Alphen, Netherlands. 16 September. Three issues dominated the media during my stay in England last week – the break-up of the United Kingdom, Europe and hyper-immigration. Today the politics of Britain seems essentially about how long British politicians can deny the English a say on all three vital issues.
The impact of hyper-immigration is what strikes the visitor. Last Thursday I sat on a London Underground train shuddering, juddering and clattering my way out to Stanmore from London’s Far East. As I cast my eye around me I was the only indigenous English person in the carriage. In one of those little moments of humanity I love I struck up a conversation with the lady next to me. She was delightful. Born in Bangladesh she had moved to England ten years ago and was now working in the City of London as a secretary doing the ‘grind’ every day.
We talked about immigration. The first thing I had to say was that I too am an immigrant having made my career for many years in foreign lands and that I have nothing but respect for good people trying to make a better life elsewhere. Equally, I also admitted to her my deep sense of loss. It is a sense of loss I told her that politicians tell me I should not have because it is closet racism. However, I cannot help it – it is loss I deeply feel. The England that I was born into in 1958 is long gone and I grieve for it. Indeed, sometimes I feel like a foreigner in a country that had once been my own. And I freely admitted to anger with the left wing zealots, right wing exploiters and the Euro-fanatics who had taken my country away from me without my permission.
As I left England news was announced that a decent family from Pakistan who had come to England to give their children an Islamic education had been murdered in Leicester in what police believe could be a revenge killing. A revenge killing in England? What is happening to my old country I thought as I silently shook my head in angered disbelief like so many millions of perfectly tolerant, decent English people who are open to balanced immigration but simply want England to remain England.
And yet by the end of the week I began to feel something different – a strange smidgeon of hope. From the professional Eastern European women who served me in my hotel, to a West Indian lady with whom I had a giggle on the tube, to the Sikh gentleman who let me off with a smile because I had inadvertently bought the wrong ticket, to the Muslim police officer who helped me with my bag, what came across was nice people showing unfailing courtesy to each other. And, I suppose it is that sense of common decency I take away from this trip – for society to work nice people must be nice to each other.
Furthermore, what point is there in nostalgia? Yes, hyper-immigration has destroyed my England because it has imported not just the best of elsewhere but the very worst. Moreover, minority-obsessed politicians close their eyes to the dangerous social frictions that hyper-immigration has caused or seek an alibi for the mess they have created by pointing pointlessly to the unproven economic benefits of immigration whilst ignoring the appalling social and cultural cost England is paying. Even the most casual of observers can see England for what it is; a house of cards, vulnerable, on the edge society the slightest shock to which could bring the whole rickety edifice crashing down.
And yet out of this kaleidoscope of identities and cultures I hope a new England can emerge. My generation will not be a part of it as we are the lost generation, alienated strangers in what had once been our own country. However, I hope something, somehow English will emerge – colour-blind, race-blind but I hope neither values blind nor heritage blind - an England always open to the best and brightest from all over. However, a new socially-coherent England will be impossible to realise if England continues to import the world’s myriad hatreds and intolerances which has done and is doing so much to destroy the country I once loved.
A London taxi driver put it most succinctly. Being a taxi driver he had a view or two about the meaning of life which he thought I needed to know. “England”, he said “is finished. There are too many foreigners”. He was from Poland.
For the record, the Scots alone will decide the fate of the UK; there will be no referendum on Europe; and immigration ‘controls’ are a farce. And of course the English as usual will be denied their say.
How I weep for thee my country; how I hope for thee my country.