Friday, November 30, 2007

A Nation Of Immigrants


Not all immigrants have been welcomed

I was watching the BBC's Question Time programme last night, and not for the first time I was struck by the ignorance of those who push themselves forward to rule over us.

The question was whether mass immigration is leading to Britain losing its identity?

Now, after a decade in which another 2.2 million foreigners (nearly 4% of our population) have come to live here (see this blog), and with two-thirds of Brits now saying they feel our culture is under threat, you'd think the panel would take it seriously. But the only panellist who did so was Nigel Farage. The others variously described the issue as "stale", or soluble by yet more of that marvellously effective state planning.

Two of the panellists- Sarah Teather and Carolyn Flint- repeated the old nonsense about Britain being a nation of immigrants, and it hasn't done us any harm so far, so what's the problem?

Incredible. We thought everybody now understood the history of immigration. But it seems they don't. We need to refresh our memories.

The rose tinted Flint/Teather argument takes various forms. At its most ludicrous (put forward by a R5 phone-in caller who joined Tyler in the shower earlier this week), it says that until 500,000 years ago there were no humans in Britain at all. So we're all immigrants. So we should all be happy. So QED.

The slightly more sensible variant says we've had successive waves of immigration over the last 1,000 years- Huguenots, Jews, Ugandan Asians, etc- and we've always benefited hugely. So shut yer gob, and think of the economic pay-off.

At the risk of invoking the bleedin' obvious again, there are two key points to make.

The first is that the recent wave of immigration is on a scale we have NEVER, EVER seen before. Here are the 1066 And All That facts (taken from the Civitas paper 'A Nation of Immigrants? A brief demographic history of Britain' by David Conway- unfortunately not online):

  • 1066 - William the Conqueror arrives with c10,000 of those bad guys in chain mail; later, more arrive, but they never amount to more than c5% of the 1.5m population; even so, tensions between the immigrants and the indigenous population get so bad they eventually have to call in Kevin Costner
  • Next 600 years - nothing much to report; despite that, there are periodic massacres of established British Jewish communities (most notoriously at York in 1190)
  • 1685 - the Catholic Sun King's revocation of the Edict of Nantes leads to around 50,000 Protestant Huguenots coming to seek asylum in Britain (spread over the next thirty years or so); our population at the time is about 5m, so they represent an additional 1%
  • Next 200 years - nothing much to report
  • 1881 - the assassination of Tsar Alexander II triggers antisemitic pogroms in Russia and Poland; between 1880 and 1914, some 150,000 asylum seeking Jews settle in Britain, arriving at the rate of perhaps 10,000 a year; our population by then is about 30m, so they represent an additional 0.5%; despite their significant economic contribution, their arrival in London's East End is not universally welcomed, a tension later exploited by Oswald Mosley
  • 1935-1941 - 70,000 German and other Jews fleeing Hitler get asylum in Britain; our population is about 48m so they represent an additional 0.15%; nevertheless, on the commencement of hostilities, many are interned as dangerous aliens
  • 1939-49 - 300,000 Poles and other East Europeans fleeing the Nazis and the Commies settle here; our population is about 50m so they represent around 0.6%
  • 1948 - Empire Windrush arrives at Tilbury with 492 West Indian immigrants, many returning servicemen
  • 1955-1962 - 472,000 immigrants arrive from the Commonwealth, 0.9% of our 53m population; escalating racial tension and riots prompt government to impose immigration controls from 1 July 1962
  • 1962-1980 - Commonwealth immigration continues at 70-75,000 pa; rivers of blood averted, but tensions continue
  • 1972- 30,000 Ugandan Asians fleeing Idi Amin get asylum in Britain; they represent 0.05% of our population
  • 1980-1996 - Commonwealth immigration around 50,000 pa; net immigration close to zero
  • 1997 onwards - average 220,000 pa net immigration, partially offset by 70,000 pa net emigration of Brits; 2.2m new foreign immigrants in 10 years represents 3.7% of the population; BNP gets 48 local councillors elected

Notice any patterns?

From the Huguenots, to the Jews, to the Poles (Mk I), to the Ugandan Asians, virtually all of that historic immigration comprised asylum seekers, not economic migrants. And crucially, the scale of all these historic episodes was much MUCH smaller, averaging well under 1% of the indigenous population.

The second broad point is that despite what people like Teather assert, there is no serious evidence that Britain's recent mass immigration has made us any richer. According to the highly respected National Institute for Economic and Social Research (and see their Lords submission here), immigration between 1997 and 2005 raised GDP by 3.1%. But since it increased our population by 3.8%, it actually depressed GDP per head, which is what really matters.

Once again, we're left scratching our heads. Do people like Teather and Flint really believe what they say? Have they never checked the facts? Or do they think mouthing Progressive Consensus platitudes will somehow make the problem go away?

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