Now Christmas is over, it’s time to get our excitement by panicking about immigrants again. Over the next few days we’ll hear common sense views such as “What they do, they escape from some warlord in Somalia, walk across Africa, row in a bath to Spain, sneak through Europe in a crate of pigs, slip into England by clinging to the side of a hovercraft, then we’re expected to look after these people who aren’t prepared to make an effort.” Because there’s an honourable tradition amongst British politicians and newspapers to be proudly welcoming to immigrants, as long as they came 50 years ago.
The official attitude towards immigration is: “Wasn’t it shocking that some people were beastly to West Indians in the 1950s, and signs in cafes said ‘No dogs, no Pakistanis’ in the 1960s. Now it’s obvious that fair-minded people should have been horrible to Bulgarians instead. They’re bred specially to have a leg missing so they can claim invalidity benefit, and they’re addicted to free heart transplants, and Bulgaria’s full of mountains so they’ll all say a mountain is their sister and we’ll have to let that in as well and spend four days clambering over it to get our kids to school, or we’ll be fined by Europe.”
To be fair, David Cameron showed he isn’t picking on one nationality, as he went to the Asian area of Southall in west London, to be photographed joining a raid on people from India living in garden sheds, carried out by a company that locates people for deportation.
You can see why he chose last week to do this, because it was the perfect time to hunt travellers who’ve been told there’s no room inside, so are forced to sleep in a building not designed to live in, and tell them to piss off. What could be more Christmassy than that?
The logic to raids like this is not just moral, it’s economic, because it’s clear that the people who have done most to drain our resources in recent times have been people living in sheds. Some of them were found sleeping on work-benches, next to implements such as a garden rake. And we’re the ones paying for this, so they can tidy up leaves whenever they fancy, we’re mugs.
People living in sheds have proved the main cause of all our economic problems. For example, almost every chief executive of an energy company lives in a shed. This is why they keep raising their prices, it doesn’t matter to them, they’ve only got a paraffin heater squeezed behind a lawnmower. Fred Goodwin, Bob Diamond, and the board of Northern Rock all ran their reckless speculation from a Wickes shed.
And you can gauge the wealth of these people from the housing magazines. Every issue of Homes and Property proclaims: “Home of the week – this has-to-be-seen spectacular period shed boasts countless original features such as spiders, a broken bike and two packets of seeds. £20m. Make an offer now.”
I spent some time in Southall lately, for a show in my In Town radio series, and part of what makes it compelling is that thousands of people moved there from the Punjab in the 1950s, having been encouraged by the British government, to address a shortage of labour in local factories and nearby Heathrow airport.
Sikhs established a temple there, which came to prominence during the 2011 riots, as it organised protection for anyone, Sikh or non-Sikh, who felt threatened. This was especially confusing for the Daily Mail, who found themselves saying: “The only way to stop these hooligans is to bring in loads more immigrants – no, hang on. Give us a minute and we’ll work this out.”
The temple also provides a free meal to anyone who asks for one, as is the etiquette of Sikh temples. It now provides 4,000 meals a day, many to the increasing numbers who can’t afford to feed themselves. This is even more confusing for people opposed to immigration, who say: “We can’t afford these immigrants. There are British people, born and bred here, going hungry, and we’re letting in foreigners who feed them. Hang on, I’m in a muddle again, let me sort this out.”
Southall exudes compassion and generosity, so it’s only fair that this is balanced by a Prime Minister boasting he’ll hoist out anyone with the audacity to live at the bottom of someone’s garden.
Recently, the company contracted for arranging these deportations had the business sense to cut costs by informing people they’re due to be deported by text. So it’s common now for someone who’s been here legally for many years, to receive a text similar to the sort you get from a bank or pizza company, except it says: “Just to let you know your papers can’t be found so you’re being deported on Tuesday.”
Hopefully, as it’s Christmas, they write it in proper text speak, “Omg! Can’t find ur records. Deportation nxt Monday. At least u get a break frm yr kidz lol smiley face.”
Then in 50 years’ time, those that remain will be accepted as pillars of the community, as doctors and middle-distance runners, along with many whose family came from Bulgaria in 2014. And politicians and newspapers will yell: “They’re alright, it’s these Eskimo bastards we’ve got to stop now, billions of them there is, slaughtering our seals and claiming disability allowance as they all get sunstroke.”
Mark Steel’s In Town starts at 6.30pm on 8 January on BBC Radio 4.