What is wrong with the now almost daily apologies about mass immigration? Today it is the turn of Jack Straw. The former Home Secretary has just admitted that opening Britain’s borders to Eastern European migrants was a ‘spectacular mistake.’ He acknowledges that his party’s 2004 decision to allow migrants from Poland and Hungary to work in Britain was a ‘well-intentioned policy we messed up‘. The Labour government famously predicted that a few thousand people would come, while the actual figure ended up being closer to a million.
Of course apologies are normally intended to draw a line under a matter. But how could that possibly occur when all three main parties are currently committed to making the exact same mistake again? The doubtless ‘well-intentioned’ coalition government will next year allow in a new wave of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria. And they are dismissing their critics in just the same way as the Labour government did back in the day. Last week the Conservative party’s representative on Question Time, Anna Soubry, performed the very 2004 tactic of dismissing all fears over this as ‘prejudice’ and ‘scaremongering’. So it looks like we will go around and down again. ‘Racist’, ‘prejudice’ and ‘fear-mongering’ will all once again be deployed by the incumbent political class at the exact moment when their predecessors are finally partially apologising for the last round.
Ten years ago it was David Blunkett who was doing the smearing. Using Parliamentary privilege he memorably dismissed mainstream critics of Labour’s immigration policy as ‘bordering on the fascist’. So how amusing yesterday to see that very same former Home Secretary now warning in the most panicked terms about the consequences of opening up our borders to Bulgaria and Romania. Blunkett now says that the influx of more Roma into Britain could lead to riots in British cities.
All of which constitutes a nice example of the appalling debate this country continues to have about immigration. All the main parties – including Ed Miliband’s Labour party – admit that immigration went badly out of control during the Blair era. But all are committed to repeating the same mistake. In lieu of any decent policy to prevent this happening the people who oversaw this disaster come out and apologise or give alarmist warnings or suggestions for secondary integration policies which are no use at all. David Blunkett said yesterday: ‘We have got to change the behaviour and the culture of the incoming Roma community.’
Oh yes – and how exactly would he propose that we do that? Haven’t we learned that it is in fact quite difficult to utterly change the behaviour and culture of an incoming culture when it arrives in huge numbers? Well never fear, Blunkett has clearly thought about this. He says, ‘We have got to be tough and robust in saying to people, “you are not living in a downtrodden village or woodland” – because many of them don’t live in areas where there are toilets or refuse collection facilities.’
Well there are now 200,000 Roma in Britain. And the political parties are united behind a policy which is going to allow in, at the very least, many thousands more. I suppose we can look forward to an apology from David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Anna Soubry in about 2021. But here’s an idea: why don’t we circumvent the future humiliating apologies, and all the years of miserable attempts at integration and just not fling open our borders in the first place?
Crazy talk, I know.