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Seeing Red: Isn’t it time for positive change?

Seeing Red is my regular column in The Isle of Thanet News. This opinion piece was first published on November 7, 2022.

There is just so much to be concerned about. Rising prices, the cost of heating our homes, the on-going global warming crisis and effluent in our seas. (I’m being polite!)

In recent weeks thousands of Thanet people have turned out for demonstrations locally and nationally, to express their concerns about the direction the country is taking.

There have been two demonstrations outside the Manston migrant camp. Concerns have been raised about the appalling conditions – scabies, diphtheria, food shortages, the harsh living conditions created by inadequate tented accommodation, and unaccompanied asylum seeking children sleeping on floors with little or no support. We’re also heard the alarming news of a racially motivated fire bomb attack in Dover.

Most of the people fleeing in small boats across the English Channel are coming from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Albania. Some are vulnerable and are being trafficked, ruthlessly exploited for financial gain. Despite knowing the scale of the challenge our local MP is failing to offer any solutions, and despite the Conservative Immigration Minister, Robert Jenerick stating: “We gripped this immediately when we appreciated the scale of the challenge at the weekend, it’s now falling very rapidly and I expect that we’ll get down to an acceptable level within about seven days.”

That was almost a week ago, but the situation at Manston remains inhumane, illegal and untenable. A clear sign that this Government has failed to deal effectively with a predictable crisis. One that is likely to be challenged through the courts, resulting no doubt, in an eye watering bill for the tax payer.

The Government needs to stop using migrants as a political football and step up asylum applications. It’s a failure of this Government, cutting staff, so that many claimants wait for so long to be processed. The Home Affairs Select Committee revealed that of all the people who arrived in the UK by boat and claimed asylum in 2021, only 4% of claims have been processed by the Home Office. That means that 96% of people who arrived in the UK by boat in 2021 have not yet received a decision from the Home Office on their asylum claims. The 2022 cohort will add pressure to an already inadequate, buckling system.

No wonder we have a big problem. This Government is failing to deal with the backlog. Infact since the previous Home Secretary Priti Patel took office, the numbers of asylum seekers waiting for claims to be dealt with for more than six months has trebled. The new Home Secretary Suella Braverman seems even less inclined to deal with the problem. She has insisted in the House of Commons that she did not block emergency accommodation for migrants awaiting processing after crossing the English Channel. She has also resorted to inflammatory language calling the influx an ‘invasion’.

Many local residents have contacted me and are very unhappy with the situation at Manston. We are a compassionate nation, and our Isles are frankly full of migrants, people who have moved here over the decades. The UK actually takes less migrants that other European countries.

I think it’s time a proper solution was found, one that doesn’t dehumanise vulnerable people, one that recognises their rights and one that, where possible, sees willing hands put to work where they are needed. A recent survey showed that more than 50% of businesses in the UK are experiencing skills shortages, and that this could be a threat to their economic growth.

Meanwhile the Bank of England has lifted interest rates from 2.25% to 3% the biggest rise since 1989. This is the Bank’s eighth hike since December and takes borrowing costs to their highest rate since 2008.

We know how rising interest rates impact us! Everything costs more. England Bank Boss Andrew Bailey has warned of a “tough road ahead” and that “the UK is facing its longest recession since records began.” Interest rates are now expected to peak at 4.5% while inflation will hit 11% before falling next year. (Let’s hope so!) The Bank of England Boss went on to say, “The poorest 10% of households will be hit hardest, because they spend twice as much of their budget as the richest 10% on utilities and food.”

The poor always shoulder the burden of economic mismanagement.

Meanwhile we are all waiting for Jeremy Hunt’s statement on 17th November where he is expected to outline tax measures and spending cuts amounting to £50bn. Are we going to be subject to ‘austerity 2.0?’

Things are looking bleaker and bleaker. I’m not surprised some Conservative MPs would like to continue to pretend the current economic crisis, which means many people are choosing between heating and eating, rising homelessness, and growing poverty, is the result of migration and not failed Tory policies.

We can do better than this. No wonder outgoing TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady says, “In the last decade, the richest have enjoyed huge increases in their wealth. The government should now look at how they can contribute more to rebuilding an economy that works for everyone.”

We can tax more fairly, we can close the Non Dom loop hole, we can run an economy that works for everybody and doesn’t contribute to global warming.

Isn’t it time for positive change?