Poverty is the problem, not the EU 

It’s not often I really put fingers to the typepad to record my thoughts. All too many times they stay in my head swirling around without being given order and coherence by the discipline of writing them out. Why? Fear of ridicule and criticism. Awareness that my ideas do not have the cogency that other greater brains offer. Worry that my writing abilities are not sufficiently honed.

Others, it seems are less concerned and consequently have greater purchase on the national conscience than I. One such person is Nigel Farage, who has no qualms about writing autobiographical tomes and holding forth on his least favourite subject – the EU. As leader of a right-wing party with few elected representatives, I would have expected him to be ignored as an extremist and hypocrite. He’s an MEP who wants to take the UK out of the EU. He’s funded by the very organisation he loathes. It seems an extreme way to get a job in the House of Commons – bring down the institution that pays you. Instead he’s given air time, reams of print and pages and pages of web stories. Why? 

This loner with-off-the-wall views should have been laughed out of court and sent back to the Brussels to do his job properly, ie represent the best interests of the UK. This megalomaniac is just what the Union of European nations was designed to ensure can never hold sway again. This egotist is exactly what democracy is meant to quell. And yet, the right-wing of the Tory party, the dispossessed of England and the racists have given his chummy rhetoric credence and substance, so here we are – being forced into a referendum which most sensible people realise they do not have enough knowledge about to make an informed decision.

What I have really found hard to put into words is why I want to say in the EU. In some ways, it’s as simple as: we’re part of the European continent, island or no, so we should be part of the EU. In others, it’s more of a philosophical concept about being part of the group and being involved with those we live next to. In an Guardian article, Rupert Bache, an ex-pat (not immigrant!) in France for 27 years, put it perfectly: “I’ve always thought neighbouring countries working together positively was just … sensible. Neighbouring countries not working together is what killed the men – former pupils – whose names were all along the corridor at school.”

There are plenty of problems in the UK, but immigration and our relationship with the EU are not the cause of them. Inequality and poor life chances are just two of the fundamental problems facing this country, and they will NOT be improved by leaving the EU and stopping immigration. They will only be changed when UK governments tackle them through bringing up deprived areas, improving education for all, progressive taxes on big business and the top 1%, a mass homebuilding programme, and investment in infrastructure in areas with poor connectivity. 

Sadly, since the turn of the century, successive governments have been unable or uwilling to take on these challenges so the poorest of our country have been left behind, and in many cases made poorer, as the rise of food banks show. When people despair they look for someone and something to blame. Immigrants – as ever was – are the easiest target and the EU its partner in crime. In this they have been aided by a press that seemingly revels in stirring up discontent and finger-pointing, and led by a mean-spirited, ego-maniac with a fine line in oratory.

I hope against hope that on Friday 24th June we will wake up to still being part of the EU and the community of our neighbours. When that happens, I trust Nigel Farage will do the honourable thing – and move to Germany with his wife and leave us all alone.

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