By the time his [Liam Byrne's] report is released, Mail readers will have been treated to a barrage of anti-immigration stories so that Byrne's report will seem woefully out of whack if it does anything less than say we're 'crumbling under the pressure from immigrants'.Well, Liam Byrne's report has been published. And it seems I was right. Although I didn't expect such an elaborate use of smoke and mirrors to smother the report from the Mail.
So, expect more of the same as we've seen this week. And more of the same after Byrne's figures are published.
I've sat down to start writing this five times now. Five times. First thinking the Mail story 'Government finally admits: Immigration IS placing huge strain on Britain' was a misleading distortion of the report 'The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration' (covered in the Guardian in 'Migrants are a boon to UK economy, says study'), then scrubbing it because I thought it was about another report, then I thought it was about something totally different and neither of those two reports, then I changed it back to my first idea, and now I realise it's actually a confusing mishmash of an account of two reports - 'The Economic and Fiscal Impact...', and an ugly looking presentation called 'Evidence from our regional consultation on the impacts of migration', with some extra data from neither mixed in, including some that gives the confusing impression that it's from the government when in fact it's from a submission by Professor David Coleman, of MigrationWatch infamy.
On top of that is an article reporting Professor Coleman's claims - 'Influx of immigrants 'costs every UK household £350 a year'' which isn't about 'The Economic and Fiscal Impact...', and another story - 'Many immigrants 'earning more than their British counterparts'' - which IS based mainly on data from 'The Economic and Fiscal Impact...' but pretends it's not.
Confused? You will be.
First things first, the 'Government finally admits...' story.
One of the reasons I was so confused by the article is that it includes a table of the costs of immigration and I couldn't find any reference to the figures in either of the reports. Then I realised it's actually taken from another story entirely - the 'Influx of immigrants...' one, about David Coleman's claims. This dishonesty is in the print version, but not quite so blatant. In the print version, the two articles 'Government finally admits...' and 'Influx of migrants...' appear on the same page, with the latter at the bottom. The table appears next to the 'Influx...' story, but is positioned beside the headline rather than below it, so it isn't clear that those figures have bog all to do with government reports.
Not quite as blatant as including it slap bang in the article about the government reports, but pretty darn dishonest. And Coleman's findings make me wonder how he managed to get his crayons out of the box - let alone a professorship. But more on those in a separate post.
This bit of misdirection aside, 'Government finally admits...' opens by talking about the 'Evidence from our regional consultation...' presentation. Dishonestly.
Crime is up, schools are struggling to cope with Eastern European children, community tensions are rising, health services are coming under enormous pressure and house prices are being driven up, the Government said.The Government didn't say that. Some people sort of did in a consultation and others didn't, and the ones that sort of did are reported in the Government's presentation. But they didn't really say those things anyway, which doubles the problems with the Mail's lame claims.
Let's go through them one by one:
- 'Crime is up.' There is a crime and disorder section, which includes a subsection titled 'Certain 'crimes''. I'll quote it verbatim:
Areas noted that there had been reports of increases in certain low level crimes, such as driving offences (e.g. uninsured vehicles, driving without a seatbelt) and anti-social behaviour.
aside from that, in the Crime and Disorder section are subsections about increased translation costs, the underreporting of crimes among migrants and a section explaining that, 'There are concerns of migrants as victims of unscrupulous gangmasters and landlords.' So the 'crime is up' claim is a bit of an alarmist version of what the report says.
- 'Schools are struggling to cope with Eastern European children.' The presentation says that most regions report an increase in pupils with English as an additional language, that two regions (out of eight) reported pupils arriving and leaving in the middle of the school year and that one reported A8 children not attending school. It also said that there was an increase in demand for ESOL provision and a rise in cost of translation services. It doesn't say schools are struggling to cope. That's the invention of the paper.
- 'Community tensions are rising.' Here's the entirety of the 'Community Cohesion' section:
Limited responses: Community cohesion was the area that there were fewest and least detailed observations about –this either means that there was little impact here –or that it was most difficult to measure.
Varied responses: In the North West, South West and Scotland, tensions have been suggested in areas that have not previously experienced migration –although the East Midlands did not observe this.
Six out of the eight (Regions) did not highlight community cohesion as an area of concern.Little observation about community cohesion and only three regions (out of eight) in which tensions were suggested. The paper seems to be exaggerating a tad again.
- 'Health services are coming under enormous pressure.' There is a 'Health' section. It opens with a subsection titled 'Age', which I'll quote verbatim:
Many regions pointed to the young demographic and implicit good health of recent arrivals.Sound like coming under enormous pressure? Aside from that, two regions (it bears repeating again - out of eight) noted a rise in GPs' caseloads, and three noted A&E being used in place of GP surgeries. Doesn't really sound much like 'coming under enormous pressure', does it. Sounds like that's another invention of the paper, doesn't it?
- 'House prices are being driven up'. The presentation says, 'Four areas noted increased pressure on affordable private housing and rent levels.' Sound like another exaggeration?
The rest selectively quotes single words from Liam Byrne - honest tactic that - and reproduces a couple of the claims from 'Evidence from our...'. This means that the paper can give the impression that the presentation says all the things the paper has, above, plus these extra things it's quoted. But the 'extra' things are the only things the report actually says.
