November 5th, 2007

Steve

Steve is an engineer and he can't get work. "It's all these Poles," he said. "Eh up," I thought, "Here we go- the Daily Mail editorial." But I didn't jump down his throat and I'm glad I didn't because he went on to explain how he'd gone  to an interview and been up against all these Eastern European kids and the Eastern European kids had been hired- well some of them- and he hadn't. So he wasn't parroting something he'd heard down the pub, he was reporting his own experience. 

Middleclass, leftwing intellectuals like myself are wired to go off like alarm bells at the merest hint of racism. Which means we tiptoe round the subject, which means we can be blind to the facts. Steve isn't a racist- he lives in an Asian area and seems happy enough with his neighbours- but economic migration is something that impacts on his life. The Polish kids will work longer hours for less, so the native-born workman can't get a job and hangs around the house all day, drawing benefit and feeling worthless. 

The mass migration of labour is one of the spin-offs of globalisation and globalisation is unstoppable. It's a great leap forward- like the industrial revolution- and when the dust has settled we'll probably all agree that it was a very good thing. In the short term it's certainly a very good thing for the money men who can now pick and choose their workforces. But for the poor, bloody, English working class- for blokes like Steve- it's a disaster.   And ain't that always the case?