Immigration policy – the fons et origo of nationhood Derek Turner says that no other policy is as important as immigration
A government’s immigration policy is arguably ..the most fundamental and consequential of all its policies. Other policies are enormously important, but immigration policy holds the possibility either of preserving or altering permanently the character of the people who make up the nation. Trade deficits, educational standards, war in Iraq and our relations with the EU, while of enormous significance to us all, are all nonetheless subordinate to one central consideration – “who are we who are being governed (or misgoverned)?” Immigration policy, if poorly conceived or administered, can turn “We the people” into “We, another people”.
Globally speaking, human beings are manifestly not the same, and our civilizations and nations are not all alike. A country or a civilization’s unique character is at least partly due to the unique qualities of the people who have created it, and its values cannot be extended or diluted indefinitely in all directions. It is obviously of great importance for a government that rules ostensibly in the national interest to know, first, who ‘we’ are and, secondly, to seek to preserve that character for posterity. And yet it hasn’t exactly worked out that way!
For decades, Britain hasn’t had an immigration policy worthy of the name. Like the Empire, Britain’s race problem was acquired in a fit of absence of mind. Unlike the Empire, Britain’s race problem should be a source of shame for yesterday’s and today’s politicians. Ever since the arrival of the Windrush at Tilbury docks in 1948, governments of all persuasions have been united in not wishing to do anything substantive to preserve the character of Britain.
Under Labour and Conservative governments alike, albeit with fluctuating intensity, a tide of newcomers has continued to flow into this island ‘fortress’, turning a country which had had no large scale immigration since 1066 into a larger version of Yugoslavia – although so far minus the civil war. There were and are immigration laws, of course. There was the occasional flurry of media concern or political manouevring when the subject of race came forcibly to the nation’s attention. In 1948, 13 Labour MPs wrote to Clement Attlee to express their dismay at the likely effects of immigration on their poor, inner-city constituencies.
Many Tory MPs and peers – not just Enoch Powell – tried and failed to get immigration taken seriously. Cyril Osborne, Norman Pannell, Harold Soref, Ronald Bell, Sir Patrick Wall and many others deserve great credit for their statesmanlike approach to what they could already see was the national question. But they were all out-manouevered and out-gunned. Whatever the media, or the laws, or the politicians said, behind the rhetoric and under all administrations, the underlying trend was for an ever-increasing immigrant population, self-ghettoised and alienated from the wider society – feeling resentful of that society and being resented by that society. It seems that politicians, like so many other peo-ple, took it for granted that Britain could just continue indefinitely to absorb the world’s peoples, without this changing the country’s character in any way. There was always something more urgent to be done – and the next election to be prepared for. Even genuinely patriotic politicians like Margaret Thatcher, who in 1979 probably did mean to do something about the “swamping” that concerned Tory voters, lost sight of the ball once in office.
By the early 1980s, she was saying that the family values of Muslim immigrants would encourage emulation amongst native Britons. That didn’t quite work that way either! Thanks to such short term thinking, and the almost unbelievable pigheadedness of many on the Left – who said that anyone who wanted to talk about immigration was some kind of Nazi sympathiser – we now have a serious race problem in Britain, of the kind that some Tories right up until the late 1980s said “could never happen here”. Parts of our big cities are fast becoming like Washington DC or Delhi. Race riots happen all around the country almost constantly – only coming to national attention when they get beyond a certain level of containable violence.
Racial misunderstanding and unpleasantness are at an all time high, with a racial angle creeping into almost every argument, from foreign policy to fox-hunting. Our freedom of speech and association are being increasingly undermined. Commission for Racial Equality commissars – representatives of an organisation that has itself been called “institutionally racist” – are empowered to compel entire organisations to adhere to cranky race equality ‘guidelines’, which are really quotas in disguise. Soon we will not be allowed to criticise Islam. Soon after that, other persecuted minorities like the Scientologists and the Satanists will no doubt get in on the act! Britain is unhappy and lacking in optimism. The diversity that we are all told we should welcome has proved to be the very opposite of a strength.
