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Is Immigration Damaging Britain? 23 March 2007

Posted by David in Love To Lead.

“Is immigration destroying Britain’s national identity?” is the question this week on Love to Lead, and I am pleased to offer an answer, which in the great tradition of Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey Appleby is both yes and no.

The key point is which immigration, and which immigrant? Too often all people coming to Britain are very unhelpfully lumped together in the same, single, over politicised and ill defined category. This confuses the debate, and adds unnecessary emotion to the topic.

Britain has a long history of immigration, however each new group of arrivals has integrated and become a fully successful part of British culture – so much so that within single generations the ‘immigrant’ and his/her family is not just accepted as living in the nation, but part of the nation. Celebrity examples could be Michael Howard, Dame Kelly Holmes, Levi Roots and Sir Trevor McDonald, but there are millions and indeed few if any are without DNA from those with overseas origins. We don’t even think about their ancestors – each of them is “one of us”.

Democracy requires us to accept each others as the same, equal citizens – as “a demos”, which translates as “a people” – or we cannot accept the result as legitimate (imagine the friction if the USA and Canada had one parliament, or Australia and New Zealand).

But not all immigration is like this. The advent of multi-culturalism has changed the set up so that multiple cultures can live within one state. Indeed they can; no one found Levi Root’s Reggae Reggae Sauce, a celebration of Jamaican heritage, a problem – because he was still British as well. He is British with Jamaican ancestors.

The problem arises when immigrants or descendants of immigrants take the ‘either/or’ routeand choose the non-British option. They believe they are either XXXXX or British, rather than British with XXXXX ancestors/roots, and when those cultural roots dominate their personality – things like language, physically noticeable religion etc. This causes friction. When people make demands to accommodate their culture, it’s even worse.

The old adage of “when in Rome, do as the Romans” holds true. If you go abroad, especially if permanently, common decency and respect requires us to respect and mostly integrate into the local way of life. It should be the way of life why you moved there. In America, it has been a melting pot, but imagine the carnage and friction if all had kept their old cultures fully. The same applies to Britain. Some immigration has integrated and benefited us, some sadly hasn’t. It’s not about race or ethnicity, but about whether people want to be part of Britain or just live here.