So Cardinal Nichols won’t be voting UKIP then

His Eminence, ever the politician, didn’t name UKIP specifically.

But his remarks on immigration were clearly inspired by the party’s poster campaign saying “British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labour.”

“The reality,” countered His Eminence, “is that the vast majority of migrants to this country add to our well-being.”

Some of us would like to see his sources, and also some more precision of phrasing. How vast is this majority? More important, does His Eminence see in his mind’s eye some cut-off number beyond which migrants may reduce our well-being?

One of the UKIP posters says the EU boasts 26 million unemployed, which claim Cardinal Nichols doesn’t dispute. Juxtaposing this number with the fact that Britain’s economy is growing faster than any other in Europe, it’s not an unfair supposition that some of those 26 million will end up here.

Assuming that some of them have families in tow, let’s calculate conservatively that, should they all come to Britain, the country’s population would double overnight.

That clearly would be unsustainable – even assuming that no immigrants from outside the EU would follow suit. So what about half that number? A quarter? Ten percent?

I dare say we’d be overrun even at my lowest hypothetical level. If His Eminence has information to the contrary, then by all means he should share it with us. If not, then – how can I say this without offending anyone’s innermost feelings – some people may think he’s indulging in empty bien pensant phrase-making.

His Eminence doesn’t strengthen his case by making further claims, to the effect that “We have grown to appreciate the richness that immigration brings… to the life of hospitals and many public sector areas…”

Going back to my conservative estimate, does the Archbishop think that the NHS has so much spare capacity that it could effortlessly accommodate, say, another five million patients? If so, one would like to see some concrete proposals on how our infection-infested hospitals killing people en masse through neglect and incompetence would pick up their performance when their workload increases.

They already produce 1,200 preventable deaths every month – how would an extra five million patients reduce that number? I don’t know. Neither, I’m afraid, does His Eminence.

His is therefore a general statement of political allegiance, which is redundant. We already know that the Archbishop’s sympathies are broadly on the left, and no further confirmation was necessary.

One can only hope that his unfortunate bias won’t interfere with his ministry, which is more important than politics. After the ecclesiastical damage done to the Church of England by a succession of wishy-washy ‘liberal’ prelates, it would be a shame to see the Catholic Church going the same way.

As to the UKIP campaign, it’s decent advertising and good politics. After the decades of the two major parties converging not just in their policies but also in their philosophy, such as it is, it’s good to see a party that sets out to emphasise its divergence from the others.

Evidently the party’s strategists don’t feel UKIP can engage the main parties in a frontal assault along the entire line of policies. Instead they’re engaging in a guerrilla warfare, trying to derail a few ideological trains on the flanks.

Staying faithful to its heritage, UKIP naturally chooses to concentrate on the horrendous damage caused by Britain’s membership in the EU.

By far the greatest and deadliest damage isn’t economic but constitutional, and this doesn’t depend on the number of new arrivals. An inordinately brisk immigration will undeniably cause some economic attrition, with more cultural and social damage to follow.

But Britain could conceivably survive such casualties and remain Britain. What the country can’t survive is the destruction of her ancient constitution that reflects the nation’s political genius.

The constitution isn’t written, or rather it’s not written in a single document. That is its strength: rather than being a flimsy ideological contrivance, the British constitution has evolved over many centuries by gradually accumulating bits of wisdom and prudence.

These are reflected in a number of common-sensical statutes, laws and practices that have withstood the test of time – a millennium of it. The nation’s sovereignty has developed alongside with, or probably out of, the English Common Law, and it’s vested in the strong alloy of Parliament fused with the crown and the judiciary.

This edifice of constitutional sovereignty isn’t so much undermined as blown to smithereens by Britain’s having to comply with a huge number of laws originating outside Parliament. By signing his name to the Maastricht Treaty, John Major thrust a dagger through a millennium of British political history. The life’s blood of the nation flowed into the ground.

UKIP leaders know all this better than I do. Yet, unlike me, they’re practical politicians who need to reduce their message to the kind of sound bytes our comprehensively educated masses can understand.

I’m sure UKIP must have tested the constitutional message and found it wanting. For the message is too involved to be reduced to sound bytes.

It has taken me almost 300 words to outline the skeleton of the argument, without adding much flesh to it. Perhaps a better writer could cut a few words out – but not many more than a few.

Such loquacity may be sound political philosophy but it’s rotten politics. Democratic politicians, and this is a huge drawback of universal-franchise democracy, have to talk in slogans if they want to be elected.

The flanking manoeuvre undertaken by UKIP is based on a simple, not to say simplistic, message aimed at people who have to work for a living. There are only so many jobs to go round, the campaign says, and one of them is yours. Unless we regain control of our borders (that is, leave the EU) it may go to an immigrant willing to work for less. 

Not being a mechanic of political rough-and-tumble, I can’t judge if this is the right tactic. But being a voter, I’m happy to see that not all parties are saying the same things, give or take a couple of percent. A feeling obviously not shared by Cardinal Nichols.

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