Sep 082009

The Appalling Strangeness highlights Peter Hain’s refusal to appear on Question Time with the BNP and comments:

No doubt Hain sees his boycott as a chance for him to champion himself as a progressive politician refusing to give the cowardly and ignorant BNP a real platform in this country. Unfortunately, he comes across as the coward. He comes across as a man who won’t debate the BNP because he is afraid of making his case. Regardless of his intentions, ducking a debate with the BNP isn’t the noble thing to do. The BNP are a political reality in this country. Failing to engage them on their idiotic policies will only work to help them. The more they are unchallenged, the more influential they will become.

This is no doubt partly true. But given what the ASI lists as some of the BNP’s policies, I suspect Hain doesn’t think them idiotic at all:

  • The protection of British companies from unfair foreign imports
  • The renationalisation of monopoly utilities and services
  • Bring hospital cleaning back in-house and make high cleanliness a top priority
  • More emphasis must be placed on healthy living with greater understanding of sickness prevention through physical exercise, a healthier environment and improved diets
  • Develop renewable energy sources such as off-shore wind farms, wave, tidal and solar energy ; and with sundollarenergy raleigh north carolina you can find a lot more information about how to start, the services and equipment needed.
  • The introduction of a system of workfare for those in unemployment benefit for more than six months with compulsory work and training in return for decent payment
  • Take all privatised social housing stock back under local democratically controlled council ownership

Perhaps Hain sees, as do the rest of us who are not blinded by polemic, that the only thing that separates the BNP from its more traditional rivals is its racism. And if the BNP refuse to be engaged on their racism, and want to talk about their platform of social justice instead, Hain and everybody else are going to find themselves in the unenviable position of agreeing with the BNP but not wishing to admit it. And so the BNP will come across as being quite firm in their ideas, whilst the three main parties flail about trying to show that their sort of social justice is somehow demonstrably different from the BNP’s.

It isn’t.

Jun 132009

Flogging a dead horse, I know. Bear with me as I ramble.

Old Holborn links to a piece by Max Hastings in the Daily Mail, quoting in full, about the success of the BNP and how the mainstream parties’ stance on immigration has contributed to that.

To sum up, immigration into the UK has increased at a huge rate since Labour came to power in 1997. Most of these immigrants have come from the Third World and do not speak English. This has put a burden on the resources and finance of the country and many British report a feeling of insecurity in their own country and a perception that their culture is being eroded. Government has done nothing to limit the numbers coming in or to make it more difficult to settle here.

It’s worth asking what makes Britain such an attractive destination for immigrants, and there are a couple of answers. For one thing, Britain for all its ‘social mobility’ problems is still one of the few countries in the world where a person can better their circumstances. There is a stable political system, comparatively little crime, violence, and corruption, and even in economic downturns it is possible for most people to work and make money. For people who are sick of living shitty lives in shitty places, Britain looks like a slightly less salubrious version of paradise.

For people who are sick of living shitty lives in shitty places and don’t want to work and make money, Britain is a lovely prospect because it has an extremely generous welfare state. If such people can get here, they are set for life. Perhaps not comfortably or in any kind of luxury, but certainly in a kind of plenty that is unavailable to most in the countries they are coming from.

It is impossible to eradicate the conditions that make Britain attractive to people who want to work and make money without seriously and stupidly disadvantaging the British themselves, who also like the stability and relative prosperity. Although scaling back the welfare state would probably result in lower immigration, again this is something many British don’t want to do, as such a course of action would also disadvantage the much of the native population.

However, as I can offer from my own experience, it is by no means easy to settle in Britain as an immigrant if one is honest. There are complicated forms and applications to complete, outrageous fees to be paid, and tremendous amounts of time and frustration involved. Whether one is applying for a work permit, residence permit, or marriage certificate, nearly every aspect of one’s life is investigated, checked, and double-checked for legitimacy. The Border Agency, whatever its faults, is very thorough, and I don’t think it applies its bureaucratic box-ticking stringency only to white Anglophone types. If there are people who are not legit whose applications are being granted, it is for one of two reasons: (a) collusion and falsification by officials in their own countries, or (b) collusion and falsification by officials here.

