September 10, 2001
The Making of a Political Sting
was quite a turnaround. A problem that had been brewing for months,
with sly references in the media to fines for lorry drivers and
asylum-seekers in the undercarriages of trains, has suddenly exploded
on our TV screens. And how! TV has been nightly showing pictures
of, well, attempted invasion. The pictures are graphic, large numbers
of young foreign men grouping together to get into the Channel Tunnel,
throwing rocks and threatening anyone in their path. If I weren't
so trusting, it would make me suspicious. However, good citizen
that I am I know that the press would never report an ethnically
sensitive incident in a way that would inflame feeling against immigrants.
Indeed, during the summer
riots in northern England the role of the Muslim gangs was downplayed
to insignificance. So why is the press reporting on this "invasion"
in a way that I can only describe as provocative?
let me clear up any suggestion that there is some bias in Britain's
broadcast media. It may be true that both the BBC and Channel 4
are state owned, and run by Labour
Party members, but any suggestion that they are either beholden
to the government or institutionally left-wing should be disowned.
We're British, you see, and we do not do things like that. That's
all the evidence anyone should need. Similarly, the fact that "independent"
broadcasters are actually dependent on government licenses would
not compromise their independence. Perish the thought. Nevertheless,
just to humour me, let us imagine that the government-controlled
press was playing this up despite their previous record of playing
ethnic tension down.
benefits? The far right benefit, as it always does when immigration
seems to go out of control. I think it is safe to suggest that the
governing and reporting classes are not well disposed to the neo-fascist
right. There is one other beneficiary, and that is the cause of
European integration. Now bear with me for a minute. The European
project is in a bit of trouble now. The British public is against
the idea of a single currency, although the British government is
for it. As the government has been manoeuvred into a pledge to put
this to a referendum, this presents a serious problem. There are,
however, other ways to integrate into Europe and one of these is
to surrender our border.
Treaty, the European Union said many things, three of which
are interest to us. Firstly it called for a common "area of freedom,
security and justice", which means the lack of border control. Secondly,
it exempted the UK and Ireland from this. Thirdly, it gave a time
span of five years, from 1996, for this to be complete the whole
thing is scheduled for completion at the end of this year. Britain
will be out of two major European projects in January 2002. Most
people will look at the Euro, but the combination of a promised
referendum and public hostility make this unlikely to pass in the
near future much as the government will try. On the other hand,
there is the matter of a border-less Europe, in effect giving control
of immigration and drugs to the Spanish and Greeks.
control of Britain's borders will be a hard sell. However it is
not as hard a sell as the Euro, and there is no referendum needed.
The alternative is stark for the government, a gradual disengagement
from Europe and a realisation that Britain does not need the European
project. The government will, however, need a plausible excuse.
This is where the illegal immigrants come in, in droves.
situation with illegal immigration is largely manufactured. That's
not to say that there are not large numbers of illegal immigrants,
nor that they don't cause problems. What is happening is that immigration
is being directly encouraged both by Britain's government and by
her neighbours, particularly France.
in Britain. The welfare state in Britain may not seem too generous
to the British, but it certainly is good to the immigrants. Free
housing, free education, free health care and a small income. That's
before you become legal (which is far more likely in Britain than
elsewhere). If your application for asylum fails then you are highly
unlikely to be deported.
there's France. The French, bless 'em, are more blatant on this,
as they are about most things. Firstly they decide to help the British
out, by opening a large camp
to feed, clothe and shelter any asylum seekers who happen to want
a rest before walking through the Channel
Tunnel. The French did plan to tackle this, they said, by opening
camp nearby. Who's perfidious now? This is the fault of the
British, says the French ambassador. We offer immigrants too many
security benefits and we do not have ID
cards. Some French go even further and say that the French are
perfectly entitled to launch this nonmilitary offensive as retaliation
for not surrendering our borders earlier. Now the ambassador may
be right about the social security benefits (and wrong about the
ID cards) but why is he saying this? He's the ambassador, not the
These are internal matters, to be decided upon by British people,
and not by French civil servants.