Newspapers have feared to tread on such delicate ground until the last few years. Now they claim to be speaking for their readers, writes Jean Morgan.
Sun political editor Trevor Kavanagh told Press Gazette: “These things are legitimate issues for a newspaper to explore and in fact we would be derelict [in our duty] if we were not raising our voice on the subject and demanding some sort of action.
“Are we supposed to say we must not talk about this for fear of offending a few sensibilities? What is a newspaper for, if it is not to look at stories like this?
“The Sun has been raising the issue of illegal immigrants, people smugglers, criminal gangs with the Government for the full five and a half years it’s been in office. In that time, their numbers have increased. We have one million more illegal immigrants in this country than when they took office. You have to ask, what does it take to make them act?”
The issue, he insists, is not asylum seekers, but illegal immigrants. These are people who are breaking the strict laws of immigration which are respected by many around the world, who are waiting in turn for their papers and applications to be processed.
In the meantime they are being displaced by people who are simply barging their way in, with the help of people-smuggling gangs, and in some cases, are then involved with active criminal gangs on arrival.
“We have imported a serious criminal culture from the Balkans, a gun culture from Jamaica because visas were not required because of fear of racism charges, and we have got a knife culture that didn’t really exist until a few years ago.”
He dismissed Blunkett’s description of him as a racist. “Whenever New Labour is confronted with serious difficulties, it attacks the messenger, not the message. Their kneejerk response is to brand people phobics and nutters, extremists and xenophobes.” The Sun has a very good record of supporting immigration, he said, pointing to “unstinting praise of the Asian community; we once called for the entire population of Hong Kong to be offered the chance to settle in Britain if that’s what they wanted; and we have nothing but praise for the vitality that is injected into the economy by legitimate migration.”
What Blunkett has done, he is convinced, has added fuel to the whole debate.
“By accusing us of racism, he is effectively accusing 80 per cent of our readers of racism. What we do know is many established and legitimate migrants in Britain feel just as angered by the way these illegitimate migrants have elbowed their way into the country.”