Over the course of the previous ten years, whenever I’ve gone on national television or radio to discuss immigration figures I’ve always felt that I’ve been met with, at politest, a sneer. At times this has even degenerated into demonisation, like when Evan Davis interviewed me for Newsnight in the run up to the General Election, I wondered whether this was the modern day equivalent of the Salem Witch Trials.
The liberal elite view has always been that if you even dare to discuss immigration, it was a cover for racism. Yet the attitude I received yesterday after the worst ever official immigration statistics – which I suspect are grossly underestimating the real numbers – was quite different.
Interviewers were asking genuine questions about the sustainability of our public services in the face of such rapidly rising numbers. Some were even prepared to have an intelligent debate on the fact that over eight million foreign-born people now live in the United Kingdom.
I left each interview almost feeling accepted, which for me is a very odd place to be. But perhaps this is no surprise as last month’s Ipsos-MORI leading issues poll showed a staggering eight per cent rise in respondents naming immigration as the number one issue during the month of July alone.
Fifty per cent said that immigration and border controls was their main concern with the economy trailing behind at 27 per cent. So I guess the broadcasters who were all after market share now simply have to respond to this crisis of confidence.
It may also be true that leading politicians in the Labour and Conservative parties have now made conditions for this debate somewhat calmer. Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall has even suggested an Australian-style points system. You could have knocked me down with a feather.
The somewhat geeky looking immigration minister James Brokenshire even appeared to attack big business for using too much foreign labour.
In many ways the analysis that we’re now hearing is very similar to the line that I’ve plugged for all these long years. And discussion of this issue is now without doubt ‘mainstream’.
But just to agree with what is wrong is very different to providing a solution.
There is still an outright denial amongst our political class that the EU and immigration are the same issue. That is my next big battle. We must make the public realise that immigration and EU membership are synonymous.
The upcoming referendum on EU membership is our golden opportunity to do so.
Chancellor Merkel has made it clear that she will accept unlimited numbers of Syrian refugees. For this purpose she has even decided to ignore the Dublin Convention where refugees ought to claim asylum in the first safe country that they reach.
The pressure will now come on the United Kingdom to take its “fair share”. There is absolutely no way that Mr. Juncker and his merry gang will concede anything on the free movement of EU passport holders and still there are no actions being taken at a European Union level that will stop jihadist extremists entering the EU area.
I strongly believe that open door immigration and security concerns will be the dominant issues in the upcoming referendum campaign.
I know there are many other soft eurosceptics who think we should not discuss this issue in the campaign. My advice to them is to leave the Westminster bubble, go and meet some real people. If necessary even go down the pub. They need to get out more.
The end of the Peer show
So in 2010 ‘Dave’ told us that he wanted the House of Lords to be more representative of the way people vote in the United Kingdom. He has now weaseled out of that commitment by saying he wants the House of Lords to be more representative of the House of Commons.
So with over 800 peers in the House of Lords and despite winning the European Elections of 2014, getting 4 million votes and being clearly the third biggest UK party, UKIP has never had a single peer appointed.
When Tony Blair was in power he quite deliberately sought to undermine traditional British institutions. Strange to think that David Cameron, through his massive number of crony appointments to the Lords, has done the House more damage than even Blair managed.
I think the House of Lords is now sinking fast in terms of the public’s respect and that an elected Senate will soon become a very popular idea.
Nigel Farage is the Leader of the UK Independence Party