Alex Massie

Immigration: The BNP are Winning and Britain is Losing

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One of the odder aspects of contemporary politics is the amount of attention lavished upon the goons at the BNP. Anyone would think they were about to win the election. But they're not. Nevertheless, grant Nick Griffin and his pals this: they've managed to hijack the debate - such as it is - on immigration. Despite what the media might have you think, there is no party of open borders in this country.

Instead both the Tories and the Labour party effectively concede the argument to the BNP. Labour boast that they have immigration "under control" and then the Tories complain that the government isn't "cracking down" hard enough. The dreadful Phil Woollas and the likes of Damian Green may be more sophisticated than Griffin and his mob but they differ from him in degree, not in kind.

Perhaps this is simply a question of listening to the public mood. Perhaps the parties are saying We Get It. If so, then so be it. But if both main parties want to restrict immigration - of all kinds - then the question David asked yesterday becomes somewhat moot: many BNP voters vote for the party because they really just don't like foreigners and resent their presence in the United Kingdom.

Doubtless some have other reasons and feel neglected by the mainstream parties; doubtless some of the (still relatively minor) advances made by the BNP reflect a fragmentation of politics that is apparent in almost all western democracies in the post Cold War era but, fundamentally, if you vote for the BNP when the other parties agree with at least part of the BNP "analysis" of immigration then you're probably doing so because you think the other parties don't go far enough and won't send enough people "back".

Indeed, David suggests that Labour and the Conservatives must move "faster" and more loudly towards a closed-door approach to immigration. I don't, mind you, quite see how any "crack down" on "economic migrants" is compatible with our EU obligations. Then again, for some voters this is part of the problem, I suppose, even though the expansion of the EU eastward has been a boon for freedom.

Still, logically the anti-immigration voters should endorse Labour this year. After all the more barren this country's economic prospects the less appealling the UK will be to workers from abroad. The more impoverished and depressed the country becomes, the more immigration will decline. Of course, the more decrepit Britain comes, so more people will want to emigrate, many of them taking advantage of the same freedoms guaranteed by the EU that have, in happier, sunnier times, permitted all those ghastly economic migrants to come to live and work in this country.

Personally I think it would be grand if more people wanted to move to Britain. Everything has a price, of course, and it's just a question of priorities and the trade-offs that come with everything. But you can certainly argue that falling immigration rates are a demonstration of national failure, not the "success" of immigration policy.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.