Since you-know-what happened in 2016, it’s fair to say dog-whistle politics has not exactly meant that the country has had a rational debate on migration. We know that the architects of Brexit, who include Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, employed anti-migration arguments in order to achieve their aim of Britain leaving Europe. The terrorist attacks in recent years, including yesterday’s abomination at London Bridge, have helped stir things up which is particularly interesting since the terrorists have often been British.
Farage stood in front of a poster headed Breaking Point before the referendum, a poster which featured a long line of, shall we say, not white people. The suggestion being obvious: they’re all coming to this country and we don’t want them. Yet some of the heroes standing up to the recent attacks were EU migrants.
Yesterday, we saw a Polish chef helping to disable Usman Khan, like we saw a Romanian stand up to the Borough Market terrorists in which a Spaniard died when also trying to stop them. Are we really going to say, “Bloody European migrants coming over here, fighting terorism?”
In any event, EU migrants are a very small percentage of the overall figure, something like a quarter and the figures are falling. My experience is that Europeans who come to our country by and large embrace and enjoy the British culture and don’t set up their own ghettoes. They work, they pay tax, they buy stuff. Generally speaking, they are A Good Thing, although it is a simple fact that in some areas migration has put pressure on certain public services and driven down wages. But not usually. Presumably, the three-quarters of migrants who come here from from outside Europe have had no such effects?
Even Nigel Farage’s private company the Brexit Party is happy enough for around 50,000 migrants a year to come to our country, although he wants to ensure they can come here from everywhere around the world, rather than just from Europe. Where does he mean? Pakistan? Somalia, Bangladesh? Syria? Turkey? I’m not particularly clear on that one, but even here I have a suggestion.
Migration doesn’t greatly bother me. How could it? I’m only alive because of it. I’ve got more ‘foreign’ blood than English – five-eighths of me is foreign – although I was born here. I am very happy that if we have vacancies that would otherwise not be filled, like in the NHS or people picking fruit, I just want capable people to do them. Of course, I want migrants to embrace our culture, as my mother and paternal grandfather did, and I’d set up systems to make that more likely, such as abolishing all ‘faith’ schools and making our country secular, where no group of people gets special privileges, where we all live under one law. That’s an absolute pre-condition for when I become prime minister.
I saw a Polish chef waving a narwhal tusk at this Stoke-born maniac and I knew instantly which person I liked most: the migrant from Poland. And there’s the odd paradox. As so often, the good guy was the migrant. He’s one of us.
I don’t know if yesterday’s events will in any way change our toxic relationship with the subject of migration, but it should. The debate should not be about colour, race or religion: it’s what people bring to our country.
I’d like to buy Lukasz a pint if ever I meet him. He was the best of us, us the human beings. He’s a hero, like all of those who risked their lives apprehending Khan. Not all British Asians are like Khan, which is something else to bear in mind. The argument around migration is so complex and often so twisted we often forget there is good and bad everywhere and that’s regardless of the language being spoken. It needn’t be that hard to understand and, to quote a cliche that has been in operation since 2016, we need to Take Back Control of migration by recognising that generally speaking it’s a good thing. For me, Lukasz really is one of us.