John Pugh MP writes…Lessons from Bulgaria

There is something strange happening. This week we have seen the British Prime Minister question whether the free movement of labour is necessarily a good thing. The prospect of potentially socially disruptive Bulgarian and Rumanian immigration is concentrating his mind while all across the EU pray devoutly that the worst of tabloid fears will not come to pass.

The banking collapse in 2009 made all of us question whether the unfettered, free movement of capital was invariably a good thing. Currently the merits of the free movement of capital and labour are up for debate.

What we are seeing is the collapse of the neo-liberal consensus which has dominated both EU and national policy.

According to that ideology free markets in capital and labour work inexorably and irresistibly to bring about prosperity and happiness. This market philosophy as Michael Sandel and others demonstrate has hitherto permeated every nook and cranny of social life. Citizens have been identified with consumers and public servants with producers. Happiness is seen as GDP. More and more areas of social life have been configured as markets because markets have been seen as intrinsically benign in terms of outcome.

This neo-liberal view has never been a matter of pragmatism or evidence but of ideological faith. Free markets are deemed just a good thing and ultimately irresistible “You can’t buck the markets” as Mrs Thatcher reputedly said

However, in demanding that banks re-capitalise and be bound by probity and rules,in querying the suggestion that a Bulgarian brain drain or mass migration is a good idea , we are reverting to an older Liberal idea that markets are not natural forces but social constructs and to be recommended and employed if and where they are socially beneficial.

`If free movement of Labour may impoverish one country and threaten social cohesion in another we may choose to change how that market works. This is not to deny that a free market in labour cannot have good effects or may not generally have good effects or might in the long term have good effects but does imply that it might not necessarily have good effects. Human beings can after all successfully engage in a other ways than through a market.

The EU with its agricultural subsidies and social funds has never really been an attempt to construct a neo-liberal paradise. It always recognised that markets can be and often are very useful social constructs, best constrained by moral principles and rarely ‘free’ in an abstract or absolute sense.

If there is to be found consolation in the financial crash, the immigration crisis, the battles over energy and the environment, the pathetic absence of industrial policy in the 90s,, the sometime follies of privatising basic public services, it is the fact that the creed of neo-liberalism has been called into question.It is now questioned- by the party ,the British Conservative party, which has hitherto been its firmest advocate- (as Nick Boles rueful call last week for true National Liberals to arise showed).

The scales are off everyone’s eyes. The idol has been found to have feet of clay.

Liberal Democrats can (if they choose) still call themselves classical liberals, economic liberals, Gladstonian Liberals, orange-book liberals.What we can no longer deny post-crash, post-immigration crisis is that markets are all too human social constructs to be employed, encouraged, shaped and introduced where they serve the common good. That’s progress even if its also the discovery of an old truth.

* John Pugh was Liberal Democrat MP for Southport until 2017 and was elected as a Councillor for the Dukes ward of Sefton Borough Council on 2 November 2017.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

41 Comments

  • An excellent exposition of what markets mean to liberals. Markets are there to serve people and not the other way around.

    It is heartening to see that Southport is still in such good hands.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Nov '13 - 12:22pm

    A really good article.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Nov '13 - 12:43pm

    I still think the long-term objective needs to be the free movement of capital and labour (broadly), but this is roughly where we need to be today and I agree we should not seek to introduce markets everywhere, such as carbon trading.

  • Matt (Bristol) 28th Nov '13 - 1:08pm

    Well, the fact of the Tories (and others) fearing Bulgraian immigration and public reaction to it may well be proof that so-called neo-liberalism is flawed and not a slavishly followed as previously and the poster is right to say this.

    However, the argument that resisting Bulgarian immigration is contrary to neo-liberal thinking is not an argument for us restricting Bulgarian immigration, or that restricting Bulgarian immigration is a ‘liberal’ thing to do or that such a policy would be instantaneously and unquestionably in harmony with the traditions of a UK liberal / democratic party and the poster is wrong to imply this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Nov '13 - 1:32pm

    There are skilled and intelligent people in Bulgaria with a good work ethic. Such people would want to come to the UK because they can earn much more here than they can in Bulgaria. Also, with English being the most widely studied second language, there’s a high likelihood they already have enough English to get started, and it isn’t such a bind to have to learn it than it would be to learn the language of some other country which isn’t widely used outside that country.

