Britain: It's not racist to worry about immigration
Given the scale of new arrivals here and the extent to which they are changing our society, the quality of debate over the desirability of this upheaval is miserable. And we all know why.
Those who favour open borders have in effect gagged opponents by accusing them of "racism". You don't have to be against welcoming newcomers to be smeared as a Nazi sympathiser. You just have to argue that it's an important matter, with some serious downsides, that deserves proper analysis.
On that basis, I'm sure that this column will be met with abuse from the pro-immigration lobby. I'll be branded as a closet racist for reflecting the concerns of millions of decent Britons who are worried about what's happening to their country.
Cowed by human-rights campaigners, refugee groups and duplicitous politicians (mainly Labour and Lib Dem), seeking electoral advantage by demonising rivals who propose controlled immigration, we have created a monstrous democratic deficit.
In December 2004, just as the wave of arrivals from eastern Europe was becoming too big to ignore, a survey for the Economist revealed that nearly three quarters of British people believed that too many immigrants were coming here. The Government refused to listen; it didn't want to know.
Labour encouraged, in some cases by stealth, one of the most impactful challenges to British life without asking anyone for permission or approval. Unrestricted immigration did not feature in any of Tony Blair's election manifestos.
We simply got it - whether we liked it or not. Since Labour came to power 10 years ago, British citizenship has been granted to one million foreign nationals. More than 150,000 were given a passport in 2006, four times the number who were awarded the privilege in 1997. The rate of overseas settlement in Britain is running at its highest ever.
The indigenous population derives considerable benefits from many of these fresh faces. The Poles in particular have reintroduced manual skills and a work ethic to a British economy that was in danger of over-dosing on useless degrees and welfare dependency.
Far from being scroungers, most of these people are grafters who have tested to destruction the canard that Britain had more than one million unemployed because there were not enough jobs to go round.
Nobody knows the real numbers, but officials estimate that at least 600,000 migrants have come to our shores since EU enlargement three years ago. Unemployment has gone up, but by nothing like the number of new arrivals. They have filled jobs that native Britons either could not or would not do.
While five million locals claim benefits of one sort or another, the Poles are earning a living as beaters on Scottish grouse moors, fruit packers in East Anglia and, of course, plumbers in London. They pay taxes, behave themselves and, on the whole, try to integrate. Many arrived speaking reasonable English. Most of those who did not, seem keen to learn. In short, they are as close as you will get to model immigrants.
But the harsh truth is that even popular incomers impose a social burden, especially if they (unlike the Poles, who are quite well dispersed) arrive in very large numbers and choose to congregate in a small town or stick together in part of a bigger one. They demand housing facilities, classroom places, slots in doctors' surgeries and hospital wards.
According to Home Office figures, 4,200 children from the former Eastern Bloc were brought to Britain by their parents in the first quarter of this year. In Slough, a target for Romanian Roma, some schools are struggling to cope, as budgets are stretched to cover intensive English language lessons.
I don't accept Labour's propaganda about ever more immigrants being needed to fuel economic growth. If an explosion in population is necessary for prosperity, how does Gordon Brown explain the success of Iceland, where fewer than 300,000 people, a tiny fraction of whom are immigrants, enjoy the sixth highest GDP per capita in the world?
Professor Richard Layard, a government adviser on labour markets, concedes that immigration can damage those at the bottom of the income ladder because "it depresses their wages and may affect their job opportunities". Even if that were not true, the debate on immigration should not just be about financial rewards, or the lack of them.
Some of the costs cannot be counted in pounds and pence. It's no good dreamy demographers spouting the delights of a "melting pot" society, when in reality many Britons are discomfited by the prospect of their areas filling up with people who look, behave and speak differently. Few of us enjoy being made to feel like cultural aliens.
The middle classes are frequently criticised for "white flight", a rush to the suburbs to escape inner-city areas, heavy with immigrant populations. But how many ministers would be happy to send their children to schools where English was barely understood? The Blair children, you will recall, did not attend the local bog-standard comprehensive.
Amid the hype and hysteria, there is one unavoidable fact: if Britain continues to allow current levels of immigration, this country's population will grow dramatically in the next 50 years. This is the element that bothers me most.
Never mind arguments over race, diversity and multi-culturalism, England (where most immigrants want to settle) is horribly crowded. With 50 million people, it is the fourth-most densely populated country in the world, excluding city states such as Hong Kong and Dubai.
Seven out of 10 Britons believe that we are already over-crowded. They do not want to see a further sharp rise in numbers. But that's what they'll get if nothing is done.
Since 1950, the United Kingdom's population has risen by 10 million to 60 million. Official figures suggest it is on course to hit 70 million by 2074. Migrationwatch, however, fears that current levels of immigration will cause the growth rate to accelerate, in which case there could be 70 million of us by 2051.
Is this what we want for our grandchildren? Such an expansion would put enormous pressure on essential services such as power supplies, reservoirs and waste disposal, with the South East by far the worst affected. Energy consumption would soar.
For those who endure the daily slog through polluted urban streets, gridlocked roads and packed trains, it's a nightmare vision. If David Cameron is really interested in a "greener" Britain, what's he going to do about over-population?
Majorities of British, Germans and Italians Believe There Are Too Many Legal Immigrants in Their Country