A couple of years ago, following a spate of gang violence, I chaired a youth crime task force, where we strove to create workable ideas for providing employment and occupation to young white and black lads who were hanging about on the street corner, getting bored and getting into trouble. We found ourselves discussing the fact that east-end families used to go fruit picking in the summer, but the tradition seems to have been lost.
These days immigrants do the seasonal fruit picking, and they seem to do it exclusively, so it’s very much the type of thing that Ed Miliband was speaking about in his speech to the IPPR the other day. So for many young people, the affect of immigration between then and now, is that then, summer was a time of earning money out in the sunshine in Kent, whereas now, summer is a time of hanging about, getting bored, and becoming involved into petty crime and gang violence.
One of the committee members was the manager of a local youth club, so we discussed sending some of our kids away for the summer. We asked the lads if they would be put off by the image of Lithuanian girls removing successive layers of clothing as the temperature rises with the summer sun. Surprisingly, they were enthusiastic.
We made a few calls to farms in Kent, expecting an enthusiastic response, but they just didn’t want to engage with us. These days they recruit with websites, and the eastern Europeans, or Russians, pay for their own travel. The fact that they were hiring from Russia means that they weren’t even legal.
This is exactly what Ed Miliband is talking about. If immigration has been turning a blind eye, it was with a view that cheap immigration is good for the economy, but it demonstrates ignorance of the damage it does to employment prospects of young people in this country.
The immigrants are now doing the jobs that used to be done by the ordinary people, and this generation spend their time unoccupied and skint, while their Russian counterparts travel 2,000 miles in order to bring in the harvest just up the road from us.
The criticism of Ed Miliband has been that his speech is not tangible, but I disagree. What I’ve laid out above is entirely tangible. We should be doing something about it. Maybe Ed Miliband should be writing a letter to the immigration department and ask them for a response to the issues I’ve raised here. Maybe next summer we should be packing our some of our youngsters off to the country and seeing them come back with a bulging wallet, a suntan, and a few Lithuanian phone numbers?