Category Archives: immigration
In the great debate about immigration, which at long last we are allowed to have, it comes down to a few basics. The grievances the public feel do not primarily concern where immigrants come from, the colour of their skin, their ethnicity or even their religion. It is about numbers.
When the Romans arrived two thousand years ago, it is thought that the population was a little under two million. It took 1,500 years for it to double. Since then – a period of five hundred years, beginning with the first Queen Elizabeth – it has risen sixteen-fold to 65 million. Just imagine if this were to go on. In the same relatively short period, it would have grown to a little over one billion, all packed on to this one small island. Apart from the absurdity of this idea, where would the resources come from to sustain such numbers when we cannot even resource the number we already have and are totally dependent on imports.
When Blair and his cohorts opened the floodgates to the whole world – not just Eastern Europe – he did so surreptitiously by branding anyone who dared to question what was going on a racist. He himself committed what his very own government had passed into law, a ‘hate crime’. Calling someone a racist who is not is just about as bad as it gets.
What, then, are we to do about the escalating numbers? Clearly we cannot continue admitting, annually, the equivalent of a city the size of Coventry or Leicester. Where will we find the money to provide for such numbers? There was never very much slack built into our public services. If we find ourselves struggling in so many areas, may that not be in large part because what slack there was has long since been used up?
Everyone needs access to hospitals, schools, public infrastructure and transport systems, and, yes, a roof over their head. If our young find it next to impossible to get on the housing ladder, it is largely because demand had outstripped supply and forced up prices to unaffordable levels.
I am a great believer in the benefits of immigration, as long as it is managed intelligently. I do not blame immigrants for our problems. I would certainly want to seek a better life for myself within this fortunate continent, especially if I were a member of the huddled, unskilled masses milling beyond Europe’s borders (their desire to come here actually stands as a huge compliment to what Europe has to offer). And isn’t that exactly what we did when we peopled so much of the world with our own, desperate millions?
Many insist that unless we admit large numbers of the young and fecund, we will rapidly have too small a workforce to provide for an aging population that is living longer than ever. There is also an argument to be made that immigrants help to address our refusal to have more babies and so fuel the drive to grow our economy.
But the answer to this must lie elsewhere, namely in raising our productivity. Ours, historically, has been very low and if we get to grips with this and are also selective in admitting clever, qualified people, then we will not need to crack the problem by importing ever more people. One way or another, the inflow has to be reduced. If we fail, then our quality of life will surely fail also. We absolutely have to go down the productivity route. Personally, I find it humiliating that so many abroad outproduce us. It was not always so.
One thing which may come out of this Brexit business is that the cold winds of standing alone again may release in us those forces which have served us so well in times past.
I still cannot get over the bravery it took to defy the massed ranks of the ‘experts’ who told us that we were about to commit the next best thing to suicide. The last time I can recall the experts getting it so horrendously wrong was when 365 economists wrote to Margaret Thatcher predicting doom for her policies. In fact, those very policies made it boom. May not Brexit do the same?
Had the Labour government of the day, when it took the decision to open the floodgates, embarked on a massive programme of infrastructure spending – at a time when we could afford it, 20 years ago – to accommodate the extra demands placed on the system then things would be very different today. But there should, first, have been a national debate to decide whether this was indeed what the nation wanted and whether it was prepared to see its national identity compromised. (There is also the small matter of whether a relatively small island was already crowded enough.) The fact is, the political classes were uncaring of what the public thought about these matters and, actually, were contemptuous of the answers they feared might come back. As always, they thought they knew best. But look at us now!
Managing human population growth will be one of the biggest challenges of this century. Two years ago, I remember being alarmed to learn that, somewhere, the seventh billion human being had been born.
When we are struggling to provide work and homes – even in this still rich country – for our own British young people, how are we going to provide similarly for such numbers in its poorest regions? Even more worrying is that some pundits estimate the planet’s population will not level off until 14 billion has been reached (even in the best scenario, it is said to level off at around nine to 10 billion in the 2060s). Even David Attenborough has expressed his concern in a recent interview, describing the human race as “a plague” on the planet.
