Central to their pitch in the election is immigration; indeed, their leaflet gives more prominence to that issue than it does to the EU - although I suppose that if you blame the EU for everything, there is a connection of sorts. I don’t doubt, sadly, that the pitch on immigration will appeal to many voters, but the logic behind what they are saying deserves and needs to be challenged. They are appealing, fundamentally, to people’s gut instincts about foreigners, but trying very hard to cloak that by turning it into an economic argument about jobs.
In essence, one part of what they are saying is correct – ‘foreigners’ prepared to work for lower wages can and do damage job prospects in the UK. But the conclusions that they draw from that simply don’t stand up to examination - because it has nothing to do with immigration.
(It doesn’t follow in any case, of course, that immigrants and cheap labour are synonymous; many immigrants are highly-skilled and highly-paid to go with it. But let’s assume for the moment, purely for the sake of argument, that a significant proportion of those migrating to the UK are willing to work for lower wages than the ‘natives’.)
It is an inescapable fact that capitalists (often described these days as entrepreneurs, because that word has a more cuddly feel to it) will seek to employ the cheapest labour that they can get, in order to maximise their own profits. But it really doesn’t matter to them whether that cheap labour is a result of immigration into the UK or a result of labour being cheaper in other countries. That’s why we’ve seen so much of the UK’s manufacturing industries (and jobs) exported overseas.
In fact, there is an argument which says that cheap labour abroad does more to damage UK jobs than does cheap labour provided by immigration. At least within the UK, there is a chance that we can police and enforce the minimum wage legislation (or even move to a living wage if the political will were there); prevent the exploitation of child labour; and stop the use of what is close to slavery in some other places. We can have far less control if the alleged cheap labour simply stays where it is and our home-grown capitalists take the jobs to them instead of waiting for them to come here.
And that underlines why the real problem here is nothing to do with immigration – it is to do with the capitalist ideology and economic system which drives the economy on the basis of making capitalists wealthy rather than on the basis of creating collective wealth. Stopping or controlling immigration does nothing to change that. And it isn’t something which UKIP have any inclination to change either.