In 2015 #ukip promised Fat Cat Farmers they’d keep subsidies on #BREXIT! In 2018 @Conservatives say subsidies will last for at least five years … #FBPE

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BzS7Tq-CEAAeCrbWhen Matthew Goodwin writes Nigel Farage’s biography, I am sure you will, Matthew, perhaps he ought to call it Farage: The Diary of a Foxhunting Man (who liked a tab and a pint down the Stockbroker’s Arms)?

Farage (heading a party of the working man, women need not apply) has been spending a goodly amount of time cosying up to the Country Land and Business Association (formerly the Countryside Landowners’ Association).  Back on July 19th 2014 at Blenheim, Oxfordshire, Farage, a regular Game Fair visitor and shooter, promised that farming subsidies would continue if Britain were to leave the EU.  You know, the money we pay to the EU now that Farage says that, if we were out of the EU, we would use to give the low paid a tax ‘cut’.  You will note, though, that the panel’s response to the shooter’s anti EU stance was not all favourable.  Nice, however, to see that writer and racehorse trainer, Charlie Brooks, has already managed to find (gainful?) employment!

Now, you may be wondering about what Farage’s appearance at a Game Fair has to do with repealing the Hunting Act 2004?  Well, check out this article in the Sunday Express of 28th September 2014.  Yes, Elizabeth Truss (a member of the party of the working class, its trade union that has a bit of a problem with women) thinks devoting Parliamentary time to repealing the Act, if the Tories form the next Government, is more important than other matters which fall within her portfolio.  I am sure her stance is in no way affected by the thought of losing 500,000 votes to ukip.

So we have an organisation devoted to representing the interests of the landed Establishment (a trades union) lobbying two Right wing parties, dominated at the top by members of the Establishment.  And yet, ukip, in particular are the insurgents, the mould breakers, the party of the ‘left behind’, a peasants’ revolt in the making …  The definition of the ‘left behind’ has become very flexible, if it now includes people like country landowners and their neighbours, the peasantry (in the original sense of the word)?

These landowners hardly need ukip’s help to get their points across.  They sought to infiltrate the National Trust and overturn its hunting policy in 1998.  You will note who they did get elected, whose friend he just happened to be and the use of the term ‘political correctness’.  Now take a look at FONT’s slate in 2001.  A number of them, Clarissa Dickson-Wright in particular, ‘forgot’ to mention the reason why they were seeking election.  Ms Dickson-Wright wanted to put her culinary skills at the disposal of the Trust.  All she had to do was volunteer to work in the kitchen at one of the Trust’s properties not go to the trouble of getting elected to its ruling council.  I took particular pleasure in voting against FONT’s slate.  Incidentally, ukipers, the National Trust is more democratic than ukip and a lot more fun (and British) too!

Labour, Matthew Goodwin particularly says, needs to face up to the challenge of ukip.  In this regard, good advice about 200 or so years ago, but today most of us live in urban areas and we have universal suffrage.  It did, however, take from 1949 to 2004 for the will of the people to prevail and a hunting with dogs ban to be enacted.  Matthew is big on ukip addressing the issues of the ‘left behind’ whose interests he, condescendingly and patronisingly, thinks do not extend to matters such as climate change.  Well, Matthew, care to explain the level of support for the Hunting Act to remain in force?  Looks to me like a lot of us (working class boy made good, me), including ukip supporters support the ban.  Our concerns, Matthew, and those of “metropolitan liberals” quite often overlap.  I do wonder if Matthew was spooked by Polly Toynbee during his formative years.  It would certainly explain a lot!

Finally, lest we forget, we are not just talking about allowing people to hunt foxes again, a Christmas card scene, but Bambi’s mother as well.  Let us also not forget the words on a placard (held by a farmer) in a Steve Bell cartoon marking a Countryside Alliance March against the passing of the Hunting Bill, “Give us yer money and eff off our land!”  Well, ukip, just whose side are you really on?  Him and the ruling, rural elite or the rural poor (and the many who support the Hunting Act)?

