A BBC/Prospect Magazine story about recent immigration to Britain wonders how it all happened, and what policymakers were thinking:
Why did immigration to Britain increase so rapidly in recent years? David Goodhart, editor of Prospect magazine, considers the question for Radio 4's Analysis programme.
Eastern European fruit pickers have benefited from UK immigration laws
Since Labour came to power in 1997, Britain has experienced what is comfortably its largest wave of immigration ever. Yet it seems to have happened almost by accident.
At no point in the last 12 years does there seem to have been a general discussion in cabinet about the country's immigration strategy.
I have discovered that the final decision to open Britain's labour market to Eastern and Central Europeans was taken by a small group of officials and special advisers before an EU Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels.
It is emblematic of the insouciant way in which the great demographic transformation has occurred.
An accumulation of small decisions, all of them perfectly rational and sensible in their own right, has led to a mighty big - and pretty unpopular - outcome.
I was fascinated by the picture they used. Not I, I hasten to add, because I am in any way fascinated by pictures of healthy young blonde women doing outdoor exercise. There is nothing politically interesting in a picture, of say, South Carolina's Brooklyn Decker on the cover of Sports Illustrated. No, what I'm saying is that these young women—who don't look anything like the people who picked the strawberries I ate for breakfast—are a relatively recent phenomenon in British immigration, (before 1989, they couldn't even leave the Soviet Bloc)and not what most British critics of immigration are complaining about.
They are, however, fairly safe to complain about under Britain's Race Relations Act.
At the end of the piece, David Goodhart writes
"But when historians come to look back on this period in 100 years time they will surely conclude that, as John Seeley said about the expansion of the British Empire, we acquired a whole new population in a 'fit of absence of mind'."