Britain doesn’t know how good it’s got it

The British capacity for grumbling is a well-established national trait, but it is now approaching the level of delusion.

Two stories dominate the headlines today: immigration and the BBC. Both show how we have taken remarkable success stories and turned them into something to moan about.

The report by the Commons media committee raises the prospect of the end of the licence fee, the dismantling of the corporation's oversight structure and a severe restriction in the breadth of content the BBC offers.

Before considering the proposals, it's worth taking a moment to look at how the BBC is perceived. According to YouGov, it has trust levels of 61% among the public, higher than 55% for ITV, 45% for the broadsheets, 22% for the midmarket tabloids who so regularly chastise it, and 13% for the red tops. It certainly has more than the MPs who wrote the report, who are only trusted by 24% of people.

Overseas, the BBC is a byword for impartiality and reliability. It is one of the greatest examples of Britain's soft-power, a brand with value its private sector critics can only dream of.

Trust in the corporation took a knock after the Jimmy Savile affair, falling from 6.8 out of ten in September 2012 to six in November. But by January 2013 it was already up to 6.5. The BBC brand is remarkably resilient.

And that's because, despite its many detractors on right and left, the absence of commercial interests makes the BBC a much more reliable news provider than its competitors.

Critics constantly call for it to do less, because what it does, it does so well. This argument is entirely circular: if it's good, it must pull back because it restricts competition. If it's bad, there'd be no reason to have it at all. The only real end point of the criticism of the BBC is to dismantle it.

The same sentiment could be perceived as countless journalists branded rising immigration numbers a "disaster". In fact, they are saving our economy. As the Economist graph below, which was constructed using Office of Budget Responsibility figures, shows, a rise in immigration is needed to get our national finances back on track.

The simple fact is we have too many old people – and not enough young people working to fund the services they need for their care. Immigrants provide a very effective solution for this problem. We don't need to pay for the education of working age immigrants. They are typically physically healthy. But when they work and pay tax they contribute disproportionately to the public services which care for our elderly. 

The fact so many want to come here is proof that Britain is still considered a land of opportunity, where you can get a job and get on, somewhere where cartels and prejudice will not stop you reaching the top. We should be proud of that reputation. It is not to be dismissed lightly.

A growing economy, which is seen to allow people to reach their full potential, in a country which can boast a world-leading broadcaster with unparalleled levels of public trust at home and abroad. This is what Britain is complaining about today. Sometimes the British moan is endearing. Sometimes it is just absurd.