This speech was given to the Annual Dinner of the Traditional Britain Group at the Royal Over-Seas League, London, on 12 September.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to address you tonight. I am going to address a few words on the current immigration crisis.
Let me begin with some considerations of principle. Freedom and civilisation are based upon a simple premise: that land should be privately owned. If we build a society based on the private ownership of land then there is no limit to our endeavour. For centuries, this was the foundation of the West; land was owned and managed by landowners who had a direct interest in its prosperity and an equally direct interest in the welfare of those who worked that land. If we seek the roots of the England we know and love, we find it most clearly in the private ownership of land.
In our time, this freedom has been challenged. Under socialism, and regrettably under governments that call themselves conservative, we have seen measures that have been designed to break the link between landowner and land, and instead to introduce a very different concept. This is the idea that sovereignty consists not in land but in the person. If the person is sovereign, then we will build a very different kind of society; indeed, we are unlikely to build a society at all, because individualism will cause that society to atomize into multiple and ever-changing identity groups.
Here, then, is the root of the immigration crisis. If we say that land is sovereign, then it follows that someone must exercise control over it. There are still substantial private landowners in Britain today, especially so in Scotland. But for our purposes, we should see land as it really is. There is no terra nullis in Britain today. Even that which is owned privately is subordinate to the Crown, and the Crown is effectively a surrogate for the people in its ownership and management of that land which is deemed to be held in common by the nation. I am not talking here of those private estates, such as the Duchy of Cornwall, which belong to the Crown, but instead of the vast mass of common land that we encounter every day of our lives and that is subject to the management of those who are, ultimately, servants of the Crown, whether as politicians, civil servants or local council workers. This is our land, and we are right to care about what happens to it.
This, then, is why as a propertarian, I find the immigration crisis so vexed by unclear thought. Land belongs to someone. If land belongs to the Crown, the Crown has a duty to manage that land in the best interests of the people of Britain, because it is on behalf of the people of Britain that the Crown holds that land in the first place. And that duty cannot be construed otherwise than to the people of Britain as they stand now. It cannot be a duty to foreigners or their governments, for how could that be in our national interest? Therefore we are faced with the prospect that the Crown and its servants believe that in permitting mass immigration to this country, they are actually acting in the best interests of the people of Britain. I believe they are quite wrong in this.
Let us now look more closely at what is going on at the moment. I believe that Janice Atkinson MEP has summed the situation up very well. Here is what she had to say,
“Let’s be clear about another thing: despite what the human rights industry and the massed ranks of taxpayer-funded charities and lobby-groups repeat, this is not a refugee crisis but a massive crisis of illegal immigration which must be resisted for what it is. A man who leaves Syria may be a refugee at the start of the journey. When he is illegally living in Calais and illegally attempting to enter Britain, he is an economic migrant and an illegal immigrant. The humanitarian consequences of the Syrian crisis are for the countries of the Middle East to manage. Not for Britain, not for France, not for Austria, not for Italy, not for the Netherlands, not for Poland, not for Romania. That cannot be said too often. Oil-rich, cash-rich petro-monarchies of the region must act. They claim to be our allies. Instead, some fund Islamic terrorism and allow hundreds of thousands to come to our countries against the wishes of our people.”
It seems to me that we have, since at least 1997, suffered a concerted political attack on our immigration system. The driving force behind that attack seems to be the belief that the person is sovereign; that anyone who wishes should be able to come to Britain regardless of the skills or abilities they would bring to our country or their cultural compatibility with it, and that the settled population of these islands should simply put up with it. We do not need to look far to find the cause of this. The Labour Party saw that immigrants and their descendants were among their core supporters. They believed that the more they opened our doors to immigrants the more they would create a Labour client state and effectively pack Britain with Labour voters. Others, influenced by the ideology of multiculturalism, saw mass immigration in the same way as theorists such as the Frankfurt School as a means of destabilising opposition to socialism and making the lot of conservatives a miserable one. In an interview in 2013, Lord Mandelson said “In 2004 when as a Labour government, we were not only welcoming people to come into this country to work, we were sending out search parties for people and encouraging them, in some cases, to take up work in this country.”
Now we are seeing the distinction between legal and illegal immigration further weakened. Having encouraged mass immigration, we cannot then profess ourselves surprised when people from countries where life chances are extremely poor decide that any chance to get across our borders is worth taking. We are told that if we send millions of pounds in international aid, and indeed if we intervene militarily in foreign wars, that we will help these people stay where they are and stabilise their countries. Don’t believe it. Those who are coming to Europe believe that the standard of living that their countries provide is inadequate by comparison with that of the West. They do not want mere safety, which is why they do not want to stay in Hungary. Rather, they see the prosperity that Britain and Germany represent, and they want to experience it for themselves.
