Talking about Immigration Is Still the Great Taboo; INSIDE THE WORLD LesReid OF POLITICS

Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), June 20, 2012 | Go to article overview

Talking about Immigration Is Still the Great Taboo; INSIDE THE WORLD LesReid OF POLITICS


Byline: Les Reid

IMMIGRATION remains a sensitive issue, so reaction to our front page story was not surprising. My story on Monday exposed how official figures now predict Coventry's population will boom by 62,000 more than previously expected.

Those new estimates are among the UK's most significant, a council summary stated. They are mainly explained by net immigration into Coventry from overseas, including international students.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) forecasts that, if recent trends continue, including birth-rates among non-UK mothers, Coventry's population would increase by a third in 20 years.

While the figures also reflect a baby boom and a growing elderly population, the latest ONS figures provoked shock and scepticism at Coventry City Council.

As our story reported, if the ONS is right - a big IF - the new population es- timate for 430,000 residents by 2033 would blow current city planning out of the water.

The council is tentatively considering whether it would need to lobby government for extra funding - for services to meet the needs of that expanding population. Plans for housing targets - potentially 14,000 new homes by 2028 - would have to be ripped up. Many more would be needed, threatening the green belt.

To report the issues is not to take an anti-immigration stance. I speak as someone who has always challenged prejudices over immigration often based on fear, not fact - although governments have been very poor at calculating the truth about immigration.

I recognise the sensitivities. Yet the story and sub-editor's headline reflect genuine concerns about whether Coventry could sustain such a population increase.

Ever since Rochdale pensioner Gillian Duffy confronted then prime minister Gordon Brown during the 2010 election campaign, there's been more talk among political leaders about immigration concerns.

The public's challenge to the political elite was that any mention of the i-word was being routinely dismissed as prejudice.

OUT OF TOUCH? Witness Gordon Brown's description of MrsDuffy as a "bigot" into a TV microphone Gordon Brown's infamous meeting with Gillian Duffy mistakenly attached to his lapel. I remember interviewing the Labour leadership candidates after May 2010. Ed Miliband, his brother David, and Ed Balls were all keen to claim Labour had become "out of touch" with voters' concerns about immigration. …

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