An Immigration Lie

The immigration lie of the moment is the lie that any of the major parties would do anything significant about it. It is true that the parties in favour of continued EU membership are limited in the extent to which they can promise to reduce EU immigration even if they wish to – the concept of free movement of people within the EU is one which is not realistically going to be capable of renegotiation (although there does seem to be some scope to distinguish the freedom to move from the right to claim welfare benefits). The real lie is the one being peddled by the most significant anti-EU party, UKIP.

It is true that were the UK to leave the EU, it would be able to restrict immigration from EU countries just as it is currently free to do so in respect of non-EU immigration. The lie here is more subtle. I will credit UKIP’s leadership with being sincere in not wanting it to be a racist or xenophobic party. However, its rhetoric about regaining control over immigration raises the hopes of those who would not just want to control future immigration, but also to “do something” about immigration up to the point at which this future control was obtained. Some people who are concerned about immigration are genuinely focusing on preventing future immigration but many, perhaps most, of those who consider it an issue do so because they have serious problems about the immigration which has already occurred.

UKIP’s election broadcast for the European Parliament elections included a contribution from builder (and UKIP council candidate), Andre Lampitt, who has since, embarrassingly, been found to harbour some unavoidably racist and unpleasant views. However, even had this not been true (and something for which Nigel Farage candidly admitted, the party deserved a kicking), what he said in the broadcast is telling in itself. He bemoans the Eastern European and other immigrant tradesmen who had already come and made it difficult for him to earn a living. People who sympathise with that view aren’t just saying “we don’t want any more”, they are saying that they don’t like what we already have.

UKIP, in pushing this is lying. Either it is lying to the people who are sympathetic to what Lampitt said in the broadcast because they have no intention of doing anything about those who will have lawfully come to Britain prior to them taking control of immigration. Or it is lying to those it is trying to persuade that it is a non-racist party who have no interest in attempting to “encourage” the repatriation of lawful immigrants. This latter line is the way in which it can distance itself from the BNP’s approach to immigration. But, it, and its supporters need to work out where they really stand on the issue. If they don’t want to “do something” about the immigration which has already occurred they need to stop using that immigration as part of the message for why something needs to be done about future immigration. That case can be made independently, but not credibly by a populist party reliant on the support of those who would happily see immigrants from the 2004 Accession States sent packing and who would pressure UKIP to do so were they to achieve power with their support. Or, they could be honest and say that yes, Farage was disturbed by the lack of English voices on his commuter train and was going to do something to remove the foreigners already in our midst.

Somehow, I can’t see either honest course of action being taken. UKIP won’t want to lose a lot of its popular support by clarifying that those who are already here can stay and there’s nothing wrong with them being here. It won’t want to lose a lot of its support by saying they agree with the BNP that many legal immigrants should “go home”. Just as Farage’s defence of employing his German wife hasn’t been translated into a policy of supporting the right of foreign spouses to enter the country and work here. He’s said she’s the only one who could be his PA, but would he have considered it acceptable for the UK to bar his wife from entering the country were she not to have had those unique skills? UKIP might not be racist, but it has no problem with courting the support of racists.

Easter 2014

Back to school and work in spring rain? Remember the holidays!

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Swinton Park Easter Egg hunt – a lovely place for a day out near Masham. A bit of a hidden gem as it never seems to be particularly busy but has great grounds and family events for a couple of pounds. Masham itself is worth visiting too. Apart from having the Black Sheep Brewery it also has Bah Humbug, a traditional sweet shop.

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A butterfly sunning itself on our patio.

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Robin Hood Bay near Whitby. Last time we went, even though it was a bright sunny day all the way up from Leeds across the spectacular North Yorkshire Moors the village itself was shrouded in fog so seeing the long sandy beach was a surprise. It also has no restrictions on dogs, unlike many beaches. We had a couple of drinks at The Bay pub and could easily have had more if we didn’t have to drive home! We drove back along the A170 to the A1 to enjoy the views at the vertiginous Sutton Bank near Helmsley. If you like camping, I can recommend Rosedale Abbey near Pickering for a few nights. You can also catch a steam train from Pickering to Whitby over the Moors so there’s plenty to do in the area.

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These were taken on a walk between Bursledon and the Horse and Jockey pub in Hampshire.

