I’ll preface this #SluggerReport with a link to a personal story from an old friend Bernie Duffy (whose personal adventures in migration I suspect would fill several volumes over and over…
It illustrates very well on a personal level the unexpected comprehensiveness of the migrant/refugee crisis, and how it has caught public discourse (in the UK and to a lesser extent Ireland) severely on the hop…
And not just David Cameron, but the case of UKIP (a party capable of putting or taking off policy positions with extraordinarily indecent speed) also.
What Bernie captures in his very personal story, is the ill-preparedness of European society of the disaster which is washing over it whether it choose to recognises it or not.
The truth is that UKIP have managed to convince mainstream UK politicians that immigration was a universal curse that had to be stopped at all costs. A cursory glance at the UKIP 2005 manifesto shows just how far out of line the debate has gotten since.
And yet, when you look at the basic attitudes of Brits to immigration it is pretty positive.
That’s not a conclusion you would have come to based on the election results in May. As we have seen UKIP can roster a huge vote and can dent the courage/confidence of the major middle parties hugely.
But their take on immigration issues now appears to be rather out of step with mainstream opinion in UK.
Perhaps it demonstrates the capacity of a skillful populist project to disrupt large mainstream parties and force the whole national conversation in ways that move it out of line with the settled opinion of the country.
And it’s not as though it doesn’t have consequences.
The refusal to have an open (and positive) debate on the problem of migration and asylum seekers means there’s no proactive policy in place. And that means that the UK sits pretty low in the full range of European countries taking in Asylum seekers (significantly below France for instance).
In fact it turns out that Ireland (despite the successful deployment of its navy in the front line in the Mediterranean) has been very much behind the door in taking refugees too, coming last on pure numbers accepted and pretty low in relative terms.
The thing is the immigration issue is only going to get bigger, and more global. Even when the crisis comes to an end, Europe will still have an immigration problem. As Africa becomes more affluent the pressure to accept yet more immigration will become more intense. Denying it, won’t make it go away. And folding under the pressure of cheap populism is no answer either.
As Bernie notes at the end of his Guardian piece…
I am putting together an emergency kit for the next time this happens – complete with a towel, toiletries, rain poncho, bottled water, new socks, 20 euros and flyers with directions to help centres. I will speak to my neighbours and encourage them to prepare likewise.
I’ll also be leaving the basement unlocked, for the time being.
Today’s #SluggerReport is a featured post on AudioBoom:
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty