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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Balls taken to task

I have already commented here on Ed Balls' proposal to rewrite European treaties and undermine the free market principle on which the EU is built by restricting the ability of central Europeans to come and work in the UK. However, the comments on the Observer's website deal with the issue far more authoratively than I am able to, leaving the Shadow Education Secretary's argument in tatters.

I was particularly struck by Wiktor Moszczynski's argument that the decision in 2004 to lift transitional restrictions on the free movement of labour between the UK and central European member states of the EU was the right thing to do. He says that the input from hard-working Poles and other EU nationalities was highly beneficial to the growing pre-recession British economy:

What was wrong , as the Federation of Poles in Great Britain repeatedly reminded the government, was the lack of proper statistics on how many central Europeans were arriving here, where they were finding work and settling and how this would impact on local services. Large cities could absorb these new arrivals relatively easily, but smaller country towns would find themselves exposed to an unexpected drain on their financial resources and their social fabric. It was this blindness to the uneven impact on communities which was the government's most serious error, and not its decision to open the British labour market. This lack of interest in the new local needs made the existing population nervous and it allowed the redtop press and extremist organisations to come up with their own statistics which resulted in considerable inter-community tension. Mr Balls's belated change of heart will only increase that tension.

The charge against the previous Labour government therefore is not that it did not listen and consequently made a wrong decision but that it was incompetent and insensitive in how it administered that decision. That is a far more serious charge and one that Ed Balls must answer to alongside all the other Labour Ministers vying for their party's leadership.
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