Michael Gove forced to plough £10bn into farm grants after Brexit

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Does #MichaelWhite, #Guardian Know What Grown-up Migration Debate Would Look Like? #RochesterandStrood

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“Downing Street is seeking to respond to the threat from the right from Ukip.  But Cameron also wants to show Tory Eurosceptics he is serious about reform.  They have said in recent weeks that the plan to crack down on benefit tourism showed No 10 was not serious about introducing major reforms because there is relatively little evidence of benefit abuse by EU citizens.”

Barroso warns Cameron that arbitrary migration cap would breach EU law

(Guardian, Sunday 19th October, 2014)

Michael White of the Guardian thinks thatPaul Collier, a distinguished Oxford professor of public policy, a weighty, progressive intellectual of international repute, author of Exodus,” “has thought about” migration “harder than most of us.”

White refers to this article by Collier as an example of Collier’s weighty pondering.  Pondering that at one point refers to assimilation and at a later point, integration.  White may be unaware that these are two very different concepts, not in any way interchangeable and that assimilation is something for which the BNP calls and which, since Doncaster (see ‘Culture’), ukip is demanding too.  I would expect Collier to know the difference and know just how inflammatory calls for assimilation happen to be.

When it come to attitudes towards Social Security, Collier says, “As to diversity, it involves a trade-off: as it increases, variety is enhanced but cohesion reduced.  Variety is good but, unfortunately, as cohesion erodes voters become less willing to support generous welfare programmes.

There is a universal psychological tendency for inconvenient truths to be denigrated, and this is certainly inconvenient for the left. But it is not speculation: I describe some of the supporting research in my book Exodus, and rigorous new experimental research by the Oxford political scientists Sergi Pardos and Jordi Muñoz finds that immigration has just this effect, especially on benefits that are targeted at the poor.”

Firstly, when was there a time in the last forty years or so that the United Kingdom has had “generous welfare programmes”?  Moreover, this is not the United States of America, we do not have welfare programmes.  The word programme is used in the UK in connection with back to work support, for example the fatally flawed Work Programme.

Secondly, attitude surveys going back 30 yerars show that voters have, starting then, become less tolerant of recipients of what many, like the Daily Mail, parts of ukip and IDS, believe to be generous welfare hand outs.  Bizarrely, some of those holding those views are themselves long term beneficiaries of Social Security.  Was there a lot of (im)migration going on in the early 1980s or was Mrs Thatcher ramping up the rhetoric against people signing on?

Thirdly, where is this law of nature that says as diversity increases, variety is enhanced, but cohesion reduced?  Does that not suppose that there was cohesion at the outset?  For the record, for reasons more than simply their discriminatory attitudes, me and mine have precious little in common with ukip’s supporters, except where we were born.  We would, regardless of their views about migration and their attidudes towards the presence of locally born ‘foreigners’, still not be cohering with this group.  We are, for example, opposed to foxhunting.  Bearing the latter in mind, may I observe that I find ukip’s support, from top to bottom, to be unspeakable?  They are a pack of economic and social Luddites.  Let me be frank, I find it hard not to think about them, in the way that they think about migrants, as much as I try not so to do.

As an aside, are migrants from other European Union countries remaining in the United Kingdom indefinitely?  We are using the words, migration and immigration, as meaning the same thing, but an immigrant is someone who arrives with the intention of staying.  Surely we should be using migrant to describe people who behave like migratory birds do?  Surely that is surely a grown up way to debate this issue?  Collier, as shown above, uses the word immigration.  Migrant is, in the mouths of some, becoming anyone who is not white British, period.

White says that, “Unlike most of us, Collier even has a practical remedy for David Cameron as he makes a poor fist of trying to slow down inward migration from Eastern Europe without overtaking Angela Merkel’s patience or the limited imagination of rules-bound Brussels apparatchiks. As another Labour MP whispered to me during the Eastleigh by-election, one reason why would-be migrants of the poorer kind risk freezing at Calais is that Britain’s welfare payments are not all determined by past contributions: “We could change that without EU permission.” ” Collier actually says, “Perhaps it is that, unlike in the rest of Europe, access to our welfare system is not determined by past contributions.”  in other words, Collier has no evidence for his ‘solution’, but White turns it into one!

