Unhappy? Just blame immigrants!

The cynically stirred-up anti-immigration campaign has a long history

Owen Jones
Wednesday 01 January 2014 18:58 GMT
(Getty Images)

Britons woke in their millions to find the Daily Mail’s promised Ukipocalypse was, if anything, an understatement. Bulgarians have been found hiding in bread bins, behind radiators, inside teapots; Romanians are clogging up bath plugs, nibbling at chocolate bars left on kitchen tables, reading “how to claim benefits” guides loudly in bathrooms.

Back in the real world, the cynically stirred-up anti-immigration campaign has a long history. In 1904, the Tories passed the Aliens Bill to make political capital out of fears about Irish and Jewish immigrants. The aim is always the same: let the elites off the hook, and blame foreigners for all the ills of society instead. Operation Deflect Blame, if you like.

Take the “health tourism” palava. Leave aside that it costs only around £70m a year, and that the NHS is propped up by immigrant doctors and nurses. Scare stories about an overload of foreign patients are a convenient distraction from the fact that the health service is currently being sold, piece by piece, to tax-dodging private health firms, some of whom fund the Tory party.

Housing shortages caused by a failure to let councils build; falling wages caused by weak unions, globalisation and a minimum wage declining in real terms; a lack of secure jobs caused by de-industrialisation and austerity: all can conveniently be blamed on The Foreigner.

Meanwhile, the truth is that Britain is itself the world’s 10th biggest source of immigrants, and studies show that deficit-reducing immigrants actually contribute more than they take. Then again, truth matters little to politicians determined to deflect blame from themselves and their wealthy backers.

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