My jaw actually dropped when I saw this story about Michael Howard warning of race riots. Without blushing.

What he’s doing of course is trying to gain implicit acceptance for the idea there are no controls on immigration at present, which is plainly not the case. I’m sure there’s room for improvement, but that doesn’t mean there are no controls, and it doesn’t mean that a PR-friendly cap on numbers is the best way of achieving control. In fact, it’s about the bluntest instrument imaginable, since it tackles only the number of immigrants and makes no distinction between them in terms of the economic benefit they bring, their willingenss to contribute to society, or the moral imperative to help people living in fear of their lives.

The idea that race riots are fuelled by having too many immigrants is so simplistic and insulting as to defy belief. Race riots are not caused by having too many immigrants in our country, or indeed by having too many people from different ethnic backgrounds in our country (which is not the same thing). They’re caused by intolerance and fear. They’re caused by treating groups of people as caricatures instead of individual human beings.

The only way in which controlled immigration (i.e. *more* controlled immigration) can reduce race riots is if you assume that: a) that all immigrants are non white, b) Britain is a white mono-culture and other races are a disruptive outside influence, c) if people have an irrational fear you should pander to it instead of dispelling it, and d) the best way to stop people suffering racism is to keep them out of the racists’ country. Surely a case of blaming the victims rather than the criminals?

Reassuring people about strict immigration controls is not the way to tackle race riots or community relations. Implying that we can only take so many of these strange foreigners, you know, without sacrificing our way of life is not the way to tackle race riots. Implying that, by the way, immigrants might be murdering, lazy, lying opportunists who are here to take our jobs and kill us in our sleep is not the way to tackle race riots.

The way to tackle race riots is to encourage people to embrace the simple reality that Britain is multi-cultural. It also coudn’t hurt to encourage them to respect one another, to explain that immigration is a tiny issue compared to most that face our country, and to calmly reassure people that things are being done to keep criminals out of the country, but there are just as many criminals who were born here and we have to tackle them too.

I wish Labour and the Lib Dems were doing those things with more conviction, therefore.

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