We may, of course, change how one becomes eligible for Social Security payments without EU permission.  The Coalition started a major round of doing just that on coming to power.  Those changes apply to all seeking to claim, regardless of country of origin.  One might think that Collier and White (sounds like a 1950s department store) had not heard of Personal Independence Payments and Universal Credit.

White should perhaps check Collier’s weighty article of 16th March, 2012, “My fiscal nightmares” wherein Collier says, “A prudent government protects the balance sheet while running a large fiscal deficit. It does so by drastically changing the composition of public spending. Public consumption is massively reduced, concentrating on components that commit spending far into the future. The top priority is therefore to reduce entitlement spending: benefits and pensions.”

Is the current debate providing Collier with cover for arguing again for his top priority?  Collier also buys into the idea that the UK faced, in 2012, the same position as Greece.  I beg to differ and I have got Robert Skidelsky, Professor of Political Economy at Warwick University and the author of the definitive biography of John Maynard Keynes, on my side:

“The national debt is a burden on future generations: This fallacy is repeated so often that it has entered the collective unconscious. The argument is that if the current generation spends more than it earns, the next generation will be forced to earn more than it spends to pay for it.

But this ignores the fact that holders of the very same debt will be among the supposedly burdened future generations. Suppose my children have to pay off the debt to you that I incurred. They will be worse off. But you will be better off. This may be bad for the distribution of wealth and income, because it will enrich the creditor at the expense of the debtor, but there will be no net burden on future generations.

The principle is exactly the same when the holders of the national debt are foreigners (as with Greece), though the political opposition to repayment will be much greater.”

Post-crash economics: some common fallacies about austerity

As we hold our own debt, we have a vested interest in not calling it in lest we bring down our economy, down around our ears.  I am assuming Collier is not necessarily a Keynesian when it comes to National Debt?

Whatever else Collier may be, he seems to know as much about Social Security systems both here and elsewhere in Europe as the Mayor of Calais.  You may still be able to claim some benefits if you travel or move abroad, or if you are already living abroad.  What you’re entitled to depends on where you are going and how long for.  This is where you, as a United Kingdom citizen, can claim benefits:

European Economic Area (EEA) countries

The following countries have benefits arrangements with the UK:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden

Switzerland is not a member of the EEA but is treated as an EEA country for certain benefits.

Other countries with UK benefits arrangements

The following countries have social security agreements with the UK:

  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Canada
  • Channel Islands
  • Macedonia
  • Israel
  • Jamaica
  • Kosovo
  • Mauritius
  • Montenegro
  • New Zealand
  • the Philippines
  • Serbia
  • Turkey
  • USA

Let us not forget moving or retiring abroad and, of course that you have the right to live and work in any European Economic Area (EEA) country, if you are a UK citizen.

For the record, Collier and White, no one is assessed for entitlement to tax credits on the basis of National Insurance Contributions, regardless of where they come from within the EEA, including the UK.

I have already written in some depth about the Social Security contributory principle here so please treat that post as an addendum to this one.  I would add that making changes to our own systems in order to seek to deny non contributory Social Security to migrants would be costly, particularly if the aim were to run, for example, three types of Jobseeker’s Allowance (Contribution Based, Income Based and Migrant Income/Contribution Based) alongside each other.  There would be even greater potential for under and over payments and, arguably more potential for fraud amongst people receiving MICB JSA.  Not forgetting, of course, that JSAPS and ESAPs are sinking as Universal Credit grinds to a halt on the slipway.

