In my last post, we looked at the possibility of a depression in the eurozone. Today, we will look across the English Channel at England, which is also going through some difficult economic challenges. (Who isn’t nowadays?)
A recent issue of The Economist (August 16th) highlighted “the trials of life in Tilbury” (“Bagehot, page 47). Tilbury is only 40 minutes from the City of London but is totally different. It’s one of the poorest places in the UK. The poor are England’s white working class. Their sense of alienation is growing and could pose some serious problems in the near future. At the same time, “a recent parliamentary study confirmed that poor white British children do worse in school than those of any other group save Romany gypsies.’
The present is bad but the future looks worse.
Since World War II, Britain has attracted millions of people from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and other parts of Europe. London itself is almost half non-white.
Another article in the same issue quotes the mayor of Calais in France, who believes that “Britain’s generous welfare system is the magnet” (article: “A surge from the sea,” page 41). The Economist doesn’t think so and adds: “it is more likely to be its lack of identity cards and stringent labor inspections.”
Either way, the fact is that paperless immigrants to Europe are supposed to seek asylum in the first country they go to; instead, tens of thousands head for Calais, hoping for a ride across the Channel to England. The same magazine had an article a few months ago on Britain’s growing Somali community, including the fact that only 10% of working age males had a job. That would suggest it IS the welfare benefits that are keeping people in the country.
So it’s no wonder that there is growing resentment against immigrants in the country. Add to this the revelation over the last few days that British-born Muslims are fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria and that one of them reportedly beheaded an American journalist. People remember that it wasn’t that long ago that Islamists beheaded an innocent soldier walking down the street in London.
One complication from the growing numbers of immigrants is that demand for housing has pushed up prices, especially in the London area, making it virtually impossible for young couples to buy a home. Often, newly arrived immigrants are given rental properties by local governments, again making it more difficult for native Englishmen to find a place to live.
It’s all building up to an explosion, firstly at the polls next year when disillusionment with the three main parties is likely to help new parties gain a greater degree of power. UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) wants to pull out of the EU, which is heavily subsidized, mostly by Britain and Germany. They would also be tougher on immigration.
The Labor party has lost a great deal of its credibility. Under Tony Blair they boosted immigration, contributing to the present problems. They can hardly now claim to be representing the white working class, their original constituents. Their decisions have contributed to the growing problem of unemployment amongst the white working class.
Add to all this uncertainty over the United Kingdom itself. Will it survive the Scottish referendum next month on independence? Nobody on either side seems to have thought through the consequences of the country dividing into two. It looks as if neither will benefit if Scotland votes to leave the UK.
Britain’s entry into the EU over forty years ago dramatically altered the country’s trading patterns, leading to the decline of Tilbury Docks and others around the country.
This was just one of many decisions made in the 60’s and early 70’s that are having a negative impact now. The generation dominating the country fifty years ago changed the course of the nation, without much thought to some of the consequences.
They should have looked at the Bible, which was a very influential book earlier in the country’s history. Shortly after James VI of Scotland became James I of England, he authorized a new translation of the Bible, which was published in 1611. The Authorized Version, sometimes called the King James Version, includes these words. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). The verse ends with the words: “but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” These words are also appropriate as Britain’s rejection of its traditional Christian beliefs has also contributed to the country losing its way.
For centuries after the Protestant Reformation, both England and Scotland were busy protecting their new-found religious freedoms from hostile continental powers. At the same time, they took their enthusiasm for the Bible to other countries around the world, some of which became colonies of Great Britain. They had a vision of spreading the Bible, the rule of law and parliamentary democracy to other nations. In the 1960’s the country changed course seeking closer ties with mainly Catholic Europe, a continent they had tried to distance themselves from for 400 years. Europe has been a poor substitute for the previous Empire and Commonwealth.
Politicians only think as far as the next election. What the British people need Is a clear vision of the future for decades to come, giving them hope at a very difficult time in their history.