Truthiness: “Whipping-up a frenzy” about benefit tourism (video)


In October 2005, in the first ever episode of The Colbert ReportStephen Colbert introduced the world to a new word – “Truthiness“.

Password: imincorrigible

Colbert clip added 26 Jan 2015 © Comedy Central

Now you may be asking “what does any of this have to do with EU ‘benefit tourism’ in the UK?” If so, allow me to explain.

On the 15th September, I published a post “Evidence Not Ideology: Benefit Tourism The Problem Only Fruitloops And Tories Can See“.  In that post, based on an article from the Observer, I highlighted (again) how David Cameron‘s time as Prime Minister has continued to produce policy based on ideology or, in the case of immigration and alleged ‘benefit tourism‘, party political and 2015 electoral concerns rather than facts or meaningful evidence of any kind.  

At the time, you will no doubt recall, the Conservative party (as opposed to the ‘government’) had been making a concerted effort to attack the UN Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik for criticising the widely despised “Bedroom Tax”.  Within days of that embarrassment, Cameron:

“was faced with having his plan to prevent migrants from being able to claim state benefits, so-called “benefit tourism”, called in to question by the House of Lords Committee charged with oversight of UK government EU policy and by the European Commission.  It should be no surprise to readers of this blog that the problem Cameron faces is a near total absence of evidence to support his claim that benefit tourism is in fact a real problem in the UK.”

           House of Lords Committee:

“despite several requests the government has failed to offer anything more than anecdotal claims to back its assertion that “social benefit tourism” is a real problem”.

László Andor – European Commissioner:

In a statement to the Observer, the European commissioner for employment and social affairs, László Andor, also said that the UK was not proving its arguments with evidence. “It is important that policy on labour migration within the EU is based on facts rather than gut feelings or perceptions,” he said. “If there are indeed substantial problems, the commission would of course be willing to consider how best to address them. We have not received any substantive data so far.”

Centre for Economics and Business Research / Harvey Nash Report:

“….a joint report by the CEBR and global recruitment consultancy Harvey Nash has concluded that any measures to restrict freedom of movement to the UK from other parts of the EU would have a devastating effect on the British economy, because EU citizens are more likely to be in work and are more productive than British-born workers. The report says that curbing immigration from other parts of the EU could cost the UK £60bn in lost GDP (2% in real terms) by 2050…..

According to the CEBR/Harvey Nash report, immigrant workers are more likely to be in work (63%) than UK-born citizens (56.2%) and are more economically active. It says British businesses rely heavily on immigrant workers. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of non-British EU-born citizens employed in the UK went up from 762,000 to 1,647,000.”

The Observer (15.9.13)

So whilst not wholly conclusive, it would not be unfair to characterise the absence of evidence to support the UKIP/Daily Mail ‘fantasy’ of millions of EU migrants rushing to the UK to sign-on and ‘sponge’ off of the UK taxpayer as exactly that – a fantasy. Imagine my surprise when, this week, the Sunday Telegraph published an article claiming to have discovered an “authoritative study” that “has found 600,000 unemployed migrants are living in Britain”.  This article was then regurgitated, rather lazily, by the Daily Mail the next day.

Daily Mail and Telegraph 600000 Unemployed EU Immigrant Combi

Any way that you look at it, 600,000 “unemployed” EU migrants languishing on the dole IS a problem…… or at least it would be if it were true…. which of course it is not.

It is, however, truthy and in the following clip I will attempt to show you why.

So much for Stewart Jackson’s fantasy land now watch rising superstar of truthiness, Andrea Leadsom, contort her own logic in a fascinating appearance on Channel 4 News a few hours later:

Truthiness has been ruinous for this country. As our politicians and media become increasingly adept at appealing to your gut rather than your head ask yourself if we could all be better off if things were done a different way.

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