Last Saturday, the English Defence League’s demonstration in Bradford came and went without the feared violence.Most of it seemed to involve the EDF protesters chanting at themselves. What intrigues me about the EDL is which England is it that they are defending, because it is not the England that I’ve lived in for almost 60 years.
My England is the country that has welcomed foreigners, and has been enriched by it. Jewish immigration has been here for a long time, even before the influx in the mid 20th Century which were escaping first Nazi expansion and then the Communist takeover of Eastern Europe in the wake of Germany’s defeat.
There was an influx from the Commonwealth countries from 1948 onwards, mostly to fill unskilled jobs, though various acts over the years mean that now only skilled people, those who have a job here or close family members of legal residents.Then there’a asylum. Britain has s strong record on this. From Jews escaping Nazi Germany, or the Communist regimes that took over much of Eastern Europe after World War, to the influx of Hungarians after the uprising in the late ’50s. Then there were the Asians kicked out of Uganda by Idi Amin in the ’70s, the UK took 60% of those.
But they’re taking our jobs.
Really? Each influx brings jobs with it. They need food, drink, housing; they will drive cars and use public transport. They will use shops and banks, and there’s the entertainment industry too. Service industries will expand to meet the needs of the number of people they are serving, and 80% of the British workforce is in the service sector. “They’re taking out jobs,” is an argument that does not wash. In 2006, before the worldwide recession hit, there were more people working in the UK than there ever has been.
The England I’d defend…
…is the England that welcomes the foreigner, the outcast, the asylum seeker. An England that is tolerant of those who are not like us. That is an England worth defending.