What is happening to our immigration system is an erosion of its natural boundaries. Time after time, the Prime Minister assures us that we will get an immigration system that is tougher. When he says tougher, what he actually means is fairer; that is to say, fairer both to the immigrants and to those who are already here. And yet the changes made do not have the effect that is claimed for them, nor do they succeed in substantially lowering the numbers who enter Britain each year. I hear constant statistic-based arguments from both sides about whether immigration is economically beneficial. I do not believe that it is, because it artificially distorts our labour market. I certainly do not believe it is in anyone’s interest that we should have a class of super-rich international jet-setters employing an underclass of disenfranchised immigrants to do menial work that the existing population of this country is supposedly unwilling to do. But this is what happens when an aristocracy of land is replaced by an aristocracy of money. We should not think that Tony Blair and his colleagues are motivated by noblesse oblige or care for our society and our environment. Their motivation seems, by contrast, to speak all too plainly of short-term, materialistic, self-interested greed and tribalism in favour of their family and friends. Their interest is not so much in New Labour as in cheap labour. These are not the values we should have at the heart of our society and they are not values that have had any significant place in the Britain of the past.
But it is not the economic arguments that have the greatest impact on me, it is the cultural arguments. These are arguments that go largely unheard in the House of Commons. It is left to Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, to voice them. He says “Those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity. Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian? There is no alternative, and we have no option but to defend our borders.”His is not the only country to say that it cannot accept more Muslim migrants.
Is it not sobering that our own Prime Minister cannot mount a robust defence of the Christian heritage of our country in this way? It must be admitted that were he to do so, he would not get a lot of support from the Church of England. But this is the crux of the matter. We cannot allow mass immigration by people, whatever their personal merits and humanitarian need, whose cultural commitment is to values which are profoundly different from our own, without a heavy price being paid. And the countries where those values are naturally at home – Saudi Arabia chief among them – are noticeable by their reluctance to assist in the present crisis, even though it is they who should be bearing the heaviest burden. As those rich Arab countries look at Europe, they must be reminding themselves of the old saying, “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”.
A further argument which is extremely important is that we must learn the lessons of the past when it comes to immigration. The character of Britain depends in large part on the fact that our country is relatively underpopulated. Even our cities, which have always been cosmopolitan in nature, are having to bear a burden that is far greater than they were designed for. The NHS, the transport system and local services cannot be stretched beyond their limit without breaking. We are seeing property prices being inflated by an artificial scarcity, and new housing being built not only on brownfield sites but often as infill development on greenfield sites as well.
As our towns and cities become more packed, our quality of life suffers. It also suffers from the failure to assimilate migrants by enforcing our cultural values. It should be the norm that the English language is spoken on our streets, for example, and it should also be used in commerce, so that we do not have shop frontages entirely in a foreign language. Immigrants should learn English, and we should monitor their progress until they can communicate clearly in the language. We should have the courage to ban the burka and thereby defend the rights and freedoms of women which were hard-fought in this country. We must ensure that immigrants do not jump the queue for council housing or other public services at the expense of our settled population, but that they wait their turn like everyone else. We should also ensure that British values are taught in our schools and that Muslim propaganda has no place there. One aspect of this that I came across recently is that music – singing or playing an instrument – is regarded as haram, or forbidden, by most Muslims. We should be clear that every child should be allowed the experience of singing and the opportunity to learn a musical instrument during their time at school, regardless of their religious beliefs. And we should not hesitate to deport from this country those who use our hospitality to argue against Western values and to encourage terrorism and armed jihad. That has no place whatsoever in this country. If people want to go to Syria to fight with ISIS, they should not be allowed back and should be treated as undesirable aliens. As our recent experience has shown, it is very easy for the Home Office to keep people out of this country.
In short, where our cultural values and those of foreign migrants clash, ours should prevail and our national systems should enforce them. We cannot be equivocal about this. If we give in to cultural relativism, we are effectively signing our death warrant as a people and as a culture. We need to understand that the support of our culture requires its positive reinforcement at every level. It cannot simply be absorbed by osmosis, and certainly not if we allow ghettoes to form.
I do not want to deny or diminish the human cost of immigration from the migrants’ point of view. We would not be human if we were not moved by the plight of dead children or desperate people. Those scenes rightly evoke an emotional response in us. But political policy cannot be subject to emotion; it must be made with a cool head and in a climate of calm and reasoned judgement. The decisions we make about immigration, whatever they may be, will always have a cost to pay. My belief, though, is that the balance of those decisions must always be firmly towards the settled population of this country, who look to their government to defend their interests. We cannot accept everyone who wants to come here, and if we do, we will have acted to destroy this country, not enrich it. We must have the maturity and the courage to say, as Hungary has said, that there are good reasons to say no.
Reprinted from The Libertarian Alliance Blog.