On Thursday night I spoke at the Oxford Union on the motion ‘This House believes post-war immigration into Britain has been too high.’
In many ways this is an easy debate to explain and win, notwithstanding the fact that Lord Singh, Nadhim Zahawi MP and Monica Ali were lined up in opposition. The Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has said immigration has been too high and that he wants to bring it down. The Labour Leader Ed Miliband has said the same. As have all major, mainstream British politicians.
And no wonder. A British Social Attitudes survey from last year showed 77 per cent of the British public want immigration to come down. Almost 60 per cent want it to come down by ‘a lot’. Even those Labour ministers who presided over what was undeniably the most appalling relaxing – or rather disintegrating – of our borders from 1997 onwards have admitted they got it wrong. ‘A spectacular mistake’ was how Jack Straw described it last year.
So, as I say, a fairly easy motion to win. With only two problems.
First of course is that there are still some people – including, it seems, many Oxford students – who hear ‘too much immigration’ and think ‘Eek, this is about my friend/ my great-great-grandmother etc. And then on Thursday there was also the fact that on my side, speaking before me, there was a student and Godfrey Bloom.
I must say that I’ve never had any particular views on the expelled UKIP MEP. I think plain-speaking politicians are too few on the ground, and recognise that Mr Bloom has a constituency. I also know very well how the press can misrepresent someone by cherry-picking and then harping on about a few select remarks made over the course of a life (Prince Phillip being a case in point), thus making the person out to be more of a fool than they are.