Kenan Malik in Pandaemonium:
On Monday my essay ‘In Defence of Diversity’ – which exposes the hollowness of contemporary anti-immigration rhetoric, and places it in historical context – won the 3 Quarks Daily 2014 essay prize. And on Monday, the Times’ new columnist Melanie Phillips – my old colleague from the days when I was a panelist on BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze – published a polemic trying to claim the progressive groundfor critics of mass immigration. Her arguments are familiar – they are the very arguments I unpicked in my essay. So here are Phillips’ main points – and my response. If only she had read my essay first (not that I think it would have made much difference…)
‘Even now, it is still the issue that dare not speak its name… Mass immigration is still something on which only one view is considered socially acceptable: that there is nothing wrong with it.’
This, of course, has become the standard meme among anti-immigration campaigners, endlessly pushed by authors such as David Goodhart and Paul Collier. I find it extraordinary that anyone still has the gall to make such a claim. To suggest that there is no debate about immigration, or that the only position that one can hold is in defence of mass immigration, is about as credible as suggesting that Nigel Farage is a shy, retiring type who hates stirring up controversy.
Far from immigration being a taboo subject, there are few issues about which politicians and journalists are more obsessed, and few ideas that have more acquired the status of uncontestable wisdom than the need to impose tighter immigration controls.