The creation of the multicultural society in Britain was indeed, as Bill Deedes put it tersely in his memoirs, “a failure of statecraft”.1 But having established that our politicians have all let us down badly, and that we should not be starting from here, where are we to go? We must accept that the events of the last several decades are not now reversible. Britain is now, inescapably, a multiracial, society. How can we make the best of this far-from-ideal situation? We need to mitigate the existing problems in the interests of everyone who now lives in Britain. We need to take urgent action to preserve the British modus vivendi and to smooth away the understandable resentment felt towards post-war immigrants by many millions within the indigenous population. We need to take radical measures to avoid future Stephen Lawrences and future Richard Everitts – we need to act now to obviate future Brixtons, Toxteths, Broadwater Farms and Bradfords. And in the wake of 9/11, we must confront the dreadfulpossibility that a comparable tragedy may even now be being planned somewhere in our diverse, distrustful cities.
We wish no harm to anyone, and blame no-one for what has happened – except our contemptible indigenous politicians and the bureaucratic jobsworths who deferred action in the interests of a quiet life. Who could blame people from India, Pakistan or the West Indies for wishing to improve their quality of life? We wish to be able to retain that tolerance, that freedom of speech and that respect for the individual that has made Britain so stable and so desirable for so long. But to be able to do that, Britons must feel comfortable and secure in their own ancestral domain. Those post-war immigrants and descendants of post-war immigrants who can understand this basic human need and imprescriptible human right are welcome to join in this new battle of Britain.
The good news is that there is mounting recognition of the problems we all face. There has been, as Rod Liddle noted in a recent Spectator article, a “paradigm shift” on race. A few years ago, nobody talked about immigration – except to say it was wonderful, and we should have a lot more of it. Now, everyone is talking about it. The terrible events of 11 September 2001 drove home to many people the necessity of watching borders, and keeping checks on aliens living within one’s borders – not to mention the essential incompatability of Islam and the Occident. Even some on the Left, for so long the chief supporters of mass immigration, have come to realise that it can mean importing poverty, driving down the minimum wage and weakening social bonds. The articles by Bob Rowthorn and David Goodhart criticising mass immigration that appeared in the thoughtful Leftist magazine Prospect were greeted by many on the Left with a stream of vitriol and spittle-flecked abuse, but have now been co-opted into the mainstream of political discourse.
Even dreary Leftist motormouths like Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Trevor Phillips have said thatmulticulturalism is a dead letter, and that nations need shared experiences and customs to cohere. This relative open-mindedness has trickled down the metapolitical scale to Labour MPs. The Labour MP for Keighley got into hot water in 2002 for saying that English language tuition should be mandatory for new immigrants. David Blunkett has argued for compulsory English tuition for all and introduced citizenship ceremonies. Jack Straw has said that Britain should resile from the UN Convention on Refugees. And, in September, Tony Blair said that it was “neither racist nor extremist” to raise “genuine concerns” about what he admitted were many thousands of fake asylum applications. The paradigm has indeed shifted greatly. While much of this rhetoric is possibly insincere or, if sincere, is unlikely ever to be put into effect, it is symptomatic of a new public mood. Although the government cannot be trusted on this, at some point the rhetoric will have to be at least partially lived up to.
The media are filled with stories about immigration. A much reported opinion poll stated that 52% of respondents believe that immigration is the single most important issue facing Britain. There have been several excellent books on immigration produced in the last two years, by Ashley Mote, Miles Harris, Anthony Browne and Steve Moxon. There is a highly professional think-tank, Migration Watch, monitoring the situation. After years of being a single issue party, the UKIP adopted some moderate policies on immigration, and quadrupled its numbers of MEPs. Despite unremitting demonisation, the BNP has made considerable headway in certain areas of the country. And now Liam Fox and Michael Howard have realised that the Tories need to talk about this subject to keep their heads above water. That they should have realised this long ago is not the point; we must be grateful for the conversion of even the most recalcitrant of sinners. We who have always thought this issue was more important than privatising electricity or Saddam Hussein’s possession or non-possession of WMDs can take comfort from how quickly our once-heretical views are becoming respectable.
We look forward to being thanked officially!2 Yet the paradigm needs to shift yet more – from posture to policy, from thought to action. We need to push at this open door and force real change on our slippery, reluctant politicians – in such a way that no-one is hurt and as few as possible are inconvenienced. A little more effort now will mean a lot less heartache in the future. We need, first, to enforce existing laws on immigration. We need urgently to deport all illegal aliens, whose continued presence in this country brings the legal system into contempt, and signals to the millions of others who wish to come to Britain that they can get away with it. There should be no blind eyes turned, no amnesties, no appeals and no readmittance ever for those who have once been detected trying to enter illegally. The United Nations Convention on Refugees – which was probably a bad idea even in 1951 – has been made exceedingly deleterious by the advent of easier travel, and the sheer numbers of those now wishing to travel. We need to remove ourselves from its foolish provisions as soon as possible.