I have spoken to Michael White via Twitter about means testing the free bus passes for old people.  He was waxing lyrical about means testing entitlement to the pass saving money, apart from the fact he had no evidence from a Social and Economic Cost Benefit Allowance to prove his point, he was blithely unaware of the costs involved in means testing.  Costs that would have to be offset against any savings.  He nearly went all Mcvey over me, along the lines of when she said that, although the bedroom tax was not saving money, it was a matter of principle to carry on with it.

Collier says, “The economic consequences of a” migration “pause would be negligible as long as students were exempted.”  Unsurprisingly, someone nestling in the groves of academe does not want those groves denied of any income, whether home grown or from abroad.  Good to see though that Collier, like I, value students from abroad studying here, but I expect that we will reap significant benefits from their, hopefully, happy time here at some future date and not in the here and now.  Where is Collier’s evidence, given his concern with the here and now, that migrant students are a benefit to UK plc whilst studying here? More of a benefit, say, than migrants working and paying Income Tax and National Insurance whilst they work here?

Also, I have news for Collier and White, there is, once again, a skills shortage in the construction industry:

Bricklayers’ boom highlights ‘skills timebomb’ in UK construction industry

SMEs: is enough being done to tackle the UK’s skills shortage?

Skills shortage fears temper surge in UK construction

Construction sector skills shortage blamed for holding back housebuilding

Kipper Williams on the construction skills shortage

I would like to make a couple of points with regards to the first two articles.  “As builders take on new work, a shortage of skilled tradespeople has allowed subcontractors to ramp up their hourly rates” (first article).  The Polish plumber and his friend, the bricklayer will be stepping in to take up some of the slack, one presumes.  A colleague of mine in the mid 2000s had an uncle working in the building industry in the east of England.  His relative said that the British bricklayers were good, they could put up a brick wall, leaving a space for a gate, perfectly well.  The Poles were better, they could build a brick arch over the gap between the two walls.  The British had been trained by the UK taxpayer to NVQ2 and the poles to NVQ3 by the Polish taxpayer.

Did ukip have to import that out of work Irish actor to appear in a poster, posing as a bricklayer, because British bricklayers did not share ukip’s stance and/or were too busy?  If you are a bricklayer and out of work at this time may I suggest, tactfully, that it is because no one thinks you are employable?  Moreover, that if there were no migrants you would still be at the back of the queue? I would go so far as to say that there is an overlap between that tiny minority of UK residents defrauding the UK Social Security system and ukip’s unemployed supporters.  They have been presenting themselves at the door during party canvassing exercises in the same way they used to down at the Jobcentre.  We know who you are, chaps, because some of you are the real (not Daily Mail) scroungers we used to sanction back in the day.  There is a certain irony in that ukip, one group of whose supporters favour going further thah IDS, is being supported by another group that would be the main target of their version of the War on Welfare!

Colier says, “It would be salutary for business to find that it had to train the existing workforce rather than poach trained workers from poorer countries: what is good for business is not necessarily good for the rest of us.”  Good to know he remembers some basic labour market economics, except British companies have a century old tradition (pre dating our entry into the EU) of poaching from each other.  In addition, Enoch Powell, when Minister of Health in the late 1950s was actively recruiting medical staff from the Caribbean to work in the NHS.  And, London Transport recruited Afro-Caribbean people to work on the Underground and the buses.

Amusingly, Collier, desirous of reducing migration to save the public finances, forgets that too often employers expect the taxpayer to train their existing workforce.  Meanwhile, whilst we await the Second Coming of Learning and Development and many British companies renouncing their devotion to ‘tried and tested’ Anglo Saxon business methods, the cost of building projects, many funded by the taxpayer will rise and rise.  And that is without factoring in the labour market impact of major construction projects like HS2.  And, every time we go into a recession, the first thing businesses usually cut is their learning and development budgets.

