Tuesday 9 September 2008

They have no compunction.

This week, according to the tabloids, there has been an ‘all party call for a cap on migration’. Bollocks there has. In fact, what has happened is that Frank Field and Nicholas Soames -two of the most foul and bigoted MPs ever to lumber through Whitehall -have ganged up to produce a proposal, Balanced Migration, calling for a cap on the numbers of immigrants entering the country. The disingenuous reporting of the proposal has been nothing short of shite.

Firstly, Balanced Migration is emphatically not an ‘all-party call’ for a cap on migration. One bigoted Tory colossus and his favourite Labour defector does not an all-party call make (Field was raised a Tory before jumping ship in the sixties.) There are, in fact, more than two political parties in this country, and one of the alternatives has commanded around 20% of the popular vote at the last two general elections. This is, in fact, a bipartisan proposal, limited in scope and not officially condoned by either represented political party. Good job this is a basic mistake that only the right-wing tabloids are making, then. Oh, wait.

In fact, both of these MPs have faced massive opposition within their own parties, not least on account of what has appeared to many as scantly-concealed racism. Far be it from me to suggest that Nicholas Soames is a racist. But barely a year ago there were calls from within his own party for him to resign after he quoted figures seemingly lifted from a BNP pamphlet as part of an anti-immigration speech to parliament. And far be it from me to suggest that Frank Field is a racist, but not two months ago the BBC had him all but endorsing Enoch Powell, saying in response to the racist rabble-rouser’s predictions that white people are fleeing the country because of the influx of ethnic minorities: ‘There is apprehension and people are leaving if they can – they don’t like what’s happening to this country.’
Now, I happen to have gotten my grubby little paws on a copy of the proposal, and I’ve read it through, after which I found myself chain-smoking and shaking with rage in the back garden. It’s a vile piece of xenophobic drivel. After the first few pages it doesn’t even try to be polite to ethnic minorities, openly lamenting the fact that fewer and fewer economic migrants are coming from ‘the EU and the Old Commonwealth – Australia, Canada’ and more and more coming from ‘Africa, India and ‘other foreign.’’ Pretty soon after this, its unsupported statistics start unashamedly talking about ‘white’ versus ‘black, asian and other non-white’ as opposed to ‘british-born’ versus ‘foreign-born’. Oh, and on about page three the nation ‘Britain’ apparently becomes interchangeable with a place called ‘England’, entirely omitting to mention that we have at least three other countries with their own devolved governments and proud ancient cultures within this nation state. But that doesn’t bother Field and Soames, neither of whom have, it seems, any particular inclination to even think about Glasgow – where, incidentally, the rate of immigrant cultural integration is commendably high.

In the ‘chapters’ (read: ten lines of ranting and a graph) on social cohesion and community integration, the Bradford riots are cited without detailing any causal relationship between immigration and social unrest. We're merely invited to assume that there is one, and that a cap on migration is the best way to deal with it rather than, say, involving young people in community cohesion schemes and encouraging greater social dialogue. We're also invited to assume that the increasing number of schools where English might not be spoken in the homes of the majority of pupils is intrinsically a bad thing. Actually, English was forbidden in some of the first schools ever established in this country, being the language of the servant classes: pupils at Rugby, Westminster and other ancient British establishment sausage factories were ordered to speak Latin or go back to the provinces. And again, 'balanced migration' - rather than extra language lessons for immigrant pupils and their families - is apparently the answer. The proposal is a racist striptease, tearing away veils of decency paragraph by paragraph to reveal the real sickness behind its slippery statistics: Field and Soames simply don't like ethnic minorities, and they don't want any more of them in their country.

As well as these staggering assumptions-by-omission, there are glaring, basic factual errors throughout the document. One of these is its much-touted claim that, by adding 7 million people to the population of the UK by 2030, immigrants would contribute an equivalent of ‘7 cities the size of Birmingham.’ Have Messrs Field and Soames ever, in fact, been to Birmingham? The West Midlands conurbation of Birmingham had a population of 2,284,093 according to the 2001 census, the largest metropolitan area in the EU. This is either some admirable feat of particular Tory perspective or these MPs and their flunkies simply haven’t done the social research which is, ostensibly, the point of the proposal.

All of this makes me spit. I’m proud to be British, and part of the reason I’m proud is that when my grandparents were driven out of Lithuania in the pogroms, they made a long, torturous journey across war-torn Europe to the UK, hoping for sanctuary, hoping for something better, and they found it. A country where they were allowed to work and worship as they pleased, where they established themselves in business and became leaders in their local synagogues, where their race and religion and country of birth didn’t prevent them and their children from becoming British citizens, and bloody useful ones too. I’m proud to be British, because in 1942 my grandmother was awarded the George Cross along with the rest of her nation in order to "bear witness to the heroism and devotion of its people" after the battering Malta took from and on behalf of the British in WW2. The medal is in her drawer, some little semblance of recompense for the years of starvation and nightly bombing offensives. When this government decides to make a similar gesture to the people of Iraq, maybe I’ll reclaim that frisson of wonder I remember from when I was a little girl peering into Nanna’s jewellery box - until then, never.

My family came to England in a time before Field and Powell, in a time when skilled and unskilled workers were welcomed into the country from the commonwealth and elsewhere, and they flourished. Now the second generation is entering its fifties (happy birthday, mum) you wouldn’t know us from Adam. We're Slavic, European, Celtic - in other words, we're more or less white, and according to Soames and Field, we're a part of the problem, but not the real problem. But if we’d arrived today, we’d still be told by crusty racist MPs and little-England bigots that we were a race apart, instead of representing what this nation is about at its best. We’d most likely have spent years struggling for work permits or languishing in detainment centres. We’d be reduced to numbers on a BNP chart, taking jobs away from good, honest, native-born Britons. It makes me fucking sick.

