Today's Mail is all about fear - as most Mails are. You might have thought "WILL X AFFECT HOUSE PRICES?" was just a joke template Mail headline that Private Eye used, but no: today there's
Online crime maps 'could wipe thousands off house prices overnight'
and, of course, the immigration scare. There's something reassuring about coming across the POPULATION TO RISE AND NO-ONE IS DOING ANYTHING TO STOP IT AND THEY'RE ALL COMING OVER HERE story, and here it is:
Immigration to drive up Britain's population to 70million within 20 years
Ah, of course. The Mail runs this sort of story every few weeks, just in case you hadn't got the message hammered into your brain by now. Back in August they called a rise of two per cent in foreign-born mothers giving birth in Britain a 'migrant baby boom' and gave Amanda Platell full rein to imply that it wasn't 'people like us' who were procreating with a straightforwardly racist article.
Have a look back through the archive and you can read about "immigration to increase Britain's population by a third", "immigrant population to increase by TWO THIRDS", "Cut population by a third, say crowded Britons", "immigrants make up half Britain's population growth", "immigration and births to non-British mothers pushes Britain's population to record high", "immigrant population swells by 1.4million in five years as British-born residents dwindle", "immigration to trigger massive population boom"... and so on, and so on. That's just me searching for the word 'population'.
Almost exactly a year ago, Phil Woolas - definitively the most anti-immigration minister in Labour history, who regularly comes out with dog-whistles about how he is going to clamp down on immigrants - was labelled as 'hapless' by the Mail and the 70 million figure was touted. Woolas said in the story:
I am trying to reassure the people who are worried about speculation about increased population that they don't have to worry. The figure of 70 million is not a figure of my choosing, it is a figure speculated by others.'
So naturally the headline read
Hapless immigration minister repeats pledge to keep UK's population below 70 million
Hang on a minute. Look back to October 24, 2007 - exactly a year before that other piece - and there's another article on exactly the same subject, with exactly the same figure:
Britain's filling up with population set to hit more than 70 million by 2030
Is October 24th the "70 million" day? I looked back to October 2006 but couldn't find anything except for a thoroughly positive article about the introduction of a vaccine to protect against HPV with overwhelmingly positive comments calling it a 'breakthrough'... hmm I wonder whatever happened to that? Ah, wait a minute, the "70 million scare" story came in July of 2006:
Population 'could hit 70m unless we get a grip on immigration'
Lord Turner said the population would rise from 60million to 66million by the year 2050. But he predicted that if immigration went unchecked, the real figure would be 70million.
Every year a 70million scare story. And today's story has the same old scares, the same old shocks. And the same old distortion. It's never that the population will reach 70 million, and that might not necessarily be a bad thing with increased medical advances producing an ageing population which requires more young workers to pay taxes and keep the system going. No, it's always that immigration is going to be the one and only cause for an unnecessary rise. Today there's this:
Around 180,000 immigrants will arrive in this country every year, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said.
And what you're wondering is: how many people will be leaving the country? Well you can keep on wondering, can't you, because it's not like the Mail's going to tell you that. It might give you some perspective on the story, mightn't it? And they certainly wouldn't want that.
Every year 425,000 more people will be living in the UK...
meaning that, even if we assume 180,000 immigrants come in and no-one leaves - which of course isn't the case, but we'll assume it - immigration will only be responsible for 40% of the population rise. Yet it's the most important, almost only, factor mentioned in the Mail's story. Why might that be? And again, this is mentioned as if it's a fact:
When the immigrant baby boom is taken into account, migration will account for two thirds of population growth, the figures predicted.
Another clever bit of conjuring. It's almost claiming that children born in this country to foreign mothers are not British - which isn't a million miles away from what Gr*ff*n and chums might say, is it? And remember, that 'baby boom' is not a boom at all; it's a small rise. But let's call it a 'boom' to demonise the foreigns, shall we?
And yes, it's the same old faces being interviewed: Andrew Green of MigrationWatch, and Lord Turner. As they were in 2008. And 2007. And 2006. And maybe 2005, but I lost the will to live while I was wading around the Mail online archive. Still, put a big red ring round the second-last week in October for 2010: we'll be getting exactly the same story again. Maybe they'll push it up to 75 million for a bit of variety? We'll see.
*slight update* The BBC has its own take on the story here, which as you can see involves slightly more than just ringing round every anti-immigration voice they can find and saying "How bad do you think it will be?" The bit about British-born babies from foreign-born mothers being counted as immigration comes, surprisingly, from the ONS itself. Are British-born children of immigrants counted as immigrants? I find that a little odd.