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Time to talk about incomers

19 July 2013

But not intemperately, as this book does, says Ann Morisy

The Diversity Illusion: What we got wrong about immigration and how to set it right
Ed West
Gibson Square £14.99
Church Times Bookshop £13.50 (Use code CT469 )

IS THIS an important book with warnings to be heeded? Or is it a scurrilous and offensive one that risks becoming a reference book for the BNP or English Defence League? I don't know. What I do know is that Ed West is the deputy editor of the Catholic Herald, and does not disguise the fact that he is at home in the Christian faith. I also know that he is clear that we need to talk about immigration with a frankness and urgency that sus-pends the constraints of political correctness.

West spells out in detail the pitfalls of immigration over the past 20 years, so much so that the sub-title for the book could have been Enoch was right. His argument is clear and potent: that immigration serves the interests of the élite of the world, and the cost of immigration - and it is a deep cost - is borne by the poor and by immigrants themselves.

This argument West then repeats with two variations: that the liberal middle classes have disguised these raw dynamics with talk of the gains that come with diversity; and the more sinister variation: that those who don't see things as West does have bought into this liberal confection, which is perpetuated by the media, by left-wing saps, and naïve church groups.

West presses all the right buttons to provoke nods of agreement in the reader, and regularly notes his concern for the immigrant as much as for the indigenous British. Nor can he be criticised for lack of detail when he spells out the grievous contradiction between diversity and community. As a result, this book easily gets into the bloodstream, and clouds the imagination about other more hopeful possibilities.

I was grateful for West's repetitive rants, because they alerted me to the siren call that lurks within these pages. And yet, and yet - West is right, we really do need to talk about immigration, and throw off the taboos that surround the issue. Nevertheless, in this book West is too intemperate to be trusted in relation to the challenge.

Whilst alerting us to "what we got wrong about immigration", West ducks the claim made in the second part of his subtitle, and does not give ideas about how to set it right. The route he provides risks fostering anger, cynicism, and resentment, because these emotions West shamelessly expresses as he piles detail upon detail about the failure of diversity, in his view, to deliver anything more substantial than culinary variety.

Ann Morisy is a freelance community theologian and lecturer.

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