Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Day the Immigrants Left

Last night I watched a documentary on BBC1 entitled The Day the Immigrants Left, examining some of the issues around migration. It was presented by Evan Davis, someone I generally mistrust (he is a member of the British-American Project for a Successor Generation). When I listen to Evan Davis I always get the feeling he is following an agenda of his own not immediately discernable.

The documentary examined the impact uncontrolled immigration has had on the small town of Wisbech in Cambridgeshire (a place that is known locally as Wisbekistan because of the recent population changes). The documentary replaced a number of immigrants with long-term local unemployed people in what was presented as being a scientific study of whether local people could do the jobs performed by immigrants. It quickly became apparent that the programme was dishonest, biased and unfair.

Experienced and fully trained immigrants in a succession of employment venues (an asparagus farm, a packing factory, an Indian restaurant etc) are replaced by untrained individuals straight off the dole queue. We then see them mostly fail to keep up / work to the same standard / show the same level of motivation. A smug fruity-voiced fat farmer chuckles at the pathetic productivity of the locals. A gobby young woman in a fluorescent safety waistcoat bullies the local team packing potatos (she didn’t actually use a cattle-prod, but she might as well have). A cliquey team of Indian cooks snap at the rookie waiter when he fails to understand their dialect. At the end a pontificating Evan Davis concluded (on our behalf) that local unemployed people were not capable of doing the jobs carried out by immigrants.

This is obviously not true – you only have to compare the productivity of pre-1989 Eastern Europe with the productivity of the United Kingdom at the same time and you can see there are no grounds for saying Eastern European people are “harder working” than British people.

What is obvious is that if you terrorize, brutalize and starve a population for sixty years (as the Polish population was) when they are finally released they will suffer any privation and exploitation rather than go back to their former state.

All that has happened is that the post-terrorized, post-brutalized and post-starved condition has become the accepted norm against which the C2, D and E population of Wisbech is being judged.

Great play was made of the sickness rate of the local unemployed people. Ignoring the fact that “sickies” are a HUGE problem throughout industry, and the public sector in particular. I would like to use this blog post to call for an inquiry into the sickness rate in Surrey Police.

Very sloppy standards of journalism were exhibited in the programme. Evan Davis went to a local infant school and blithely accepted the assurances from the head that everything in the school was fine. Despite being an economist, Evan Davis seemed unable to question the wage structures to any real depth (why are the wages of farm labourers increasing at a vastly slower rate than those of farm owners for instance).

No attempt was made to calculate the true cost of the extra population in terms of congested roads, competition for rental accommodation, social disintegration of local communities etc.

What came over very strongly was the powerlessness of the local unemployed and their inability to defend themselves.

Most telling of all, it was obvious from interviews in the programme that the importation of migrants had no mandate from the population of Wisbech. It really boils down to the question: who does the town of Wisbech belong to? The local people on the electoral roll, or the local land-owners and companies?

The dispossession of the lowest sectors of society and their replacement with foreign migrants is comparable with the clearances of the Highlands in the 19th century and the replacement of the Highland population with “more productive” sheep. It represents a crime against humanity (I hope I am not exaggerating here – I am doing my best to be dispassionate). Historians need to make a list of politicians and local officials who have exceeded their authority in creating this situation, with the objective of eventually making them account for their actions.


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jamesstaylor said...

Fascinating. I'm going to have to ferret out this programme; my mother's family is from Chatteris, just down the road from Wisbech, and so this hits rather close to home. (I still have family in that area--and the pub the "Honest John" is named after my grandfather!)

As always, another great post. Thanks!

a from l said...

James you might be able to "see it again" on the BBC website.