“The skills shortage problem is not unique to the UK.  Federation of Small Businesses national chairman, John Allan, says, “Many businesses across Europe are struggling to fill vacancies with appropriately trained staff.  The problem can’t be addressed until the education system does a better job of preparing young people for the world of work.” ” (second article).  Translation, there are increasing  job opportunities opening up for UK residents elsewhere in the EEA.  As an aside, I must find the Guardian article, wherein a careers adviser of 30 year’s standing remarked that employers at the start of his career had been saying, “The problem can’t be addressed until the education system does a better job of preparing young people for the world of work!”  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, Collier and White?

Michael, I am up for a grown-up debate on migration.  May be we may have one when you stop throwing out lines like, “Neither the right’s “crowding out” complaint about competition for low-skilled jobs (my Labour friend’s complaint too), nor the left’s “good for growth and tax receipts” scenario – shared by the City and big business – has much real evidence to support it.”  Comment is free, but facts are sacred, but not to the point where they must never be deployed, surely?  Where is your evidence to disprove either or both assertions?

Back in 2005, well before all this talk of swamping kicked in, there were 600 Cuban nurses working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.  Why?  Because of the demographic time bomb.  An aging population means an aging workforce.  ukip’s pensioner supporters are going to need to accept the fact that a migrant may be the only person available to clean up their sick in their care home? We are not talking about people elbowing others out of the way for jobs.  After all, migrants are rarely of pension age so they will in part compensate for the fall in the number of people in the working age population and, by paying tax, contribute towards the cost of the pensions of elderly people, including ukip supporting pensioners.

Collier of course says, “There is a good case for confronting their delusions and racism, and countering the misleading drizzle of anti-immigrant anecdotes, but this would not make them accepting of continued high immigration.”  How about, no migrant, no pension?  I think that might be the kind of sound bite that would hit home on the doorstep.

I was at a meeting with the QE Human Resources staff about six or so years ago.  A senior nurse recruiter said we have projected that very soon the NHS will need to recruit 50% of all school leavers to maintain its current staffing level.  Recessions come, recessions go and demographic changes remain relatively unaffected.  Of coursed, tightening public sector pension entitlement and raising the state pension age may go some way to responding to this issue.  however, actuaries have predicted that for every year working over 60, teachers reduce their life expectancy.  If they retire at 65 they run a significant risk of dying within a year.  I suspect neither Collier nor White expect to find themselves working to a point where it affects their life expectancy in such a dramatic way.

Michael, Collier is proposing that we engage in managing decline rather than take advantage of the benefits to UK plc of exploiting the opportunities presented by free movement of labour.  Opportunities for jobseekers happy to work abroad and vice versa.

By the way, Michael, that graduate you mentioned herein, “At one point in those 17 years a Labour MP, now dead, said to me: ”How can my young, unskilled constituents hope to compete for jobs with bilingual and highly-motivated foreign graduates?” It was a good point and I think of it every time I buy a beer or a coffee from one of those young graduates.”  Was he or she fluent in English?  Does it follow that he or she is at least bilingual?  That lots of tourists come to London (and Birmingham) and that having skilled, versatile staff who speak good English is good for the tourist industry (and UK plc)?  And if tourism spend increases then jobs growth results?  Have either you or Collier heard of the Multiplier Effect (see page 58)?  Incidentally, I am a Treasury standard Green Book Appraiser.

Might it not be a bad idea, if we helped “those (stereotypical) young, unskilled constituents to learn” a few other languages so they might look for work elsewhere in the EU?  Also, Michael, most employers do not look for vocational qualifications before recruiting so perhaps we should not be so quick to describe these stereotypes as lacking in soft skills?  And while we are on the subject of Europe, business and jobs why not read this post.

May be I am getting a bit cynical, but Paul Collier seems to be setting out to follow the trail blazed by Goodwin and Ford of Revolt on the Right Fame.  What they know about psephology and political campaigning, he seems to know about labour market economics and the UK Social Security system, but they are still making a mint out of ukip (and migration).  Migration is certainly improving the income of some people!

ukip Out To Worsen Conditions Of Temporary (Farm) Workers!

Migrants Price Local People Out Of Agricultural Jobs?

