It was very dispiriting to read the comments by Michael Fallon yesterday regarding immigration. The issue of migration is complex and it has as much to do with the movement of people from the North West, like me and North East of England to the South East as it has with people who were born in other nations arriving here. We also cannot forget that there are many 1000’s of British People who create homes in other nations. There is ample evidence that the most resilient communities are those that do not fear incomers, but rather those that welcome visitors and new residents. That said, there is a huge difference between people who come to live in a new community, bringing with them new ideas and a different culture to share with their neighbours, whilst also absorbing the dominant culture of the location concerned, compared to those whose attitude is to close their ears and eyes to what is going on around them. Anyone who has visited the ‘English Club’ in one of the many nations around the world will understand how destructive and absurd this sort of attitude can be, even though it is often fear that generates these actions. Perhaps what is worse is the behaviour of those who purchase properties, often outbidding local residents, and then stay away from the properties during the week or at weekends when they are resident elsewhere.
If migration is a complex issue, then our understanding of it is likely to be partial at best. We can all form a view of what we think is happening in a given property or in a gated community, or block of flats in our neighbourhood. However the truth can easily be very different. Most of our Political Parties have access to strategic data that helps them to know what the local demography is, and even what the future trends are likely to be, as well as how vital migration can be in some communities in terms of satisfying employers and helping them to provide local services. It is clear from the ability of Political Parties to lay siege to communities, and swamp them with canvassers at the time of a by election that these same parties have the capacity to communicate with their members in a very effective manner. There can therefore be no excuse for misinformed candidates and canvassers to visit our homes as they ask us to vote for them. It would be wonderful if in such circumstances the canvassers could help each of us to understand better what is actually happening and how valuable migration is in the places where this is the case. Yet at least two of the responses to Michael Fallon following his ignorant comments, illustrates how poorly at least two of his colleagues understand their role as community leaders.
Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, said: ‘What the Old Etonian praetorian guard around the Prime Minister have done shows how out of touch they are, and how in touch Michael Fallon is. ‘Margaret Thatcher used the word “swamped”, and she was in touch with public opinion. Michael Fallon was speaking up for millions up and down the country.’ Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, said: ‘Number 10 and Mr Fallon are saying the same thing, but he is reflecting more the words you hear on the doorstep.’
It is time our MPs found a way to speak about what the truth is as well as trying to illustrate how ‘down with the people’ they think they are. Repeating anecdotes from one or two doorsteps cannot be the basis for our national debate, unless of course people like Fallon, Bone and Davies really do take us for fools!