    Now, we might wonder why nearly 35 years after Margaret Thatcher came to power with her message of “get Britain working” and all the emphasis we have had ever since on us all being work-oriented, why it is that people who come from a countries which were still state socialist back then seem to have a better work ethic than people brought up here. But let’s pass that one by …

    So, if you are an employer here, obviously you would prefer to employ one of these intelligent skilled people with a good work ethic who due to poverty in their home nation are willing to work for low pay, than to employ many of the people who were born here. This is always going to happen, “better education” is not a full answer, because there is always going to be a proportion of the population which isn’t that intelligent, which isn’t good with their hands and so on. That’s the way people ARE. I know I’m rubbish with my hands, I’m clumsy and badly co-ordinated, no amount of education or training is ever going to make me good at a job which requires manual skills. Fortunately, I’ve reasonably good mental skills, so I was forced by my inability in manual skills to leave my working class background, essentially I was just rubbish at being working class. Not everyone can do that.

    Right, so if we say it’s good for employers to be able to pick these better equipped Bulgarians or whatever, what ARE we going to do with our fellow Brits who aren’t so able? Well it looks like the answer to that is “someone else’s problem”. Er, who’s, exactly?

    We are afraid to talk about this for fear of being accused of being “racist”. So we leave it to the political right to talk about it, and they do and win support through being seen as the only politicians who care about this issue.

    So, is the prime duty of the government of the United Kingdom towards the people of the United Kingdom, or is it towards the employers of the United Kingdom? If the latter, then of course we should welcome these people in, it would be “good for the country”. Maybe, since we already have the “bedroom tax” forcing poor Brits out of where they grew up, we could force them a little bit further away, must be plenty of empty housing left in Bulgaria they could live in …

    As the old saying went “To save the village, we had to destroy the village”.

  • An excellent article, Mr Pugh, and some good comments upon it, too. Thank you.

  • Adam Corlett 28th Nov '13 - 2:27pm

    John Pugh wants to control where I (and everyone else in Europe) can live and work according to what the governments of the day wish to be the common good. And one is an “ideological” “neoliberal” if one disagrees. Fantastic.

    Sure liberalism should probably be seen as a means to an end. But one liberal viewpoint would be that even if government can sometimes interfere with markets or replace them for the better, states are just as likely to get it wrong even if their intentions are good. Therefore in this view it is experience-based and pragmatic (not a matter of faith or belief in freedom’s intrinsic worth) to stick to freedom as a general rule, with a high standard of proof needed for state interference. When it comes to such a fundamental freedom as that of movement – even if we have been a long time without it – the argument for controlling people needs to be especially strong, and certainly stronger than the straw men and fleeting hints used in this article.

  • Matt (Bristol) 28th Nov '13 - 2:40pm

    Matthew Huntbach: I know I’m rubbish with my hands, I’m clumsy and badly co-ordinated, no amount of education or training is ever going to make me good at a job which requires manual skills.

    Hmm. Not proven. I am often tempted to make this line about my own incompetence with manual labour and physical tasks, but this is effectively me defending the position luck, education and class have put me in.

    My highly intellectual, introspective, book-reading grandfather (partially) built an extension on his own house in the 1960s. Why? Because he had no money to hire traders and there was no alternative route if he wanted his wife’s mother to live with him so they could care for her. He had been to war rather than University and so had some manual skills but it is clear to all he would have rather chosen education over flying Hurricanes. He may not have been ‘good at’ it, but he had to do it, so he did it and he developed effective enough skills.

    I think we do need to talk about immigration, but not on the basis that past governments were naieve or evil or stupid in encouraging / allowing it. As I pointed out in the comments on the post about Nicke Clegg’s rhetoric about the ‘Party of In’; the UK had in the past (some) right and good motives for allowing foreign nationals access to our coutry and its benefits structures before ‘neoliberalism’ came on the scene, and before we do a U-turn on those good reasons, the country should think about what a coherent, principled and equitable policy on these issues would look like that might allow for application to situations beyond the immiedate ‘crisis’, not one based on vetoing access for whichever country is the tabloid press’s latest bete noir.

