Nicholas Soames asked one of those smarmy questions which the Coalition government is delighted to field and answer in as much detail as possible. In full, he asked (according to Hansard):
“To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the (a) number and (b) proportion of births was where one or both parents were foreign-born in (i) London and (ii) each London borough within Greater London in the most recent year for which figures are available.”
For us, that’s a pretty loaded question. when looking at “the proportion of births where one or both parents were foreign-born” it would appear that anyone born to UK/Foreign born parents is cause for concern. The predictable results of such a question are perfectly displayed by Migration Watch and the Daily Express.
how foreign is foreign?
Of course the number of children with one or more foreign born parents is going to be higher in London – it is one of the (if not THE) most cosmopolitan cities on the planet. But a foreign born parent doesn’t mean an immigrant, it could be a person, white British born outside the UK whilst their mother was overseas (perhaps on a military posting or working abroad). Perhaps a parent is from an ethnic minority and has been here a long time. Either way, it’s not a question of nationality or, to use a term in the press a lot today “Britishness”. It is, though, useful fuel for racist hysteria.
Mr Soames, a seasoned political figure, knew the question and resulting answer would feed such headlines as he submitted the question, he did so with intent.
It’s a cheap trick, performed in the hope that no one looks at the way it was conceived. Soames is a old school Tory MP, howling from the backbenches and serving up long-hops for Migration Watch seem to be all this man is good for.
We have approached a far more fair minded MP to ask the same question, but substituting “UK-born” for “foreign-born”. We’ll let you know what the answer is, but we wonder if the Daily Express will?