I've just found something I had written in February 2005, at a time when questioning government's immigration policies in the UK was no longer considered downright racist like in, say, the 1990s, but not yet mainstream political discourse at it has become now. I publish it here because it shows the road we've travelled.
In January 2005, the UK television channel ITV showed a program, called Vote For Me!, described as a political reality show, in which some so-called members of the general public, all with passionate political views, contested to get a public phone vote. The winner of Vote For Me! moved forward to the opportunity of standing for parliament.
There was also a panel of 3 judges and a studio audience, but they didn't actually affect the vote in the end.
At the time the ITV website said: “But that was what Vote For Me! was about: giving real people with real issues a voice. But more than that, Vote For Me! gave you, the people, the chance to choose a representative. A person who could honestly claim to be: 'The People's Choice'.”
That was the blurb: the reality was quite different, in that the program tried in every way to influence the result, and in the end it was rumoured that ITV was not happy at all with it, to the point of regretting having made the show.
The winner was a Rodney Hylton-Potts (pictured above), somebody whose views you can easily call politically incorrect.
Listen to what he said in interviews after his victory:
“All three judges urged viewers to vote me off. The show started as being light-hearted. But as it progressed it changed. In fact, it changed following my mention of a policy of nil immigration. At that point, it turned into a different animal.”
In fact, after having watched that, in the face of escalating insults from the panel "judges" and continuous booing and jeering from the TV studio audience, Rodney Hylton-Potts obtained such an astounding victory from the public at home, which almost looked like an opinion poll result, I decided to look for myself at what the British public actually thought of current immigration policies.
What I found supports, confirms and vindicates Hylton-Potts ideas.
For example, this article in The Guardian of January 19, 2004, with the headline “Four out of 10 whites do not want black neighbour, poll shows”. The article says:
Four out of 10 white people do not want an Asian or black Briton as their neighbour, according to a survey published this week. The opinion poll found rocketing concern about immigration and asylum.If the Mori research director mentioned in the article is worried about those results, what about the next?
The Mori survey for Prospect magazine found that 39% of those asked would prefer to live in an area only with people from the same ethnic background. Forty-one per cent of whites and 26% of ethnic minority people surveyed wanted the races to live separately. Over half of all ethnic groups wanted to live in diverse areas.
Bobby Duffy, research director at Mori, said: "We have overestimated the progress we have made in race and immigration issues. I'm surprised about such a high finding as people are usually reticent because they worry about being judged by the interviewer, so this finding is worrying."
The poll shows that the issue of race and immigration has risen up the list of people's concerns, and is now the third most important, ahead of crime, defence and the economy. The issue is ranked the most important by 29%, behind education on 33% and the NHS on 41%. Ten years ago the figure was below 10%.
A YouGov/Economist survey in December 2004 gave the following results.
Of the people polled, 74% agree with the statement "Too many immigrants are coming to Britain."
Asked about the problems caused by immigration - and remember, this is important, that it was a one-answer question, so people could only choose one among some possible answers - 53% think that immigrants are putting too much pressure on public services, and as many as 25% (one quarter) think that immigration is upsetting the racial balance in the country.
To the question "Do you think people in your neighbourhood would approve or disapprove if more people from each of the following groups moved to your area?", the majority of people answered "Disapprove" when the group in question was Black Africans (43%), Iraqis (64%), Pakistanis (56%), West Indians (41%). The majority answered "Not mind" when the group in question was Australians (63%) and Polish (50%).
Some people might rush to say: racist.
But this is a too hasty and harsh judgement of public opinion.
Look at this interesting result: the only other group was Romanians and, although last time I checked these are white, the majority said: "Disapprove" (48%).
So, something else is at work here.
Could it be that common people have a better instinct than politicians, the media, and the intellectual elite?
And it's the same all over Western Europe.
From The Scotsman of 27 May 2004:
A new opinion poll which sampled opinion across ten countries found the majority of people in Britain are supportive of religious tolerance - but still believe that immigration has damaged the country.For that last statement, read: we thought that we had done a much better job at brainwashing the British public than we actually, demonstrably have.
The research triggered a mixture of disbelief and concern from mainstream political parties yesterday, amid fears that asylum is becoming a growing issue ahead of the 10 June European Parliament elections.
Ipsos, a Paris-based polling firm, found 60 per cent believing that immigrants were a bad influence on Britain - the highest proportion of all countries surveyed.
France, where the far-right National Front came second in the presidential election two years ago, emerged as one of the more moderate countries in the study with only 53 per cent arguing that migrants made the country worse.
But seven out of ten in France said that religious diversity within a country is to be welcomed, and three-quarters said that immigrants arrive to take the jobs which native Frenchmen refuse to do.
The same split reaction - welcoming religious pluralism but fearing that immigration has been harmful overall - also characterised Spain, Germany and Italy.
Ipsos, which conducted the poll with the Associated Press, admitted that its findings contradict widespread feeling that Britain - with its long history of migration and colonisation - is more relaxed about multiculturalism.
And, finally, consider this: pollsters, namely the professionals in the field, think that polls, particularly online polls, are likely to produce more liberal responses than in the electorate as a whole.