Immigration has not exactly been at the centre of the 2010 election, but it has probably been more widely and openly discussed than in any British general election campaign, ever. And it flared up again when Gordon Brown was caught calling an elderly voter a “bigot” after she voiced concerns about the influx of eastern Europeans.
For many “bigotgate” is not just another embarrassment for the beleaguered PM—although it is certainly that too. It is also further evidence of how the liberal elite refuses to take seriously people’s worries about the number of people coming to Britain.
Prospect editor David Goodhart has for some time argued that you can be both a liberal and a mass immigration sceptic. A few weeks ago he produced an Analysis programme on how Labour since 1997 came to embrace mass immigration. Emailing a few people in his address book to prompt them to listen to the programme, he triggered an impromptu debate…
Phillip Blond is director of the think tank ResPublica, Peter Kellner is president of YouGov, Randall Hansen is a political scientist at the University of Toronto, and Peter Jukes is a scriptwriter and Prospect contributor.
Phillip Blond: I’m very interested in all this—I wonder, is there a point at which mass immigration undermines the social foundations of a society?
Peter Kellner: Instead of “undermines the social foundations,” may I (as the son of a Jewish immigrant) suggest “alters the social character.” Then, with that more neutral wording, we can have a balanced debate about the pros and cons.
Peter Jukes: “Alters” is better than “undermines”—just to back Peter Kellner up, as the grandson of an Armenian refugee. In fact, statistically, doesn’t half the population of London have a non-English grandparent?
Randall Hansen: Writing as the grandson of neither an Armenian nor a Jewish refugee (but as an academic who has done some work on these issues), there is an established debate that seems to show fairly clear that trust and social solidarity decline as diversity increases. Not massively, but measurably. See the work of Robert Putnam in particular, and of course David’s now-classic piece (Too Diverse? Prospect, March 2004) has contributed to this point.…