Immigration: a mass debate

Second post in a week to go on about immigration, I’m afraid. If that sort of thing doesn’t interest you, then please feel free to skip this post. I’ll be back tomorrow blathering about comics or doing a recipe.

Anyone left? Right.

Cameron immigration speech

That David Cameron. What a cock. You can tell there are local elections coming up, can’t you? Nothing better to enliven the doddery old farts down at the Conservative Club than a nice rousing speech on the dangers of immigration. If you can stick in a jab at the welfare state, then so much the better. It was blatant electioneering, old-school tub-thumping that’s stopped annoying me quite so much as it used to, because it’s so obviously, demonstrably stupid.

If, gods help us, the brakes were put on immigration, what would happen? Well, the estimated £6billion quid that immigrants bring into the economy ever year would vanish for a start. Universities would struggle to survive as the influx of kids paying hefty fees to study here dried up. Retail and service industries would be gutted, empty shells. The City runs on the skills and expertise of tens of thousands of workers who were not born in the UK, as does my beloved NHS.

The discussion rarely mentions the other number, either; the amount of people who leave the country each year. Figures published in The Evening Standard yesterday showed that in 2009, 153,000 migrants arrived in London. But 123,000 left. That net influx was the lowest since 1994. This is, by the way, while Labour were still in power which kind of puts the lie to the accusation of rampant immigration by the last government.

Of course, Cameron was careful to note that he wasn’t talking about the good kind of migrant. No, no. He was concerned about the ones that come in and refuse to integrate, or learn the language. I’m sure the people of the Costa Del Sol and Tuscany feel exactly the same about the yawping mouthbreathers buying up farmhouses and flats and gathering in “English” pubs on the waterfront to watch Sky Sports. Oh, and incidentally, Cameron’s quoted figures from the ONS survey he uses to make his point include Brits coming back into the UK when they can’t cut it abroad. The Channel Four blog examination on the way Cameron is using these figures makes for veeeeery interesting reading.

Cameron is countering the argument that capping immigration will have massive financial implications by claiming that the government will be thinking “incredibly carefully” about who to let in. That’s comforting, coming from a coalition that has already had to climb down from NHS reforms and the sell-off of our forests. Careful thinking is hardly their proven approach.

Any argument about the “dangers” of immigration is invalid when you look at the history of this great country of ours. We have been ruled over for centuries by the French, the Danish, the Dutch. Danelaw split the island in twain for two hundred years during the most formative parts of our cultural identity. Draw a line between Chester and London. Everything north of that line was Danish from the late 800s to 1066. Place names ending in -howe or -thorp(e) have their origins in Danish settlements, and we owe words like “law”, “sky”, “window” and third person plural pronouns like “she” and “they” to the settlers. Language expert Michel Thomas estimates that 60% of English shares common roots with French. Our favourite drink? Tea, from China. We’re as likely to enjoy spag boll, pizza or chicken tikka masala as roast beef for dinner these days. We soak up influences from other cultures and use them to enrich our own with a cheery glee.

It’s obvious. We’re a nation that owes its core identity and values to the multiculturalism that Cameron slams as a failure.

But there’s one aspect of Cameron’s speech which which I kind of, begrudgingly, sort of agree. (You can tell it hurts me to say that, don’t you?) He says:

“Put simply, we will never control immigration properly unless we tackle welfare dependency. That’s another powerful reason why this government is undertaking the biggest shake-up of the welfare system for generations making sure that work will always pay and ending the option of living a life on the dole when a life in work is possible.”

I’m never going to agree with the argument that migrants are “taking” “our” jobs, as if a swarthy Pole is elbowing a bright-eyed graduate out of the way to grab a job on a building site off him. But at the same time, there is a problem with some people seeing long-term unemployment as a viable option. This, of course, stemmed from the last time we had a sustained period of mass redundancy and job shortage in this country – under Thatcher. Typical. A Tory trying to blame a Labour government for something that was caused by the Tories. Once again, Cameron fully considers the situation, takes careful aim and shoots himself in the foot.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

One thought on “Immigration: a mass debate”

  1. Thank you for a sane piece on a difficult subject. Even comments on the Guardian are filled with irrational fear. That’s it. People are right to concerned about immigration issues, but people like Cameron plays/preys on such irrational fear for personal gain. He’s particularly dispicable because he would probably say something different in front of business circle, this man has no conviction. The real issues are never about the numbers, as you mentioned, they should fix welfare dependency, slavery-like wages, fix any loopholes to prevent people from exploiting the system.

    I guess that’s too much work for David Cameron, so he chose the BNP way of doing things.

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