BBC Question Time


I have just watched this 5-minute clip of BBC Questions Time from Barking in 2014. Two Brits were not happy about the mass influx of immigrants into their town. The lady made the point that Barking, an area of London, is now unrecognisable from how it was only 12 years ago. She thought it was a change for the worse and for this she blamed politicians.

Amanda Platell, a woman columnist from the Daily Mail, had some sympathy with the lady but since she herself was from Australia couldn’t say much against immigration per se. Of course, what she could have said was the truth, namely that Australians are basically Brits with funny accents who only arrive in ones and twos and generally fit in well and don’t cause problems. However you can’t say that nowadays or you will be subjected to Two Minutes Hate from ‘good whites’, who actually seem to enjoy jacking themselves up into a state of phoney outrage. All immigrants must be equal in all ways.

So rather than stating the bald truth the panellist said that when she arrived in Britain she never expected to be given free housing or welfare or any of the other things some immigrant groups typically get. She then offered some pabulum about how hard-working most immigrants are yadda yadda yadda. Do they really work any harder than us? If not, why mention it? Or does everyone work harder than the average?

Platell’s response was almost certainly a more understanding one than the lady from Barking would have received from any of the other panellists, or most of the audience, who were already starting to hiss and boo and make other farmyard noises. Yet Platell’s reply didn’t really address the lady’s main gripe, which was that Barking had changed beyond all recognition in the past decade and her community no longer existed, all thanks to non-Australian mass immigration. Whether the immigrants worked hard or not was neither here nor there, though of course it is preferable that they work rather than hang around on street corners. No, the real problem was their numbers.

The next person to raise a point was a homeless man who could find neither a job nor affordable housing, a problem he attributed to an influx of migrants. The man said these new arrivals got all kinds of hand-outs that he as an indigenous Brit couldn’t get. He said this was ‘a fact’ and for all I know it is a fact, though David Aaronovitch took issue with this.

Aaronovitch, a leftie journalist who I actually quite like since it was his articles from around 2001 that got me interested in politics in the first place, made the point that the homeless man was not stating facts but merely his perception of the facts. Well, yes, that’s true but isn’t that what we all do? Isn’t that what Amanda Platell had just done when claiming most immigrants were hard-working yet Aaronovitch didn’t pull her up for that. I suppose the man’s mistake was label his assertion ‘a fact’, something Platell hadn’t done. Aaronovitch got a huge round of applause for his observation from the totally impartial BBC audience, despite the fact that the homeless man might have been right.

Aaronovitch’s next point was that indigenous Londoners had made precisely the same complaints about his own Jewish grandparents when they arrived in the East End in the early 1900s: East Enders had claimed the streets were no longer theirs once the Jews moved in. Aaronovitch just couldn’t understand why anyone would feel less at home in their hometown after the arrival of a large number of newcomers. Well Dave, instead of thinking about white English people being inundated by dark-skinned people, try imaging Tibetan towns swamped by Han Chinese. Get it now?

Aaronovitch asked Mr. Jobless-Homeless why ‘some black faces’ in his neighbourhood made any difference to him. The homeless man had not actually said anything about black people though he probably did mean ‘visible minorities’ (who will soon be referred to as ‘visible majorities‘). Nor had he said that the streets were no longer his since ‘some black faces’ appeared in his area. His main point had been that he couldn’t find a job or place to live in the town where he grew up, a problem he attributed to the large number of immigrants who had moved in. Was this just another ‘perception’? It sounds reasonable enough to me.

I suspect neither of these Barking residents thought that ‘some black faces’ was the problem. The problem was a sea of black faces, brown faces, Muslim faces, Roma faces, all of whom had descended upon Barking in a very short space of time and turned white Brits from a super-majority into a minority. Aaronovitch’s ‘some black faces’ was thus rather disingenuous. It’s like calling a tsunami ‘a wavelet’.

Aaronovitch told the two that they were attacking the wrong people, even though both had explicitly said this was the fault of politicians who now refused, or were unable, to do anything about it. Of course rarely do the politicians who are apparently so keen on diversity actually live among large numbers of West Indians, Pakistanis and Somalis.

Aaronovitch appeared to believe that his point about East Enders a century ago worrying about the self-same things as the people of Barking today clinched the argument for him; native Londoners had obviously been wrong in the case of the Jews so they must also be wrong now. His point was perhaps that people always dislike change yet they soon get used to it and it all works out in the end.

I think there are two things wrong with this. The first is that just because hundreds of Jews a century ago finally blended in doesn’t mean that the same thing will inevitably happen with hundreds of thousands of blacks and Muslims today. Remember that each year we now take in the same number of immigrants that entered Britain from the period 1066 to 1950.

The second thing wrong is that Aaronovitch is looking at things from an imaginary future whereas the Barking residents are looking at the situation now. Being assured that in 100 years’ time this will all have blown over is no consolation to someone caught up in it today. And why will it have all blown over? Because the winners will have won and the losers will have lost yet no one can assure the white Brits of Barking that it won’t be they and their children who are the losers.

I can envisage a future edition of BBC Question Time in which two British people, Fatima and Mohammed, object to the sudden influx of sub-Saharan Africans into Barking, a town that has been predominantly Muslim for a century. They say it just doesn’t feel like it used to and their communities are breaking apart. Some panellist says the Africans work hard, for which they receive wild applause. Some other panellist opines: ‘You know, in 2014 people on this very program complained about precisely the same things: rapid demographic change and loss of community. It’s all been said before.’

The panellist bathes in the applause and wonders to himself whatever became of indigenous British whites. Did they all move to New Zealand or go extinct?’

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