Thanks partly to the sentimental aspirations in this document, asylum has become a massive industry – a sprawling, noxious, unregulated, leprous growth in the midst of which our natural sympathy for genuine refugees has become choked. We must always offer sustenance and shelter to those fellow human beings who really need our help – at least until they can look after themselves again. But these natural and laudable feelings have been blunted by the chronic abuse, the massive dishonesty, and the hateful hypocrisy of fake applicants and the shyster lawyers and politicians who have poisoned the well of our sympathy. Perhaps this industry, too, could be ‘privatised’. Let the Polly Toynbees, the Barbara Roches, the Charles Kennedys and the John Bercows who want to take all refugees on trust take personal charge of their darlings, and welcome them into their own schools, streets and homes, paying personally for their food, housing, translators, social workers and lawyers. Let them put their own monies where their large mouths are. Cheap opportunists should not be allowed to make such massively expensive calls on the public purse.
We need to resume control over the immigration system, and ensure that only a very small number of economically essential immigrants are allowed to gain admittance until the nation has absorbed fully those immigrants and descendants of immigrants who are already here. Because so many supposedly economically essential immigrants are in fact not really necessary at all, the ideal solution would be a complete moratorium on all further immigration until further notice. David Blunkett may not be able to imagine any upper limit to the number of immigrants – but the rest of us most certainly can. We need to scrap the CRE or its forthcoming super-equality successor, and scrap almost all race relations laws – except those that, quite properly, prevent people from inciting violence on the grounds of ethnicity. Groups like the governmentsponsored Operation Black Vote should be disbanded. We should scrap all ‘targets’ for the professions and within the civil service. If someone attains a responsible office, it can then be clearly understood that they did so on their own merits, not as part of some backroom race-fixing.
Ethnic minority-specific professional bodies, housing associations, etc should be phased out. In employment, preference ought always to be given to native-born workers – even if this means raising wage levels and investing in technology. There should be compulsory teaching of English for all immigrants and compulsory lessons in British history for everyone in schools, and all new arrivals to the country. Non-English speakers should not be permitted to use their native languages in class. Official documents should only be available in English, Scots or Welsh. Although all should be free to pursue their own religious beliefs, Christianity should receive preferential treatment in law. But while the above reforms are all vitally necessary, they are treating the symptoms of the disease rather than the disease itself. The people of Britain need to regain respect for themselves, and their particular brand of Western civilization. For too long, the indigenous people of Britain have been deprived of knowledge of, or pride in, their history, their traditions, their customs and beliefs. While the Tories were sorting out the trade unions, the ultra-Left was capturing and distorting the minds of the Britons of the future.
Thanks to the Left’s long, surreptitious war against the dominant culture, the indigenous people of Britain have been relativized, bowdlerized, hectored, cajoled and threatened into a kind of nationwide neurosis. This ethnic angst has made them vulnerable to the pandemics of multiculturalism, reverse racism, racial guilt and political correctness, which in turn have allowed our present immigration problems to assume such overweening importance. This political gelding process needs to be reversed, and the gelders need to be given their P45s. The British need once again to hold up their heads – to be proud of who they are – to be cognizant of their historical achievements – and to feel confident about the future. We need much less deconstructionism and more constructionism – less relativism and more revivalism. We need to ditch decades of ill-informed sentiment and dogma about race, and to drive home to flabby minds certain non-negotiable (if sometimes discomfiting) truths. Multiculturalism means nonculturalism.
Nations need a shared language and shared customs – or else they are not nations. Diversity is not a strength, but a weakness. Human beings are not interchangeable economic units, but members of discrete racial groups, with innate characteristics that cannot be wished away. Our sleepwalking politicians and ideologues have finally begun to realise that race exists, as a social, political, cultural and soon biological reality. This realisation, if long overdue and still half-hearted, is nonetheless welcome – and may yet help save Britain’s unique character and charm for future generations.
Derek Turner, 37 year old journalist and editor of .....
- That is sadly no longer with us.
An independent, London-based magazine of politics, ideas and culture set up to articulate unfashionable and politically incorrect ideas of all kinds.