My name is Chris Maume, and I – no, I can’t say it. I’ll try again: my name is Chris Maume, and – no, no, I can’t. One last try: (deep breath) my name is Chris Maume, and I think I agree with Nigel Farage about immigration. There! It’s out. That wasn’t so difficult, was it?
There’s a five-a-side pitch near me which until last week was well-used by children from the local estate. Tarmac, high wire fence, nothing fancy. It’s referred to locally as “the cage”. It was also the scene of training sessions for what looked like bicycle polo (medical students from the nearby teaching hospital, I presume). It’s now a pile of rubble awaiting a new block of flats.
People need homes, clearly, and five-a-side football and bicycle polo are some way down the list of issues gripping the nation. But how many pitches, how many recreational spaces, will be left when we finally conclude that Britain has too many people? A thousand? A hundred? One? None?
In unveiling Ukip’s policy on immigration, Farage wisely eschewed targets – he’s learned from the Tories not make unkeepable promises. He wants an Australian-style points system and welcomes the skilled. He believes that Britain is letting in too many people. I think he’s right. Immigration invigorates a country – but what if that country is nearly full to bursting?
I think of myself as left-wing, so how do I find myself marching to the same beat as the Rabid Right’s head honcho? Two words: housing and schools.
Google “housing green belt” and you’ll see a grey future, grey being the colour of concrete. A report from the lobbying group London First recommends “reviewing” – or do they mean “scrapping”? – the rules protecting the green belt around the capital, saying, “Londoners should be able to get better value from the green space that surrounds them”. That yoking of “green space” and “value” is revealing – I’d say the principal “value” of green space is walking through it, not deciding which bits of it to sacrifice to the developers.
London First says the city needs 50,000 new homes a year to keep pace with a population that’s 8.6 million and rising. Last year the figure was 20,000. Boris Johnson and George Osborne said recently that they want 400,000 new homes in London by 2025. Where they might be built is anybody’s guess.
10 things immigration has done for Britain
10 things immigration has done for Britain
1/10 The Mini
The 1959 classic, that is, perhaps our greatest piece of industrial design, a miracle of packaging and revolution in motoring. Its genius designer was Sir Alec Issigonis, who was an asylum seeker. His family, Greek, fled Smyrna when Turks invaded this borderland in around 1920, and he wound up studying engineering at Battersea Polytechnic. He went on to create that most English of motor cars, the Morris Minor, as well as the Austin-Morris 1100, all much loved products of his fertile imagination.
2/10 Marks and Spencer
Once upon a time there was no M&S in Britain, difficult as that may be to believe. We have one Michael Marks to thank for our most famous retailer, and he was a refugee from Belarus, arriving in England in about 1882, and soon after set off to flog stuff around Yorkshire. He eventually teamed with Thomas Spencer to create the vast business we know today.
And many other TV shows created, funded and otherwise produced by that largest of larger-than-life characters, Lew Grade (also a world class tap dancer). The man who dominated commercial television gave us memorable entertainment such as The Prisoner, the Saint and brought the Muppets to Britain (a sort of fuzzy felt wave of immigration), as well as puppet shows where you could see the strings. All this from a penniless Jew from Ukraine, born Lev Winogradsky, who escaped the pogroms in Ukraine with his family in the 1890s. His nephew Michael Grade has also done his bit for British television.
4/10 The House of Windsor
Or the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha until George V prudently rebranded the family during the First World War. Well, our royals are a pretty German bunch, as well as having various types of French and other alien blue blood coursing around their veins. ‘Twas ever thus. There was William the Conqueror, Norman French, who certainly broke the immigration rules; William of Orange, a direct import from Holland; the Hanoverian King Georges, the first barely able to speak English; Queen Victoria, who married a German, Edward VII, who couldn’t stay faithful to his wife, a Danish princess; George V wed another German princess; Edward VIII married an American (though she hardly visited England and prompted his emigration and exile); and the Queen is married to man born in Corfu. The embodiment of the British nation, to many, but one thinks of them as quite multicultural really.
