A rather typical 24 hours in the life of modern Britain. Everyone does another round of ‘we need to be able to talk about immigration.’ The main parties once again say (as though this were a great revelation to the rest of us) that it is not racist to talk about immigration. The Labour and Conservative representatives then go on the BBC’s Question Time and claim that the Ukip candidate (now Ukip MP) for Rochester and Strood is a racist. And a Labour shadow minister mocks the awfulness of people who fly the national flag.
Meantime, if you scroll down the news stories you can read about the chief inspector of Ofsted’s discovery that ‘pupils at six small Muslim private schools in east London are at risk of extremist views and radicalisation’. As with the Birmingham ‘Trojan Horse’ case and similar cases elsewhere in the country, the parents and governors at the school have responded by attacking Ofsted and claiming that Muslims are being victimised.
And that’s the thing, you see. We keep saying we want to ‘have a debate’ and ‘discuss’ immigration. But we don’t. Not really. What we want to do is to please ourselves by saying – for instance – how wonderful the NHS is thanks to immigration and then ignore the real, long-term downsides and challenges that come along with mass immigration of the scale we have seen in recent years. We seem intent on ignoring the facts even as they keep cropping up all around us. Will the latest Ofsted inspection lead to a serious discussion of whether it is wise to keep letting large numbers of Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh into the UK? Or how on earth we plan to integrate and adapt to British values the millions who are already here? Of course it won’t. To have that debate would be ‘racist’. So we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we’re having a debate, nor have any real intention to do so.
Pretty bleak really. Though if you need cheering up might I suggest one failsafe option? Dwell on the number ‘349’. That is the number of votes that the Liberal Democrats got in Rochester and Strood. 349. It’s beautiful. I can’t stop laughing. There – it’s happened again. 349. It’s wonderful. The new magic number. A number that has the potential to bring a limitless amount of happiness when you think on it.