And so publicity-seeking MPs Keith Vaz and Mark Reckless (the latter, one trusts, rather more sober than he was that summer evening on the House of Commons terrace) descended, with media in tow, on Luton Airport yesterday to greet the hordes of benefit-claiming migrants decanted from an incoming WizzAir flight from Romania. But there was a problem with the narrative.
The flight was not full: just 146 of the 180 seats had been sold. Worse for the rabble rousers, most of those on board were already working in the UK and had been spending Christmas with their families back home, who by implication were not upping sticks and coming to the UK. And when Vaz and the press did find someone taking advantage of that EU freedom of movement, he had a job lined up.
Yes, that was a one-man stampede: Victor Spirescu was going to work today at a car wash, but hoped to move on to something better. He is, after all, a construction worker, so that shouldn’t be a problem, given he speaks good English. He also knew nothing about claiming benefits, and was not intending to stay in the UK beyond the time it took to make some money and return home.
So the scare stories look to have been exaggerated, at the very least. But that part of the Fourth Estate that has been trying to whip up hatred for anyone connected to freedom of movement was defiant, with the Express telling “New migrants could hypothetically cost the UK billions”. Their “experts” were someone from UKIP and Migration Watch. So non-hypothetical bullshit, then.
The Mail both endorsed and condemned Vaz: “The last Labour government, of which he was a member, destroyed our border controls with no debate whatsoever – then, with the help of the BBC, denounced anybody who voiced concerns about the unprecedented influx as ‘racists’” thundered Daily Mail Comment, the authentic, and on this occasion paranoid, voice of the Vagina Monologue.
What the press does not seem to want to tell its readers – well, not until well down the page – is that there are already 150,000 Romanians and Bulgarians in the UK, but that the number for Spain and Italy is around two million. And those larger populations are going to be a stronger draw: migrants from Poland went where there were already Polish communities (Southampton and Crewe, for instance).
On top of all that, if we’re talking benefits, the most rewarding destination for those seeking non-contributory assistance is Germany, which also happens to be a lot closer to Romania and Bulgaria. The reason Victor Spirescu didn’t go there is that he didn’t speak the language. Many of his compatriots will not be so concerned about that. But the press will carry on scapegoating, whatever the reality.
Demonising foreigners props up those dwindling circulations. No change there, then.