Thus it is entirely possible to limit immigration to the UK without voting for the BNP or appearing racist. Simply get rid of the welfare state and the corrupt bureaucrats here and abroad who are involved in the immigration process. In one fell swoop, Britain would become both harder to get into and less attractive as a destination, and people could stop whinging on about floods of brown people into the country who dilute white British culture.

Because for a large number of people who complain about immigration, it’s not because they think the country is becoming too crowded. It’s because they think the country is becoming less British, and because their hard-earned tax money is being wasted on supporting the same foreigners who are ruining the native culture. Or because the foreigners work too hard and steal the jobs. If the majority of immigrants to this country were wealthy, white-collar-industry, white, English-speaking Australians, Canadians, and Americans who used no public services but paid oodles of tax and only stole the jobs of Tory-voting middle class types, the outcry would be a lot smaller.

Before anyone accuses me of either criticising the British people or being a hypocrite, let me add that attitudes toward immigration in the US are no better, and in many ways actually worse. Although we have much more limited welfare – which means many immigrants to the US end up working – it’s very easy for people to get into the country illegally and incredibly difficult for people to get in legally. The INS operates on a quota system and more often than not refuses the applications of very hard-working foreigners who would benefit the economy of the country enormously. The US is harder to get into than a Promise-be-ringed teenaged virgin if you’re legitimate and easier than Jenna Jameson if you can climb over a fence. So I realise that my own country has its own contentious immigration issues. I don’t subscribe to them, however: the US has space and work enough for ten times as many people as live there, and we’re rather stupid about the whole business. We also have not historically had much of a problem with ‘diluting’ our pristine culture – so the objection to immigration there appears to be based entirely on the idea that living in the US is a privilege that should be granted only to a few deserving foreigners if they’re stupid enough to ask first rather than just barge in and demand amnesty.

Immigration woes, part 2

 argh, stupid-heads  Comments Off on Immigration woes, part 2
Jun 062009

As I explained in a previous post, one of the items I had to supply for my tier 1 application was proof of earnings; the Border Agency requires two separate documents that prove one’s income.

Because their ‘guidance notes’ are so Byzantine, before I made the application I rang the Immigration Enquiry Bureau to ask for clarification. The conversation went something like this:

Bella: I have here a letter from my employer and a P60 as proof of income. Do those count as two separate documents?

Chappy: Yes, yes they do.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when on Thursday I received a letter from the Border Agency refusing my application on the grounds that a letter from my employer and a P60 are not considered two separate documents – both being prepared, as they were, by my employer.

After recovering from the Britney marathon, I rang the Immigration Enquiry Bureau on Friday morning. The conversation went something like this:

Bella: I have here a letter from my employer and a P60 as proof of income. Do those count as two separate documents?

Lady: (after putting me on hold to seek clarification) Yes, yes they do.

Bella:. Yes, that's what I was told when I rang this number before making my application. Why, then, do I have a refusal letter here informing me that, in fact, they are not considered separate documents?

Lady: (after putting me on hold again) I must apologise for giving you incorrect information, but as you will see in the guidance notes…

Bella: The guidance notes say nothing of the sort. That’s why I rang for clarification in the first place. You people have given me incorrect information twice now, and according to this letter of refusal, I have no right of appeal or review. You must see that the Border Agency itself is partly culpable for my mistake: what recourse do I have?

Lady: All I can suggest is that you write to the case worker who considered your application and explain the situation.

So I have written to my caseworker, and to my MP, in the hope that they will reconsider the original application if I provide a second document (bank statements) to prove that income, and if they consult their own recordings of telephone enquiries.

Because I cannot make another application. For one thing, I do not have another £820 to spare. (TGS, thank you for your very kind offer.)

For another, the application also requires that one has maintained a minimum bank balance of £800 for three months prior to applying. This was easy to prove when I made the original application; but in paying their exorbitant fee, my balance dropped to £780 – twenty quid below their minimum requirement, meaning that I would need to wait a further three months to achieve that minimum balance and re-apply. Unfortunately, that would mean waiting until September to make a second application, and my current leave expires 31 August.

And for another, for the tier 1 application, one can claim points for age. At the moment, I am 27 and so can claim the maximum number of points. In July, I will turn 28 – and thus lose half of the points I was able to claim for age on my original application.

