Monday, 15 February 2016

How a poodle's pal made the point about Europe

It’s not often our toy poodle, Luci, finds a dog smaller than her. So it’s a matter of celebration when she does. When that dog shows none of Luci’s own shyness or diffidence, and is prepared to play like a mad thing, then joy is unconfined.

That’s Piluca, a miniature Yorkie who’s sometimes in the park nearest to where we live. She chases around with Luci and they both have a wonderful time and a lot of excellent exercise. The human she takes to the park with her is a young Spanish woman, who left Alicante to come and live in Luton.

“I imagine you came for the weather,” I suggested to her when we met.

“Oh, yes. What else?” she laughed, “though the work helped too.”

It turns out she’s a teacher. My first thought on meeting a Spanish woman teaching in England is that she must be teaching languages. Or at any rate, one language.

Nothing of the kind. She’s a maths teacher. And that’s an interesting discovery. The United Kingdom is suffering from an increasingly critical shortage of teachers. Not only do we have too few teachers, we’re recruiting too few to replace the number we do have.

Teaching recruits, by subject, against target, in Engalnd, 2014-15
Christopher Wilkins, University of Leicester
Meanwhile, Spain is suffering from terrible youth unemployment. The way a market is supposed to work, certainly in a worldview admired on the political right, goods and even people are supposed to flow from areas of weak demand to areas where demand is higher. So when Piluca’s human moved to England, she was behaving entirely according to the market model of economics.

She was able to do so because the European Union guarantees freedom of movement, residence and employment to all the citizens of all the member states, anywhere across the entire area it covers. That’s a crucial right. It means that we, as individuals, are not bound entirely to the economic success or failure to one country, but can take advantage of good times in another part of the Union, if things are not going so well in our own.

That ought to be a right defended by the Left, since it empowers workers.

It seems we have here a case that confirms the economics of the right – the clean working of a market – and the politics of the left – the exercise of an important freedom by a salaried worker. So it’s remarkable to see that there’s so much anti-EU talk on the right, and indeed a movement to leave the Union even within Labour.

What do they want? 

To deprive Piluca’s human of her right to take advantage of opportunities across the Continent? To prevent her enjoying our great weather? To deny the UK a way to solve its crisis in education?

Surely that would be a shameful stance to take. Especially as it would deny Luci of such an excellent friend.

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