Tally Ho! Unspeakable #Tories & #ukip Pursing Unpopular Repeal of Hunting Act 2004 #StokeByElection

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BzS7TUHCEAAhhc-When Matthew Goodwin writes Nigel Farage’s biography, I am sure you will, Matthew, perhaps he ought to call it Farage: The Diary of a Foxhunting Man (who liked a tab and a pint down the Stockbroker’s Arms)?

Farage (heading a party of the working man, women need not apply) has been spending a goodly amount of time cosying up to the Country Land and Business Association (formerly the Countryside Landowners’ Association).  Back on July 19th 2014 at Blenheim, Oxfordshire, Farage, a regular Game Fair visitor and shooter, promised that farming subsidies would continue if Britain were to leave the EU.  You know, the money we pay to the EU now that Farage says that, if we were out of the EU, we would use to give the low paid a tax ‘cut’.  You will note, though, that the panel’s response to the shooter’s anti EU stance was not all favourable.  Nice, however, to see that writer and racehorse trainer, Charlie Brooks, has already managed to find (gainful?) employment!

Now, you may be wondering about what Farage’s appearance at a Game Fair has to do with repealing the Hunting Act 2004?  Well, check out this article in the Sunday Express of 28th September 2014.  Yes, Elizabeth Truss (a member of the party of the working class, its trade union that has a bit of a problem with women) thinks devoting Parliamentary time to repealing the Act, if the Tories form the next Government, is more important than other matters which fall within her portfolio.  I am sure her stance is in no way affected by the thought of losing 500,000 votes to ukip.

So we have an organisation devoted to representing the interests of the landed Establishment (a trades union) lobbying two Right wing parties, dominated at the top by members of the Establishment.  And yet, ukip, in particular are the insurgents, the mould breakers, the party of the ‘left behind’, a peasants’ revolt in the making …  The definition of the ‘left behind’ has become very flexible, if it now includes people like country landowners and their neighbours, the peasantry (in the original sense of the word)?

These landowners hardly need ukip’s help to get their points across.  They sought to infiltrate the National Trust and overturn its hunting policy in 1998.  You will note who they did get elected, whose friend he just happened to be and the use of the term ‘political correctness’.  Now take a look at FONT’s slate in 2001.  A number of them, Clarissa Dickson-Wright in particular, ‘forgot’ to mention the reason why they were seeking election.  Ms Dickson-Wright wanted to put her culinary skills at the disposal of the Trust.  All she had to do was volunteer to work in the kitchen at one of the Trust’s properties not go to the trouble of getting elected to its ruling council.  I took particular pleasure in voting against FONT’s slate.  Incidentally, ukipers, the National Trust is more democratic than ukip and a lot more fun (and British) too!

Labour, Matthew Goodwin particularly says, needs to face up to the challenge of ukip.  In this regard, good advice about 200 or so years ago, but today most of us live in urban areas and we have universal suffrage.  It did, however, take from 1949 to 2004 for the will of the people to prevail and a hunting with dogs ban to be enacted.  Matthew is big on ukip addressing the issues of the ‘left behind’ whose interests he, condescendingly and patronisingly, thinks do not extend to matters such as climate change.  Well, Matthew, care to explain the level of support for the Hunting Act to remain in force?  Looks to me like a lot of us (working class boy made good, me), including ukip supporters support the ban.  Our concerns, Matthew, and those of “metropolitan liberals” quite often overlap.  I do wonder if Matthew was spooked by Polly Toynbee during his formative years.  It would certainly explain a lot!

Finally, lest we forget, we are not just talking about allowing people to hunt foxes again, a Christmas card scene, but Bambi’s mother as well.  Let us also not forget the words on a placard (held by a farmer) in a Steve Bell cartoon marking a Countryside Alliance March against the passing of the Hunting Bill, “Give us yer money and eff off our land!”  Well, ukip, just whose side are you really on?  Him and the ruling, rural elite or the rural poor (and the many who support the Hunting Act)?