The upshot is that, unless the Border Agency abandon their bureaucratic impulses and allow a reconsideration, or my MP takes pity on me and does something to assist me, I will no longer qualify to remain in the UK as a tier 1 migrant.

One other possible option is the tier 2 category – a work permit sponsored by my employer. This prospect raises another problem: that of proving that I am a better candidate for the job than any UK or EU national. Considering the specialised job I do, in theory this would be easy to prove. However, in order to prove it, the school would need to show that they had advertised the position with the JobCentre for some minimum length of time. Which, naturally, they did not do, because teachers do not look for jobs at the JobCentre. So the school may not be able to prove my superiority to native Britons and Europeans. The tier 2 permit also, apparently, requires the applicant to get an ID card. I’m not real pleased with the idea of doing that, as one can imagine.

Thus, there is very little I can do at the moment (although my employer and I are investigating the tier 2 possibility), and whether I can remain in the UK beyond the end of August is for the most part out of my hands and up in the air.

I am very irritated that, based on their own incorrect advice, the Border Agency has refused me permission to live and work here, especially since I can clearly support myself and will contribute to Britain’s economic well-being. I suppose those factors are simply not as important to the Government as indulging the bigotries, misconceptions, and protectionist instincts of a small number of the populace.

Some people over at the Devil’s Kitchen have suggested that marriage might be the answer and, having looked into it on a whim, it would seem that taking such a step would indeed take care of the immediate problem. Unfortunately, in reading the Border Agency website and this poor man’s horror story, I see that it would only suffice for two years, whereas the tier 1 application, had it been granted, would have lasted for three. Also, if I’m going to marry anyone, I want it to be for the, y’know, romantic and practical reasons – not because I need a visa. The very idea offends my ego.

Jun 042009

No, I’m not really in it, but still…

For petty bureaucratic reasons, my immigration application has been rejected by the Home Office, and the consequent emotional devastation has reduced me to watching ‘Britney Spears: From the Beginning’ on Music4. At the moment, she’s doing a Joan Jett cover.

Does she love rock and roll? I’m not convinced. If she really loved rock and roll, she wouldn’t generate the shitty pop music she generates.

But never mind Britney.

Fuck the Home Office and Jacqui Smith (or whoever’s in charge of it now). Fuck this Labour Government, and the imminent Tory Government that will preserve this travesty of a points system. Fuck the Maastricht Treaty, the Lisbon Treaty, Ted Heath, and all the other apparatus of the EU that means jobless benefit claimants are considered more deserving of residency in Britain than an employed taxpayer with a net contribution to the British economy. Fuck Brown, Cameron, Clegg, and any politician whose pusillanimous pandering to political correctness has resulted in the exclusion of every foreigner like me, and I’m sure there are many, who is willing to endure endless fees, paperwork, and inconvenience just to have the right to live and work in what I, for one, believed was a great nation.

Britain is the home of liberty, modern democracy, and free enterprise: what the hell has happened to this place? If you haven’t voted yet, go out and stick it to these bastards. I wish I could.

And yes, I’m bitter. Sue me.


Mar 252009

…if you will, a piece of legislation that contains the following provisions:

(a) Prohibited Activities- A participant in an approved national service position under this subtitle may not engage in the following activities:

‘(1) Attempting to influence legislation.

‘(2) Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes.

‘(3) Assisting, promoting, or deterring union organizing.

‘(4) Impairing existing contracts for services or collective bargaining agreements.

‘(5) Engaging in partisan political activities, or other activities designed to influence the outcome of an election to any public office.

‘(6) Participating in, or endorsing, events or activities that are likely to include advocacy for or against political parties, political platforms, political candidates, proposed legislation, or elected officials.

‘(7) Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization.

Pretty fucking horrifying, no? What on earth, I can hear you wondering, is an ‘approved national service position,’ and what about it makes it necessary for law-makers to remove from its holders freedom of association, the right to petition the government, the franchise, and the right to practise a religion?

Well, my dears, I shall tell you: it’s our old friend Compulsory Volunteering, passed in the US House yesterday in a bill called Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, or, cutely, simply GIVE.

