Much has been made about recent claims that New labour used mass immigration to, in the words of Janet Daley, ‘alter the nation’s soul‘.
Now, firstly I ought to say that I’m not too sure about the sinister gloss that has been liberally applied to this, and the conspiracy theory regarding a cover-up seems to me a little too fantastical to be wholly accurate. In short, I’m not sure one draft policy paper makes a case, and even if it did then it would appear to me that talk of a conspiracy to ‘fundamentally change the make-up of British society’ is something a little too ambitious for politicians who have difficulty keeping track of their council tax payments.
This is not, however, to say that mass immigration has not had a serious impact, perhaps even the kind of impact that the conspiracy theorists think was intentional. And one suspects that we, as a society, shall be picking up the pieces for some years yet. However, politically speaking Labour have been the biggest losers here, since the traditional working class vote has upped sticks and moved elsewhere in greater numbers than the largely Labour voting immigrant communities that have come to replace them. Something that, if this were a conspiracy, makes it a pretty dumb one, and I’m not so naive as to think that certain New Labourites, whilst wrong, are really all that dumb.
This does, however, leave the vexed issue of immigration. To my own mind, immigration, even at its current levels, would not have caused half the problems it has generated were it not for the essentially nihilistic doctrine of cultural relativism that has underpinned it. To believe in everything is to believe in nothing – and to believe in nothing is to deny the importance of everything. The resentment stirred up about mass immigration is, in my experience, more strongly cultural than economic – and a reaction against the perceived tendency of the cultural and political establishment to denigrate the traditions, culture and customs of Britain. The noble ideal of multiculturalists was to unite diversity under the banner of ‘Britishness’ – the problem is that they tended to deny the particularities of British culture in order to do it.
And so in the end the numbers are not really the issue here: it would be wrong to think that you solve native unrest by merely shrinking the arrivals lounges at airports across the UK (and risk losing some valuable skills along with it). Groups such as the racist BNP will, to my mind, still gain traction even if immigration was to be stopped altogether, because the argument they seek to offer taps in to widespread disgruntlement with an overriding ideology – it would be tragic if they were to be allowed a free-ride simply because none of the mainstream political traditions dared question the cosy liberal consensus or supine cultural relativism that so irks an essentially socially conservative populace. As such, the attempted solution needs to be much bolder than a managerial obsession with numbers – lest the nation’s soul, to evoke the language of Daley, continue to darken, and the racist BNP continue to rise.