Introduction — June 17, 2014
What’s interesting here is not just the growing public mistrust of politicians on the issue. For coupled with this, and pointedly not mentioned, is the growing cynicism about the corporate media’s coverage of current affairs.
Thus while reporting on the annual British Social Attitudes report, various news outlets gave a different emphasis in coverage.
Few noted however, that coupled with the hardening attitudes on immigration there was a growing cynicism toward the governing political elite. The Telegraph report below is one of the few media outlets that did arrive at this salient conclusion.
In contrast The Financial Times, emphasised how London was ‘more welcoming’ toward immigrants than elsewhere. Given that the Financial Times is almost synonymous with the City of London’s financial power and home to most newly arrived immigrants that is hardly surprising.
While Sky News’s Anushka Asthana reflected on how she felt about the reports findings, having grown up in India.
Both reports reflect the growing power of money and media: a multi-national power that is currently centred around the City of London and which is the real power that most of the governing political class serve.
It is probably this power that many Britons feel increasingly uneasy with. Although don’t expect the likes of Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News of the Financial Times to say as much.
Political class ignore strength of feeling on immigration ‘at their peril’
John Bingham — telegraph.co.uk June 17, 2014
Politicians have contributed to a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment because of a widening “disconnect” between the “liberal political class” and public opinion, the UK’s most authoritative barometer of public opinion suggests.
Almost half the population now believes that a decade of mass migration has not only harmed the economy but undermined “British culture”, the annual British Social Attitudes survey shows.
The “persistent public anxiety” over immigrant numbers is something the main political parties “ignore at their peril”, the Government-funded study warns.
Significantly, the study — which has been charting public opinion for more than 30 years — found signs of a rejection of a multicultural notion of Britishness.
In striking contrast with a decade ago, when the survey showed rising acceptance of minorities, increasing numbers now single out factors such as being born in the UK or having “British ancestry” as important elements of “British” identity.
The news led to warnings on Monday that a failure to slow the pace of immigration to Britain will increase racism.
The apparent reversal in attitudes comes after a decade of mass immigration following the expansion of the European Union.
There are now around 2.5 million more foreign-born British residents than 10 years ago, including just over a million people from Poland and the seven other countries which joined the EU in 2004.
More than eight out of 10 people now support a major tightening of rules on access to benefits and curbs on overall immigration — but the study points out that EU rules would make it “very hard” for the Government to deliver on this.
“There is a clear, and intense, demand for action on the issue from one section of the electorate, a demand politicians ignore at their peril,” it concludes.
“Yet responding to the concerns of the voters worried about immigration today risks alienating the rising sections of the electorate whose political voice will become steadily louder in elections to come.”
The warning comes after the UK Independence Party’s triumph in the recent European elections, a development the study said had been influenced by a serious “disconnect” between the wishes of voters and the positions of the main parties.
It also comes amid a political row over moves by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, to require schools to teach “British values”.
When asked what made people “truly British” the survey’s participants singled out distinct characteristics. While the importance of speaking English has long been strong, support has now reached a level of near unanimity.
The number of people citing it as a key ingredient in Britishness rose from 85 per cent to 95 per cent between 2003 and 2013.
The number citing being born in Britain as an important or very important element, edged up from 70 per cent to 74 per cent, reversing a downward trend in the previous decade. Almost eight out of 10 said it was important for people to have lived most of their life in the UK before being included — up more than a tenth in a decade.
Meanwhile, just over half (51 per cent) said it was important to have British ancestry to be considered British, up from 46 per cent in 2003.
Overall, the study, published by NatCen, an independent social research group which is funded by the Government, found that 77 per cent of people want immigration to be cut, including 56 per cent backing a large reduction.
The study said 47 per cent believe immigration has had a negative economic impact, compared with only 31 per cent who see it as positive. Forty-five per cent said they thought immigration had “undermined British cultural life”, compared with only 35 per cent who believe it has enriched British culture.
Almost one in five people believe immigration has been “very bad” both culturally and economically — outnumbering those who say it had been “very good” economically by six to one.
The study warned: “Policymakers and the interest groups they deal with regularly tend to be drawn heavily from the liberal end of the spectrum, creating a potential for disconnect and distrust between a more liberal political class which accepts immigration and an electorate among whom many find it intensely threatening. This combination of persistent public anxiety, the disconnect in attitudes between political elites and voters, and constraints on policymakers’ ability to respond have helped to fuel the rise in support for Ukip.”
It added: “In many areas of migration policy, constraints on current policy mean it is more liberal than even the most pro-migration parts of the public would like, generating widespread public discontent which is hard to address.
“For example, EU rules make it very hard for the government to restrict migrant numbers, or regulate migrant access to the welfare state, in accordance with the wishes of most of the public.”
Frank Field, the former Labour work and pensions secretary, said the shift in attitudes was a “huge condemnation” of the immigration policies of successive governments and said it would be “unforgivable” for politicians not to respond.
“One of the things we must do in drawing up our red and blue lines for renegotiating in Europe is that we have to have control of our borders again.”