It does this up until:
Critics have accused the Government of giving no thought to the strain being placed on schools and hospitals, as ministers focussed solely on boosting the economy with cheap workers from overseas.Note the shift from attributing one set of criticisms to unnamed 'critics' in the first paragraph/sentence to a definite statement that the government have been afraid to gauge things in the second.
Movre [sic] recently, they have been afraid to gauge the scale of the problem after woefully underestimating the number of arrivals from Eastern Europe.
Now, after finally carrying out the research, the scale of social impact has been revealed - albeit in what ministers admit is 'patchy' detail.And that's where it talks about the main report. If you blinked, you'll have missed it. 40-odd pages of almost exclusively positive news about immigration is reduced to an 'increased something, BUT' style statement and a mention that it doesn't give an overall cost. That's the extent of the coverage.
The report, to be presented to the Government's new Migration Impacts Forum today, fails to put figure on the full cost to society of mass immigration - which is increasing the population by 200,000 every year.
A Home Office study found that migrants helped to grow the economy by £6billion last year. But experts said this did not mean they had boosted GDP per head, a crucial measure.
For 'experts' in the last sentence, read 'MigrationWatch and Professor David Coleman, founder member of MigrationWatch', both of whom do in fact say that migrants boost GDP per head, but just moan that it isn't by enough. The paper even dissembles to exaggerate its supporters' claims.
The GDP per head claim as also a bit disingenuous. 'The Economic and Fiscal Impact...' says:
There is no quantitative evidence available on the impact of immigration on GDP per head. Wage data suggest migrants may have a positive impact directly through their own output and indirectly through raising the productivity of others.And then goes on for about a page to suggest ways it might be possible to estimate the impact, all of which suggesting a small positive influence.
Interestingly, it directly challenges the claims of the 'experts' the Mail mentions. It says:
In addition, it would not be right to estimate the total contribution of all migrant workers simply by subtracting their productive output and numbers respectively from the numerator and denominator of the GDP per head ratio calculation. The integration of migrant workers in the economy, and their ability to complement the activities of other workers, means that the impact on national output of a total withdrawal of migrant labour would be likely to be very substantial. However, quantifying this impact is diffi cult given the lack of data in this area and the large number of assumptions that would underpin estimates of productive potential.In other words, 'You know MigrationWatch's calculations? Put them in the bin.' (The paper also directly trashes another MigrationWatch piece of rubbish later on - which is lovely to behold - but the Mail doesn't mention that bit. Funny that). That the Mail reproduces an exaggerated version of the arguments of the government's critics without mentioning the government's response to those critics speaks volumes about the paper's commitment to the truth.
Overall, 'The Economic and Fiscal Impact...' is overwhelmingly positive. No wonder the paper wants to confuse us into believing it included some negative stuff it actually didn't, as well as some costs from a critic of the government.
After the extensive coverage of the government report, the story moves swiftly on to something else - dicussion of some quotes form Liam Byrne about Romanians and Bulgarians.
And that's it. The actual coverage of the report the Mail has been waiting for is limited to two sentences, unless there's a further misleading hatchet job done in the future.
Well, maybe not.
See, the paper includes another article - 'Many immigrants 'earning more than their British counterparts''. As I said earlier, this one IS based on some of the findings of the 'Economic and Fiscal Impact...' study, but pretends it isn't. It says:
Migrant wage levels were on average £424 a week compared with £395 for UK-born workers, a difference of £29. However, this is not spread out evenly.Except they're not based on a survey of public sector workers - that would be the 'Evidence from our regional consultation...' presentation. They're actually from 'The Economic and Fiscal Impact...', and they're DWP figures based on the Labour Force Survey. Which is NOT a survey of public sector workers.
The findings, based on a survey of public sector workers, are the first published by ministers after ten years of an 'open door' immigration policy.
I would find it very difficult to believe that this is a mistake, although I'd like to be proven wrong here by a swift correction. It does too many convenient things for the paper for it to just be a happy coincidence. It means:
- The paper can take the one detail from 'The Economic and Fiscal Impacts...' that could reflect badly on the Polish without mentioning the rest of the study.
- The paper can then quote some of the negative things that are from the survey of public sector workers and aren't in 'The Economic and Fiscal Impacts...', making it seem as though the figures come from the same study as the negative comments that follow.
- The paper doesn't have to mention 'The Economic and Fiscal Impacts...', which is incredibly positive in content.
- The reader might take away the impression that these figures only represent the pay of public sector workers. That's what I thought at first anyway, but maybe I'm just choopid.
Then, the paper pretends some findings that actually are from the main report are from the more negative document to further confuse the two and remove any need to go into any more depth about the main one. In the middle of this, it includes some other information that is not from either government report without making that clear, so it looks as though it's taken from one of the two government reports - reports that it has already misleadingly mashed together to look like just one. One of those bits of information is actually from Professor David Coleman, one of the founding members of MigrationWatch and an outspoken critic of the government's approach to immigration.
It then has the auduacity to include a link to a poll with the title 'On balance, do you believe immigration is good or bad for Britain?' as if this rubbish provides the balance.
Remember - all the Mail wants is an open and honest debate on immigration.
If you believe that, I've got a bridge I want to sell you. And a spaceship. A spaceship I found after I went to the moon on a unicorn.