  • Tony Greaves 28th Nov '13 - 3:06pm

    It is a pity if vital the debate raised by John Pugh is about Bulgarian immigration which may well turn out to be a two month scare story with little foundation. The much more fundamental issues are about the role of neoclassical economics in this country today, and the way it has been used (in the guise variously of such apparently benign concepts as “progress”, “modernisation”, “reform”, and so on) to grind down the masses and enrich the powerful.

    It was ironic that the party that discovered the market in the early 1990s (Labour) turned out to be in the forefront of this disastrous stampede to promote arid theory against experience, and right wing ideology against common sense.

    The Liberals – who as the traditional party of the market (but not the untramelled “free” market) stood firm against the new orthodoxies for a long time, perhaps because, unlike the johnny-com-latelies who rapidly acquired the fervour of the convert, we understood enough about markets to know their limitations and the importance of government regulation and intervention to counter their abuses – but as part of the coalition we have it seems fallen in line with the rest.

    Markets are mechanisms and tools. They are not an ideology and when people think that is what they are, they turn into a dehumanising and entrapping dogma. They should not be allowed to take over in areas where they are not appropriate as in much of the public sector.

    Tony

  • Matt (Bristol) 28th Nov '13 - 3:21pm

    Tony, I agree with you and I agree with the several posts made by Matthew Huntbach in various places that there has been a ‘creep’ towards arguing that untrrestricted capitalism is liberalism which is wrong and out of spirit with the heritage of British liberalism. And in that sense I agree with much of the thrust of John Pugh’s post. But this bit here, is worrying:

    “in querying the suggestion that a Bulgarian brain drain or mass migration is a good idea , we are reverting to an older Liberal idea ” (with the implication being that the alternative to the ‘old idea’ is ‘neoliberalism’).

    To reiterate: Free market economics is not the only reason for allowing liberalisation of immigration policy, and if our nation is to have a policy about restricing EU nationals access to benefits and services and to travel into the coutnry, it needs to be consistent for all the citizens of all other EU nations.

  • jenny barnes 28th Nov '13 - 3:35pm

    adam ” stick to freedom as a general rule, with a high standard of proof needed for state interference”
    ah, freedom. Who could possibly be against it, preferably with motherhood, peace, and apple pie. But, the cynic in me can’t help asking- Freedom for whom? For the employer to take on highly skilled people who have been produced in another country, while evading any thought that they (the employers) should contribute to the reproduction of the society in which they are embedded? Or freedom for those who are demonised as idle welfare wastrels? They may have theoretical freedom of movement, but if they can’t afford food, fuel, or a bus fare it’s more than somewhat theoretical. If we value the abstract notion of “free” markets over real people, don’t be surprised if real people suffer. And these free markets of which you speak: Who enforces contract obligations? Property rights? Patents? Pays for the roads? Oh that’ll be the state, then.

  • “What we can no longer deny post-crash, post-immigration crisis is that markets are all too human social constructs to be employed, encouraged, shaped and introduced where they serve the common good. That’s progress even if its also the discovery of an old truth.”

    Thank you, thank you and thank you once again John Pugh for stating this fundamental point clearly. It should be tattooed (if there’s room) on the foreheads of those in the party whose first reaction to a problem they can’t solve is to privatise it.

    I have an admission. Until a few days ago, I hadn’t read the Orange Book. Reading David Laws pontificating about the dangers of the “nanny state” and how social democrats had somehow hijacked liberalism really made me quite nauseous. Thank God there are still purveyors of common sense like John Pugh within the party.

  • Eddie Sammon 28th Nov '13 - 5:00pm

    What makes John’s article so refreshing is that it is beyond the pettiness of left versus right, opinion poll tested soundbites and top-down communications.

  • One thing that is never mentioned is that we still don’t know how many people came to the UK from the 2004 accession countries because we don’t know how many people from those countries were already working in the UK illegally (or legally, particularly on au pair visas) in 2003 and registered themselves afterwards. From memory it seemed to be a significant amount, both when viewed from Britain or the other side of the continent.

  • Tubby Isaacs 28th Nov '13 - 5:41pm

    Bingo! Another sighting of Liberal tradition, heritage, ideas, whatever.

    And guess what? The policy that the Lib Dems have just articulated… turns out to be in line with this Liberal tradition!

