Concerning current debates on immigration, this is pertinent
“On the issues dealt with by the Bill we are in the grip of forces which, because of
the large influx of immigrants into Britain, we now seem unable to control. Racial
violence is occurring with increasing frequency. The British people are sick at
heart about it all. We badly need honest and forthright politicians to express their
feelings without fear of being condemned on moral grounds.”
That is a quote from Tory MP Ivor Stanbrook during a debate on the Immigration Bill in 1981.
The narrative around immigration has actually got worse since then. The way that the far right and reactionary politicians play immigration is like this
- Mass migration is happening and it is out of control (Here you can use statistics to show how many people come to the UK every year but not stats to show how many people leave)
- Ordinary people (like you?) are worried about it but are not being listened to
- People cannot speak out due to political correctness (make noises about a liberal elite that not only aren’t listening to people but are actively preventing debate on the issue)
- The ‘establishment’ are flooding your communities with foreigners, it is out of control and you feel powerless
- But you don’t have to be powerless, join my movement/vote for me/come on a far right protest
This general approach is a simple guide to how the far right in many countries of the world are playing the hate on immigrants game. It is a powerful and toxic politics – it helps foster a right wing populism, one that lends itself to demagogues and petty tyrants that thrive on turning people against each other.
The notion of ‘forces beyond our control’ is precisely designed to trigger fear and paranoia in people, to make them see migrants not as people but as some kind of unstoppable imposition. That is why words like ‘flood’ and ‘swamping’ are so associated with immigration, people are depicted as a flood, the kind that Noah had to deal with.
But the fact that these anti immigrant arguments have been happening for a thousand years indicate one essential truth – the world moves and people move, human want, need and desire crosses borders and attempts to limit it can only end in barbarity and violence.