It is tough to admit, but Nigel Farage may be right about immigration

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

Chris Maume
Wednesday 04 March 2015 19:50

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.

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.

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