    Anyone would think you were being just as bad as Labour and the Tories in trying to get out of promises made to Bulgarians when they joined the EU and pandering to ignorance. But apparently it’s all part of enlightened anti-capitalism, and follows from the banks being bailed out and for the Bulgarians’ own good anyway.

    Such is your enlightened scepticism about neo-liberalism, that you’ve appointed David Laws to oversee the manifesto.

    I mean, I admire the Liberator types for their politics and persistence, but surely even they’ve got to walk out soon. Let’s see your Liberal tradition get your leaflets delivered in 2015.

  • “Such is your enlightened scepticism about neo-liberalism, that you’ve appointed David Laws to oversee the manifesto.

    I mean, I admire the Liberator types for their politics and persistence, but surely even they’ve got to walk out soon. Let’s see your Liberal tradition get your leaflets delivered in 2015.”

    Ouch.

  • RC 28th Nov ’13 – 4:08pm
    Thank you, thank you and thank you once again John Pugh for stating this fundamental point clearly. It should be tattooed (if there’s room) on the foreheads of those in the party whose first reaction to a problem they can’t solve is to privatise it.

    I agree with RC. I am normally against tattoes but in this case I will make an exception.

    I was also amused by RC’s comment –
    I have an admission. Until a few days ago, I hadn’t read the Orange Book. Reading David Laws pontificating about the dangers of the “nanny state” and how social democrats had somehow hijacked liberalism really made me quite nauseous.

    I wonder just how many Liberal Democrats have actually read this often mentioned Orange Book. When it was first published it was clinging on to an already discredited and failing ideology. John Pugh points out how it is now well past its sell-by date, and how the world has moved on. In reality the so-called Orange Bookers are just right wingers, mostly from privileged backgrounds, who have either mistakenly or in a calculated way misread or misrepresented Liberalism for their own ends.

    On the serous point raised y

  • While I do not agree with everything Pugh says (even in this article), I certainly think he brings up a valid point.

    Neo-Liberalism is simply not Liberal.

  • Peter Davies 29th Nov '13 - 10:29am

    Bulgarians are not a market in labour. They are people. There is nothing neo about the liberalism of freedom of movement. I thought we’d abolished fettered migration.

  • Little Jackie Paper 29th Nov '13 - 11:30am

    ‘we are reverting to an older Liberal idea that markets are not natural forces but social constructs and to be recommended and employed if and where they are socially beneficial.’

    OK. But that does rather duck the question of socially beneficial for whom exactly. Take an obvious example, our housing market has worked massively to the benefit of a section of society, but I wouldn’t say that those trapped in BTL have seen much by way of benefit.

    My instinct is that the Romania/Bulgaria thing is massively overhyped, however there is no point talking about the liberal virtues of freedom of movement to people that have been clobbered by wage arbitrage, seen the doctor’s waiting room fill to bursting and so on. As someone else has said, it is difficult to avoid the point that the reification of liberally virtuous free movement is socially beneficial if you are not the one bearing the brunt of the economic dislocation. What exactly is the consolation? The doctor in Varna will see you now?

    The word missing from the article is, ‘corporatism.’ Markets are indeed social constructs to the extent that they are groups of people coming together and conducting business. But you can not strip out of that questions of bargaining power. Those are not always easy questions. Mrs Paper for example thinks that Tesco is great and that big supermarkets have genuinely made her life easier with their bargaining power. Not a world view that everyone agrees with. Of course corporates love immigration in the sense of cheap labour. One wonders whether those employers were confronted with the full economic cost (health, transport, defence, rule of law, second-language schooling, pension liabilities) of that labour they would be so keen. A liberal immigration policy should not just be a free for all.

    The article certainly has a good point – but I don’t think it really addresses the wider point about socially beneficial for whom.

    Richard S – I might be wrong, but I think that the Oxford Migration Observatory might have looked at those questions.

  • Yes, but how would the Oxford Migration Observatory know either? Did they have a camera in every workplace in 2003 (which would explain the third word of their name). An estimate is just an estimate even if it comes from Oxford.

  • David Allen 29th Nov '13 - 2:36pm

    Migration Observatory?

    Strictly for the birds?

