The Reader: ‘Low-skilled’ migrants who keep London afloat


We would like to invite Home Secretary Priti Patel to dinner at our restaurant Oklava in Shoreditch. Our staff are from the UK, Europe and beyond. They have chosen this profession as their career and work hard to develop their talents. They have degrees in hospitality and cooking, can address you in any one of 15 languages, can chop an onion in less time than it would take you to tie your laces and make strangers feel entirely at home and looked after.

But they are the “low-skilled”, as Ms Patel has pointed out, and won’t have a place in her new “high-skill, high-productivity” economy come Brexit. They are reduced to mere numbers, to “value” and “thresholds”. If her plans come to fruition, 55 per cent of us would not have qualified to come work in the UK at all.

We would just like to point out that if Ms Patel decides to come and have dinner, she may find we have some skills up our sleeves that she might quite enjoy. They are the exact same skills which keep our beloved industry afloat. Without these “low-skilled” workers, hospitality as we know it will come to an end.
The Oklava team

Editor's reply

Dear Oklava team,

I hope Priti Patel takes you up on your offer. A meal in pleasant company could give her perspective on her immigration policies.

At the moment they are too slanted towards ideology and political point-scoring in Westminster, and ignore practicalities. Immigration policy does need reform but the new points-based system will only create more acrimony, staff shortages and economic weakness. In the short term at least, it could hit London hard. Proposing the “economically inactive” fill gaps is unrealistic and, as you say, how do you define “low-skilled” and quantify the contribution these people make?

We need a range of skills to thrive. Immigration numbers are hard to forecast; they depend on economics and global events. It’s not all bad — a recent YouGov study showed consensus is possible on migration. But we must start with a more nuanced, human approach.
Susannah Butter, Comment Editor

Tories who saw Elgin as robbery

Sections of the Elgin Marbles are displayed at The British Museum (Getty Images)

Discussion of the Elgin Marbles needs the kind of historical perspective that Nico Makris provides (The Reader, February 24). It is important to remember that over the years even senior Tory politicians have questioned their British custodianship.

Visiting Athens in 1869, Sir Stafford Northcote, a classical scholar and future Tory leader, referred angrily in his diary to Elgin’s “robbery of the Parthenon”. Another Tory diarist, Lord Crawford, who was a trustee of the British Museum, recorded in 1938 that the marbles “have been dangerously overcleaned by using unauthorised methods and instruments”.

Now is the time to give full and open consideration to arrangements that will best secure the future of the marbles.
Alistair Lexden

Shock extinction revelation for us​

Nick Merriman [“As custodians, our museums are striving to save the planet”, February 25 ] makes a bold claim in stating that we are now in a sixth extinction episode. This is a unique event in planetary history, since previous extinctions were triggered by outside factors and not the misdirected technology of a particular life-form now dominating the globe.
Christopher Sparey-Green

The capital is not ready for scooters​

Lib Dem mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita on an e-scooter at the Olympic Park (John Russell )

London Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita wants to make e-scooters legal (News, February 24). One day perhaps, but not yet. First, the Mayor should ensure that the Walking and Cycling Commissioner is doing his job properly. Will Norman has done little for pedestrians; cyclists persistently, and illegally, use the pavements and footpaths in the capital and leave hire cycles without docking stations littering the pavements.

Ms Benita’s plans show she is blind to what is going on today, and the few illegal e-scooters around are already proving to be a problem.

The Mayor and the Walking and Cycling czar must show that they can properly organise and police what we already have today before legalising e-scooters. Pedestrians should not have to worry about bicycles and scooters; they should feel and be safe on pavements and footpaths. Let’s walk safely before we can ride.

London should now have a dedicated Pedestrian Commissioner, so Mr Norman can get on his bike.
Lester May