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Back home, looking out towards the “American Garden” in Meanwood Park, Leeds. Despite walking the dog there every day over the last year I’m still amazed that there is this beautiful open space so close to Leeds city centre. OMB and I rode our bikes out along the Meanwood Valley Trail one afternoon to Adel, where we were greeted by fields of lambs which made it feel like we were in the middle of the countryside rather than just outside Leeds Ring Road. The trail itself stretches from the centre of Leeds at Woodhouse Moor (commonly known as Hyde Park) to Golden Acre Park. The walk out that way is one of the best free days out you can have in Leeds, taking in nature and local history (you can see the remains of the mill workings and quarries from Leeds’ early industrial days 200 years ago as well as the memorial to polar explorer Captain Oates, who owned Meanwood Park when it was still a working farm).

Derren Brown – Leeds Grand Theatre 28 March 2014

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Writing about Derren Brown’s latest show is slightly challenging for a couple of reasons. First, it is hard to get across the detail of his act when the nature of the “magic” is very much contained in the amazement that the performance brings. Second, even were I to be a sufficiently skilled writer to convey this, he asked those attending not to spoil things for future audiences (live and probably on DVD or TV) by giving away what he did. So, with those two caveats in mind, here are my thoughts. At least with the space of a couple of weeks between seeing the show and writing about it, the latter will be easier to do!

DB’s magic is magic in the sense used by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Magic of Reality. Those who have seen the many different TV specials DB has done will know that he is of the modern school of magic which involves demystifying the act by showing how the tricks are done. However, as with Dawkins’ explanations and descriptions of nature, knowing how amazing things are done doesn’t make them less amazing – indeed, done well, as DB does them, they make the audience more amazed that he can actually do them. Prodigious feats of memory and manual dexterity can be more wonderful than the mere channelling of unexplained mystical forces by a Harry Potter, where much of the magic is rendered mundane in the magical world (and where a few eccentric wizards like Arthur Weasley are perceptive enough to see the wonder in things we muggles consider mundane, like electricity). The biggest targets for criticism by DB are the mystics and clairvoyants for their charlatanism – just as the everyday use of Divination is generally derided in the Harry Potter books (even if in that magical world there are rare acts of genuine and terrifying prophesy).

In his latest show, DB goes a stage beyond the core of previous shows of his I’ve seen on TV. Those often tended to rely on the basic tricks of the trade for close magicians of sleight of hand and misdirection. Both are, of course, used liberally in this show too. However, the underlying theme of DB’s commentary here is about how predictable people are and how we are “easily” misdirected because we don’t know or let ourselves believe that we are predictable. We’re all individuals, or so we’d like to think. Yet, as advertising executives, marketeers and politicians know, we also, however much we deprecate the idea, fall into various categories where we are similar to other people – if we’re in our 40s we’ve probably thought about whether the career we have chosen is the one we want to carry on doing for the next 25 years, if we’re in our late 20s, we probably find our parents less irritating than we did when we were young adults and so on.

This simple message drives the various tricks and demonstrations through much of the show both directly and indirectly. The message is communicated indirectly in the highly personal monologues about DB’s own childhood and how he developed his skills – a clear theme is how he is or was something of an outsider, doing things most thought odd and how it has taken him a long time to become comfortable with and capable of using that fact rather than trying to conform with categories he didn’t fit into. So, we hear of his struggles with coming out as gay and other such things. He is, like Harry Potter, the boy that lived.

The central part of the act is deceptively simple and involves inducing a trance state in audience members. This is something which has been done by many mesmerists in the past, although DB is clear that he is not hypnotising anyone. Unlike an end of the pier hypnotism act, there’s no making the subject pretend to be a dog or do other cruel things for the amusement of the rest of the audience. Yet, the overall effect is still spectacular. I could possibly describe it further without really spoiling the act for anyone. I went with Mrs B who had heard all about the act from colleagues who had been to an earlier show in the tour last year, one of whom on that occasion was selected by DB as the subject to go on stage for the trance. Another of those colleagues was also with us. Yet, when Mrs B and I disappointedly realised that we hadn’t had the trance state induced in us, we noticed that our friend, who had seen the show and seen his colleague up on stage during the same part of the show, had also succumbed to the trance. This made the point, without it being part of DB’s actual act, that knowing about what happened and how, would not be a defence against the power of the illusion.

If you have seen DB on TV and enjoyed it or if you just want to be amazed at what can be achieved without magic in the sense of the inexplicable, I’d strongly recommend going to one of the shows in the remainder of the Infamous tour.