RECENTLY I started to read a book called Bloody Foreigners. Written by a regular contributor to the New Statesman, Robert Winder, it seemed, at least initially, quite intriguing. I felt that I just might learn something.
However, my optimism quickly wilted as the author’s ultimate objective became clear, his patronising, sanctimonious style apparent. ‘What do you expect?’ I hear you say. ‘He’s a Leftie, a New Statesmanite, an arrogant member of the chattering Guardian-reading classes, a quixotic imbecile convinced by his own agitprop and self-righteous diatribes. You should have known better!’
But in the interests of balance, and in the knowledge that, like most fallible humans, I can be pretty blinkered myself, I thought I’d give it a go.
Needless to say, its message was banal and entirely predictable. Masquerading as an example of learned scholarship and objective commentary, the book purports to be a history of immigration to Britain.
However, its barely concealed prejudices are quickly revealed as the author’s true intentions become clear. Winder aims to convince the reader – as long as he doesn’t alienate him first with his sententious, pontifical tone – that no reasonable person could possibly oppose unencumbered immigration.
After all, he argues, Britain has been the destination for untold numbers of immigrants for centuries. If you go back far enough, we are all the descendants of foreign peoples seeking new opportunities and better lives. How can we possibly deny to others what was granted to us? Moreover, if our provenance can be traced to foreign climes, how can we claim to be homogeneous and, worse still, the proprietors of the land we arbitrarily call Great Britain?
In essence he implies that Britishness, as we think we understand it, based on shared customs, values and traditions, does not exist. It is a myth, a human construct, a figment of our imagination. We are, and always have been, a multicultural salad bowl.
Of course he does have a point. We are the descendants of immigrants, and we are a strange hybrid people as a consequence; but over the last two millennia, we, the disparate peoples of these islands, have developed a collective consciousness and visceral sense of belonging that the Left, with its purblind devotion to social liberalism and natural hostility to the nation-state, finds hard to accept.
We have continued to absorb and assimilate newcomers, granted, even adopting many fine aspects of their native cultures, but this gradual process of cross-fertilisation has not undermined society’s social contract, expressed through our commitment to the nation-state. If anything, it has strengthened and renewed it.
Having said all that, it is important to recognise that immigration has not always resulted in inter-communal harmony. We should not, therefore, assume that it is always beneficial, for the immigrant or the indigene (sorry, Robert, I meant descendant of an earlier generation of immigrants).
Indeed, history tells us that inter-communal violence is no stranger to multi-confessional, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural societies. We should, as a consequence, be eternally vigilant, surely, and not take our hitherto exemplary record when it comes to assimilating newcomers for granted.
The key here is in the word assimilate. All immigrants must be assimilable. They must share our inalienable commitments to individual liberty, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law; they must also feel a deep affection for the history, institutions and traditions that have shaped and defended these defining principles.
Yet this eminently sensible objective is being undermined by mass immigration, a phenomenon encouraged by Lefties like Winder. How can we possibly guarantee the loyalty of every one of the 600,000 newcomers who arrive each year?
It is simply impossible. It therefore stands to reason that we must reduce the numbers to manageable levels. This would not only allow the authorities adequately to scrutinise each applicant’s suitability, it would also represent a response, albeit unintended, to a long-overdue recognition of humanity’s natural resistance to radical change.
Settled communities have been forced to endure unprecedented levels of immigration over the last 20 years, and continue to do so. Without any consultation, the defining characteristics of entire villages, towns and cities, loved and cherished by their inhabitants, have been irredeemably lost. In short, areas have been rendered unrecognisable.
To expect people graciously to welcome these alterations and embrace the liberal-Left-ordained creed of multiculturalism to boot – a creed that conspires to amplify the upheaval – is both arrogant and vacuous.
Being attached to the familiar is a very human instinct; moreover, it is a human instinct that should inspire pride, not shame. It is surely the job of government, therefore, to ignore the likes of Winder and satisfy this instinct by implementing policies that encourage gradual – not revolutionary! – change.
And surely now, with the Cummings/coronavirus saga dominating the political agenda, there’s no better time to move the national debate on? Over to you, Boris.