  • Simon Banks 29th Nov '13 - 3:30pm

    I’m very glad John Pugh has pointed out some of the dangers of a worship of markets, and agree with Tony Greaves that pinning the debate on Bulgarian immigration is unfortunate.

    Of course markets work very well for lots of things. One has only to look at ludicrous problems in Eastern Bloc economies under “socialism”. But “neo-liberal” worship of markets has a number of dangers. Markets think short-term. They value only what can be given a price. In following GDP, they promote economic activity as a good in itself (so, for example, buying vegetables from a shop becomes preferable to growing them yourself). More subtly, people are encouraged to think that everything has a money value and as John says, citizens become consumers of services with no duties or involvements outside consuming the service according to the rules and paying for it. This approach ultimately destroys all sense of community and all understanding of politics (since politics concerns making collective decisions about things that can’t be decided for themselves by individuals). Thatcherites have even argued that decisions about land use should be made purely according to who has the most money to bid for the land – which would mean a thousand poor people supporting a local nature reserve or a skatepark could be outvoted by one rich developer.

    The fashionable focus on the “customer” receiving public services may have beneficial impacts where the “customer” is a vulnerable person who may be ignored or abused (provided their voice can be heard), but I suspect some cases of severe child abuse and even murder were allowed to develop because social workers concentrated too much on the parents as customers.

    As for intervention versus laissez-faire, I agree that the case for government intervening in a market needs to be clear. I’m not sure that’s so with Bulgarian immigration. However, proposals like a qualifying period for benefits are not a new intervention in the market so much as an amendment to an existing one.

  • Markets don’t follow GDP. There are some politicians, who don’t really believe in freedom and think that freedom needs special justifications rather than being the default answer and those politicians use GDP growth as a justification for markets.

    Markets are just a way of thinking about pairs of people exchanging what they have, whether it be goods or time and skills, to some degree aware of what other prices they could get. This kind of exchange seems to be the natural way for people to deal with each other, whether one is an eastern bloc university professor selling a place on a course for cash in hand, or an Englishman selling a second-hand car back to the garage.

    That doesn’t mean introducing markets with closed-entry into every area of human activity is the solution, as appears to be civil service policy.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Nov '13 - 11:34am

    @ Matthew Huntbach

    I am so pleased that you are still posting. What you say accords with what I have felt for many years. Politicians have taken a high handed approach to those who had concerns about immigration and left a vacuum that the Right are now exploiting.

    If I remember correctly, the Left and the trade unions were originally opposed to the EU , the EU only bring fully embraced by New Labour. I am not yet sure whether I would vote to stay within the EU or to withdraw when we have a referendum because I do feel that the real benefactors of freedom of movement has been employers, .

    My disillusionment with the political parties including the Lib Dems stems from the fact that politicans have allowed this situation to develop and now everyone is a loser. Someone on another thread mentions the children who are in overcrowded classes with children for whom English is not a first language. . They are not the only victims. It was hearing of a slightly darker skinned child in a reception class who was ‘told to’ get back where he came from’ by a child who was clearly being taught hostility by his parents, that made me realise that I could not stay silent.

    I have lived through 60s and 70,s racism and I have been thoroughly disgusted when politicians have conflated a concern with the pace and size of immigration with racism, ( though it here are still pockets and it is the motivation for some). My anger and decision to writen’ non of the above on my ballot paper’ at the next GE stems from my disgust that political parties are now prepared to dump their previously stated philosophy and he policies they have policies and the people who are blamed and scapegoated are the immigrants, the backlash of hostility falling on the children such as the one I mentioned.

    As you say, you have intellectual skills. Surely some MPs also have intellectual skills too and could foresee that the push and pull factors would lead to large scale immigration for poverty stricken countries, and that employers would exploit this? Why, one month, before they exercise their rights, ones that politicians agreed to are politicians vying to demonise people who are doing what most of us would do, try ing to find a better life with better prospects for themselves and their children being demonised as benefit scroungers and people who are unable to meet the standards of behaviour expected in Britain?

    What difference will this tinkering with the benefit system, tinkering that won’t be in place by January have on the numbers of immigrants from the new accession countries? I really prefer the honesty of UKIP to the dog-whistle, panicky messaging of Tories and Lib Dems .