Ukip’s 2nd place finish in the recent Eastleigh by-election has been attributed by many to the party’s focus on immigration. And with the expected influx of Romanian and Bulgarian workers next year certain to add pressure to our already stretched public services, the British public has a right to be concerned.
Our own island serves very well as a microcosm of what is happening beyond our shores. When the Romans arrived here 2,000 years ago, it is thought that between 1.5 and 2 million people lived here. It took the whole fifteen-hundred-year period, right up to the reign of Elizabeth I, for that number to double. Yet in just the next 500 years it grew fifteen fold. If we already have a housing problem with strains on public services such as hospitals, schools, transport, only a person in denial would dispute that the expected influx of Eastern Europeans would not further exacerbate it greatly.
Like other developed countries around the world, the UK has a demographic time bomb about to explode; many would argue that a smaller and smaller workforce supporting a larger and larger retired sector is an even more alarming problem than that posed by rising immigration. Yet if Britons’ birth rate is insufficient, they say, we must bolster it with fecund young people from abroad. This, we have to admit, is a cogent argument.
What was needed (and still is) was a national debate in which all these issues could be thoroughly aired. But we didn’t get it. What we got from the Blair government instead was a sly and silent opening of the floodgates, which resulted in a totally unfocused rush towards this country of people with minimal skills and often a hostile outlook towards us. The flood was greater than any known in our history before. It was, in fact, a scandal, perhaps even a crime. What was actually needed was a measured import of those high in skills of the sort this country could have benefited from economically. What was not needed was what amounted to an assault on the working classes by importing people who would work for next to nothing and take the jobs which otherwise would have been theirs. The crime, as I see it, is here.
Yet I believe there was also another crime in pursuing a policy which has the capability, perhaps, of changing the character of our nation forever without securing the consent of the people.
I believe in being open and accommodating to people of all races. After all, no people on the planet have had greater experience of rubbing along with people from other cultures. Ours was the most benign, dynamic and just of all the European empires. Indeed, a local Algerian shopkeeper once told me he saw his own father shot dead before him by the French during their war for independence. Better, he said, had Algeria belonged to the British Empire. “Why? I asked. “Well, they were gentlemen,” he replied.
I’m not saying we never did terrible things: consider Amritsar in the Punjab in 1919, when Ghurkhas under a rogue British brigadier shot dead 400 people at an illegal protest gathering. But at least there was a hell of a public hullabaloo, and a court of inquiry afterwards.
Yet despite such isolated incidents, none of the other former empires have been able to inspire such warmth and a feeling of togetherness. We therefore have no need to take lessons from anyone in how to treat people from other lands. Except, perhaps, from that other former colony of ours which feels the greatest warmth of all to us, but which, strangely, does not belong to the Commonwealth: the United States. There, if you want to make that country your home you have to accept all its values; citizenship comes as a complete package. You must be an American first, and a Hispanic, Japanese or Pakistani second. The U.S. does, however, have problems with its own burgeoning population. But at least it enjoys the luxury of having 32 times more space than we have.
It seems certain that whatever measures the world takes, it cannot hope to stop that seven billionth baby being joined by another three billion others before this century is halfway through. But I believe that human resilience will win through in the end. This has to be by raising living standards in the Third World. Only by spreading prosperity will you put effective brakes on population growth. Show me a First World country with an out of control birth rate (except, that is, where out of control immigration has been allowed).
The greatest service we could do for Africa is to get rid of the protectionist and cruel Common Agricultural Policy. Our chance to do that is coming soon when the Euro nations need our agreement for treaty amendments in the years ahead. Plus, we must bite the bullet where GM foods are concerned. Contrary to what Prince Charles may believe, only with vastly increased yields will we have any hope of filling all those extra hungry mouths.
Immigration is a matter of very great concern to us as it has placed huge pressures on all of our public services.
It has even, some would argue, started to erode some of our core British values.
When numbers equivalent to a city the size of Plymouth come into our country each year, it is natural that people tend to become alarmed. Yet I have had an experience this week which has opened my eyes to one important aspect of it.
Having hammered my knees over a lifetime, I needed to get them replaced. The first to receive the treatment was done twenty months ago (successfully, I might add). Ever the glutton for punishment, I pressed on.
