How ministers are scaremongering over "benefit tourism"

Just 7 per cent of foreign born nationals claim working age benefits, compared to 17 per cent of UK nationals.

Ahead of the end of transitional controls on Romanian and Bulgarian nationals at the end of this year, the government is preparing a crackdown on so-called "benefit tourism". Willliam Hague said yesterday that he wanted to end the "artificial, perverse incentives" to come to the UK and the BBC reports today that ministers will shortly announce "across the board" curbs. Given the political and media attention devoted to the issue, one might assume that almost no immigrant moves to the UK but to claim benefits. As so often, however, the data tells a different story. 

The DWP published research on the subject last year (the first time a government has done so) and found that those born abroad were significantly less likely to claim benefits than UK nationals. Of the 5.5 million people claiming working age benefits in February 2011, just 371,000 (6.4 per cent) were foreign nationals when they first arrived in the UK. That means only 6.6 per cent of those born abroad were receiving benefits, compared to 16.6 per cent of UK nationals. In addition, a random sample of 9,000 from the 371,000, only including those from outside the European Economic Area, found that 98 per cent had an immigration status consistent with claiming benefits legitimately.

It's important to note that the figures did not tell us the number of foreign nationals claiming benefits, rather they told us the number claiming benefits who were non-UK nationals when they first entered the labour market. But there is, of course, significant crossover between the two. The sample of 9,000 found that 54 per cent had become British citizens since moving to the UK and that a further 29 per cent had been granted indefinite leave to remain.

Significantly, the study offered no evidence of "benefit tourism". As Chris Grayling, the-then employment minister, conceded when it was published in January 2012, "We’ve yet to establish the full picture. It may be that there isn’t a problem right now." In the absence of further research, ministers' preoccupation with the issue has more to do with politics than policy. The media's coverage of the subject creates the false impression that large numbers of migrants are claiming benefits leading to unnecessary public anxiety. As Cameron's spokesman said today, "There's a widespread sense of concern. That's what the government is considering how best to respond to." By cracking down on the perceived problem of "benefit tourism", the government hopes to win over voters hostile towards immigration. But as the figures above suggest, were ministers to inform the public, rather than scare them, there might be less hostility to begin with. 

David Cameron delivers a speech on immigration at the Institute for Government. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Pro-Trump site “reveals” Hillary Clinton’s “hitman and secret sex fixer” to be… Ed Miliband

Unsubstantiated cobblers? Why not spice it up with a picture of the former leader of the Labour party awkwardly standing?

The weekly pro-Trump supermarket tabloid, The National Enquirer, ran an unsubstantiated story recently allegedly quoting a former Hillary Clinton bag carrier. The source, described as a “hitman” and “fixer”, provided a WORLD EXCLUSIVE!!!! about all the things that Clinton supposedly made him do – involving (hold your horses, America!) sex and money.

The story was picked up by a pro-Trump site called American News, and other murky corners of the internet’s alt-right, and illustrated with an even more bollocks (if that’s possible) photo. It’s a picture of Bill Clinton shaking Nick Clegg’s hand – with Ed Miliband lurking nearby, giving them the side-eye.

Looks familiar, right?

But never mind that this photo was taken three years ago at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. Never mind that it accuses the former leader of the UK Labour party of being in the pocket of the Clintons. Never mind that even the circle highlighting him was copied from the Mail. Never mind that Ed Miliband, face furrowed in suspicion, hand damply resting on his front, resembling an awkward and aggrieved butler, would be the last person to have the wherewithal to arrange discreet sordid liaisons anyway. It’s a picture on the internet, folks!

Let’s take our country out of the hands of these failed innocuous Bridish politicians and make America great again!

I'm a mole, innit.