David Cameron’s much heralded “crackdown” on benefits for foreign nationals is, of course, nothing of the sort and will make little practical difference.
The Prime Minister announced this week that in future the EU migrants will only be able to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance for three months, saving about £100m a year.
That is a figure not to be sniffed at, but it is dwarfed by the estimated £5bn a year in taxpayer-funded subsidies given as in-work benefits, such as tax credits, to EU nationals. In fact, fewer than 10,000 people are likely to be affected by Cameron’s new policy.
Rather than the out of work benefits, it is higher wages paid in the UK when compared with central and eastern Europe, which are then topped up with generous tax credits, that prove such an irresistible draw to migrants from the poorer EU countries.
Take the 17-strong Toma family from Romania, who now live in north London. Father, Mihal Toma’s £21,600 wage is topped up with more than £55,200 in tax credits and other benefits to give him a whopping annual income of £76,800. He would need a pre-tax income of around £125,000 to match his current standard of living.
Now there are not that many people in the UK, never mind Romania, who can boast a salary of £125,000. Is it any wonder when the Government is so generous with our money that desperately poor people from around Europe are queuing up to take advantage?
But Cameron can’t do anything to address this problem – because the EU simply won’t let him.
One of the key principles of EU membership is the free movement of labour. This means that anyone from any member state is perfectly entitled to move to the UK and claim free housing, education, healthcare and generous benefits, even if they have never contributed a penny to British society.
Is it any wonder that people who have worked and paid taxes here all their lives are resentful when they are shoved aside by the stampede of newcomers?
If we don’t like the rules of the EU club then in all decency we should get out. But Cameron refuses to accept the logic of his own position. He seems to think he can persuade every one of the other 27 EU nations to abandon one of the fundamental planks of EU membership that attracted many of them to join in the fist place.
And that, I am afraid, is not going to happen in a month of Sundays.
But if Cameron’s policy makes little sense practically, it is a shrewd master stroke in terms of politics.
Labour is in the doldrums. By this point in the electoral cycle an opposition that is heading for a decisive victory next May would be pulling ahead in the opinion polls, and that is simply not happening for Labour.
Instead, Ed Miliband is reduced to making jokes about his own appearance, as though such self-deprecation will somehow endear him to the electorate. What he is not talking about – probably because he has nothing to say – is the economy, and that is where the election will be won.
Cameron is banking on another 10 months of economic good news to hammer home his advantage over Labour and convince the electorate that Miliband and Ed Balls are not to be trusted with the nation’s finances.
He is also cleverly trying to attract natural conservatives who have defected to Ukip back to the Tory fold – hence the latest “crackdown” on EU benefits.
Old smoothy chops Cameron is turning into a very astute operator. His policies may be poor, but his politics are brilliant.
Horrors of Gaza
The nightmare in Gaza continues. Each day brings new horrors and the deaths of innocent civilians on both sides.
But we should never lose sight of who is responsible. Hamas is a racist, neo-Nazi terrorist organisation with a charter that commits it to the destruction of Israel and the slaughter of all Jews.
Hamas is not interested in compromise or peace and could not care less about the deaths of Palestinian civilians. In these circumstances Israel has little choice other than to defend itself.
Remember – if Hamas stopped fighting there would be no more war; if Israel stopped fighting there would be no more Israel.