It’s a big op, I have to admit, and the aftermath is painful; but what’s a bit of short-term suffering against a very great and long-term gain? Thus I tried to persuade myself, for I knew what I was letting myself in for the second time round.
Everyone will have to cope with clapped out and painful joints as they grow older. The lucky ones, in my view, are the ones where this happens early as they get them replaced. The less fortunate soldier on with their dodgy parts until it is too late… they are too old.
They have to watch the sprightly oldies – with their joints replaced – enjoying full and pain-free mobility while they struggle on with sticks and, if they can afford them, mobility scooters.
I opted to go to the Peninsula Treatment Centre. There, I was surrounded by a mini United Nations.
There were Filipinos, South Africans, Chinese, Jamaicans, Zambians, Polish, Romanians, Germans, French, Zimbabweans, Bulgarians – oh, and yes, one or two Brits. They all spoke excellent English and the service that I received was top-draw.
As a team they were magnificent. If only the UN, away in New York, could perform so harmoniously. Even the building and the standard of cleanliness were beyond compare.
Altogether it was a great experience. It makes you think, doesn’t it? It would not be over-egging it to say that if you’d kept these people out of our country then we would be shooting ourselves in the foot.
In the higher echelon skills at Peninsula, East Europe seemed to have excelled itself. The Communists got many things wrong, but education was not one of them.
I have reason to know this at first-hand. My Lithuanian, university-educated wife (fluent in three languages) is a constant reminder. She even helps me with my crosswords – would that I could do the same with hers – and she sometimes assists with a point of grammar. English was her subject at uni, you see.
It would be no exaggeration to say that if all these superb people were removed from Peninsula it would have to shut down. Who then would be the loser?
Of course, you will have noticed that they all spoke good English and for the most part were highly skilled. This is the road we must go down: cherry-picking the best who want to join us.
As it happens we are the destination of first choice to these people because of our language, law-driven society and tolerance; they are not the sort of people who want to be holed up in some kind of ghetto, insulated from the rest of us.
It was a very big mistake to allow the mantra of diversity to shut down discussion as to how we could best integrate newcomers to these shores, and in this respect there is much the Americans could teach us.
Last week I bumped into a fellow shopkeeper and he too had had both knees renewed. They had been done the better part of twenty years ago and he wasn’t even using a stick. He is 91.
Instead of feeling that he had been put out to pasture, he has been allowed to remain a vibrant member of, and contributor to, our local community.
This has to be the future… keeping as many of us as possible active into old age. But it has to start much earlier than our 91-year-old shopkeeper, that’s for sure.
The wonderful new £41.5m Life Centre, opened this week in Plymouth, is certainly a step in the right direction.
All of us must take charge of our own well being, wherever possible, and there’s a lot of fun to be had in so doing. But those of us who are not prepared to invest in a healthier, happier future must be brought to see how very foolish this is.
We know we can successfully influence people’s life choices. Look what we did in turning attitudes around with regard to smoking and drink driving.
The ticking NHS time bomb of an ageing population could, in large measure, be defused if we could all be persuaded to get off our derrieres and get moving. Preventative medicine has the potential to free up possibly a quarter of all our hospital beds and allow us, in the process, to lead happier, healthier and more productive lives.
If the recession causes us to cut our supermarket food bills, so much the better, say I.
Instead of so many old people feeling surplus to requirements, they would become a valued and much needed part of society.
We British usually appreciate being the first recipients of most things coming over ‘the pond’. But I did not appreciate learning that, after the Americans, we are the next most obese people in the developed world. As it happened, not long after learning that, I watched newsreel footage of our people in the 1940s and 50s. Do you know, I couldn’t see a fatty among them?
Food rationing had done its work and made us the healthiest we had ever been; they all looked leaner, fitter and, I have to say, altogether merrier.
Although the treatments available to them, at that time, were primitive by our standards, at least they weren’t imposing a burden on their fellow citizens, because of their super indulgent, lazy lifestyle. They were all pulling their weight – just not so much of it.
Time, may I suggest, to turn our guns on the fatties amongst us!