Blaming the immigrants.
Much the same rules are now in place when it comes to discussing immigration, or rather migrants and asylum seekers, as we have been. So long as you don't use any language which is definitively racist, like the n-word, p-word, call those desperately trying to get to Britain from their makeshift camps in Calais the coloured masses, or anything similar, you can say absolutely anything you like. Before the panic of the last week we'd seen human beings described as cockroaches, and most people didn't say anything because giving the person behind that diatribe attention is precisely what she wants. When David Cameron refers to those fleeing war and oppression, some of whom are on the move from conflicts that have either been exacerbated or even in part set off by British participation as a "swarm", it's just a slip.
It isn't, of course. Whereas in the past Thatcher and Blunkett were both heavily criticised for describing communities as being "swamped" by newcomers, this time there was just as much biteback at the relatively few who did describe Cameron's choice of words as unhelpful. The fact is you can now say almost anything you like about immigrants or even foreners as a whole, so long as you don't specifically identify them by either their skin colour or race. This is not because levels of racism and prejudice have increased, far from it; if anything, both continue to decrease. Rather, it's because immigrants have been so successfully othered, in much the same way as benefits claimants have. Once you've reached the point that the first thing those in desperate need declare is that they're not like all those others in desperate need who are scrounging bastards and deserve shooting, it's clear something fundamental has shifted.
Nigel Farage did have something of a point when he complained during one of the general election debates that the audience before him wasn't like the ones he usually encountered. At the vast majority of events his line in blaming the delays in cancer treatment on foreners and immigrants taking up NHS resources with their bad AIDS doubtless went down a storm. So long as you get the balance just right between being nasty but with reason, and don't go off into being nasty for the sake of it, you'll be fine. Go home vans? Not racist, said the majority. And to be fair, they probably did just about land on the side of not racist. Nasty but with reason certainly, but not racist.
Anyone tuning into radio or TV debates over the past week on the situation in Calais will have quickly realised the general consensus is the army should be out there fragging anyone who so much as approaches a truck with what could be interpreted as malign intent. Some, but not all, will broaden their complaints to how immigrants and refugees are first come first served when it comes to housing and how the people featured on Crimewatch are all foreigners, as did one lady on a local BBC station I happened to catch, before the presenter hastily cut in that might be because such people are poor and desperate and it was time to move on. The same presenter moments later was agreeing with another caller that clearly the army did need to be on manoeuvres and fences reaching up to space were one solution.
Voters no longer blame politicians when it comes to immigration. If they did, they wouldn't have given Dave "tens of thousands" Cameron a majority, however small. They've just stopped listening. It didn't matter however many times Labour and Ed Miliband insisted it wasn't racist or prejudiced to be concerned about immigration, and how deeply sorry they were that they made a balls-up of not putting in place the temporary restrictions most of the rest of Europe did on eastern European migrants in 2005, voters kept on ignoring them. When said lady above complained about how her son was having to live in two bedrooms in a Travelodge as his local council couldn't find him anywhere to live, and how this was clearly down to all the immigrants, she didn't think it could just as much be the result of a lack of investment in social housing, or the ultimate culmination of right to buy, she just blamed the immigrants.
When politicians then come up with idiot policies like forcing landlords to examine the passports and birth certificates of everyone they rent to on the pain of jail, they can do so safe in the knowledge that voters won't blame them for the inevitable delays and injustices that will result, they'll blame the illegal immigrants. They know that when they come up with the idea of further impoverishing the families of failed asylum seekers, despite knowing full well that many of those failed asylum seekers cannot be deported because their countries of origin are paradoxically declared to not be safe, they won't blame politicians for their cruelty, they'll blame the immigrants. They know that when Theresa May and the French interior minister have the audacity and cant to declare in a joint article that the streets of the UK and France are not paved with gold, they won't think this populism of the most self-defeating and stupid kind, they'll nod in agreement. The contradictions of how the Conservatives present the UK to the world as booming, the place to be to trade, how great it is won't bother them, as the immigrants are not the target audience. They'll take no notice of the Swedish justice and migration minister calling out the self-pitying bullshit of British and French politicians, as it doesn't matter how many different people try to explain that most don't want to come here, aren't coming here and that those who do overwhelming are seeking sanctuary, minds have long been made up. Immigrants we know, good. Immigration as a whole, bad. Such is the new centre of British politics.