In a typically delightful post about Sally Bercow and the MigrationWatch libel threat, Ed West of the Daily Telegraph describes me as Philippe Legrain, author of How to Turn Europe into the Lebanon in Just One Ill-thought Out Step.
Unlike Andrew Green of MigrationWatch, I don’t believe in trying to silence debate, so I’ll let this pass.
West later claims that in Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them I try to shut down debate by calling opponents of immigration racists:
Legrain… wrote in his book that “the argument that tough immigration controls are needed for ‘good race relations’ is a quasi-racist canard”.
No proof was ever given for this assertion, but then who needs evidence for thoughtcrime?
This is nonsense.
In fact, I wrote:
Let me start by saying that I don’t think that it is necessarily racist to support immigration controls. Greens may support immigration controls because they believe that an extra influx of people would put a strain on the environment. Trade unionists may worry about the impact on the jobs of their members, black and white. People may worry that immigration undermines the financial basis for traditional welfare systems, which grant free or subsidised benefits and services to people primarily on the basis of residency rather than financial contributions. The people who believe these things may or may not be racists; but it is not intrinsically racist to believe what they do.
Nor is it racist to worry that immigration might undermine social solidarity for reasons other than foreigners’ foreignness. It is not racist to point out that if immigrants happen to be a bunch of thieves and villains, they might cause all sorts of problems – it is only racist to assume that foreigners tend to be thieves and villains. It is not racist to argue that if immigrants happen to have very different tastes and characteristics that clash with those of natives, they might also undermine solidarity. If millions of white American libertarians were to pitch up in social-democratic Sweden, support for its cradle-to-grave welfare system might fall. A non-racist might also observe that immigration could undermine social solidarity if natives themselves are racist, even if he or she isn’t – although this is slippery ground because it can allow racists to support racist positions on the basis of others’ purported racism while pretending not to be racist themselves: hence the common claim by British politicians, some of them doubtless racist, that immigration controls are needed for “good race relations”.
If anyone is trying to shut down debate, it is people like Ed West and Andrew Green.
The truth is that while it is not necessarily racist to oppose immigration, many people who oppose immigration do so for racist or xenophobic reasons. To pretend otherwise is frankly disingenuous.