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The Tories Must Not Dither Over Immigration

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Immigration is one of those topics politicians would rather avoid. But last Saturday in the Daily Mail, Nicholas Soames, a TRG patron, co-wrote an article with the Labour MP Frank Field about the dangers of current levels of immigration.

Their concerns centre on the pressures of large scale immigration on social services - and housing in particular. The population is set to increase from 62.3 million to a staggering 70 million over the next fifteen years.

The immigration debate is often reduced to a mundane battle of statistics. Though just focusing on the economic aspect of immigration does not do nearly enough justice to the scale of the problem.

The non-economic arguments are primarily social and cultural, which is why it has been such an emotive issue for so many years. It is also why politicians are reluctant to address it out of a fear of alienating the BME (black and minority ethnic) electorate. Yet the problem of socially fragmented and culturally segregated communities arising from such rapid levels of immigration has to be addressed.

Unfortunately there are many examples that demonstrate how this social fragmentation and cultural segregation is happening. In Tower Hamlets, women who refuse to wear a veil frequently receive death threats, while homosexuals are openly attacked in the streets. Sharia courts are operating across the country despite the fact that our laws do not allow special privileges to be granted to any one group over another. Even so-called 'honour killings' are on the increase, according to the Guardian. We should also not forget that the perpetrators of the 7/7 atrocities were born and bred in Britain and that the problem of home-grown Islamist extremism is still very much with us.

All that notwithstanding, many immigrants are decent, hardworking people just trying to make a living for themselves and their families in a new country. Britain should be a welcoming and tolerant country in which people can come to work and live in peace.

But there is a point at which mass immigration does become socially unsustainable. As David Cameron said in a speech last year:

"Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. We've failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We've even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values."

The Tories must offer that vision. To take pride in Britain as a country is not just a subjective whim, as valueless as the postmodernist doctrine of state multiculturalism - or rather cultural relativism as it should really be called. To take pride in one's country is an objective expression of a sense of belonging and a love for a place we call home.

Yet patriotism has been hijacked by nationalist extremists and dismissed as an embarrassment by the leftist intelligentsia. Tories must separate patriotism from the vile doctrine of nationalism in order to make a robust case for more socially sustainable levels of immigration. No one has done that more successfully than the self-declared 'Tory Anarchist' George Orwell, whose definition of patriotism in 'Notes on Nationalism' probably cannot be beaten:

"By 'patriotism' I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life. A patriot believes this country to be the best place in the world for himself but has no wish to force his ideas on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally."

That is how Tories must defend British patriotism. After all, it is for this very reason why Benjamin Disraeli is one of the greatest figures in the Conservative party's history. As Lord Salisbury said of Disraeli, "Zeal for the greatness of England was the passion of his life". This instinct goes to the very heart of Toryism, which is in character a social and political doctrine rooted in the patriotic experience, not in the abstraction of economic theory.

Britain has historically proven herself very capable of absorbing different groups. But as Nicholas Soames and Frank Field have rightly said, we are now facing the biggest wave of immigration for hundreds of years. It is in the face of this challenge that Tories should make a stand and defend what it means to be British and support social cohesion. An effective process of social cohesion can only take place when immigration has reached socially sustainable levels and the misguided project of state multiculturalism has been dismantled.

If today's Tory reformers fail to succeed in this task then we will only see the continued social fragmentation and cultural segregation of British communities.

This article first appeared on the Egremont blog on 10 September 2012