Strange Times
February 24, 2004 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I feel like I have stepped through the looking glass.... first, we have the truly surprising but welcome sight of Michael Howard celebrating cultural diversity in Britain, then we have David Goodhart, editor of Prospect, apparently a magazine of the left, suggesting that perhaps we have quite enough immigrants in the UK for the moment, thank you. Goodhart's article is very provocative and very important, it's a debate that needs to be had and which has most certainly and entertainingly been joined by Trevor Phillips. I love a schism!
posted by Fat Buddha (11 comments total)
It's a thought that's going around. Here's Foreign Policy suggesting that the U.S. has quite enough Hispanic immigrants, thank you. (But then it's just Samuel "Culture Clash" Huntington, not a well-known progressive like Goodhart.)
posted by jfuller at 1:32 PM on February 24, 2004

I love schisms can never be too thin, have enough memory on hard drive, or pile up sufficient schisms.
posted by Postroad at 2:18 PM on February 24, 2004

I find it interesting that most histories of migration into mainland Britain start with the "Year Zero" 1950s Commonwealth migrations.

For the last thousand years the single largest and most sustained immigrant group into Britain has been the Irish.

Not for nothing was Johnny Rotten's biography entitled Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. Another interesting book, this time concerning Irish migration into the United States, is How the Irish Became White.

One generation's immigrant problem can easily become a succeeding generation's bulwark.

Of course, the classic example from history is the Western Roman Empire's inability to control the immigration of several million Germans across the Rhine and to stop them spreading throughout France, Spain, and Italy. The Roman Empire functioning through an amazingly prolonged and stable capo system of tithes, "euergetism", and bribes to sustain cities. The new Germanic immigrants had a more privatized, kin-related sense of entitlement and basically refused to pay taxes. The predictable result was the decline of the Empire's imperial defence and infrastructure projects and a retreat into regionalism.

Actually, the passing away of Western and African Roman cities around the 4th century is interesting. You had ruling families, stratification, and welfare structures that in some cases had endured for 600 years almost unchanged. But within a century, the unwillingness of the Germanic immigrants to pay into the existing system - along with the development of the Christian idea of Charity in place of levies - meant their rapid decay and abandonment or shrinkage.
posted by meehawl at 3:35 PM on February 24, 2004

Can someone recommend to me some good pro-immigration activist groups to get involved with in the UK? I'm just so goddamned tired of hearing about how awful it is that people want to immigrate into the UK. How apparently every immigrant is just jumping up and down in joy to get onto the dole and exploit those taxpayers' pounds. There has got to be someone out there who needs some willing volunteers.

My rage rises! Rawwwr!
posted by Katemonkey at 4:39 PM on February 24, 2004

Katemonkey, possibly the Refugee Council mentioned here.
posted by Flitcraft at 5:17 PM on February 24, 2004

I didn't read Howard's speech as celebrating diversity. He went to Burnley (which had voted in several far-right councillors) and said, "The BNP are bigots. We don't hate immigrants, but we would have stronger immigration controls if we were in power".

It strikes me as a clear case of trying to attract the votes of those who voted BNP last time to his party, just like the mainstream parties in France who want to attract the "moderate" racists from the National Front by banning headscarves etc.
posted by Pericles at 2:32 AM on February 25, 2004

I agree absolutely with Pericles. The first Guardian article linked is for the day before his speech when Howard's press releases were going on about his condemnation of the BNP but his actual speech was all about immigration, and actually had the nerve to mine his own history (parents were jewish wartime refugees to the UK, grandmother died in camp) whilst at the same time promoting his policy of keeping more immigrants out.
posted by biffa at 3:01 AM on February 25, 2004

The majority of people who support the BNP etc in the UK are not loony skinheads who beat up asians and jews. There are those people, sure, but the lion's share are "benign" racists who don't actively hate other colours/ cultures, just wish they weren't here "taking our jobs". My 84-year old grandmother is exactly like this.

These people would actually quite likely switch from the BNP to a traditional party who would control immingration, and that's who Howard and the French mainstream parties are targetting. In one way, it's good - reduces support for the far far far right. But I worry about the fact, as the FPP shows, liberals are advocating immingration control.

Saying that, I agree with the idea of only allowing new-EC members come into the UK if they have a job to come to.
posted by Pericles at 3:45 AM on February 25, 2004

I read propect when I remember to pick up a copy and always enjoy the many articles therein. I certainly do not agree with all arguments that are put forward but that in itself is not sufficent reason for not discussing a given topic. I do not think the lexicon of trevor phillips in the linked article is particularly helpful, terms such as 'liberal Powellites' are particularly loaded. Enoch powell will always be associated with the rivers of blood speech as it became known therefore whenever this debate is to be had referring to such a divisive speech is not particularly helpful.
posted by johnnyboy at 4:04 AM on February 25, 2004

Saying that, I agree with the idea of only allowing new-EC members come into the UK if they have a job to come to.

This recent debate seems to be odd to me. Firstly, I'm glad that we have freedom of movement within the EU, but I was also under the impression that all 15 of the pre-2004 countries already had measures in place so that people from one member state can't just roll up in another member state and sign on for benefits - they have to work for a minimum period first. This is intended to stop every unemployed person in the EU rolling up in either Copenhagen or Benidorm. Am I right to think these protections exist and what are the differences between this and what will happen with citizens of the new member states? How much of the stories in the press are just scare stories?
posted by biffa at 5:07 AM on February 25, 2004

Exactly, Biffa - and that's why i see no problem with the current proposals. Come here if you've got a job, use the NHS etc, and if you lose that job after 12 months, you've a right to unemployment benefits. Seems legitimate to me.

If I were Cypriat, though, I'd be shitting myself about loads of Brits and Germans snapping up holiday homes on Cyprus and pricing Cypriat youth out of the market.
posted by Pericles at 5:32 AM on February 25, 2004

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