The text of this bill is, like all the pieces of loo roll that pass for legislation in Washington DC, so abstruse that in my current germ-weakened state, I can make neither head nor tail of most of it. The bit quoted above, however, seems pretty straightforward. How, in the name of all that is holy, can Congress justify denying FOUR fundamental, Constitutional rights from people who are taking part in national ‘service’?

And please, no bombarding me with reasonableness. I’m sure that ‘activities designed to influence the outcome of an election to any public office’ isn’t intended to mean voting, but fuck me if I can think of a more archetypal example of an activity designed to influence the outcome of an election.

As it happens, the GIVE Act (what a stupid fucking name) is something of an amendment to other national ‘service’ acts passed in other decades by other asshat Congresses, and there is already an organisation, the Corporation for National and Community Service (its website has a .gov domain and everything!) that administers this crap. They’ve been really quick on the ball to express an opinion of GIVE (something the MSM, I note, have largely overlooked):

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the most significant overhaul and expansion of national service programs in 16 years, acting on President Obama’s call to increase service opportunities for Americans of all ages to help address the economic crisis and usher in a new era of service and responsibility for our nation.

“Service is a fundamental American value, in every neighborhood and every community,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and a co-sponsor of the bill. “With President Obama’s leadership and support, today the House took a key step toward launching a new era of service that will rebuild and strengthen our country for years to come.”

“The American spirit is one of giving back – to our neighbors, our communities, and our nation. All across this country, citizens are devoting their time, skills, and resources to make our country a better place. And through the GIVE Act, we can nurture that spirit of selflessness, leveraging both individuals and organizations to achieve national goals,” said Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, the House Education Committee’s Ranking Republican member.

“At this time of economic crisis, there is a convergence of a great need to help our neighbors and a great appetite by Americans to serve,” said the Corporation’s Board Chair Alan Solomont. “Service can be a solution to many of our nation’s toughest challenges. We are grateful to the House for passing this bipartisan legislation to expand high-quality service opportunities for Americans of all ages.”

Is this some kind of bad prank? On the one hand, we’ve got Reps. George Miller and ‘Buck’ McKeon (may their loins rot) claiming service as a fundamental American value (since when?); on the other, we’ve got Alan Solomont praising the House for offering Americans more ‘high-quality service opportunities.’ What the fuck? Replace the words ‘service opportunities’ with the word ‘toaster’ and you get a sentence that makes a hell of a lot more sense.

I suppose my main points are these: (1) this Act has a stupid name, (2) this Act cancels out fundamental freedoms in the name of service to the common good, (3) this never would have passed if it weren’t for the fucking joke of a community organiser running the nation these days, and most importantly (4) what the US does, Britain quickly imitates. We go to war in Iraq – you go to war in Iraq. We pass illiberal laws to ‘deal with’ the ‘terrorist threat’ – you pass illiberal laws to deal with the terrorist threat. We stimulate our economy with fuckloads of debt – you stimulate your economy with fuckloads of debt. Our mad leader thinks he’s the Second Coming – your mad leader thinks he’s the Second Coming. We press our citizens into rightless compulsory voluntary servitude… you get the idea.

I shouldn’t wonder if there’s not something similar knocking around in Parliament right now, waiting for its five minutes’ worth of debate before being rammed into law by a maniacal, overpowerful, unelected, self-important, self-destructive executive.

Feb 172009

Something I wrote in the previous post reminded me of this stupid shit that appears to have been shelved for the foreseeable future because it was stupid shit, and I wondered how I might construct a pledge of allegiance for the UK along the lines of the one we have in the US (which school-aged children are made to recite every morning for thirteen years).

Here is the American version:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation, under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.

And my UK version:

I pledge allegiance to the symbolic representative item*
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
And to the parliamentary democracy** for which it stands,
many nations, under the European Union, devolved,
with equality and social justice for all.

*The British flag has racist and overtly Christian connotations; the Queen of course represents outdated class privilege, and the monarchy in general is symbolically anti-democratic.

**’government-by-ministerial-fiat’ is too much of a mouthful.

I invite anybody else to have a crack at it, as I freely admit my own attempt is rather lame and half-assed.

