Don't trust the BNP! They're horrible, the BNP! They manipulate figures on immigration and misrepresent the truth and whip up fear! BOO THE BNP! BOO THEM!
This was necessary leading upto the 2009 European Parliament elections, because this was the time of the BNP actually looking organised for once, with the Labour government dancing around an orchestra of innuendo and the Conservatives still elbowing each other with hints about 'thinking what we're thinking." It all came to naught, in a way, as Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons became elected parliamentarians, a result which led to the inevitable demise of the BNP, but that's perhaps a story for another entry...
The aftermath of 2009 and all that was shown for all its glory with the fall of Phil Woolas. Using the Labour Party's innate ability to speak the language of race and immigration with all the subtle undertones of a firework being thrown through a takeaway. It was the style at the time.
We wouldn't be in the position where all three party leaders have to play some kind of Navy-based wang measuring contest were it not for two factors; the Census and UKIP.
Let's start with the Census. We're less Christian and less white than at any time in modern history, and nobody outside Fox News thinks that's one of those bad things we keep hearing about. Oh no, hang on, they've just copied a Daily Mail article in full. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?
I've not considered the reduction of a white, Christian population on these islands anything of a bad thing for as long as I can remember. But I was young when an Ugandan Asian family moved into a considerably white part of council-estate Preston, so my first experience of 'immigration' was a family where a woman whose name was difficult to pronounce made a living cutting hair in their conservatory, and that's not the "coming over here, claiming our benefits" truth right from the start.
The growth of UKIP is not directly linked to the demise of the BNP, though the coincidence of the timing might as well have been written by a soap opera script consultant. "Let's pair up the end of one career with the start of another," they say, pushing a doting father under a bus and dragging an attractive and available doctor through the door. And so here comes Farage, all dressed up, tanned and nowhere to go.
Using the same tricks as the BNP, the sound of drums coming out of the election leaflets pushed through the doors of Eastleigh suggested that 38 million Bulgarians and Romanians were about to leap in a single bound over the English Channel. Wholly inappropriate, wholly scare-mongering and misleading. Such is the immigration debate, though, and the level to which all parties feel it's necessary to plunge whenever it's mentioned.
Armed with spades and helmets, off the main party leaders go to ape Farage and his immigrant mouth-frothing. Does a bell go off in their heads, I wonder? Do blood-stained words flash in front of their eyes? MUST SOUND TOUGH ON IMMIGRATION.
It's counter-productive because the sound of all British political leaders saying exactly the same sort of misleading, misrepresenting anti-everything is EXACTLY the things which keep Indian University students heading to the USA. And that's saying something when the US has a more attractive attitude towards immigrants than Britain. It's the opposite of "better the devil you know", to an almost perverted degree. But when you've gone from "Don't listen to the BNP, they mislead you on immigration" to "Frankly, this country has become a soft touch." then you've made the leap into exactly the territory you wanted to avoid only a few years ago. It would be like football fans happily sitting down amongst away fans, whilst still chanting their own songs.
Parading in front of us within a fortnight has been Nick Clegg talking about "cash bonds" for immigrants, Ed Miliband pledging to dissuade people from taking low-paid jobs, and Cameron making a speech on the horrors of letting people in which has been effectively ripped apart by his own side. Yawn-a-rama, guys, you're not convincing anyone.
This country would grind to a halt without the work of people born outside the UK. Indeed foreign workers are over-represented in both the very highest and very lowest professional sectors. It's not any foreign person's problem that the native population have chosen to focus on employment opportunities in the middle. If the opinion is, "they come over here taking our jobs", I can only respond with "they're taking the jobs nobody else applies for."
Over-arching all of this, for me, is the big neon-lit sign flashing "I DON'T ACTUALLY CARE". (I'm not sure how much neon costs for so many words plus apostrophe). Maybe it's because I had to stop listening whenever my Dad began his anti-everything rant, or because I've grown up thinking more about lightbulbs than the exact percentage of non-Britons living here. I've tried to care, it's just the inevitability of the topic being reduced to some gross name-calling tennis match. Our political leaders should know better to keep blowing dog whistles, particularly when the shrill only attracts a minority of voters and a majority of non-voters. The tracksuited circus that is the very splintered far-right won't be won over by Ed Miliband saying "Immigrants are bad, k?", it makes no sense to try. Why should all three parties - LibDems in particular - swerve to the right on an issue which actually helps the British economy more than it harms?
I love watching people tiptoe around bank bonuses and high-tax rates on the basis that the City of London could move to Zurich within months, whilst merrily throwing hospital cleaners and bin-men on the next train home. If this country loses its financial heart, there will be trouble, I understand that. I'd love to see how a specific region would suffer, never mind the whole country, if low-paid immigrants were suddenly ordered to pack their bags.
It's just so much fluff and nonsense. I expect whinging against people willing to come here to suffer colder weather and terrible food just for the sake of a better job from that subsection of obsessed numpties who have "PROUD ENGLISHMAN" as their middle name on Facebook. I'm not one of those wishy-washy, bring down the borders libertarian type, but neither am I happy or comfortable to watch the Tabloid Corps of our ruling classes playing top trumps with peoples lives. If clever, qualified, educated people are dissuaded from coming here in fear of being labelled as "a dirty immigrant" from the Prime Minister downwards, then well done to all involved when the exact result you wanted turns out to be exactly what you get. We don't need to frame this debate in terms of "immigrants verses native", but that's what we've got. And why?
Because it's easier to follow Nigel Farage than it is to turn off his microphone. That's more depressing than whether the head of year at a local school is Latvian.