Because, actually, we are all immigrants, even British-born natives who can trace their families back centuries untold. Immigration is what Britain is all about: since records began it’s been the waves of Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, Romans, Normans, Spaniards, Celts, Hibernians, Hugenots, German Protestants, Jews, French, Italians, Chinese, South-East Asians, Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Eastern Europeans and Americans that have kept us vibrant, kept us whole and humble and constantly changing as a nation. It's racists and recalcitrants in power who are the real scum muddying up the waters of change and vitality roaring around these islands, keeping the poor poor and the rich ignorant, holding us back. If the Home Office has any sense at all, it'll drop this sickening tract in the shredder.

ETA: I've given the proposal to my nearest degenerate drug-fiends, and it's being roached as we speak.


  1. * prods proper paragraph breaks in *

    There we go. NOW it's the perfect blog post.


  2. "Immigration is what Britain is all about: since records began it’s been the waves of..."

    Precisely. Given as the bits of me I can trace have been here since way before any records began (ancient Dumnonian for a large part) it really annoys me when idiots start spoting off about this being an 'anglo-saxon' country. Bloody latecoming immigrants trying to bolt the doors.

    It had bothered me out and about today when I heard headlines like 'cross-party', I was worried one of the Usual Suspects had signed up for the stupidity, knowing that none did and it's just Fatty and The Loon is reassuring and saves me hassle next week.

  3. This kind of coverage is one of the key reasons that our political system is perceived to be "two-party", and is one of the things that really gets my goat about our press.

    I want - I would love - a three (or more!) party system, because this straight Tory vs Labour antagonism is a destructive mess.

    So much of this recent swing seems to be away from Labour, not towards the Tories - why not swing towards the Lib Dems instead? Especially for those who are turning anti-Labour because of civil liberties infringements!

  4. Call me a pedant but the city of Birmingham proper (as opposed to the metro area) has a population of almost exactly 1 million


    So technically they're right about that.

  5. Superb post. Immigration is one of the two issues which drives me politically (the other being civil liberties) and you make all the good arguments. Its sickening that I'm considered a positive thing for this country because I'm well educated and speak like the BBC when my mother is foreign and my father's family are, like yours, from eastern Europe. So I'm as foreign as can be, but being essentially white makes this all ok.

    There is a reason that Field and Soames can get away with this intellectually bankrupt rubbish. It is what a lot of people think. They are, to some extent, representing the views of a reasonable proportion of the population, who are fine with Aussies but don't want any North Africans and who do want to become immigrants themselves (oh the irony) to leave the non-whites behind. The consistent liberals or leftists haven't worked out whether to take their opinions as legitimate (because there are so many of them) or to write it off as the rubbish that it is.

    Do we say, your anti-immigration stance is just latent racism mixed with legitimate concerns (increase in drink driving etc) or do we accept that social cohesion, as they view it, is important and we have to strike a balance? No one has yet answered this question.

  6. "the Bradford riots are cited without detailing any causal relationship between immigration and social unrest"

    Be fair. A highlight, if I can call it that, of the Bradford riots was the attempt by a crowd of 600-odd people, the children or grandchildren of immigrants who'd arrived in the last 40 years, to incinerate alive 22 elderly members of Manningham Labour Club, just a few hundred yards from where the Labour Party's predecessor, the ILP, was founded. They surrounded the building, set it ablaze with petrol bombs and blocked all the exits with burning cars. Riot police and the fire brigade got them out just before the building collapsed.

    How much causality do you want ?

  7. How about the causality of fascists deliberately trying to provoke the children of migrants with a lengthy campaign of abuse in order to get the headlines they wanted about social unrest?

  8. I see. Fighting fascism by burning alive old, white, English Labour Party members. It's certainly innovative.

    But hey, they were provoked, right ?

  9. Few things here I disagree with, but not the spirit of the blog on the whole.

    Only one factual error. Your citation of the population of Birmingham is over double the actual number. Yours is the population of the West Midlands as a whole. Birmingham itself had, at the 2001 census, a population of 1,006,500.

  10. "I'm well educated and speak like the BBC when my mother is foreign and my father's family are, like yours, from eastern Europe. So I'm as foreign as can be, but being essentially white makes this all ok."

    Isn't that rather the point? Theres no problem with immigration as long as a) the immigrants integrate into society or b) there arn't many of them.
    Unfortunately there is a danger in having sizeable, distinct social groups living in close proximity to each other.
    I don't know about the rest of you, but most of the people I know aren't too keen on this kind of mass immigration.

    By the way, from the historical list of immigrant groups to Britain, at least the first 6 were achieved through massive violence. Perhaps not the best example to support immigration...?

  11. Once again, Mark, every point you raise has already been addressed in comments, or the original post -- save your final point, a deliberately irrelevant misinterpretation.

    If you have nothing to say, then say nothing.

  12. Not really.
    While the original post mentioned the word xenophobia, it failed to mention how we should deal with it.
    Its not as if people make a concious choice to be xenophobic (is it even possible to have a society without outsiders?) and we have plenty of evidence from history of the bloody violence it can cause.
    And uh... James... while the point about all of us coming from all over might discredit racists and racism (racism is utter tripe), I feel that to use those examples to support immigration indicates a deliberate misinterpretation of history.
    Why not cite European migration to America or Australia as well... did they add to the vibrancy of their regions? They certainly kept the original inhabitants humble... I'll give her that.


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