Sunday, 21 February 2016
Wisbech has endured another spell of bad days, where the headlines have featured grim story after grim story. Firstly, we learn that Wisbech is one of the least integrated towns in Britain, in that the indigenous population go their own way, as do the large number of immigrants in the town, and ne’er the twain shall meet. This survey, by some think-tank out in the far blue yonder, has declared it so, and national media have been quick to pounce. It is small recompense to learn that our near neighbours in Spalding are even worse at getting on with each other than we are.
Next, and far worse, we have a poor woman in her forties being raped near, of all places, a children’s play area. It is a mistake to judge the impact of an event by how much it features on social media, but this nasty episode was not bumped up as much as it might have been, possibly because the rumour mill suggests that the woman was from Eastern Europe, and so not ‘one of ours’.
To cap it all, when news spread that a man had been stabbed at a house on Churchill Road, and was in hospital with life-threatening injuries, the doomsayers were quick to speculate that the men involved would not prove to be English. And so it was, when the news that the dead man – for this quickly became a murder case – and his alleged assailant were both immigrants, heads were nodded sagely, and there was a chorus of “I told you so.”
Anyone who thinks that Wisbech was a haven of enlightenment, peace and prosperity before the arrival of the immigrants, either has a defective memory, or took a bang on the head as a teenager, thus putting their earlier years into a kind of Disneyland soft focus. Wisbech has always been a knockabout, rough and ready, frontier-justice kind of town. I have written about murders, assaults and assorted villainy in the town, and you can find these in previous blogs – just use the search facility.
Have we experienced a descent into lawlessness since the immigrants arrived? My personal view is that you are much more likely to come to harm at the hands of a drunken Eastern European car driver than you are to meet with misfortune at the hands of a one of his colleagues wielding a knife. So why the fear and loathing? Why do local people write on Facebook that they don’t feel safe anymore?
There are several reasons, none of them being simple or conclusive. In no particular order, here are my views on the issue.
(1) There are too many single men, 18-30, in the immigrant population. Young men the world over, when in each other’s company, with no family restraints, will behave badly, given half a chance. Put these men in a situation where they are frequently without work, sharing sub-standard accommodation, and with ready access to alcohol, and what could possibly go wrong?
(2) There are winners and losers in the immigration game. Clear winners are people who have bought buy-to-let houses. Given half a chance, they can rent these out to people who, at face value, seem fairly respectable. But then, these respectable people turn out to be in the pay of bigger and more sinister interests. Maybe gangmasters, people smugglers? House and rooms can be let and sublet to the n’th degree, bringing much joy to the wallets of people at the top of the chain, and misery to those near the bottom.
(3) Farmers and bosses of food-processing plants think all their Christmases have come at once. Farmers may well be paying the going rate for cabbage harvesting or asparagus cutting, but by the time the agencies have carved out their share, the workers are often left with the square root of sweet fuck all.
(4) It is unfortunate, in so many ways, that Fenland is run by the Conservative Party. At the heart of their misrule at Town Council level is a man who actively supports the concept of HMOs – Homes of Multiple Occupancy. He vehemently opposed recent legislation to clamp down on the robber-landlords. He also defends the right of misguided young men to drink themselves senseless in public places. He is also very vocal in support of shopkeepers who want to profit by selling strong drink to these same young men. He takes every opportunity to criticise the police when – on rare occasions, admittedly – they attempt to enforce the law. He sneers at people who look to people like him and his political coterie for leadership, and a proper vision of what life should be like in a small town.
(5) Immigrant numbers in Wisbech long since reached the critical mass which makes it unecessary for immigrants to learn English. A small percentage of New Wisbechians do want to learn, and I have the privelege of working with these groups, and a more genuine, good-humoured – and generous – group of people you could not hope to find. The fact remains, however, that they want to learn English because they are keen to learn, and keen to integrate – not because speaking English makes their daily lives any easier.
As I write this, we learn that one of the more charismatic people in political life – Boris Johnson – has thrown his weight behind the campaign to leave the European Union. This gives me a sense that we may be at the start of a long journey to reclaim our country. If that eventually happens, I doubt I shall be around long enough for the changes to affect me, but for my children – and their children – I can feel only optimism.
But what of the here and now? If we do leave the EU, nothing will happen to the thousands of people from the Baltic States and elsewhere who have made Wisbech their home. And why should it? Most of them are working here, paying their taxes, and getting on with life. Their children already speak English as well as most of the ‘natives’, and in a generation, people will wonder what all the fuss was about. My hope is that recapturing our borders with Europe will lead to a much greater awareness of our sense of nationhood, and what kinds of behaviour we expect from people who view our culture and traditions with scorn, but are very amenable to our generosity in terms of healthcare, schools and benefits.
Angela Merkel has sown the wind with her catastrophic weakness on inward migration and, in terms of her political career, it is hoped that she will reap the whirlwind. What we decide on 23rd June this year may just be the first brick in the wall which saves us from the cultural devastation imminent in mainland Europe.