We must have a sense of cohesion and identity to succeed
Each of our lives is characterised by change and challenge. In attempting to rise to the second and cope with the first, how successful we are depends on context, individuals and circumstances.
However, one fundamental cornerstone of certainty endures – human beings can only flourish with a personal sense of belonging and communal notion of identity.
Many within the commentariat have tried to dismiss legitimate concerns about immigration as merely worries about its economic impact. If we only invested more in roadbuilding or reduced waiting times in doctor’s surgeries, they insist, people would accept mass migration as a positive opportunity for ‘enrichment’.
They couldn’t be more wrong.
For most, opposition to mass migration, rather than being about cold financial calculations, is motivated by a desire to protect our national character; what defines us as a people. It is no surprise that the rapid arrival of millions of people causes doubt and disturbance.
In almost every poll taken, around 75 per cent of people think immigration should be reduced. Arguably, the number would be even higher if migration figures were reported differently. Instead of considering net migration, which includes the many highly-skilled families who emigrate overseas, we should consider the gross number of migrants entering the UK each year; in 2018, this figure numbered an extraordinary 614,000!
Trevor Phillips, the founding chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission - himself the son of immigrants from the West Indies - has shattered liberal myths about the unfettered benefits of diversity, brilliantly illustrating the damage that multiculturalism has done to civil harmony.
His criticism of the ‘touchy, smug, complacent and squeamish elite, who refuse to recognise the “dark side of the diverse society” is stingingly accurate. Whilst debating the Immigration Bill, alongside me in the House of Commons last week, my friend Kemi Badenoch MP – who is a first generation immigrant - echoed his sentiments, urging colleagues to recognise both the ‘positive and negative changes’ brought about by immigration. After all, ritual surgical mutilation, sharia law and so called ‘honour killings’ have been imported into the United Kingdom, not devised here.
Nevertheless, it is pivotally important that we do not allow the demonisation of all migrants. Nobody can be blamed for seeking what they believe to be a better life for their family. Instead, we should shatter the conspiracy of silence so eloquently described by Trevor Phillips. Many newcomers to Britain add great value to our country. Indeed, here in Lincolnshire incoming labour has always been vital.
That is why the return of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme – dropped years ago as a result of EU free movement – is to be welcomed. Such a scheme enables a fixed number of workers to earn good money, before returning home. As I said in the House of Commons last week, it should be extended to horticulture. These workers' conditions and welcome should be of the very highest standard.
When people arrive here, they must quickly learn to abide by the rule of law, respect the civilities which characterise our way of life, and to speak English. Only then will what unites us flourish. Yet in many increasingly divided urban communities, there is little or no effort made to integrate - perpetuating identity politics, fuelling loneliness and isolating working-class individuals unable to move out of neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition.
As well as which, Lord Green of Migration Watch estimates there are now over a million illegal migrants in the UK, increasing by around 70,000 people every year. As I said in the House of Commons last week: ‘A part of being fair is dealing with matters promptly. Under previous governments, around 15,000 people here illegally were dealt with every year and returned; that number has fallen to 5,000. We must aim to deal, fairly and quickly, with people who are here illegally, rather than detaining them for a very long time’.
Over the past decade, net migration has averaged 250,000 a year. We just cannot absorb such huge numbers of people without putting unbearable pressure on our public services, but even more importantly – risking social cohesion. The scale of immigration must be reduced - it doesn’t have to be a disaster, forced upon us by an unaccountable elite.
We must insist, by whatever means necessary, that our immigration system is fair, and reflects popular understanding that communities only cohere when based on our invaluable sense of shared Britishness.