ministers in the government spent much of their student years plotting, or imagining that they plotted, how to bring about the world revolution. Presumably, they did this between lectures. Or perhaps they didn’t, and in fact they are basing their policy on their own experience; which would explain how little they seem to have learned.

Phil Woolas is beneath contempt.

I was going to say more, but it would be waste verbiage.

You will hear all kinds of people in authority say that immigration, or population growth, is causing people to turn into racists and vote BNP, either just because (the rightwing version) or because of “pressure” on public services (the Decent Left version).Therefore, they usually say, we need a stingier immigration policy. If you’re reading this, you probably think this is crap. But now, I can prove this scientifically. Thanks to the leaked BNP membership list, we can empirically measure how many people are active racists, active and committed enough that they joined a political party and paid a subscription. Using the data by county, I established a table that matched the UK regions.

Now, if immigration or population growth really is causing people to go fascist, we’d expect to find a correlation between population growth and BNP membership. Or, perhaps, we might find that places that are losing population are economically depressed and hence susceptible. A further detail might be changes in population density; becoming more urban might lead to a perception of being “swamped”, or becoming more rural/exurban might lead to one of isolation. So I drew up a table of population growth from 1991 to 2006, change in density for the same period, and BNP members per 100 citizens.

Here are the results.

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Population growth is on the Y axis, bigots on the X axis; the size of each dot represents the change in density. There is no correlation whatsoever. Anyone who tells you this story is talking nonsense.

I have been away, cutting down to only very restricted Internet/computing usage, and living in a district that would make Abu Muq piss his baggy pants. (Walthamstow, he says. You’ve never been to Bradford, have you?) Which is amusing, because (as in every poor/immigrant ‘hood in Europe) every second business is a mobile phone/computer shop. You can pick up a wrap, an Algerian hooker, and an 8GB Nokia N95 in the same queue. But I succeeded in not opening my laptop for a whole seven days, which is a record for me at any time since 2004 at least. This gives rise to a challenge; how quickly can I resynchronise myself with my auxiliary brain? So far I’ve spent all of today slurping up a week’s worth of blogs, to say nothing of the e-mail; the comments, the spam, the news services, and a number of high-activity mailing lists.

And isn’t it fucking horrible? I just decided to skip Sadly, No! and a few others; one forgets just how much ideological trench warfare blogging we get through in a week. Anyway, to business. (Speaking of which, there’s the work re-sync coming up tomorrow. Thank God I zeroed my inbox before going on holiday. And, yes, I have been reading them; you want to know whether you’re going to have to run off the plane and form a defensive perimeter around your job…) I am delighted to see that a hitherto unknown revolutionary political-theatre collective, something similar to the Space Hijackers, successfully staged a demonstration that satirised literally every feature of the Blair/Brown years in one chaotic afternoon of low-level violence, massive traffic disruption, heavy-handed policing, and blanket media coverage.

I refer, of course, to the people who staged the mock Olympic torch relay through London. It was a great idea in itself, but the genius was in the details; who would have thought of including nameless foreign security police beating up thought-criminals while pretending to be Olympic Committee bigwigs? And then, they set about Sebastian Coe, a real Olympic bigwig and one of the most annoying men in the kingdom? And then, who would have imagined a sort of Jim’ll Fix It slot in which the ambassador of a vicious dictatorship got to pretend to be a world champion runner with the aid of thousands of cops?

Working Tessa Jowell in there was inspired (“Your Excellency, Auntie Tessa fixed it for you!”), but having the speeches drowned out by a monster sound truck advertising the products of some other country that didn’t toast its industrial base by playing dire pseudo-stripper cheesepop at maximum volume right there in Downing Street? Genius. It just says it all – the authoritarianism, the obsession with “events”, the utterly whorish foreign policy, the corporate arse-licking, the total absence of anything like taste or class, and the fucking people. Seb Coe. Tessa Jowell. Yes!

Hand that man an Arts Council fellowship. Seriously, it’s like a committee of Chris Morris, Mark Thomas, Linda Smith (yes, I know) and Tim Ireland designed the whole thing. They’ll never try the real one now, will they?


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