On Friday, The Daily Mail published an article headlined HOW LABOUR TURNED LONDON INTO A FOREIGN CITY. Subtitled ‘Fewer than half the capital’s population are white British, gangsters from Somalia terrorise the suburbs and even the tramps are immigrants, reveals astonishing new book‘, the feature article is a textbook example of the tabloid’s propensity to misinform, scaremonger and erroneously stick the boot into those on the left.
The article is based on a book, about to be released, by Ben Judah, called This Is London: life and death in the world city. The book looks at modern immigration to London, based on first-hand stories gathered by Judah who spent time immersing himself with different groups in order to try and get an accurate picture of their experiences.
The book is yet to be released so I haven’t read it yet, although a pretty decent review of it is available here. However, the article it inspired, written by researcher Harriet Sargeant, is so slanted and full of flimsy analysis that it could pass as a piece of UKIP propaganda.
Ms Sargeant uses the book as a cover to launch an attack on the Labour Party (and also the left in general and the EU), as well as paying lip-service to the dubious theory beloved of the far-right that the White British population is somehow under threat. All in all, standard Daily Mail stuff and as usual the arguments don’t stack up.
A key problem is that Ms Sargeant uses the stories in the book as evidence of failing government immigration policy, yet the book isn’t even about those the government have let in. Most of the stories are of those who arrived and stayed through unofficial channels – the undocumented or ‘illegal‘ migrants who often arrive via traffickers and end up in employment and accommodation beneath the radar of the state.
The problem of undocumented/’illegal‘ migration is a genuine one, not least because of the risks to the migrants who often end up living in dreadful conditions (see the Migrants Resource Centre report Hope Costs Nothing for an illuminating insight into experiences of undocumented migrants in the UK).
But it’s separate from government immigration policy. Tightening or relaxing border controls is not gonna impact greatly on people getting in illegally, and there has always been an ‘underclass‘ of migrants doing informal labour for as long as there have been migrant communities in the country. Whether you like this or hate it, it doesn’t have an affect on your life in terms of housing, employment, etc. as they have no recourse to public services.
Failing to distinguish between official and unofficial migrants is one of the most basic errors people make, leading them to make silly statements like ‘illegal immigrants are getting all the council housing.’ You might expect a newspaper journalist to be a level above that sort of thing. But Ms Sargeant – whose main qualification in this field seems to be carrying out immigration research for the Daily Mail – mixes up the two throughout her report.
So we get a thoroughly skewed picture of things as the desperate stories that feature in the book, embedded in ‘Third World Poverty, exploitation and criminality‘, are presented as the norm for immigrants to the capital as a whole.
We also get rubbish like stories of hardships of undocumented migrants being ‘the result of Labour relaxing immigration to the UK‘ and nonsense that immigration policy is ‘dictated by criminal gangs‘. According to Sargeant, those exploited by traffickers bringing people in through unofficial means are victims not of a harsh unregulated black economy but of the failure of multiculturalism. In her distorted view of reality, migrants to Britain are lured here by ‘offers of free housing, free schooling and countless welfare benefits‘ yet seemingly have no access to official jobs (‘minimum wage is a luxury they can only dream about.’)
This sub-amateur analysis is designed to appeal to the right-wing anti-EU mindset of the average Daily Mail reader. The desperate stories of the migrants are blamed on Labour policies (although all of the stories featured in the book are from the Tory/Coalition period) and liberal-left multicultural agendas, and the only way out is to exit the EU and reclaim control of our borders.
But again, this article is totally wrong-headed. Contrary to popular belief, Labour did not ‘open the door‘ to the world’s population. It was relatively open to EU countries but to non-EU migrants it tightened controls more than any previous government. In 13 years in power, Labour passed 8 immigration acts through parliament, far more than any other administration. The fact that people think Labour had some sort of open door policy proves the old saying ‘if you repeat a lie often enough, people believe it’s the truth.’
We get the same lies repeated here. ‘Uncontrolled immigration has changed London forever.’ If there was uncontrolled immigration, there would be no such thing as illegal immigrants, surely? And how exactly will leaving the EU stop illegal immigration and put a stop to the sort of exploitation and hardship featured in this book?
A final more troubling problem with the article is the implication that immigration presents some sort of threat to the declining white British population in the capital – evident in the article’s title. It’s something that’s featured a lot recently with the likes of nationalist groups such as Britain First, who are fond of claiming that immigration and multiculturalism represent a ‘white genocide‘.
Sargeant uses a similar language a couple of times in this article and it’s worrying that it is appearing in a mainstream tabloid newspaper. She alludes to multiculturalism and the declining percentage of White British in the capital as ‘racial cleansing‘ and refers to non-whites as ‘not ethnically British‘.
Sargeant quotes one paragraph from the book where Judah deals with the subject of changing demographics in the capital but I’m not sure how much of a deal he makes of it in the whole book.
But it makes up a substantial part of the article. Statistics are cherry-picked (boroughs experiencing the greatest levels of change are highlighted) and peppered with quotes and anecdotal evidence, all of which will no doubt have many readers quaking in their boots that they’re gonna wake up one day and be a ‘minority‘ in their own country.
A couple of points on this: first, let’s have a sober look at a few statistics. According to the 2011 Census, 45% of Londoners are white British (60% white altogether). Some might say that constitutes a minority, but White Brits are still by far the largest single group in the capital. No other group represents over 10%. So they are still by far a majority, unless you lump everyone else together as one homogenous ‘other‘ group, and what would be the point of that unless you’re racist?
37% of Londoners are foreign-born. It has the second highest percentage of foreigners in the world, behind New York City. Because New York City and London are successful, powerful, global cities and global cities tend to have large numbers of foreigners. Always have. Go check it out.
But ethnicity is a meaningless indicator really, isn’t it? What does it matter what colour someone is or where they’re from? Surely a more important indicator is language, because if you were in a city where fewer than half the people spoke your language, you might well feel like a foreigner. Well the good news here is that 78% of the capital speak English as their first language, with a further 20% able to speak it fluently enough as a second language.
And just in case you were worrying that London might be experiencing too much immigration to cope with the sheer number of people, the total population of the capital has only recently returned to pre-war levels of 8 million inhabitants so it should be able to cope just fine.
Onto the second general point: who really gives a damn? I’m a white British male living in Lambeth, where the percentage of white Brits is less that 50%, and it doesn’t affect me one bit. I don’t care what ethnicity, nationality or religion the people in my neighbourhood are as long as they are nice people and I am able to get on with my life and do the things I want and have access to local facilities that are suitable for me – they are, I am, I can and I have.
The truth is that over time, due to declining birth rates, the percentage of White British people will slowly shrink, as eventually will all ethnically distinct groups in economically advanced nations and we will likely reach a point in the future where pretty much everyone can only identify as mixed race. The best thing we can all do is stop fretting about ethnicity and see this as a positive thing that could potentially eliminate racism from society.
One final point: none of this tabloid narrative is new. It’s the same story every generation for over 100 years. If anything, it was worse a century ago with alarmingly regular stories in national tabloids and London evening papers about how Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe was changing the capital beyond recognition. The Jewish refugees were demonised as aliens and blamed for crime, disease and radical left-wing terror.
One of the papers repeatedly portraying these refugees in a negative light was The Daily Mail. They may write sensationalist stories about the transformation of society, but the truth is some things never change.
Link to original Daily Mail article can be found here.