    Migrants are human beings. I find the tone of the current debate where migrants are depicted as problems by politicians who were in favour of free movement of labour so ammoral.

  • Simon Banks 29th Nov ’13 – 3:30pm
    … … worship of markets has a number of dangers. Markets think short-term. They value only what can be given a price. In following GDP, they promote economic activity as a good in itself (so, for example, buying vegetables from a shop becomes preferable to growing them yourself). More subtly, people are encouraged to think that everything has a money value …

    Until recently we were told that the Coalition was going to be the GREENEST GOVERNMENT EVER.
    All that has been forgotten as Ed Davey now rushes around talking about “more competition” in the market for provision of electricity to domestic consumers.

    50,000 deaths from hypothermia are predicted for this winter.
    The so-called Green Deal is an abysmal failure, it has been taken up in fewer than 300 homes.
    Meanwhile poor people are being charged more on their electricity bills to subsidise a new nuclear power station.

    Can you have a better example of the failure of the free market than Ed Davey kow-towing to the Chinese State-wned Corporation, then giving them subsidies to produce tons of nuclear waste in Somerset ?

    How odd that the free market is forgotten about when a corporation owned by a communist state is needed to bolster Davey’s rush to nuclear !

  • If you want an example of how a slavish adherence to MARKETS is making chumps of ministers, just take a look at this bit of the Secretary of State for Energy’s speech on 12th November and ask yourself how that fits in with what MPs of all parties have been saying about gas and electricity over the last week.

    So we have put incentives in place to ensure that the necessary investigations take place to establish viability in the context of safe and environmentally friendly extraction.
    But by far the biggest energy security challenge is to make sure that we create one of the most competitive and attractive electricity investment markets in the world that drives the transition to a cleaner, low-carbon energy system.
    And that is exactly what the Energy Bill going through Parliament is for.
    This is putting in place the most robust and comprehensive legal, financial and political framework for energy policy this country has ever had.

    And – despite all the noise in the current debate over consumer energy bills – the Government’s Energy Bill is supported across the political parties.
    Significant political consensus, worth reminding people of.
    And that consensus, on the fundamentals, was confirmed once again by the Opposition front bench only last week.
    So we expect the Bill to become law by the end of the year.
    And the detailed proposals for implementing Electricity Market Reform we published last month will provide further certainty to industry and investors.

    T

  • Jayne, you do realise that schools in areas with the highest levels of immigration often have some of the highest English scores around.

    They also have far higher scores in their modern languages, as well.

    May be if we saw people being able to speak a range of languages as an advantage, rather than a hindrance, we would have more people who can speak more than one language. Note, in the modern world, just speaking English is not enough.

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Dec '13 - 1:32am

    @ liberal Al

    I was aware that there is research that suggests that when children are taught a foreign language it helps to improve conversational skills in English clarifying grammatical concepts and rules so that what is learnt in one language reinforces what they learn in another. Is this what you mean?

    I would more welcome information about English scores in areas of high immigration as many people would find this counter-intuitive. I would also welcome the theories as to why this should be so.

    Re-reading my post, I can see that my own clumsy language gave the impression that being in a class with a large number of children who had English as a second language disadvantaged children for whom English is their first language. I am mortified. My own intuitive belief is that where there are a large number of non English speaking children in a primary class , children will be disadvantaged because I doubt that adequate resources are made available.

    The Education department’ s annual census for 2013 showed that 2,299 classes of 5 to 7 year olds had above the official guideline of 30 children in a class. As a former parent governor who many years ago, used to go into class to listen to primary school children read on a weekly basis, I really can’t see how even the most committed teacher can give the necessary individual attention to children that they deserve, English speakers and non- English speakers, in classes of that size. My experience, left me with the impressions that mixed ability teaching was hard work , even for the highly committed, highly competent teacher with a class size of 29 children from an affluent catchment area with involved, supportive and very vocal parents.

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Dec ’13 – 1:32am
    I would more welcome information about English scores in areas of high immigration as many people would find this counter-intuitive.

    Jayne – First, in London (and possibly elsewhere) children are often in schools in a different place from the one where they live. So school scores in schools in areas of high immigration are not necessarily a good indicator of the educational achievements of the children of immigrants.

