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How Could I Imagine Voting for Ukip, If I'm Truly Honest? Is Being Cool About Immigration Just a Middle Class Perk?

30/07/2014 11:23 BST | Updated 29/09/2014 10:59 BST

You should be reading this in very close proximity to a Romanian, if Ukip and some tabloids were to be believed. They should be everywhere. Twenty nine million Romanians and Bulgarians. Filling our GPs surgeries, over-running our classrooms, under-cutting our wages - interspersed with a spot of begging, pick-pocketing and generally looking a bit unwashed and gypsy-like. A Whizz-air mass invasion over which the EU had neutered all forms of national resistance.

It was easy to feel a liberal middle-class disconnect from all this hysteria in the run-up to New Year, and those doom-laden relaxations of working restrictions for Romanians and Bulgarians. To see the tabloids as throwing out Little Englander red meat to cynically boost circulation. To see the Ukip surge in May as merely a vote against the political class rather than something that could actually be rooted in genuine grievances.

But what if these liberal tendencies aren't entirely rooted in 'enlightened' higher-values, sort some of capacity to see the good in mankind and multi-culturalism? What if being all cool about immigration is just a perk of metropolitan middle-classness, like being able to shop at Waitrose?

How many liberals just so happen to have done pretty well personally from immigration? Only seeing the benefits of supermarket shelves stocked with home-grown produce, or having kitchens/lofts/basements extended with tea-break-free grafting.

So let's honestly test the foundations of these liberal (and somewhat knowing) instincts; see how rooted they really are when it comes to economic migration (not the stuff of war-torn refugees but people coming here to work).

Peering deep down into the less ideological depths of your nakedly self-interested soul to ask: what would it genuinely take to vote Ukip? In my case, what might have made me rail against allowing any old Romanian or Bulgarian to pitch up and work here? What could have tipped my pencil to the Ukip box?

Well, one of the biggest pressures in my life in the last 12 months has been the ridiculous surge in London property prices. Having super-daftly been renting for the last seven years, I eventually threw in the market-isn't-going-to-crash towel a year ago and started looking to buy. It soon became clear that my procrastination over the last few years had cost me several hundred thousand pounds in absurd price hikes, I'd been priced out of my (mincy media) area and whenever I went to some ghastly open house feeding frenzy I barely heard another English accent. I was told that a whole new-build block near me had been sold off plan to Singapore. How on earth is a regular Brit meant to compete? - it just smacks of unfairness. And not being able to afford to live in an area that you feel at home in - or in a space that you can barely swing an anaemic cat in, let alone think about one day hypothetically raising a family in - is the stuff that truly keeps you awake at night. If, in the midst of this insomniac rage against the unfairness of it all, Nigel Farage had promised to boot foreign investors out of the London property market, I honestly think he'd have had me on the ropes.

And if seven years ago, it just so happened that amongst the half a million Poles who came here - just a tad more eh than the predicted 13,000 - as well as those hard-grafting builders and plumbers, there was also an influx of documentary-makers. Journalists who'd work for half my daily rate, not take days off and even sleep in their cars rather than spending all day on the phone to BBC hotel bookings trying to upgrade to the nearest Hilton. If my livelihood had been upended by the Poles, would I not be seriously anxious about what further Eastern influx the first of January was going to bring? Would Farage not have had my pencil poised in May?

It's an interesting and telling exercise to see what shift to your own economic self-interest might push your pro-immigration tendencies to breaking point. The answers might make you feel less sanctimonious - and a little less cocksure in your liberalism.

So, with that in mind, might we have been justified in fearing an invasion by Romanians? To have countless front pages - and Ukip - whipping us into an immigration hysteria that demonised an entire people? Well, it's hard not to revert to the all-knowing and sanctimonious here, but no. This was never really going to be a Poles Part Two. Those Romanians - a not insignificant 100,000 or so - who'd really wanted to come over had done so in the last few years under the self-employed loophole; and unlike the Poles who'd had the slim choice of the UK, Ireland or Sweden, today's Romanians have their unfettered pick of EU states. So the odds were super slim that the 1st of January would see a massive influx of Romanians. It wasn't the case that many Brits were facing a new threat to our all important self-interests.

Having said that, if any political party does fancy driving out the foreign property investors, I'd definitely sleep a little better.

You can see clips from Tim's BBC One documentary, The Great Big Romanian Invasion, here