5/10 I Vow To Thee My Country
Our most patriotic hymn was the product of a man named Gustav Holst (pictured), born in Cheltenham, but of varied Swedish, Latvian and German ancestry, who adapted part of his suite The Planets to put a particularly stirring and beautiful poem to music, just after the Great War. As the second verse has it, “there's another country/I've heard of long ago/Most dear to them that love her/most great to them that know”. Imagine if the Holst family had been kept out because the quota on musical European types had been reached.
6/10 Curry and Cobra
Chicken Tikka Masala is, so they say, a dish which not only the most popular in Britain but specifically designed to cater for European tastes. For that we probably have to thank an Indian migrant, Sake Dean Mahomed, who came from Bengal to open the first recognisable Indian restaurant, the magnificently named “Hindoostanee Coffee House”. History does not record if a plate of poppadoms and accompanying selection of pickles and yoghurts were routinely placed on the table for new diners, but we do know that we had to wait until 1989 to taste the ideal lager for a curry - Cobra. That brew was brought to us by Karan (now Lord) Bilimoria, a Cambridge law graduate who hailed from Hyderabad.
7/10 That big red swirly sculpture at the Olympic Park
Or Orbit, to give it its proper name, the work of Anish Kapoor, who arrived in 1973 from India and had the artistic imagination to fill a power station.
8/10 The Sun
Love it or hate it, and many do both, this has been a symbol of much that is successful and a lot that is awful in British journalism since its inception in 1969. In its turn it spawned the Page 3 Girl and some nastily xenophobic headlines. All the stranger when you consider its creator was, of course, Rupert Murdoch, born 11 March 1931 in Melbourne, Australia.
OK, Karl Marx’s philosophy was not much of a gift to the world, but for a while it seemed like a good idea. Though we might not dare admit it, Marxism still has a few insights to offer to anyone wanting to understand the workings of capitalism, though too few to excuse everything that was done in its name. Born in Germany spent much time in the British museum and the British pub, buried Highgate Cemetery. Oddly, his ideas never really caught on in his adopted homeland.
10/10 The NHS
They came from many, many backgrounds, including Ireland, the Philippines, east Europe, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa, as they still do, but the contribution of the black nurses who came to the UK from the Caribbean to heal and care for is a debt of honour that must be recognised. It so sometimes forgotten that it was Enoch Powell, then Minister of Health (1960-62), who campaigned to recruit their skilled nurses to come and work over here. One abiding legacy we can thank Enoch for.
It’s the same around the rest of the country: starting at the top of the Google search and making one’s depressing way downwards, there are current proposals to build houses on green belt land in Sunderland, Runnymede, St Albans, Leeds, Oldham, Halesowen – need I go on?
London First makes the point that not all green belt land is ancient copses, verdant meadows and sun-dappled glades, citing airfields, golf courses, old hospitals and sewage works as examples of alternative uses. So let’s say we decide to leave the parkland alone and build on the rest. What happens when that’s all used up and immigrants are still flooding into Britain? Where do we go then?
In a few decades, how much parkland will be left? And once we’ve made the leap to building on greenfield sites, where else will be under threat? How bad will overcrowding have to get before national parks are looking down both barrels?
And all those new estates will house children who will need to be schooled. The Local Government Association warned recently that we’re approaching a “tipping point” in school capacity, and that we’ll need 900,000 additional school places in the next 10 years.
I wonder if any bookies are taking bets as to when children can no longer be guaranteed a school place? I’d be tempted to make a modest wager that it comes during the 10 years that the LGA’s referring to. Ukip may be largely bonkers, but its leader is at least addressing an issue which is surely the gravest facing our increasingly crowded nation.
We all look better after a glass of wine
A study conducted by Bristol University has found that faces are rated as more attractive after their owners have had a drink. It should possibly be an IgNobel contender, confirming as it does, if not perhaps the bleedin’ obvious, then at least the fairly predictable. We’re bound to look better when we’ve relaxed a bit and got a touch of colour.
Apparently a follow-up study conducted by Idontgoto University inverted the process, plying subjects with drink and then asking them to rate the attractiveness of other people’s faces. It found that one drink wasn’t quite enough. Four or five were needed, at which point the faces – all of them – were rated as “bloody lovely”, while after six or seven lagers the majority of subjects ticked the “I really, really, love you” box, following which they tended to fall asleep on the sofa and miss the end of Match of the Day.Reuse content