Monday, 8 June 2009

"I don't like this evidence. It doesn't support my hate and disgust."

If you're wondering about the kind of thinking that could have led voters to elect the White supremacist, hatemongering BNP to two seats on the European Parliament, new research by the British Red Cross may have some insights, (although, as Sunny Hundal points out in the Guardian, "The BNP is not increasing its votes. In both Yorkshire and the north-west, its total number of votes fell from 2004. This absolutely does not mean that more people are being seduced by the BNP's propaganda. It means that Labour's share of the vote collapsed and went to other parties, thereby helping the BNP under a proportional system.") Still, in news that is not at all surprising to us here at the Chronicles - and by 'us' I mean 'me' - The Independent reports that:

Attitudes to asylum-seekers in Britain are being skewed by gross over-estimation of the numbers of refugees reaching the United Kingdom and prejudice towards immigrants among young people, the British Red Cross says today.

Nearly a quarter of people believe there are more than 100,000 asylum applications every year – about four times the annual figure of 25,670, and just 5 per cent of Britons know to within 10,000 how many refugees come to the UK every year.

The entire article is worth a read. It outlines how we are all essentially completely wrong about the numbers, education levels, magnitude of the role of the UK and pretty much everything else concerning immigrants seeking asylum here that has informed widely-held prejudices against them. But the real gems are to be found in the Comments section, if you can stomach it, in which several of the commenters poo poo the data and carry on with their "Up with the BNP!" message. The rest of Sunny Hundal's article, linked above, tries to highlight a silver lining in the BNP's rise to MEP status, but with people's eagerness to prioritize their own fear and prejudice over actual evidence, coupled with the fact that Labour could barely string together a decent response to the immigration hysteria when the party was fairly intact, let alone now that it is in shambles, I may need a healthy dose of whatever Hundal's having to keep my optimism alive.


  1. The trouble with the immigration debate is that the issues are complex. For the host country, there are several counterbalancing effects of immigration on wages, unemployment, public services and housing, to name a few, which are in turn dependent on the characteristics and size of the immigrant population, and affect different parts of the native population to greater or lesser extents, and over different time frames. Five-word political slogans which cannot hope to capture these complexities necessarily become fodder for the uneducated and latently racist. There needs to be an open, honest and wide-ranging immigration discussion, probably initiated by the government, that begins with education of the general public.

    (As an aside, an excellent report published by the House of Lords on the economic impact of immigration on the UK can be found here:

  2. You can see a break down of the poll results on the campaign website at


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