Grey matter

A concentration of old, rich folk is a bad thing; they clog up hotels with tea dances
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The political correctness lobby claimed another victim this week. The scalp in question was the unevenly covered one of Conservative MP, David Nicholson, the member for Taunton. Mr Nicholson, for those who missed the tale, is being accused of ageism and communism by political ally and foe alike. He stands in need of a friend - and I am prepared to be that friend.

Let us first recap on Mr N's crime. Over the last few years, the beautiful county town of Somerset which he represents has changed out of all recognition. On the fringes, where once the copses resounded to the "jug-jug" of the night-jar and the "pee-wit" of whatever goes "pee-wit", now stand huge estates. These eyesores house thousands of wealthy elderly incomers, drawn to Somerset by the climate, the friendliness of the locals and things going "pee-wit". Now Mr Nicholson has drawn attention to the unsustainability of this internal immigration. "We have to ask ourselves," Mr Nicholson has asked, "how long we can keep the door open." Even people who have moved into Somerset recently, he reveals, are saying "enough is enough".

Mr Nicholson - though few dare agree with him - is quite right. Consider. A large concentration of old, rich folk is a bad thing. They monopolise GPs (they can afford to spend days hanging around waiting-rooms), occupy all the hospital beds, stand in front of you in queues and then argue interminably with the shopkeeper, bus driver or whatever, clog up hotels with their tea dances and (courtesy of the disabled driver's badge) park anywhere they like.

They also alter the character of the area. They prefer bungalows to traditional two-storey houses, kill the atmosphere in pubs, the bland smell of their cooking suffuses the air and - as Mr Nicholson says - the very virtues which brought them to the area in the first place are destroyed by their presence. With indigenous Tauntonians becoming disenchanted, it is only a matter of time before violence breaks out. In his famous Rivers of Blood speech, Enoch Powell - in one unforgettable piece of imagery - talked of grinning piccaninnies pushing excrement through the doors of local old ladies. Well, it's coming true in Taunton, except this time it's the grinning old ladies who are pushing excrement through the doors of local piccaninnies.

Something must be done to avert tragedy. But what? Tinkering with the planning regulations so as to penalise the building of new homes on green field sites will not work. Many of these unwanted immigrants will simply cough up the extra. Nor can the matter be left to the hidden hand of the market. By the time environmental despoliation discourages inward movement, it will (axiomatically) be too late.

Thus the desperate Mr Nicholson has proposed that some kind of limitation must be placed on the right of abode within certain parts of the country - a rule not unlike that which exists already in the Channel Islands. A Guernseyite or a Jerseyian can come and live anywhere in Britain, but if you want to live there, you have to pass stringent financial and other criteria. So the principle is well established.

But to whom should restriction be applied? And over what area? There is some suggestion of limiting ingress to those with "ties" to Taunton, such as a grandparent from the area. "Impossible!" yells the PC brigade; "how can you possibly establish such connections?" Quite easily, actually. At least one of our European partners has extensive experience this century of making such inquiries, with significant success. A simple question on one's ID card (when they are introduced) requesting details of parental and grandparental birth-place and any domiciles over, say, five years, should enable speedy judgement about entitlement to live in a particular place. Should you fail the test, you will not be able to buy a local house. If you buy one, and then are discovered to have falsified the record, the property will be handed over to the community.

It is a paradox, but only by making it impossible to live there can Taunton be a place where folk would like to live.