This is a difficult post to write without sounding xenophobic, racist, or just like a complete cow.
David Cameron is talking about a referendum that asks the British public if it wants in or out of the European Union. He's going to ask the people what they want - and let's face it, this isn't just about what the result is, this is about the core of British life. Democracy.
Democracy is something of which the UK should be very proud. Why do we have so many immigrants? For some, it's because we have democracy, and their country doesn't. We don't mind a difference of opinion, and encourage free thinking, they can expect beatings, jail and death if they even talk against their politicians, whereas here its more of a national sport. Democracy is something that the Armed Forces have fought to provide, both here and abroad. Democracy and the right to vote is something that women had to work hard to get.
It's also something that we don't exercise as much as we should. I've voted in every election aside from one when I had the raging trots (no horse burger jokes please!) that I was eligible for. I've played the game in student politics, and then decided it wasn't for me. Many people chose not to, for a variety of reasons. The voter turnout webpage here shows a steady decline in the active voting since 1945. It's a choice I can't understand.
But this vote will, I think, be different. This is supposed to be a straight choice - in the EU, or out of the EU. The country was given this choice in 1975. 67% of the population which voted said yes, they wanted to be in. It was a different world then.
There was some immigration, but not the steady influx, some have said silent invasion, that we have now. Any referendum will come after Romania and Bulgaria have their travel restrictions lifted, and potentially 50,000 of the population of those countries comes over here. However, EU residents living over here will not be eligible to vote in the referendum, unless they have become British citizens, and this could have an interesting impact on the voting. Immigration will be what most people chose to vote on, thinking that if they vote against the EU then the immigrants will go home, or at least they can express their displeasure about the influx.
As a teacher, I know the massively increased workload that even one child with no English brings. Currently I have 3 and am expecting another. None of them have turned up during the snowy weather. 2 never come if it's raining. 1 is Russian, 2 are Lithuanian. There is no way of reaching one of these children, he is so miserable about being here. Whilst I am trying to reach him, however, because he needs it, I'm not teaching my class. Whilst I am teaching my class, the two Lithuanians sit and talk to each other, ignoring most of what is going on unless I sit them separately, but then the one who speaks no English at all has no chance of understanding, whilst the one who speaks a little bit does try and translate the bits she understands. Sometimes. How much worse it is for doctors and hospitals, I can't imagine.
It is incredibly hard for the children as well, to be swept up, arrive here, and be dumped into school with no English. I don't speak Lithuanian, and can manage 3 words of Russian, (elephant, aeroplane and pencil) and so we cannot communicate verbally. We get by, obviously, but they have to learn so much more than the language, and yet it wasn't their choice to come here.
So why are they here? I've heard lots of reasons, lack of jobs in their own country, lack of money, lack of education, lack of housing, and yet 2 of them are here with a house that is only part heated, some of the time, no money, very little food, no school uniform, no nothing. Even our social worker at school says its one of the most extreme examples of poverty that she has seen. But they chose to come here, and then they chose to have another baby.
It is this kind of example of immigration that the general public will think about when they think about immigration, and vote out of the EU. They will think about the whole areas of towns where English is never spoken, about the massive mosques being built in areas where there is a need for social housing, about the men that take our jobs and the women that sponge the benefits system and the children that fill up our schools, about the 1 in 4 babies that is born to an immigrant, about London, and about the statistics that there are now 3 towns in the UK where there are more immigrants than British. They will think about not being able to read the signs in their own home town, about the Diwali lights that magically turn into Christmas lights when the time comes, about the Muslim patrol in London and about the violence of gangs, about the poppy burners. Most will forget that the latter section of examples are not in the EU to start with....
So where does all this leave us?
It leaves us with the promise of a vote - if Cameron gets in again.
It leaves us with the mist of democracy.
It leaves us with a lot of rhetoric on the tv.
It leaves Britain doing what it does best. Getting ever so slightly taken advantage of, but being too polite to say anything.