Is it the French bankers? The American academics? The Chinese tycoons? Who is it, precisely, that is so noisome in your nostrils? Whose language is it that you find most offensive on the buses?
At this point, of course, the kipper – and everyone who agrees with them – will get rather impatient, and say, look here: I don’t object to any particular person, and I have nothing against any particular group. It is just the number of them, that’s what bothers me, they will say. It’s the speed of the change, they say – and above all it’s the fact that politicians keep dissembling about it all.
And there, my friends, I think we must accept that the kippers and would-be kippers have a point. The anger is not against immigrants; there is no real resentment of people who come here, work hard, learn to speak English and make their lives in this country. The anger is against the politicians.
In some ways that is reasonable. The first and biggest culprit was Tony Blair, who grossly miscalculated the effect of EU enlargement. He decided to dispense with the border protections adopted by other EU countries – such as France and Germany – and to welcome a massive influx from Hungary, Poland and the other EU accession countries in 2004.
This surge of energy and talent was, of course, a boon to British business and industry; but it was a direct attack on the Labour core vote. Workers found their wages suppressed, and then they were accused of bigotry if they complained.
As the recession bit deeper, resentment of foreigners intensified – and it was then that the political class made a second huge mistake. The electorate was told that we could reduce the numbers of immigrants – when in fact it was legally impossible to do so. A huge effort was made to cut down the number of non-EU immigrants, with the result that it has become very hard to get into Britain if you are, say, a New Zealand nuclear physicist or a Chinese cellist.
But there is no way, under current UK law, that we can stop people entering this country in large numbers from all 28 EU countries, including those where wages and benefits are very much lower than our own.
The voters aren’t fools. They have spotted this incoherence – and what they object to is not so much the immigrants themselves; what makes people angry is that sense that the whole thing is out of control. There is only one man who has both grasped what needs to be done and who is in a position to do it, and that is David Cameron.
Britain is now the America of the EU; the place people want to come; the magnet for the hordes at Calais. It is only reasonable for us to have some kind of further protections – involving points or even quotas, agreed with business – so that we can manage this pressure. It would be madness to close our borders to talent; but it is also madness to continue with a system that means we have no idea how many are coming or what burdens they may place on the state.
Only David Cameron can conceivably deliver those changes, since he is the only leader who can lead reform of the EU. That is the point I hope the kippers will recognise in May next year. And the rest of us should recognise, in turn, that the kippers aren’t wicked. They don’t hate immigrants; they just hate the lack of control of immigration.