    Close to my house is a girl’s state grammar school in Kingston, a borough which would not be described as an area of high immigration. But it takes girls from a number of London Boroughs, from Surrey and even further away. A quick survey of religion of pupils (this was done recently in one year group) indicated that hinduism was the largest (not majority) group, christianity was second, islam was third, buddhism fourth.

    I think you will get the point I am making. Things are not always what they seem when it comes to education scores and immigration. If you accept that the way in which the girls described their religion as being a rough indicator of their ethnicity this school has changed dramatically in the course of one generation. In the 1970s this school would have been predominantly white and christian. Now it is very different. The impact on educational achievement? Well it has certainly not gone down if numbers of university places or the government’s league tables are anything to go by. This school has always been in the top ten state schools in league tables; often in the top three.

  • Jayne Mansfield 1st Dec '13 - 10:28am

    @ John Tilley
    Thank you John.

  • Michael Parsons 1st Dec '13 - 12:00pm

    What a fine discussion. My observatioin is that if the neo free marketeers are right, and as suggested above “the State” (which in a democracy is us, of course) has no right to interfere with or dictate where a person choses to live and work, then it has no right to make payments or provide services free out of tax to anyone who decides that “the market” has indicated that they should come here, does it? since that only confuses and blunts market “signals” otherwise given by the free movement of relative prices at the margin, and indeed risks contradicting them.
    The social problem of migrants is that they are victims of the current big business drive to lower wages, keep a cushion of unemployment in the labour market and drive down the share of wages relative to rentier income in the GDP, while using “free movement of capital” to dodge taxes by registering in the 140 or so tax-havens, many if which are British and make corporation tax here optional.- though of course delighted that wage-costs are subsidised by the tax-payers directly, and indirectly by welfare services.

  • I love how John speaks of one school as if it proves anything.

    UKBA own words:

    “The significant outperformance of schools in London relative to those in other regions also suggests that high levels of migration are not in general associated with worse school performance or for poorer outcomes for non-migrant children; if anything, the reverse.”

    “However, while research on education and migration, as well as anecdotal reporting, has focused on the demands placed on schools by migrant pupils, statistical data on attainment, and recent research, suggests that migration
    has, if anything, a positive effect on school and pupil performance. For some time the performance of schools with higher proportions of pupils with English as an additional language, who include migrants and children of migrants, has been better than other schools with equivalent levels of disadvantage.”

    The report goes onto explain that although there may be costs at first in providing additional support and language lessons, due to these needs decreasing as they attain fluency and cultural awareness (study in Taiwan, showed it takes most expats’ primary/elementary aged children about six months to attain educational proficiency in a language) this actually only equals to about £1000 per student over their whole school life, which is a very small number in the world of education.

    More recent data on Key Stage 2 assessments of eleven year olds shows a small but positive correlation at local authority level between the proportion of pupils for whom English is not a first language and the proportion of those for whom it is who achieve the expected standard (level 4). Since EAL status is correlated with deprivation, this effect would increase substantially if this was taken into account, through Free School Meals status (DfE, 2011a). In other
    words, it appears that pupil performance amongst English-speaking pupils is positively, rather than negatively, correlated with the presence of pupils with English as an additional language, who will include migrants and children of migrants, although the causal mechanism is unclear.

    The apparent positive effect of migration on pupil performance is illustrated by recent research on the performance of schools in London. The capital‟s schools have a much higher proportion of pupils who speak English as a
    second language, at 30 per cent, compared to 10 per cent outside London. Research on academic attainment found schools in London outperform those in other areas, when factors such as poverty, ethnicity, EAL are taken into
    account. Pupils who speak English as a second language, who will include migrants and children of migrants, perform slightly better than native English speakers in London schools (Wyness, 2011).

    This is UKBA, the organisation which in general is not known for its pro-immigration stance.

    The fact is, yes, you are correct, some students go to school at primary school level not yet knowing English, but whilst at first, this may (note may as no evidence to prove this, but lots of internet bloggers saying it) have some negative impacts, if taken as a positive overall and utilised, it is actually a positive, as found in Canada, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the USA and Holland.

    All places where certain groups do not speak the national language, but this as been used as a way to improve language learning for all and shown positive impacts overall on all students’ overall development.

