Immigration: Chastity belts not yet needed

“In 50 years, I’ll be fucking dead,” the Labour ex-minister snorted to me today. Why did they say that? Because that’s how long they reckon, if current trends continue, it would  take for the UK population to reach 70 million – precisely the figure plucked out (out of thin air, opponents say) by immigration minister Phil Woolas in his somewhat controversial Times interview. Anyone who read it might – might – be forgiven for thinking that there was a risk of that happening in the next few years.

Woolas appears now to have backpedalled. But the 50-year comment was a sharp wake-up call for journalists covering the immigration debate. In 50 years the country could be radically different. Wars may have started and stopped; natural disasters could have struck; floods could have claimed part of the country (or another country).

And meanwhile, the rate of immigration could have gone down – or up. In short, making long-term predictions about population is a mug’s game. So the warning of Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, that policing such a population limit might require us to wear chastity belts, need not concern us unduly.

Woolas says in his interview that there’s a need to deal with the concerns of people who think that immigrants re getting unfair benefits, like being given £1 million council houses, and are causing unemployment. Question is whether talking about apparently hypothetical and, dare I say, meaningless population figures is the way to do that.

P.S. The ex-minister actually supported most of what Woolas said in his interview.

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