Well, what a huge difference a few years can make to the political landscape of the UK! In April 2006, the current Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, made a speech describing members of UKIP as "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", thereby continuing a forty year British establishment theme of demeaning, insulting and disparaging anyone who held a negative view on the subject of immigration, as opposed to the entirely positive one held by the mainstream policy makers and agenda setters of the time. Cameron's remarks in part echoed, but also surpassed those made his predecessor, the former leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard, who had been a little more measured in his public derision of UKIP, referring to them only as "cranks and gadflies", as if their existence, let alone their deeply held opinions mattered not a jot.
Perhaps Cameron's remarks regarding UKIP were a little more representative of those held by the wider political elite, believing as they did, that to entirely ignore the thorny subject of immigration, with its underlying racial connotations, was the best possible approach to adopt, rather than risk being accused of racism themselves. How much more convenient it was, to have a then minor party like UKIP raise the subject and have them carry the labels of being right wing, extremist, isolationist, or racist.
Even though UKIP's principal policy objectives centre around our country's continued membership of the European Union and everything that goes with that particular subject, the generally unmentionable and forbidden topics of migration, ethnicity, religion and race have become almost inevitably bound up in the same argument, possibly because the UK Independence Party has become a convenient political scapegoat for all of those delicate subjects that our mainstream politicians, commentators and reporters prefer not to discuss.
How much things seemed to have changed then, when today, some eight years after David Cameron's much repeated "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists" remarks were first uttered, we have national newspaper headlines proclaiming the fact that a new opinion poll suggests that up to 80% of people in the UK, now regard immigration as a major problem for our country. So why this sudden change in the public's attitude, when we've been previously led to believe that inward migration was never, ever a major issue for the bulk of the British people up until now; only for those small numbers of "cranks and gadflies", who were thought to have supported the likes of UKIP?
Obviously, the recent changes in employment rules regarding workers from Romania and Bulgaria have generated numerous column inches in most of the national press, as well as the subject having been discussed ad infinitum in the rest of the mainstream media, but is that the principal reason for this apparently sudden change in British attitudes towards foreign immigration? Over the past couple of years, the UK Independence Party has gained significant ground politically; an advance that has undoubtedly brought with it far more public attention to them and their policies, particularly regarding their views and proposals relating to immigration, but is that the real reason for four out of five people suddenly saying that inward migration is a major problem for Britain? Alternatively, the Internet and its amazing ability to educate and inform the masses might have played a part in helping people to recognise the reality of a serious socio-economic problem that in normal circumstances they would have been completely unaware of. Even today, millions of people still rely on the mainstream media to tell them what's going on in the country, watching news and events unfold that are prioritised and edited to suit the media's agendas, not necessarily those of their readers, listeners and viewers. But was it this new source of information technology that caused the British people to unexpectedly vote the way they did on the subject of immigration?
The answer one imagines, is that each of the above reasons have helped play their own small part in altering people's attitudes to and perceptions of more foreign migration into the UK. Given the almost endless coverage of the subject, bound up as it is, with the discussion of our continued membership of the EU, the European Convention on Human Rights; and the almost continuous refugee crises in one place or another, it is perhaps little wonder that people have been forced to look long and hard at the subject of migration, whether they actually wanted to or not.
One wonders though, whether or not the biggest causes of people seeming to change their minds about the supposed benefits of inward migration are far more obvious on the one hand; and much more subtle on the other. Firstly, there cannot be many British people who have failed to notice the changes inflicted on their own hometowns, the places where they live and where they were brought up, by the seemingly inexorable and unending influx of foreign migrants who have chosen to make Britain their permanent or temporary home. From the foreign tongues in the local shopping centre, to the foreign owned shop in the high streets, from the Eastern European children in the classroom, to the Eastern European tradesmen busily competing against the native born artisans. And often there is little point in the British national complaining about or confronting these foreign born incomers, as in common with the ill-thought-out Race Relations Act of some forty-odd years ago, most national legislation today only seems to work in one way, in that it protects the alien, but discriminates against the native. It can be no surprise therefore that as each year passes, the indigenous people's of Britain become more hostile and more resentful towards their foreign born neighbours, as what else is there left for them to do?
Secondly, it's worth remembering perhaps that much of the perceived tolerance that is said to exist in our country does so, not only because we are by nature a tolerant and generous people, by and large, but also because of the various pieces of legislative stricture, the "race" laws, which enforce "good" behaviour on us, when we are interacting with other races, other religions and other ethnicities. So rather than being a wholly free multicultural society, where everyone gets along with their fellow citizens because they choose to do so, we have in fact become a highly regulated society, where people get along with their neighbours, not simply because they want to, but often because they're made to, under threat of the law.
In the same way perhaps, up until recently, even expressing one's own personal opinions about immigration, never mind the more emotive issues of race, religion and ethnicity, had become something akin to a "thought crime", one that might be punished by law, if you were unfortunate enough to utter your personal beliefs or opinions in front of a potentially offended witness. As one of Enoch Powell's local constituents hinted at in the late 1960's, we have essentially handed a legal whip to both our political establishment and to every supposed "racial discrimination" victim, so we shouldn't be surprised, when they decide to beat us with it on every conceivable occasion.
As part and parcel of that discussion, the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, admitted that he would much rather see Britain as a slightly poorer, less economically active society, if that meant far fewer foreign immigrants being brought into the country ostensibly to drive forward economic output, another EU and government claim that is highly doubtful given that GDP per capita has been declining since 2007. Mr Farage was keen to make the point that the economic benefits attributed to large scale migration are questionable at best; and possibly deliberately misleading at worst. Recent reports indicating that foreign migration into Britain is almost always beneficial to our nation, have proven to be groundless, largely because the report author's have either deliberately or inadvertently manipulated the facts and figures to support their own pre-defined, pro-immigration conclusions. To date, there has been no independent or definitive report, or academic study, which underpins the basic argument that mass migration can or will be a net benefit to any host country, unless of course falling wages and increasing pressures on its public and emergency services are considered to be beneficial?
One can only hope that the recent public discussions surrounding foreign migration into our country; and all of the other matters relating to it, be that race, religion and ethnicity, continue to be talked about in a thoughtful and considered manner. For far too long we have seemingly denied an open and public voice to the unmentionable subjects that the mainstream political establishment have thus far refused to confront, such as that which was addressed in the latest opinion poll. For far too long a minority view has held sway, which has attempted to legislate on people's personal views, as if the law can realistically prevent a bigot from being a bigot, a racist from being a racist, when in fact, all that the various pieces of legislation actually do, is to deny the vast majority of the British people a voice as to how their country is run; and who exactly is entitled to come and live here, which shouldn't be such a difficult thing for the general public to discuss!