    An example is Taiwan, where many students (especially in the South) will not know how to speak Standard Chinese when they start school, this has not affected Taiwan’s ability to have one of the highest ranked education systems in East Asia.

    Turnbull, hart and lapkin (2000) and Marsh (2000) did interesting studies in the effects of languages on schools, if you are interested.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '13 - 4:54pm

    Matt (Bristol)

    Matthew Huntbach: I know I’m rubbish with my hands, I’m clumsy and badly co-ordinated, no amount of education or training is ever going to make me good at a job which requires manual skills.

    Hmm. Not proven. I am often tempted to make this line about my own incompetence with manual labour and physical tasks, but this is effectively me defending the position luck, education and class have put me in.

    Well, talking about some people being more intelligent than others can get a bit awkward, as Boris Johnson recently illustrated very well, so I thought I’d better put a bit of self-deprecatory stuff in what I was saying. I would really like to believe that everyone can achieve everything, it’s just a matter of the right sort of education, there is no such thing as an innate variation in natural skills. Now that can seem egalitarian, but it also leads to condemnation of the less able on the grounds “you aren’t trying hard enough”, so what starts off as a supposedly liberal line ends up as illiberal, since it is just assumes that those who rise to the top do so through their own efforts and all that is needed is equal opportunities and we could all equally do so if we wished.

    My own experience suggests there is an element in skills of some people being innately more able than others, though it’s not the only element. I don’t agree with the dog-eat-dog idea that those people lacking in skills should be competed out of existence. We ought to regard “efficiency” as making best use of all of our population, not of trying to get by using as few of them as possible on the grounds that means costs are less (but we wonder why the welfare bill keeps going up …).

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '13 - 4:58pm

    Liberal Al

    Pupils who speak English as a second language, who will include migrants and children of migrants, perform slightly better than native English speakers in London schools.

    One thing we find quite awkward to talk about is that a fairly dominating feature in educational success is family structure. Those ethnic groups which tend to perform well in education tend to be those with tight family structures, which also often means heavy restrictions on personal freedoms.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Dec '13 - 5:02pm

    Liberal Al

    Pupils who speak English as a second language, who will include migrants and children of migrants, perform slightly better than native English speakers in London schools.

    One thing we find quite awkward to talk about is that a fairly dominating feature in educational success is family structure. Those ethnic groups which tend to perform well in education tend to be those with tight family structures, which also often means heavy restrictions on personal freedoms.

    (missed a close italics tag last time)

  • Liberal Al 1st Dec ’13 – 12:36pm
    I love how John speaks of one school as if it proves anything.

    If you go back and read more carefully what I wrote – you will see that your attack is unfounded.

    I actually said this – “I think you will get the point I am making. Things are not always what they seem when it comes to education scores and immigration. ”

    Quite different from what you accused me of saying !

    Your extensive referencing of research in Taiwan is maybe relevant to this discussion. I have no way of knowing if it is or not and you do not seem to explain why you think the Taiwanese experience would be relevant to any part of the UK.
    And by the way, english is one of the national languages in the UK. In some parts of Wales, english is taught only as a second language when children get to secondary school.

  • John, you make an assertion, then use anecdotal evidence from one school to back it up, it does not matter if your assertion was wider reaching, the evidence relates to one school.

    I also referenced Holland, Hong Kong, Canada and the UK, why attack me for picking Taiwan? Have the people of Taiwan offended you in some way? Well, whatever, the point is that it is an established principle that research and findings from other cultures can and should be used when looking the possible affects that occurring in policy areas. Why? Well, it a matter of practicality and validity. It is not always practicality possible to have all the research you need from your own country. It makes the results more valid because you can cross-reference different findings.

    However, even if this very widely accepted principle (as seen used in all policy areas, such as drug reform (Portugal) and public transport (Taiwan – oh, wait, I am not allowed to use Taiwan, am I?)) is however not valid in your mind, the fact is, the primary bulk of my information comes from research conducted in the UK, so your point is moot.

  • Liberal Al 1st Dec ’13 – 7:22pm

    Sorry, you seem intent of having a disagreement. I cannot see the point – if you have a different viewpoint then fine,state your view.
    But I just cannot see the point of you accusing me of saying something that I have not said. Life”s too short.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

    No recent comment found.