Tuesday 24th April
Well, there is nothing like being topical – but, as many of you know, I have written about this before. It wasn’t just Brexit, but that helped – it suddenly became okay to speak about being concerned about immigration. But what exactly were people worried about. Immigrants usually do the jobs which the native population doesn’t want to do, like working in catering or fruit and veg picking. They are usually poorly paid. They do pay taxes and very few claim benefits. Most are in their Twenties and don’t have children to be educated. They don’t tend to be old and have long-term illnesses which costs the NHS so much In fact many come here to be nurses and doctors, roles we struggle to fill without them.
It is really a cultural fear; that somehow our ‘British’ identity is being lost. True, there are a few towns where immigrants tend to congregate, and where little English is spoken, and more should have been done to promote integration. But this fear of immigration tends to be an older generation’s concern. Younger people are more likely to have gone to school with, or worked alongside, immigrants. There is also an urban, rural split, with those living in cities where they are rubbing shoulders with immigrants more likely to be tolerant. Many rural communities have little or no contact with immigrants but seem to be worried about them the most.
It is no accident also that these older people, living in smaller towns and villages vote Conservative. They don’t want things to change. And the Tories know this, and have bowed to their views (which some may call prejudices). For the last 8 years in power they have banged on about immigration, even having a target and failing badly to get the annual numbers down to below 100,000 net immigrants. Theresa May, as Home Secretary, and now Prime Minister has been among the most virulent. There are now leaks that many fellow Cabinet members expressed concern at the vitriolic language and the more and more draconian policies she introduced. An inordinate amount of money is spent on tracking down and deporting those who (in the polite words) have outstayed their welcome. More and more those suspected of being an illegal immigrant are required to ‘prove’ their right to remain – before they can rent a flat, before they can get a job, before they can be treated by the nhs even. And actually the numbers being discovered are still tiny, but the suffering is wide-scale. Along with the Brexit decision, immigrants are being made to feel less and less valued and in many cases despised. We should all be appalled by the treatment of the Windrush children, but not surprised. Amber Rudd is now trying to blame officials for interpreting too cruelly the policies. But it is her and Theresa May who not only passed the laws but have created the, in their own words, ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants. A national disgrace, I am afraid.