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The Tories want immigrants to save them from shortages? Fuck off

In a winter of discontent ruled by shortages, the Tories are turning to the immigrants they demonised to help them out.

28 Sep

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Welcome to Britain. A land where Nandos and KFC, our premier chicken restaurants, are out of chicken. McDonald’s has no milkshakes. Our supermarket shelves are empty. Brexiteer-run budget pub chain Wetherspoons has pumped its own beer taps dry. The British Soft Drinks Association says we’re running out of gas to make our drinks fizzy. And thanks to nationwide fuel shortages, people are stuck in mile-long queues at petrol stations. Good luck. Outside of the motorway network an estimated 50%-85% of independent petrol stations in the UK currently have nothing left to give. We’re watching the nation coming apart at the seams. 

What a silly little mess we find ourselves in, scrambling for goods and singing ‘God Save the Queen’, as we head into a cold winter where we struggle to get our hands on basic goods. Supermarket, fuel and gas prices will be high, but the mood will almost certainly be low. Maybe Boris Johnson hopes that the sound of our chattering teeth will drown out his call to EU labourers. Perhaps the chaos might mean we miss the magnitude of his admission that Britain is in fact in dire need of foreign labour. Immigrants are good, actually.

Some figures estimate that the number of EU lorry drivers in the UK has fallen by around 15,000 since we left the European Union in 2020. The driver shortage that has been simmering for months means the British government has pledged to temporarily relax recently tightened visa restrictions, drafting in over 10,000 seasonal workers to quell disruption. It’s similar to a 2020 government scheme, which planned to ship in 30,000 overseas workers to help pick fruit and veg for this year’s harvest; in the event of it, many failed to materialise

It echoes the post-war push for Caribbean workers to come over to plug gaps in transport and healthcare. When in need, Britain understands the value of foreign labour. Not even Usher could do a U-Turn dance as well as the British government, which leans on foreign workers in times of crisis,  then subsequently (and conveniently) gains amnesia and runs election campaigns based on sending all those helpers back home. Tellingly, the three-month visas being offered to lorry drivers, in this desperate round of hiring, run out on Christmas Eve.

Anti-immigrant sentiment has long been the Conservatives’ bread and butter, and they’re aided and abetted by a national right-wing media machine, that constantly pumps out dehumanising headlines referencing ‘hoards’ and ‘floods’ of people streaming into the country. In 2016, a Guardian analysis revealed that the Daily Express had printed 179 anti-migrant front pages in five years, while the Daily Mail had published 122. 

Both the front pages and salacious stories inside the papers contributed to a perception among the British public that our main problem was that the country was ‘full’. And they believed it, with over half of people surveyed for a 2016 YouGov poll said that immigration was the most important issue we faced as a country, just weeks before the Brexit vote. Funnily enough, once migration coverage began to “tail off” following the referendum, the number of people who saw immigration as the “key” issue facing the UK dropped to 23%.

“Maybe Boris hopes that the sound of our chattering teeth might drown out his admission. Perhaps the chaos might mean we miss the magnitude of his admission: immigrants are good actually.”

Five years later, and how confusing it is to see the Daily Mail splash: “The UK needs nearly TWO MILLION workers[…] amid urgent calls to relax immigration rules”. The phrase “turkeys voting for Christmas has been used a lot over the last few years,” but it’s just too on the nose here. Especially as reports roll in that we are literally going to face turkey shortages at Christmas due to a lack of skilled European workers to process them.

You know the scene in Mean Girls where Regina George has unleashed the beast by exposing the lies, cheating and bitching of her class when she plasters pages of the Burn Book around the school? That’s basically been Boris since the 2016 Brexit vote. He has stood with his arms crossed, watching us tear each other apart over a vote that was largely won by statements he knew to be lies (and fraudulent election spending). He ignored warnings of shortages in the case of a hard Brexit. 

In a 2017 CNN piece headlined “Why Britain needs the immigrants it doesn’t want”, Christian Dustmann, professor of economics at University College London said that losing EU workers “would be pretty tough and it would mean that some sectors might find it very difficult to survive”. Other commentators said ending free movement was evidence of “a nation dismantling itself over nonsense”. The impact of Boris’ mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic response has only compounded the issue of worker shortages but clearly, this was always going to happen. No one is shocked. Except much of the general public who voted for it.

Ending free movement and leaving the single market was a choice that Boris made as part of his specific Brexit deal. But if you want goods to come into one country from another, then people need to be able to easily carry those goods in with them. Creating a hostile environment for anyone who isn’t from here means that people won’t want to come, or won’t be able to. It’s not complicated! This is a hell created by the Tories. And who should be called in to come to the rescue? Who will fix this (apart from the army)? The group the Conservatives and right-wing press have taught the country to hate and fear: immigrants, of course. Not only are the Tories ideologically bankrupt –  the current multiple shortage crises show they are staggeringly incompetent. Remind us why people voted for them again?