Well, knock me down with a feather. For the first time in many years, a prominent establishment figure has spoken with humanity, honesty and common sense about Britain’s poisonous and corrupt immigration ‘debate’.
Naturally, this contribution didn’t come from a politician, but from David Walker, the Anglican Bishop of Dudley, who has accused the three main parties of exaggerating the ‘disproportionate’ problem of immigration. Walker told The Observer that ‘Public fears around immigration are like fears around crime. They bear little relationship to the actual reality.’
‘The tone of the current debate suggests that it is better for 10 people with a legitimate reason for coming to this country to be refused entry than for one person to get in who has no good cause. It is wholly disproportionate as a response. It is especially galling in Holy Week, when Christians are remembering how Jesus himself became the scapegoat in a political battle, to see politicians vying with each other in just such a process.’
And last but not least
‘Studies show that the vast majority of new arrivals to the UK enhance and enrich our society, both economically and culturally. The true threats to our national wellbeing lie not with those who come to visit or make their lives here but with the increasing gap between the rich and poor among us.’
Indeed. Walker’s observations come at a time when all three parties are frantically diving towards the lowest common denominator in an attempt to transform anti-immigrant sentiment into votes. Last week it was Clegg, promising to impose ‘security bonds’ on migrants from ‘high-risk countries’.
Tomorrow Lord Snooty and his millionaire pals are going to announce a raft of new measures restricting benefits and NHS treatment to migrants. Cameron also plans to stop migrants from getting ‘free housing’ – even though Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, insists that ‘The available evidence shows that the pressure on social housing from the immigrant population is very small.’
And according to ‘Labour sources’ cited by The Observer,
‘ 95% of immigrants lived in private rented accommodation, often of low quality. The greater problem was that employers often lured immigrants to this country by offering them places in low-grade houses, charging them extortionate rent, and then paying them unreasonably low wages that undercut the rate for local workers.’
So do these statements indicate that Labour will be bringing these matters to the attention of the British public? Will the leadership now join the Bishop of Dudley, and perhaps challenge the assumptions behind Cameron’s vicious anti-immigrant rhetoric ?
Don’t hold your breath. The official line, emanating from shadow immigration secretary Chris Bryant is this:
‘It is all very well Mr Cameron coming up with grand plans, but since he came to power, fewer illegal immigrants have been stopped at our borders, fewer foreign criminals have been deported and more people have absconded from Heathrow airport. If he is not looking after the nitty-gritty of this issue, he cannot command the trust of the British people.’
So Labour knows that Cameron’s ‘free housing’ pledge is based on entirely false premises. But all the leadership can say in public is that Lord Snooty hasn’t been sufficiently ‘tough’ about ‘illegal immigrants’ and ‘foreign criminals’ – exactly the same accusations that the Tories and the Lib Dems routinely throw at Labour.
All of which is truly pathetic, but a symptom of the state we’re in. And how Nigel Farage must be loving it.