Monday, 12 May 2014

Myth busting

Here I hope to set the record straight with some answers to the myths being spread by politicians intent on grabbing the headlines, but with little regard to the facts. With thanks to Tom Williams from Green World:

1) Immigration is damaging the UK The idea that the UK can't cope with current levels of immigration is overplayed. Immigrants make up just over 10 per cent of Britain's population –lower than the USA and Australia – and UK asylum claims are 33 per cent below the EU average. More importantly, immigrants have brought huge benefits to the UK, contributing 37 per cent more to public finances than the cost of services they use, according to a University of London study. Government figures show that other EU nationals are far less likely to claim working age benefits than UK nationals, with no evidence of systematic or widespread 'benefit tourism'. Elected Greens will speak out against the toxic rhetoric on immigration and support migrants in the UK. We will oppose spot checks for EU citizenship and the proposed requirement to carry ID cards, as well as moves to water down access to public services. 

2) The EU is too bureaucratic and is taking away our national sovereignty Wonky bananas is the right wing press's favourite example of 'EU bureaucracy gone mad'. In just the last few months, we've been fed false claims that it's seeking to impose laws banning high heels for hairdressers, UK flags on meat packaging and olive oil on restaurant tables. In reality, the EU is not full of bureaucrats; it employs 33,000 people to administer for the 28 member states -that's one per every 15,000 residents and 92 per cent fewer than the British Civil Service. The EU does have a serious democratic deficit problem -with power weighted towards the unelected European Commission. But withdrawing from the EU is unlikely to bring back national sovereignty. Norway -which opted out of EU membership in 1972 -has still implemented three quarters of its laws, without a say in any of them. Its citizens also pay 79 per cent of what British citizens pay for membership (in 2010, the average EU citizen paid only 67 cents per day to finance the annual budget -not bad considering the benefits that membership brings). It is better to be in the debating chamber, arguing for an EU that works for the common good. 

3) Poverty doesn't exist in modern Britain Food bank use is soaring because people in Britain are experiencing the grind of poverty. There was a 170 per cent rise in numbers turning to Trussell Trust food banks in 2012/13 compared to the previous year. Half of the people using food banks do so because of problems with the social security system – the very system meant to make food banks redundant. Work is no longer a route out of poverty either. Wages have stagnated and the price of food is rising by 3.5 per cent, meaning that minimum wage can't cover life's essentials. What's more, one in four of us live in unacceptably cold homes – a stark reminder that poverty does still exist in the seventh richest nation in the world – and that it renders people unable to fulfil basic human needs. 

4) Action on climate change isn't necessary because its effects have been overstated This is perhaps the most dangerous myth in modern-day Britain. Despite almost complete consensus in the scientific community and unprecedented weather events. there are still many who deny the existence of climate change. including our own Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. Four of the five wettest years recorded in the UK have occurred since 2000. a chilling indication that the planet is changing faster than we ever expected. A recent study predicted severe flooding across Europe will double by 2050 The Green Party has a 10-point plan on flooding that Includes Increasing spending on defences, creating a new Cabinet-level committee on infrastructure and climate change resilience and redirecting billions of pounds of UK fossil fuel subsidies and tax breaks to assisting the victims of flooding. 

5) Further austerity measures are the only answer to Britain's current financial woes We are living through the worst recovery from recession in over 100 years, and many are yet to feel any benefit. Unemployment is going down -but only because of part-time, temporary and self-employment work. Last year, wages fell to 2003 levels. As many as 158,300 people were wrongly found fit for work by Atos in a botched attempt to make the most vulnerable foot the bill. And the UK is still set to borrow £200 billion more than forecast when the Coalition took office. Yet George Osborne has promised austerity until 2020 and beyond, meaning further cuts, including removing unemployment and housing benefits for under-25s altogether. And Labour's two Eds promise not to reverse a single cut. From protecting public services to investing in the Green New Deal, Greens would do things differently. 

6) Greens' energy policies would make the lights go off A package of insulation and renewable measures could save the average household £166 by 2020. And, as the recent 'Zero Carbon Britain' report stated: 'We have the technology to power ourselves with 100 per cent renewable energy, to feed ourselves sustainably and to leave a safe and habitable climate for our children and future generations.' It's a far better option than gambling on fracking, which even Osborne admits wouldn't bring energy prices down.

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