Immigration. Were you aware that this has become a bit of a problem these past ten years? I wasn’t, obviously, because like all credulous idiots I get my news from a single trusted source, the BBC, and as a result I’ve known for some time now that immigration is great, regardless of what the facts and figures are.
I know, for example, that all those warnings by evil right-wing MPs about a potential ‘flood’ which might ‘swamp’ Britain were dangerously inflammatory ‘dog-whistle’ politics; that eastern Europeans have a work ethic that puts our native population to shame; that all the cleverest think tanks tell us that immigration represents a boon to our economy; that we are a nation of immigrants and that this is what has made us great; that anyone who thinks otherwise is ‘racist’; and so on.
This week the BBC tried a cunning new variant on this theme called The Truth about Immigration (BBC2, Tuesday). By roping in notionally right-leaning Nick Robinson to present it and by trailing it as some kind of massive volte-face the BBC sought to give the impression that it was saying something new, controversial and daring.
It wasn’t really, though. Sure, there were some sops to reality: interviews with dejected native northerners (including a second-generation Asian), upset by the Roma gangs hanging around on street corners and dumping rubbish everywhere; ex-Labour minister Jack Straw expressing ‘regret’ at the way his administration had underestimated the scale of immigration by a factor of ten; scenes of English people at the New Forest show wondering where their country had gone. Underneath all that distracting surface detail, though, here was the same old BBC feigning a critique of Britain’s disastrous immigration policy but ending up presenting an apologia for it.
Consider, for example, its predictably lazy analysis of Enoch Powell’s 1968 Rivers of Blood speech. According to the programme, this was what for years after rendered all serious discussion of the race and immigration issue politically untenable. What it didn’t attempt to grapple with, though, was why this might have been.
Was Powell’s speech disturbing, lurid, nightmarish — inflammatory even? Why yes, very likely, but that was rather the point — much as, say, Fiver’s blood-drenched visions were in Watership Down. You don’t deliver urgent warnings in such a way as to lull your audience into complacency, do you?
Now, when confronted by a speech like Powell’s (or Fiver’s), there ought, in any rational world, to be two logical responses: either you agree with it and discuss the best practical response or you disagree with it and explain why you think it’s rubbish and that no action should be taken. This is how free speech and civilisation work.
Not, however, if you think like the BBC. Rather, you choose the third way of deciding that the language you have heard is so discomfiting that the argument must be declared off-limits for two generations — even if this means that the nightmare vision you found so offensive starts to come true. The reason the BBC can never talk honestly about the immigration problem, in other words, is that it is largely responsible for shaping the cultural and dialectical mindset that made it possible.
That would explain another of the programme’s sleights of hand — the way it concluded by offering a false dichotomy, between continued economic growth on the one hand and (relative) cultural homogeneity on the other. Even Nigel Farage was co-opted into conceding this point, saying that he would prefer Britons to have lower average incomes if that was the price to be paid for less immigration. (You wonder how much else of what he said, rather less convenient to the BBC’s narrative, was left on the cutting-room floor. Acres, I’m guessing.)
But this just isn’t true. As the 2008 House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report on the Economic Impact of Immigration found, ‘immigration has very small impacts on GDP per capita’. Even the NIESR — one of the BBC’s favourite left-leaning think tanks — agreed in 2011 that the impact of eight eastern European countries joining the EU between 2004 and 2009 would have a ‘negligible’ long-term impact on UK GDP per capita.
So all this overcrowding, all this destruction of social cohesion, all this unwelcome pressure on our schools, hospitals and transport infrastracture, all this dilution of what used to be our national identity has been inflicted on us, by our remote political class, against our wishes, to no useful purpose whatsoever. What a fantastically interesting subject for a documentary that would be. Now I wonder who is going to make it.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 11 January 2014Tags: BBC, Enoch Powell, Immigration, Nick Robinson, Nigel Farage, The Truth about Immigration