No one would describe it as subtle. One UKIP poster appearing on billboards ahead of next month’s EU elections shows a workman sitting on a street begging. The caption: “EU policy at work. British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labour.”
UKIP predicted a storm from the “chattering classes” and it duly came. “A disgrace” and “disgusting” were two of the more printable words bandied about on Twitter. Representatives of the main parties joined in the attacks. Yet there, in the campaign and the response, the opening and attempted shutting of the debate, we see a truth ducked and the serious questions avoided.
When it comes to immigration there is one undeniable fact: a chasm has grown between what the public want and what our politicians promise, let alone do. A British Social Attitudes Survey in January found that 77% of the public would like immigration to be reduced. The days in which this could be portrayed as barely sublimated bigotry are past. A majority of first and second- generation migrants (60%) agree that migration into the UK is too high. While the public are not opposed to immigration, all polls show that they are angry about the scale of immigration that has occurred in recent years and especially the low-skill immigration that has soared thanks to the EU’s control of our border policy.
Ordinarily the mainstream parties would plug this divide but Labour oversaw the fastest and largest wave of immigration in this country’s history. The coalition, meanwhile, has talked tough but largely failed. Is it any wonder that so many disillusioned Labour, Conservative and first-time voters are willing to try the untested UKIP rather than the provenly failed main parties?
If the political class don’t like the UKIP posters then there is a way to deal with it. It is not to critique the posters but rather to address the facts they speak to. There is an urgent need to take back control of our borders from the EU and bring immigration down to sustainable levels. If the mainstream parties do not do so, then mass migration may prove as damaging to the political class as it has been to the lowest-paid members of the labour force.