A tale of two worlds.
Kakistocracy (n): government by the worst, government by the most unsuitable, e.g. those most unaffected by immigration telling us how much we should cherish it. Enter Kevin McKenna. The former executive editor of the Daily Mail in Scotland, and a self-confessed socialist, has also identified himself as one of the last voices in the country to speak plainly in defence of multiculturalism and immigration. Published in the Guardian, his article is of a kind that journalism has almost forgotten: open and unashamed in its defence of an unpopular idea that is now in headlong retreat. It is likely one of the last to come out in favour of multiculturalism in a major national newspaper: the Guardian, one of the last nationals to be unambiguous in its stance, has steadily disowned the idea over the last few years, and now criticism of it by its online readers - the vast bulk of its readership - is the norm.
But you wouldn't think it: reading through the article, you'd be mistaken for thinking you were in 2004 again just when the 'sudden' and 'unexpected' rise of the BNP was making waves across Europe. Multiculturalist articles were ten to a penny, and they all followed the same format: a dramatic opening paragraph, with green rolling fields and perfect sunshine, a brief example, glowing praise, and then an impassioned dismissal of all critics as swivel-eyed neo-Nazis who couldn't get their heads around what was seen by many as the 'inevitable' progression of society. And they were all written by the same sort of people.
'Champagne socialists,' they are called - incorrectly, as most are not socialist - are without exception well-educated - often privately - and live in a rich clique of central or suburban London. They all live in townhouses, and many even have their own holiday homes: some - shock, horror - come with manicured nails. I've been around people from similar backgrounds to this 'set' for most of my life, and should probably stop mocking them. But I'm a firm believer in the principle that people should only speak on which they know. And, of, the consequences of immigration, those who are often the most vocal frequently know nothing.
A cursory glance at their 'benefits of multiculturalism' will reveal this truth: spices, curries, takeaways, a greater array of food to fill their oversized kitchens. Languages none of them will ever speak more appealing than the dissonant flow of Estuary English as they job around the park with a ridiculously short-legged dog in tow. The vivacity of colour in the local coffee-shop; faces of black, Asian, and Latin descent smiling as they sip a cuppa on a cold autumn morning. Immigration is not, in their eyes, an influx of people and their dependents. It is an influx of sights, sounds, and smells, which are better by the very virtue of being different. If you had this view of immigration, you'd probably think that anyone who opposed it was a backwards bigot, too.
They can't see the other side: they don't see the problems facing an unskilled labourer who has to compete with other unskilled labours charging far less. He has dependents here. He has a home here. He may have a mortgage. He may rate. Lowering his wages to compete with footloose workers from other countries, is not an option, no matter how many times the 'Islington set' recommend it to him, or berate him for being 'lazy.' They don't see the problems that parents can have getting their children into a school that was overcrowded and creaking before large-scale immigration arrived: how needlessly difficult it is now. Hopelessly underfunded schools struggle to cope. Students come and go, speaking a plethora of local languages, and there are far more of them than the school was ever built to cope with.
They don't see the problem with their neighbourhoods being transformed overnight; being shut out on their own streets. They will never have to wait decades for a council house. They will never go walking said small-legged dog in the morning and see a sign pinned to a tree that says 'This is a Shari'ah Area: Women and Gays Keep Out.' The only one that will spit on the animal as 'unclean' is the bigger labrador from down the road, not a religious fundamentalist who walks with his fellow religious fundamentalists down the high street with the same swagger as an eccentric boyband.
The urban intelligentsia can deny it all they like: virtually all of London is a completely different place now to what it was ten years ago. And that may be alright if you're looking in on the poorer, or even the well-off boroughs from outside. All they see is a variety of takeaways. It is not so good if you are an increasingly isolated family who has watched their neighbourhood change beyond recognition, fighting for rapidly-dwindling housing and education resources, with no possibility of leaving.
Kevin McKenna is a resident of a white, middle-class, urban neighbourhood: a sedate part of town, at the best of times, and a small one where the public services are still more than able to cope. He is telling the poorer communities of Inner Glasgow what is and is not good for them; how much they have benefited. But they should be the judges of that.