The Week in Review: The flood that never came

So in the end there was no flood. In fact there was barely even a trickle.

To the vast disappointment of assembled reporters at Heathrow airport on Wednesday morning, the predicted tidal surge of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants had completely failed to come.

Most of the few arrivals that did seep through were either already resident in the UK, or were simply visiting.

After much anxious searching, one reporter from The Times managed to find just one genuine new immigrant.

"I come to work, wash cars," he told the paper. "I don't come to rob your country. I came to work. You open the borders. I come to work, to make money and go home."

So after all the predictions of a flood, reporters could find just one man with a bucket.

So what had happened to the Great Romanian Invasion of 2014? And why had the newspapers who predicted scenes akin to those out of 28 Days Later, got it so spectacularly wrong?

Of course it's still early days. Perhaps a few million got lost on the way to the airport, or perhaps they're planning to sneak in under the cover of darkness once we've all forgotten about them.

Or perhaps this was the single worst failure of the British press since the millennium bug. We'll have to wait and see.


But perhaps it's unfair to blame the press. After all, hyping up stories in order to sell papers is their job.

But what was the government's excuse? Why have Theresa May and the Home Office spent the past year scaring the public about a threat, which so many experts had warned didn't exist?

More importantly, why when the economy is struggling to recover from the worst recession in decades, did no politician make the positive economic case for immigration?

Even Andrew Green, who heads the rabidly anti-immigration pressure group Migration Watch was forced to admit this week that immigration has been a net positive to the British economy.

Of course he went on to claim that this fact was "not significant" but at least he admitted it. Why did no mainstream politician also make this case this week? What after all were they so scared of?


The fear among politicians of being seen as "soft on immigration" is now so ingrained that even genuine refugees are being turned away.

The decision by David Cameron, who had spent months condemning atrocities in Syria, to reject people fleeing from the county is one of the more shameful events of his premiership.

So when Ukip leader Nigel Farage took the decision to criticise Cameron for it, I was genuinely surprised and pleased. Here was a chance for him to finally shrug off accusations of bigotry levelled at the party and show that he is willing to stand by truly British principles of fair play.

Sadly his brave stand lasted less than 24 hours. After a furious backlash from party members, Farage gave in. His original call for a blanket admission of Syrian refugees was ditched, to be replaced by a new call for only Christians to be let in. His attempt to make his party look less bigoted, had left them looking more bigoted than ever.


It is already clear that immigration will be a big part of the next general election campaign. This should worry anybody who cares about defeating racism in the UK. However, it should also worry the three main political parties.

Immigration remains a big concern among the public, but there is little evidence that it is a big shifter of votes in the UK. Attempts by the Conservatives to raise fears about immigration this past year have not coincided with an increase in vote share for the party.

Even Ukip, who have used immigration as a major part of their campaign, are still not on course to win even a single MP at the next election, according to pollsters.

Besides, Ukip's rise in support last year was down to many factors, of which immigration is just one.

Meanwhile, the only party to focus exclusively on immigration has seen their own fortunes gradually dwindle.

The BNP, who just a few years ago seemed on the verge of an electoral breakthrough have since lost almost all of their elected seats.  As immigration fears have risen, the BNP's standing has fallen.

The bankruptcy order on BNP leader Nick Griffin this week should serve as a warning to all those mainstream politicians desperate to appear tough on immigrants. While the public may not like immigration, they appear to like anti-immigration parties even less.