As the Trojans found to their cost: beware of Greeks bearing gifts. And in a similar vein: beware of politicians bearing apologies, especially when it is not really an apology. These thoughts were prompted by Jack Straw’s statement that allowing hundreds of thousands of Poles to come to Great Britain after Poland joined the EU in 2004 was a “spectacular mistake.” Except, of course, it wasn’t a mistake, it was a deliberate act.
Jack Straw, who was successively Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary under the last Labour government, now suggests that the UK should have imposed the same seven year delay in allowing unrestricted entry to Poles after Poland joined the EU as all but three other EU countries did. Although he now claims that the policy actually followed was a spectacular mistake he seeks, writing in his local paper, to excuse the government on the grounds that it thought that lifting the transitional restrictions on the Eastern European states like Poland and Hungary which joined the EU in mid-2004 would be good for Britain. While Home Office research suggested that only small numbers of between 5,000 and 13,000 immigrants per year up to 2010 would arrive, in his words “events proved these forecasts worthless. Net migration reached close to a quarter of a million at its peak in 2010. Lots of red faces, mine included.” Jack Straw, who will retire as an MP at the next general election (which will be in 2015) claimed the move was a “well-intentioned policy we messed up.”
The timing of these comments is interesting since it is less than two months before the UK relaxes its border restrictions for Romanian and Bulgarian citizens and there is already great concern at the impact this will have. Straw, ever the politician, will be aware at the frustration in the UK caused by what has been, in effect, uncontrolled immigration. Indeed, much of this frustration his caused by the fact that that the electorate has never been given an opportunity to vote on immigration at all during the last fifty years with even rational discussion of the subject having been prevented by the totalitarian intolerance of the PC brigade and fellow travelers. If any policy is to gain widespread acceptance – especially one which has the potential to change the nature of the country profoundly – it must be agreed upon democratically.
No, what this policy was really about – and many of the immigrants have come from far beyond the borders of the EU – was the pursuit of the typical left wing objectives of destroying institutions and electoral gerrymandering. The calculation of Straw (whose constituency has a large Muslim immigrant population) and his ilk has always been that immigrants are more likely to vote Labour which is why the Labour party was keen to have so many of them. At the same time, Labour’s true commitment to democracy was shown by the removing the vote from British citizens who have been out of the UK for 15 years or more, doubtless because they were thought to be less likely to vote Labour. And, of course, the Conservatives have not been averse to large scale immigration either because they think they are doing business a favour. Neither has ever troubled to ask the electorate its views.
What has now changed is that with the vast numbers involved, the country’s resources – schools, hospitals, welfare budgets, and so on, are under pressure, and the goodwill of the population as whole is being tested, as never before. This, combined with appeasement of those who simply have no desire to fit in or are openly hostile but nonetheless have a well-developed sense of imagined grievance and entitlement, means that the frustration may boil over into civil strife which nobody wants. Indeed, David Blunkett, Jack Straw’s successor as Home Secretary, warned this week that the arrival of large numbers of Roma might spark riots, based on recent experiences in his own Sheffield constituency. This, of course, the same David Blunkett who was standing up in the House of Commons telling folk that he had the borders under control when, in reality, government policy was to remove those controls.
Of course, there are positive aspects to immigration but, as with most things in life, a sensible balance has to be struck, a balance has been all too lacking hitherto. Short term political calculations should not be allowed to prejudice the general well-being and immigration on the scale which Europe – not just the UK – now faces is as unprecedented as the consequences are unknown (although probably predictable). As I have written before, if main stream politicians will not engage with concerns of the electorate in a rational and constructive way then the extremists will. We already seeing this in Greece and Hungary and, albeit closer to the mainstream, with a new French-Dutch grouping led by Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders to fight elections to the EU parliament. And looking beyond the immediate tensions, the falling birth rates among Europeans and high birth rates among non-European immigrants mean that it will not be long before Europeans face the possibility of being a minority in Europe. The Roman Empire fell when Romans gave up traditional Roman values and thought that any difficulties could be overcome simply by importing ever more non-Romans who in fact, didn’t actually themselves really wish to become Romans.
From Poland’s point of view, the UK’s immigration policy has been a great success. Poland has exported unemployment, receive significant cash transfers from those working in the UK and elsewhere as well as enjoying vast amount is EU largesse to which the tax payers of the UK have contributed no small amount. And it would be unfair to criticize Poles for seizing the initiative and leaving Poland for better opportunities elsewhere. Indeed, Jack Straw is being disingenuous – migrants from Poland represent European culture – and the problems arise from overwhelming numbers who seek (and only because we fail to stand up for our own cultural values) ultimately to impose an alien culture.
Be that as it may, the mistake to which Jack Straw alludes has nothing at all to do with Poles, who have shown commendable initiative in seizing the opportunities available. No, the mistake has been to assume that the electorate cannot see through the cynicism, the sham regrets, the crocodile tears and the misdirection. Too scared to admit that for most folk the growing problem comes from militant Islam, he picks on the Poles who have been generally welcome arrivals. His parliamentary career and that of Blunkett has coincided with the most precipitous fall in esteem of politicians in the eyes of the electorate in the modern era – is it any wonder?