We live in an interesting era. Next week there are both European and local elections in the UK. It is the European bit that has exercised the public’s mind more. The European Parliament is the only institution in the European Union for which we can vote directly. On discussing the pros and cons of staying in the Union, both main and fringe parties have unwittingly unveiled contradictions of which they might not be aware.
|European Union: to stay or to leave? But that's not the main issue next week|
The main issue when it comes to the European elections is immigration and legislation. Immigration in terms of who comes to settle in the UK and legislation as in who calls the shots, the UK or Brussels. Whereas in the past the parties slugging it out on these subjects were Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems, now we also have the far right UK Independence Party and its charismatic leader, Nigel Farage, to contend with. Ukip, as they’re known, wants out of the Union and it is using the immigration card to their advantage.
Yet, to me the main issue is not whether we take orders from Brussels or not, but whether our call centres remain in the UK to serve our customers in the UK, to quote that Tesco sign. That’s a metaphor, by the way, because what I really mean is that to me the pressing matter in Britain nowadays is the hike in outsourcing of staff and operations to other countries. Call centres? In India and beyond. Labour? It’s cheaper in the sweatshops that populate China and Bangladesh, to mention but two nations. Whilst Nigel Farage conveniently rages about Romanians invading our shores, I worry about the US behemoth Pfizer bidding for AstraZeneca, Britain’s second-largest pharmaceutical firm. The outcome of this transaction could see hundreds, if not thousands of jobs gone and operations moved outside the country. It’s a pattern that has established itself in the last ten years or so. Foreign firms buy British ones, cut back on personnel and move headquarters abroad to exploit tax loopholes. In the case of AstraZeneca, what is really worrying is that this is a company for which research and development is a key component. Globally, the UK accounts for 10% of research and development. Forget the empire; this is yet another crown jewel going walkies.
Politicians, especially those of a right-wing disposition are always going on about illegal immigrants, asylum seekers, foreigners stealing jobs from Brits (never mind the fact that there are quite a few jobs Brits won’t be caught dead doing), etc. How about the Krafts of this world? The food giant took over the British chocolate-maker Cadbury four years ago and immediately downsized its workforce. Where was Nigel Farage then? Probably giving instructions to his German wife who also happens to be his secretary. Or to use Ukip’s language, probably giving instructions to his German wife who was doing a job that should have gone to a Briton.
Modern capitalism has taken full advantage of globalisation in that, on the one hand, it has identified countries where labour is cheap, salaries low, unions weak and jobs much in demand and on the other hand rich nations where takeovers are favoured by business-friendly governments. Often to the detriment of local industries.
This is what is at stake next week, in my opinion. The choice is not between a party that turns a blind eye on unregulated immigration or not, or wants out of the European Union or not. The vote is on the party whose goal is to keep call centres in the UK because our customers are still in the UK.
Next Post: “Urban Dictionary”, to be published on Wednesday 21st May at 11:59pm (GMT)