Thursday, 29 April 2010

The great spoken issue

The Mail's reaction to 'Bigotgate' was this front page:

'The I-word'.

The article adds that immigration is the:

great unspoken issue of the election.

Their editorial calls it the:

taboo subject of immigration.

This is delusional. But it is an argument that right-wing journalists - who seem more obsessed with immigration than anyone - use repeatedly.

Back in February, for example, Melanie Phillips asked why a (non) story about immigration was being ignored by the newspapers, pretending there was a conspiracy of silence. She had 'missed' it splashed all over the front of the Telegraph, as well as being in the Mail, Express and Sun.

The problem with the immigration debate is not that it is always being silenced - that is patently not true.

The problem is that it is dominated by the right-wing anti-immigration press who spread lies and misinformation to suit their own agenda.

They believe illegal immigrants get free cars and a cat stops a man being deported and it's then accepted as true by their readers.

It was only a few years ago a MORI poll showed Mail and Express readers thought there were three times the number of immigrants in Britain than there actually were.

The Mail editorial says:

Thus has our liberal establishment - and the BBC are the worst offenders - shut down the debate on the most profound change in this country's make-up in its history.

Ah, the BBC would have to blamed somewhere, wouldn't they? And yet during this election, the BBC broadcast a Panorama programme about immigration called Is Britain Full? Made by John Ware, it was so in tune with Mail thinking, the paper gave him room to talk about the issues on 21 April - under the headline Crammed Britain.

Moreover, the two leaders' debates so far both had a question about immigration. Indeed, the first question of the first debate was about immigration. It will come up in the third debate tonight too, apparently.

And here's some of the newspaper front pages from the election campaign:

Aside from the volcanic ash and the rise of the Lib Dems, it's hard to remember another single subject that has had as many front pages over the last few weeks.

And here's some evidence of how 'taboo' the subject is from the Mail's own site. Search for 'immigration' and you get this many results:

Search the Mail website for 'immigration' since 6 April - the date the election was called - until today and you get this many results:

So 105 results in just over three weeks - that's nearly four articles every day mentioning 'immigration'.

How is that an 'unspoken issue'?

(For more on how no one is being allowed to talk about immigration any more, see Angry Mob)


  1. You're absolutely right that the problem is that it's dominated by the distortions of the right-wing press.

    But because of that I think there's an easy assumption that anyone who says they're concerned about the effects of immigration is some intolerant bigot, when that's not necessarily the case.

  2. Worth a look is the BBC's Reality Check on the "I-word" and guess what none of the claims stack up even under vague scrutiny.

    Factor in the issues resulting from a clampdown on immigration and the effect on the likes of the NHS who have been obligated to recruit heavily from overseas and one starts to see how silly it all is. Bigoted even.

  3. I think it's quite funny that she got a postal vote because she was going to visit her brother in Canada. Will that be her brother who is an immigrant?

  4. Charlie Brooker in the Guardian has just made a very funny reference to this very phenomenon:

    "The press held up Brown's Bigotgate outburst as evidence that he's two-faced and contemptuous of everyday people, especially those who mention immigration, a subject so taboo in modern Britain that even fearless defenders of free speech such as the Mail and the Express only dare mention it in hushed capitals tucked away on the front page of every edition."

  5. i was sick of all the talk about immigration in the election. it was the least unspoken issue on the agenda. and the spoken agenda was, surprise surprise, all in support of daily mail style policies.

    caps on non skilled workers from outside the EU ey? does this apply to premiership footballers? i feel so overwhelmingly sad that our immigration policy has become so dictated by the right wing tabloid press. it just doesn't seem fair.

    and anyway, she was a bigot. saying a town i swamped with immigrants is a biogted thing to say. gordon brown should have responded by saying he just really hates racist attitudes and xenophobia.

    oh well. it's nearly over now...


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