Feb 142009

Although I suspected something like it might be on the way, I was rather unprepared yesterday to be called into the office of my boss and the bursar and told that, as of July, I will no longer have a job. I put something on the blog briefly yesterday, but I was in no shape to write a considered analysis of the position in which I found myself, and it is only now, after copious applications of beer and sympathy, that I feel calm enough to say anything worthwhile.

In October 2008, the UK Home Office changed its immigration policy vis a vis overseas nationals. They could not, of course, do anything about immigration from within the EU. Previously, visa and work-permit applications were reviewed on a case-by-case basis (with, you understand, the payment of accompanying fees), and under that system, renewing my own work-permit and leave to remain was quite easy. I teach; teaching is a shortage occupation; my criminal record is clean; end of story.

The new system is points-based and extraordinarily complex. My background and qualifications (or lack thereof; see here) do not add up to the requisite number of points. The essential problem comes from my lack of formal teaching qualification, and this has always been a bit of a catch-22: I cannot work without the PGCE, but I cannot afford to do the PGCE unless I work. There are ways around that lack of paper-qualification, which I was going to undertake in the 2009-2010 school year.

Under the old system, while all secondary-education teaching was considered a shortage occupation, my employers did not have to prove that they could not find a British or EU national to employ to do my job. Under the new system, only the teaching of maths and sciences is considered shortage, and I teach neither. If the school wished to continue employing me, it would first have to advertise the position, interview candidates, then prove conclusively that, despite my lack of a PGCE, I am still more qualified than the native candidates. (My having worked in the post for the past two years does not, unfortunately, count toward that proof.)

But the school does not wish to continue employing me. I do not have the points; they cannot prove on paper that I’m better than other applicants; and the time for advertising teaching posts is now.

‘We are very satisfied with the work you do,’ said the head. ‘Under other circumstances, we would be keeping you on. But there are criminal penalties now for flouting the new immigration laws, and the school hasn’t the time to wait and see if you can find a loophole.’

I have lived in the UK for several years now, and I have worked in this job at this school for two of them. The school is lovely, the pupils are engaging, the subjects I teach are enjoyable and fascinating, and the staff I work with are friendly and intelligent. My flat is pleasant, and my flatmate is wonderful. The friends I’ve made in this country are close and dear to me. I have grown used to living here, to the British way of doing things, to the British sense of humour and British hospitality. When I return to the US every now and then to visit my family, I feel alien there, and things about the way people live and think in the US bother me in a way they never used to.

Sometimes I bitch about being a foreigner in the UK – it’s impossible to get a credit card, for instance, and too many people ask me what I think of Bush and/or Obama – but it’s a hell of a lot better than being a foreigner in my native country, which is how I feel every time I go back. There is nothing for me in the US except my family, and the best family in the world cannot compensate for everything I will have to give up if I return to the US. I like the UK. I don’t want to leave.

Restrictions on immigration are something that have never particularly appealed to me, a libertarian. I support the free movement of labour, although I realise that on a tiny island like Great Britain, that’s not a terribly good policy. Restrictions may be necessary because space and housing are at a premium. But I cannot support any policy that puts me, and people like me, out of a job. Under the old system, I was a tax-paying asset to the common weal; under the new system, I am a dirty foreigner stealing a British job from a British worker. And yet the only thing that has changed is the system – not me.

And so to keep anti-immigration fucknuts happy, and to compensate for its inability to restrict immigration from EU countries, the British government is going to throw me out of my job and my home, and the British people will give their assent without a murmur.

Feb 122009

Excellent piece in the Independent:

Clarkson didn’t say that all Scottish people are one-eyed. He didn’t say that all one-eyed people are idiots. He didn’t say that Scottish people are idiots. What he said was:

1) Gordon Brown is one-eyed.

2) Gordon Brown is Scottish.

3) Gordon Brown is an idiot.

So (we might ask) what the hell is it that those angry Scottish people were angry about? They can’t be angry at the notion that a Scotchman can be an idiot, since the idiot is a staple of Scottish mythology; no other nation would take the majestically drunken Glasgow numpty to its heart with such joy. They can’t be angry that Gordon Brown has one eye, since having one eye is (a) a mild misfortune and (b) considered raffish, piratical and sexy war-wound.

So the only thing left is that they are angry because Gordon Brown is Scottish. Which is not something Clarkson can apologise for.