UK immigration – an issue of wealth inequality

Without doubt wealth can buy you all sorts of things from a better home (or even a home in the first place) to educational and social advantages or a longer life. It may ultimately be neither possible nor desirable to achieve absolute equality in society, even if we could agree on what that means.  But gross levels of inequality is now a major problem. I want to reflect on one area, the issue of being able to move around and live where you want. It is literally a matter of life and death

Recall the shocking images of the little six year old boy lying dead on a Turkish beach which briefly kindled the compassion of Europeans. Although happening only last year, it seems an eternity as terrorist hit western Europe hardened attitudes against both refugees and immigrants. But there is a simple fact that we in Britain must understand. The little boy died because he was poor. If his family were wealthy it is entirely possible that he may be still alive and living in the UK. He died because of inequality, simply a victim of the reality that poverty traps people geographically but wealth give you mobility.

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Thomas Hobbes, advocate for autocracy

The political philosopher Thomas Hobbes died today (December 4th) in 1679. But as a civic republican I shall not be mourning him, for a number of reasons. Ironically for one of the founders of liberal and libertarian thinking (along with John Locke) a primary aim of Hobbes was a defence of sovereign power and autocratic government. Hobbes works include Leviathan, published in 1651 in which he developed his social contract theory. His work was partly aimed at opposing the radical politics which emerged during the English Civil War and the theories of the high Republicans during the Commonwealth of the early 1650s; the modern combination of which I find compelling!

So what lay behind Hobbes insistence on an absolute monarch (or ruling group)? It comes from Hobbes concept of society which viewed people atomistically, in perpetual motion trying to get economic power and influence over each other. From this a natural structure to society emerges with individuals all seeking their best interests. But if society is of this nature, what stops it falling apart in some kind of anarchic fight for ultimate power? Why, none other than a universally accepted absolute sovereign charged with passing laws to ensure the continued health of the competitive system. To keep the sovereign above the throng he or she would have the power to appoint their successor (what better than the eldest son!).

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Lady Astor MP in 1919; but who was Constance Markievicz?

On December 1st 1919 Lady Astor took her seat in the House of Commons having been elected three days earlier.  She is sometimes erroneously described as being the first woman to be elected to the Chamber.  But that accolade belongs to Constance Markievicz (née Gore-Booth), an Irish nationalist, socialist and suffragette who was elected almost a year earlier in December 1918. Markievicz, a Countess by marriage,  was in Holloway prison when elected but due to the Irish Republican tradition of abstention did not take her seat in Parliament on release.  The policy which remains to this day was a result of the entirely understandable principle of refusing to swear the oath of allegiance to the monarch.

The American-born Lady Astor herself was a colourful and controversial character. Ironically for an American she was a believer in British Imperialism and held religious prejudices – dissuading the employment of Jews and Catholics at The Observer newspaper which was owned by her husband Waldorf Astor. Flirting with groups with Nazi sympathies during the 1930s, Astor possessed a great gift of wit which she used effectively to put down male hecklers both on hustings and in the Commons.

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