What is it about the Daily Mail and its motley band of pundits? Research appears not merely optional, but is routinely bypassed. Granted, a comment piece is opinion, and one should not expect lack of bias, but making up history to suit the line being taken is unacceptable, as is the deployment of the “Littlejohn Defence” to bat away complaints. “Mad” Melanie Phillips is in that groove today.
Immigration is Mel’s subject du jour, and she starts with a false assumption: “Immigration probably sits at the very top of the public’s concerns” she asserts. Well, at least we got the “probably”, but this could have been checked by five minutes’ Googling – clearly too much for overmonied Mail hacks – to see that the latest Ipsos/Mori survey puts it third, behind the Economy and unemployment.
Never mind, and Mel doesn’t: to give a historical perspective, she dispenses with fact altogether, and tells that “1997, the incoming Blair/Brown Government (for Mel, only two men ran that Government, and one of them was Gordon Brown, so that is Very Bad Indeed) decided to lift existing immigration controls in order to create a new kind of society”. Thus she mines a seam of pure bullpucky.
Then, after pretending that inward migration to the USA somehow doesn’t happen, Mel is off again: “Labour despised the very idea of national identity based on Britain’s foundational culture, history, religion and traditions”. Mel, you’re journeying beyond Barking. But there’s more: “Anyone who objected was damned as a racist. Thus the cultural identity of Britain ... was changed without its citizens ever being consulted”.
How can I put this, Mel? My “cultural identity” has not been changed. Movements of people across borders do not change my, or anyone else’s, “cultural identity”. No Labour politician has, to my recollection, damned as a racist anyone wanting to raise the issue of immigration. There are, of course, ways in which some folks raise the issue that is racist, but that’s not the same thing.
And there is no such thing as the “cultural identity” of the nation. This is mere flannelspeak. A nation like the UK does not, cannot, and did not (even in the supposedly halcyon days when nobody had to lock their front door, and there was no elf’n’safety or human rights or anyone reading the Qur’an with intent) have a single “cultural identity”. We’ve been an amalgam of cultures since at least the Romans.
Moreover, a country can’t become “profoundly demoralised” as Mel asserts. So there cannot be, and there isn’t, a “crisis over Britain’s very soul”. Melanie Phillips might please diehard Daily Mail readers and on-line commenters starting towards frothing at the mouth and falling over backwards, but this ranting shows a disturbing lack of contact with reality, together with an exaggerated sense of self-worth.
As Ted Rogers once put it, “Take her away – she’s been rejected”.