i Editor's Letter: The controversial subject of immigration


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The Independent Online


Some of you will disagree with this column. Whenever we address the subject of immigration, readers get off the fence pretty damn quickly. It's one of the great polarising subjects of our age. Look at the news agenda.

Today, David Cameron becomes the third party leader to make a major speech recently on the subject; the third to express a harder line than before Christmas. This may or may not be connected to UKIP's recent poll success, most notably at the Eastleigh by-election. Draw your own conclusions.

Of the leaders, Cameron is sending out the most mixed of messages. Compare and contrast his words on his recent visit to India. And, it's not just the words themselves, it is the background "noise". If you were a super-bright Indian student trying to decide whether to further your studies in the UK or the US, what would you think?

Of course there is a limit to the level of immigration the UK can sustain, but we are nowhere near it. And the list of Britain's ills for which immigrants are wrongly blamed grows daily: unemployment, housing shortages, the creaking NHS? What next? The miserable spring?

I don't have to be the son of an extraordinarily hard-working immigrant to find this rush to steal UKIP's clothing via "tough on immigration" rhetoric sad. You only have to look at history through the lens of previous recessions to see a pattern repeat itself. In times of trouble, it seems we create a bogeyman. Given that most Poles who have come over in the past few years are as hard-working, peaceful and pleasant a group as you could ever wish to meet, we have to ignore the real evidence of our own collective experience and resort to spreading stories about Bulgarians and Romanians that cause the public to fear them. Which is the definition of "scare-mongering" in my dictionary. And, Britain should be better, and smarter, than that.