There really are times when I think some people live in a parallel universe to the one I and almost all of my friends happily occupy.
It's a world where every "foreigner" is here to do us harm. A world where only white, Anglo-Saxon Daily Mail readers are honourable. A world were every new wave of immigration is going to "swamp" our history and traditions. Well, I am going to once again prove that I am a dangerous liberal, but this world doesn't exist, except in the minds of those who want it to, or those who make political capital by spreading intolerance and fear.
There is something very unedifying about listening to people who list their favourite foods as chicken tikka, sweet & sour pork or a pepperoni pizza whilst complaining about the danger immigration poses to our cultural heritage. Or those who whisper that immigrants threaten our 'traditional family values' but are happy to leave their ageing and confused relatives in anonymous care homes staffed by Sri Lankan care workers on a minimum wage. Or eat fruit and vegetables picked by Polish and Latvian labour, because farmers cannot find British workers willing to do the job. Or ride in trains and buses with West Indian drivers, whose parents were encouraged to come here in the 1950s by the British Nationality Act. Of course when challenged we hear, "oh, they're different, they've been here years" conveniently forgetting that each new waive of migrants have faced the same kind of abuse, hostility and often violence as those coming here today.
Then we have the old chestnut, "I am not a racist, but I do object when they try to impose their traditions on us." Let's forget the irony that our industrial wealth and heritage was based on our forefathers imposing our values on others, and ask ourselves "have we really changed?"
The Costa del Sol , Costa Blanca and much of the Algarve is packed with British ex-pats who live in English speaking enclaves in someone else's country, too often making no effort to learn the native language. I am sure their are thousands of Spanish looking at these people eating their all day breakfasts, drinking pints of lager and shopping at the Calahonda branch of Morrison's supermarket and think exactly the same. And I know from experience that many of these ex-pats, when asked why they left UK, will say, "I had to get out of England, the country's going downhill - it's overrun by foreigners."
But what about "all these foreigners" taking over our country? Really? Sixty four years after the British Nationality Act paved the way for large scale immigration from the New Commonwealth, over 87% of UK citizens are White British and over 98% of people who live in this country were born in this country. And if you exclude Greater London and Birmingham and Manchester, the figure for "White British" exceeds 95%. Yet despite these figures, "immigration" is raised in questionnaires and on the doorsteps more often than Europe! Whenever I am canvassing in a leafy suburb of West Kent and someone raises immigration, I look surprised and ask "how exactly has immigration affected you?" To this day, no-one has actually been able to give me an answer, the most common response being, "well, it has never caused me a problem, but you read all these stories in the papers, don't you..." One postal survey returned to West Kent HQ from a leafy road in the Weald of Kent contained the line, "one seldom hears English spoken in Tunbridge Wells these days..."
Personally, I cherish the excitement and fusion that comes from being part of a multi-cultural society. I celebrate that fact the Britain is such a great place that despite the nastiness and scaremongering of Mr Farage and his ilk, young people still want to come here in search of hope and to provide a better future for themselves and their families. And who can blame them? Many will come, most will return. Some will marry or settle here and will add their own piece of the ever changing jigsaw which makes up our great country. I wish them every success and happiness in doing so.
Happy New Year to all my readers.