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Daily Telegraph
14 April 2011

Who is to blame for fractured Britain?

As David Cameron admits that Britain is disjointed by mass immigration, Ruth Dudley Edwards examines the consequences of our lax policies.

David Cameron has expressed concerns over mass immigration
Tensions: David Cameron has expressed concerns over mass immigration. Photo: NYT

I lived for 30 years in South Ealing in West London, which originally was a model little London village. The Poles who arrived after the war were thoroughly integrated, the Hindu shopkeepers got on with everyone, including the local Muslim residents, and although there were new immigrants from perhaps 20 countries, the pace of change was slow and unthreatening. We knew that nearby Southall had long since become an ethnic ghetto, but we were sure this would not happen to us. There were, perhaps, more Indian restaurants in South Ealing than anyone could possibly require, but the only local grumbles I can recall were about some Somali refugees who had trashed their council house.

We all ticked along in our own way. I liked living in South Ealing. But things changed. What ruined our community and the personality of our neighbourhood were the young Eastern Europeans who poured in from 2004 onwards. I am not criticising the character of these young migrants. They were generally hardworking, eager and ambitious. But they arrived all at once in large numbers and, most significantly, had zero interest in integrating. They lived and socialised exclusively together, watched Polish television channels via their satellite dishes, chatted to family back home for free on Skype, set up Polish shops to sell Polish food, newspapers and books, and they learnt only as much English as they had to. Seeing shop after little shop put up the words Polski sklep marked the end of the village I knew.

This is why I applaud the Prime Minister for admitting that people are profoundly disturbed by the havoc that mass immigration has wreaked on parts of Britain. “When there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods,” he said, “perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there, on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate, that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods.”

Many people across Britain – from big cities to smaller towns – will have nodded along to Mr Cameron’s comments. I now live in central London, which I love, but there is no pretence that it is a community: it is the most cosmopolitan city state in the world and largely reflects the upside of immigration – a dynamic employment market and a diverse cultural scene. The downside is visible a few Tube stops down the line from me in places like Tower Hamlets and New Cross where the communities are far more fractured than South Ealing. These areas also suffer from the worrying, spreading rash of Islamism.

Politicians’ consistent refusal to recognise the fractures and strains placed on communities by mass immigration has led to the voter on the street becoming more disillusioned than ever. I am a happy Irish immigrant who has always trusted the instincts of Joe Public. As ministers assured Joe that school standards were higher than ever, he knew they had gone to hell. Unlike his rulers, he knew that the way the welfare system worked encouraged idleness. Political correctness, he spotted, was being used to stifle freedom of speech, particularly about mass immigration. “You’re a racist if you say anything about all these foreigners coming here,” Joe would grumble to his mates, as he looked over his shoulder.

Many of us can identify with these concerns. And being sensible, like Joe Public, we do not blame immigrants for failing to integrate: the blame lies at the feet of our rulers for failing to set clear boundaries by requiring them to learn English, respect British culture and obey the house rules. Instead, the British have been exhorted to change the rules to accommodate the newcomers. It may come as no surprise to read that the Office for National Statistics has discovered that one in eight people in the UK is now foreign born.

The best-known example of Joe Public daring to raise his head above the parapet came in last year’s “Bigot-gate” furore – the encounter in Rochdale between Gordon Brown and Gillian Duffy. What was missed by many was how her voice trailed off: “You can’t say anything about immigrants because you’re saying you’re a…” “Racist” was the unuttered word.

What was bugging Mrs Duffy was that, in Rochdale, tensions between white British and those from Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslim backgrounds had been exacerbated by an influx of asylum-seekers from Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq. As the white population contracted, immigration and high birth-rates were driving up non-white numbers: a quarter of primary school children spoke English as a foreign language, and so ghettoised were ethnic minorities that there was one primary school where not one of the 453 children spoke English as a first language. And these problems are magnified in places like Luton, Bradford and Leicester.

But so seemingly “taboo” are these thoughts that even the redoubtable Mrs Duffy lacked the courage to tell her prime minister of the effects of multiculturalism on people like her. So in desperation, she spoke about the Eastern European influx, a few thousand of whom had arrived to work locally: “But there’s all these Eastern Europeans coming in. Where are they flocking from?” This was what prompted Brown to call her “bigoted”. What might he have called her if she had mentioned Africans, Muslims or Asians?

Assured by politicians that immigration is under control, locals have the evidence of their eyes and ears telling a different story, whether it be a sharp rise in the women wearing burkas or the newcomers without a word of English, the shortage of school places or the queues at the local medical centre. They know that authorities have underestimated the numbers of migrants in their areas – and that a sizeable portion of immigrants are illegal. As the Prime Minister pointed out, the unscrupulous can easily abuse the system, through, for instance, bogus student visas, people-smuggling and the horrific practice of forced marriages. Yesterday, Cameron took on the liberal establishment when he said: “I have no time for those who say this is a culturally relative issue – it is wrong, full stop, and we’ve got to stamp it out.” How did we end up in a situation where cultural relativism made sections of the educational and medical establishment turn a blind eye even to female genital mutilation?

Britain has long been renowned as tolerant and decent. Extremist parties have always struggled to achieve a sure footing here. And how our politicians relied on this tendency. The mainstream parties were allowed to dodge the issue, terrified of what the liberal media would do to anyone who spoke out of line. Sir Andrew Green of the Migration Watch think-tank who explained the bald facts of unplanned immigration, was treated until recently as a middle-class xenophobe. He must be having the last laugh now, as politicians have been forced to try to reverse the trend that saw well-meaning multiculturalism wreck communities.

A recent Populus poll showed that 63 per cent of whites, 43 per cent of Asians and 17 per cent of blacks thought immigration had been bad for Britain. Very few, however, wanted to stop all immigration, the vast majority believing, as the Prime Minister does, in a pragmatic approach that encourages immigrants to arrive who are for the country. His remarks, said his Liberal Business Secretary Vince Cable, were “unwise” and risked “inflaming extremism”. This is a misreading of reality. What has inflamed extremism and made Joe Public despair, Dr Cable, has been his sense of powerlessness. And if the Lib Dems are in trouble now, consider the implications of the response to the Populus poll’s question: “A new party is going to be set up which says it wants to defend the English, create an English Parliament, control immigration, challenge Islamic extremism, restrict the building of mosques and make it compulsory for all public buildings to fly the St George’s flag or the Union Jack.” 21 per cent said they would support it; 27 per cent would consider doing so; only 27 per cent would definitely not.

Joe Public is not a racist, but he is fed up being taken for a mug. With his speeches on the evils of multiculturalism and mass immigration, David Cameron is at last telling those on whom the British way of life depends that their views are worthy of respect.

Ruth Dudley Edwards


© Ruth Dudley Edwards