Leaving aside this gripe, however, it is still nice - and very rare - to see Cameron come out with something vaguely sensible. Unfortunately, he followed this up by demonstrating his complete misunderstanding of what the real problem with immigration is, saying:
I do think that people have a very real concern about levels of immigration and not because of different cultures or the colour of their skin. I think that people’s concern is about services. It’s the pressure on schools, pressure on hospitals, pressure on housing. It is important to understand that if your child is going into a reception class and suddenly 20 new kids turn up because lots more families have arrived then that is a big pressure.Okay, so perhaps calling it a "complete misunderstanding" was inaccurate. He is of course right about the pressures that unlimited mass immigration puts on our schools, our hospitals, housing, our whole national infrastructure. Back in May I wrote about the effect that immigration has had on Slough, and I think that one of the quotes I took from a Times article is worth repeating:
In the past 18 months [Slough Council] has placed in schools some 900 children who arrived in Slough from overseas. In other towns, they might have had to wait weeks or months to be placed, but Slough established a special assessment centre to speed the process. But it’s slow work: the centre can take only eight children a week. Last year two primary schools accepted 50 Polish children and 60 Somalis in just one term.As I pointed out at the time, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that many of the children coming in have extremely poor English language skills. There is no doubt, that if you are a British child unfortunate enough to be at a school that acquires fifty or sixty immigrant pupils, your education will suffer, just as you will suffer if you are a British couple patiently waiting your turn for a council house, and a few hundred impoverished immigrants move into your area, and jump straight to the head of the queue, on the basis that their "need" is greater than yours.
However, while the impact that immigration has on our infrastructure is clearly important, I think that Cameron is very wrong to claim that opposition to mass immigration is solely due to the structural problems it causes, and that it is "not because of different cultures". I believe that it is quite clear that the problems of different cultures, and, particularly, of the supplanting of the British way of life by the cultures of immigrant groups is at least as important a factor as the structural problems caused by immigration, in turning the public against mass immigration. I don't know whether Cameron's denial of this is down to deliberate dishonesty, or merely to ignorance. Being charitable, and assuming that it is the latter, I would point him in the direction of Sir Max Hastings, and Lord Carey, two relatively liberal figures, both of whom have spoken about the threat immigration poses to traditional British culture. Or he could read the words of Carol Gould, herself a first generation immigrant, at Jewish Comment:
...dare I say that the concept of an Englishman has been so distorted as to be unrecognisable? In the same country in which men used to tip their hats to me and cabbies called my father 'Guv'nor,' we now have British citizens and naturalised immigrants who rant and rave and want women subjugated, gay men thrown off mountains and the 'Infidel' beheaded, and whose entire demeanour is so alien to anything in my entire life experience that I wonder if I have left planet Earth.Or, Cameron could just speak to a few members of the public, 69% of whom feel that Britain is losing its own culture. If Cameron seriously believes that the dissimilarity between British culture and that of many immigrant groups - most particularly Muslims - has nothing to do with opposition to immigration, and is not in itself a far greater problem than any structural problems, then he is madder than the maddest of mad mullahs.
Nonetheless, while Cameron completely underestimates the importance of culture in opposition to immigration, he is right that there are too many immigrants. If, in the unlikely event that he were to win the next election, he actually proceeded to do something to reduce immigration, I wouldn't much mind why he did that, so long as he actually did it. However, I very much doubt that a Cameron government would do much to tackle immigration. That he has waited nearly two years since becoming opposition leader before raising the issue, and that he does so in such an essentially desultory manner, making no concrete commitments, and not even bothering to fully understand people's views, suggests that this is merely a sop to the substantial public anger over the level of immigration. And if all we want is people who are going to tell us that they understand our concerns and then ignore them completely, then we might as well stick with Labour.