Alex Massie

The Nonsensical Neather Plot

Text settings

Conspiracies are all the rage these days. And since this has turned into Immigration Week here one might as well address the Neather Brouhaha. This, British readers will need no reminding, refers to the uncovering of the nefarious New Labour plan to destroy Britain and spike the Tories' guns forever by destroying this green and pleasant land and turning it into a multi-cultural hellhole.

We are led to understand that this was indeed a deliberate plot, apparently borrowed from the Democrats' presumed determination to make the United States a Spanish-speaking Banana Republic. The evidence [sic] for this rests upon two paragraphs from an article written by a former government speechwriter. According to Andrew Neather, a report from Downing Street's Performance and Innovation Unit [sic] saw immigration as a massive political opportunity for the government:

But the earlier drafts I saw also included a driving political purpose: that mass immigration was the way that the Government was going to make the UK truly multicultural.

I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended - even if this wasn't its main purpose - to rub the Right's nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date. That seemed to me to be a manoeuvre too far.

Cock-up is always less satisfying than conspiracy. So I think Melanie Phillips utterly wrong when she claims that this Neather revelation demonstrates that:

There could scarcely be a more profound abuse of the democratic process than to set out to destroy a nation’s demographic and cultural identity through a conscious deception of the people of that nation.

It's rather reminiscent of the Iraq War debate. Everyone who disapproves of either the decisions that were made or how they panned out is convinced there was a ghastly conspiracy afoot. And so, for instance, if a junior speechwriter makes the point in an initial draft of a Prime Ministerial speech on the issue that there'll be some benefit for the UK in Iraq's oil reserves being held by a more pro-western compant then, hell, there's your smoking gun: it was all about oil! Even if this part of the speech never made it into the final draft. It shows what they were really thinking, right?

No. It doesn't. Because it wasn't all about oil at all. It might have been wrong, but it wasn't done because of that wrong reason. Ancillary benefits - and especially hypothetical ancillaries that may or may not prove to be benefits at all - are not really the kind of stocks politicians like to trade.

Be that as it may, you need not be an admirer of this government to appreciate that they have not deliberately tried to destroy this country. They may have been misguided or made even more than the usual number of mistakes but attributing all of this to malice is, in the end, spectacularly infantile and pointless.

For that matter the whole ZaNu Labour thing that is bizarrely popular with some is a grave insult to the Zimbabwean opposition. Done once it may be considered droll, done more frequently it makes you seem an unhinged idiot.

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.

Topics in this articlePoliticsimmigrationlabour party