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#ukip Would Scrap #ChildrensCentres & #SureStart! #ThanetSouth

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Well, well, well …  Who knew it?  ukip’s latest policy on welfare was out there all the time!  Basically, they aim to be tough on those in poverty and well to the right of IDS when it comes to social policy.

How do I know this?  I was chatting with someone the other day about ukip’s all things to all men (women know your place!) Bedroom Tax policy and I mused about where they stood on other Social Security issues.  My friend sent me this link to their last set of policies.  One of which alone kills dead the idea that ukip would really stand up for the left behind, the axing of Sure Start.

Yes, I know, we must await the much anticipated Manifesto, whose unveiling has become like a particularly arthritic Dance of the Seven Veils.  First, it was to appear early this year; next Friday 23rd May, conveniently a day after the European Elections; then later in the summer; then later this month, but the last I read was that only a few key policies would be unveiled in Doncaster.  Would they be those of which Farage has already spoken?  For example, the National Minimum Wage and tax ‘cuts’ policy and the ones listed in this article?  Until they repudiate their previous anti-poverty proposals then we may assume that they are still current or, at the very least still being considered for their Manifesto.

Sure Start, established under Labour; a major issue at the last General Election and broadly supported by the mainstream parties is practically the quintessential policy for helping the left behind within a few years of their leaving their cradles.  It is a lot less controversial and judgmental than the current government’s Troubled Families Programme.  Troubled Families expects almost overnight easily measurable outputs and outcomes.  We will not know the full impact, good and/or bad of Sure Start until the first cohort of beneficiaries reaches the age of 18.  Anyone who thinks Sure Start to be a waste of money is either ignorant, stupid and/or cares nothing for those who start their lives at the rear of the convoy and who steadily fall behind as the voyage progresses.  No wonder Nigel Farage studiously avoids discussing ukip’s social policies in any open forum.

Sure Start, based on Head Start in the United States of America, aims to prevent poor children, often from very deprived areas, from experiencing an opportunity gap opening up between them and the children of those in higher income groups.  Put simply, if the poorest children do not get a hand up before the age of 5 then in most cases they will never improve on the position at which they started.  Truly, these children are the left behind.

I am in no way criticising the parents of these disadvantaged children.  Many were themselves disadvantaged and could not break out of the poverty trap.  Unlike so many of the Commentariat and the likes of Matthew Goodwin, I have grown up alongside them, met them and those working with them (and supported both during my career).  I have not, Gradgrind like, sat at my computer and written reports, recommendations and so forth after just reading the latest statistics, opinion polls and the comment pieces of others.  I suspect many of you reading this now have done the same as me and share my respect and awe for the efforts to which these parents (and families) go to try and give their children a better start in life than they had.  Sometimes it is heartbreaking to think what the future may hold for these children.  Sure Start is all about giving the poorest children a more than even chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty.  Crucially, it also helps their parents to help themselves to improve their lot and thus the lot of their children.

Poverty is about more than just money, as important as that is to getting out of it, it also denies people the chance to experience new things and different cultures.  It denies them the opportunity to go to art galleries, the theatre, the cinema, in fact to enjoy the rich and varied culture of our society and other societies that many, not in poverty, take for granted.  I must confess I am a Bevanite snob, if it is good enough for them then it is good enough for us!  You might even call me a Champagne Socialist.  I have tried it, do not like it, but like a glass or two of port after a good dinner.  And yet I sprang from the working class in what still is one of the poorest parts of Birmingham.  And although Children’s Centres, a key component of Sure Start, do not I assume promote the drinking of port, they do in part aim to broaden the horizons of children.

There is something else about Children’s Centres.  They are non means tested.  Consequently, there was at least a hope that children across social groups and income levels would mingle and learn a bit about each other, thereby, promoting community cohesion and understanding.  Who knows, they might just develop the friendships, networks and connections for which some parents send their children to private schools, public schools and Oxbridge.  More than a touch of social engineering there?  I am not sure if that has come to pass.

