Douglas Murray

In defence of Theresa May’s immigration remarks

In defence of Theresa May's immigration remarks
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Some politicians and pundits are brewing a perfect storm across Europe. Migrants are heading into our continent illegally in record numbers, and at the same time many politicians and pundits are spending their time trying to deride and shut down anybody who might be concerned about this. Last week I mentioned Angela Merkel’s skewed priorities in spending even a nanosecond worrying about what Europeans are writing on Facebook about this mass migration rather than trying to get a grip on the influx itself. The combination of a historic change in our continent and a simultaneous push from the top to police what the rest of society is meant to say or think about this would strike me as the best way possible to convert a decent response now into an indecent response down the road.

We have seen a fine demonstration of that yesterday with some hyperbolic and hysterical reactions from portions of the commentariat to Theresa May’s Conservative Party conference speech. To judge from their self-hyped tones you might think that the Home Secretary had made ‘blacks out’ the central message of her speech, rather than such nuanced phrases as:

'When immigration is too high, when the pace of change is too fast, it's impossible to build a cohesive society. It's difficult for schools and hospitals and core infrastructure like housing and transport to cope.'

But no, even this is the sort of talk which some people would like to make beyond the pale.

Of course there aren’t very many people who want more mass immigration (a recent poll suggested a mere seven per cent in the UK). But those there are seem disproportionately represented among the political and media class. Such people want to push back against any and all negative observations about the consequences of mass immigration into the UK. They insist, for instance, that a city like London is successful only because of its diversity and multiculturalism. Ergo every city in the UK should be made to be like London. They have no answer to the point that London was in fact quite a successful city even before the era of mass immigration. Nor, it often strikes me, do many of these commentators spend very much time in any but the most salubrious parts of London. Besides, if ‘diversity’ and ‘multiculturalism’ look like Tower Hamlets then I would bet that most people in the UK would rather their towns didn’t become like that.

But then why should the people have any say in this? Every poll carried out for years has shown that a majority of the British people want immigration reduced. Occasionally a major politician will throw the public a bone by saying how opposed they too are to mass immigration and how much they want to bring it down by. But strangely they never manage to follow up on such boasts. The real attitude of most politicians for two decades, with much of the commentariat as a backing chorus, has been to ignore the polls, rub the public’s nose in ‘diversity’ and ensure that anybody who doesn’t suck it up is called a racist.

To pull this off it seems you only need a sprinkle of misrepresented history. Within seconds of any criticism of multiculturalism you can always find someone who will talk about earlier waves of immigration, usually starting with the Huguenots. But as anybody who is concerned about the facts rather than pro-mass immigration propaganda can tell you, this country saw the arrival of around 50,000 French Huguenots from the 1680s. This was such a large movement of people that we still talk about it. But that historic number is equal to only about six or seven weeks of average immigration from the Blair era onwards, up to and including this glorious era of heightened immigration over which David Cameron and Theresa May (against all their promises) now preside. Of course it took centuries for the wave of Huguenot immigration to be fully absorbed – and these were people who shared much of the religion and culture of the existing populations of these islands. The same number who now arrive once every couple of months now - rather than just once - are not French Protestants. Nor are they the incomparably cultured and educated Jews who had to flee from Hitler’s Germany. They are people who mostly have no connection with our existing country or culture and often have a very different view of how a country and culture should be run. And even if it were true that the waves of immigration up till now had all ended happily, why should it be presumed that it will necessarily have a happy ending this time? In any case it seems a strange experiment to carry out, unasked, upon a nation.

Nevertheless, other specious arguments can always be made to patronise or silence the majority of the public who want a slow-down in the rate of immigration. Against stiff competition one of the most dishonest is the argument that people who live in very ‘multicultural’ areas have the most positive views of mass immigration and that the problem is the kind of knuckle-dragging racists you allegedly find everywhere outside of London. This particular smear has several interesting flaws, not the least of which is that it ignores the possibility that many people who see the area around them change out of all recognition often (if they have the money) make their home elsewhere. Many people who lived in an area like Tower Hamlets but who don’t like living in a place where a growing number of women walk around in black tents moved away some time ago. Such people will of course now be registered as people who haven’t experienced enough ‘diversity’. But perhaps they have. Perhaps they have experienced more than enough and learnt, besides, that much of what is called ‘diversity’ has begun to look distinctly un-diverse.

As I say, Theresa May and David Cameron have failed very clearly at setting out what they said they would do. They have not brought immigration down to the tens of thousands a year rather than the hundreds of thousands. Indeed last year’s immigration figures saw a net ten-year high. Any reasonable critique of the Home Secretary’s speech would identify this fact and point out, with some appropriate cynicism, the difference between Theresa May’s words and her actions.

At a time when the Sweden Democrats and Marine Le Pen are topping the polls in their respective countries this should be a good time to urge mainstream politicians like Theresa May, David Cameron and Angela Merkel to bridge the growing divide between public opinion and the political mainstream. But pretending that Theresa May's speech to conference was some racist diatribe deliberately pushes the public and the mainstream politicians further apart. They constitute an effort to scare other mainstream politicians away from treading into this territory. I wish such people knew what they were doing, because the only people who will benefit from their tactics are people far, far outside the political centre surrounding Mrs May.

Written byDouglas Murray

Douglas Murray is Associate Editor of The Spectator. His most recent book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity is out now.

Topics in this articlePoliticsimmigrationtheresa may