We Need To Talk About Immigration. Some readers might be under the impression that we already do, that David Cameron's stated aim that immigration has been too high, and that we should aim for net migration in the "tens of thousands" is proof that the years of silence are over, that the taboo has been broken. Certainly, after speeches on the subject by both Cameron and Angela Merkel, it has become acceptable to talk about the damage done by an addiction to the divisive doctrine of multiculturalism, and the need instead for integration.
However, the truth remains that the circle of fear which exists around the discussion of the effects of immigration remains unbroken; it has been ring-fenced as effectively as government spending on foreign aid. Yes, there are the occasional calls for a "healthy, open debate", but these are usually signals that discussion is about to cease. The economic benefits, so loudly trumpeted over the past decade, have now been shown to be virtually non-existent when measured against the costs. The wilder claim made by some Labour ministers, that Britain's amazing prosperity was largely due to immigration, now looks like a very bad joke indeed.
But it remains easier, given the toxicity of this subject in the minds of the elites at least, to continue to parrot the received line about the benefits of mass immigration, if not economically then certainly culturally. Restaurants will be mentioned, Huguenots pressed into service once again. This is understandable. Few people relish the thought of being cast out into a social or professional wilderness. There is no doubt that the population has effectively internalised the "worried about immigration = racist" mantra delivered to it from on high, so those with even the mildest qualms prefer to keep quiet. It's noticeable now that the topic is backed away from in social situations, even among friends. The very language in which it can be discussed has become a touchy subject: the word "indigenous" to describe the non-immigrant population has largely been replaced by bland terms such as "the settled" or "traditional" population. I have heard the even more weightless "people who are already here".
This would be consistent with the "narrative" of our history promoted in recent years which dictates that Britain is and always has been a nation of immigrants, a demographic hotchpotch, and that England in particular is merely, to quote the title of comedian Eddie Izzard's TV programme on the subject, a "mongrel nation". Challenge the veracity of these claims and one will be met with looks of unease. Most people might indeed sense that what they know of our history, indeed their very sense of themselves, is being subtly deconstructed for political reasons, but they go along with it for a quiet life. At a dinner party, when I took to task an academically clever young woman who asserted loudly that of course Britain had been invaded "so many times" throughout its history, it was I who was left feeling rather alone at the table, despite the fact that what she had said was immediately understood by everyone else there to be complete nonsense.
The prohibitive atmosphere means that the continuing extraordinary levels of immigration (and contrary to anything the government says, they remain at the same levels as existed under Labour) are met largely with a resigned shrug by a population who no longer believe the political will to change the situation exists. Net migration to the UK rose last year by 20 per cent, to 239,000 — the difference between 575,000 incoming and 336,000 outgoing. By any standards these are staggering and historically unprecedented figures. Forty years after the restrictions put in place by the 1971 Immigration Act the numbers arriving are greater than anything that could have been imagined then.