Locally, Labour rolled out the centres in three tranches, starting with the hardest to help areas.  The Tories, on coming to power in Birmingham scaled back the third phase, but then the deprived children of Falcon Lodge might have met and played with the well off children of the rest of Andrew Mitchell’s Constituency of Sutton Coldfield, one of the most affluent areas outside of London and South East.  We cannot have the kids off the estate learning that only money separates them from their ‘betters’, can we?

Story Wood Children’s Centre (previously Brambles/Sure Start Kingstanding) is one of the Children’s Centres I had the pleasure to visit in my time as a Civil Servant.  Story Wood is at the heart of the community it serves and is on the site of Story Wood School.  Some of the detail of what the Children’s Centre does is here.  For me, Children’s Centres are my kind of Socialism and something of which to be unashamedly proud.  I visited one a couple of times at a Junior and Infant School that I used to attend.  And that was a very deprived area (in terms of money) when Mom, Dad, my brother and me lived there.  Thankfully, things have improved somewhat and I helped a little with some of that improvement in recent years.

Whilst talking about ukip policies more generally, I would observe that Children’s Centres operate under the auspices of local authorities, but not all are run by them.  Lakeside was set up by Enta, a widely respected Voluntary and Community Sector organisation and like a lot of Children’s Centres engages in a variety of ways with the parents who use the Centre’s services.  Jargon like empowerment springs to mind, but not ukip’s ‘Power to the People’ ideas.  Helping to run a Children’s Centre your children attend is power to the people.  Closing it is not.

Were ukip to have its way then closing Children’s Centres would leave the left behind, both children and parents further behind; put trained professionals in a variety of child related disciplines out of work; remove community centres from communities with few or no other community facilities; waste a lot of money in a variety of ways and I suspect leave more than a few children heartbroken.  Thankfully those who use and have used the centres are not easily fooled (which is a sign they are working).  They made the survival of their centres an issue in the last General Election.  David Cameron said none would be closed on his watch.  Somewhere in the region of 250 have gone, but a network remains, even where authorities are Tory run.  The equivalent of the NHS of the First Age has developed deep roots, thankfully.

Replacing Early Years’ Funding, Sure Start, the childcare element of Working Tax Credit and the tax relief on Employer Nursery Vouchers into a flat-rate, non-means tested Nursery Voucher to cover approximately half the cost of a full-time nursery place is no answer to the challenges facing the children of the left behind.  The bulk of the funding being replaced by the voucher currently goes on the left behind.  Under ukip, the likes of David (I claimed Disability Living Allowance) Cameron would get some of the money if he used a voucher.  ukip proposes a simplistic answer to a complex set of problems and moves money away from where it is most needed.  Could they be seeking the votes of Tories with a non means tested voucher?

And for any ukiper who has read this far, rather than posting a comment accusing me of a smear and/or being a paedophile, Children’s Centres provide childcare, support for lone parents and employ a lot of women.  Is your blood boiling now?  If you closed Children’s Centres you would reduce the amount of childcare, possibly pushing up the price of that remaining.  We know you do not like lone parents, women in the workplace and seemingly women in general.  However, let me cause you some more grief, men are lone parents too and men work in childcare.  One of the latter I met had worked on the track at Rover before being made redundant.  Oh, and around 8% of HGV drivers are women!

If Labour (and to a great extent) the other mainstream parties have left people behind through Sure Start then we are guilty as charged.  Perhaps this policy is further proof that ukip is seeking to attract and retain the support and votes of the poorly educated, uncultured and those seemingly lacking in empathy?  Why does one need to have a reading age of more than seven, because with it you can comprehend The Sun?  Why do you need to know the difference between a Hindu, a Muslim and a Sikh?  They are all ‘foreigners’, are they not?  And, if you start developing emotional intelligence then you might just realise that the Muslim family down the road or the lone parent around the corner has a harder life than you.  Why is this starting to sound familiar?  These are the tunes played by the Hard Right since time immemorial.  Divide and conquer, divide and rule.