Labour remains committed to the view that immigration is good for the country, and the more there is, the better it will be. What is the evidence for that remarkable proposition? If you ask most ministers, they will tell you "Britain has always been a nation of immigrants". That claim is false. The evidence which refutes it is not very complicated: it consists simply in looking at the numbers.
Between 1066 and 1945 Britain actually had very few waves of immigration. By far the largest was the Irish during the 19th century and, technically, they were not immigrants, since Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, Irish "immigrants" never amounted to more than 3 per cent of the British population.
Numerically, the next largest group is the Jews. Official statistics record that 155,811 Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe arrived over 25 years from 1880. Their contribution to the intellectual, political and economic life of Britain has of course been enormous. But even adding the 70,000 who fled to Britain from Nazi Germany, the number of Jewish arrivals was, compared to the 50 million Britons already resident here, minute. They are certainly not enough to make Britain "a nation of immigrants".
Almost all immigrant groups never managed to reach 1 per cent of the population. The Normans, though they seized land and power, were a tiny elite. The Dutch who arrived in the 16th century were, in proportion to the whole population, a much smaller group. Even the 50,000 Huguenots from France only ever amounted to a hundredth of Britain's total population. And they arrived over a period of 50 years.
Immigration today adds 1 per cent to Britain's population every two years, or more than 5 per cent every decade. Official statistics which reveal that, in 2004 and 2005, net migration into Britain was running at around 300,000 people every year. And that number does not include the tens of thousands who arrive illegally, or who claim asylum, have their asylum claims rejected, but who are never deported.
Again and again you hear it repeated that the present levels of immigration are "nothing new", "nothing exceptional" and are in line with the proportions of immigrants who have, "throughout our history", come into Britain. The facts refute that claim so completely that I doubt any minister still believes it.
Labour, for reasons it has never fully articulated, decided in 1997 to dismantle practically all controls on immigration. The amount of immigration we have seen over the past decade has no parallel in British history. International migration into Britain now contributes around 80 per cent of Britain's annual population increase, and has done so since 1999.
In 1950, Britain's ethnic population amounted to just over 1 per cent of the total. By 2001, that figure was 8 per cent. On present trends, by 2073, the majority population of this country will either have migrated here, or be the child or grandchild of parents who did so. No past wave of immigration has ever come anywhere near having that kind of consequence.
More cheerful news. Look what the increasing number of women in higher education can do.
A third of women graduates will never have children, research has concluded. The number of highly educated women who are starting families has plummeted in the past decade, according to findings that provide the most detailed insight yet into education and fertility. While some women are making a conscious decision not to have children, others are simply leaving it too late after taking years to build their careers, buy a home and find the right partner. Graduates who do become mothers are having fewer children, and later.
If the low birth rate trend continues, then the eventual rate of childlessness among graduates now aged in their twenties is likely to be even higher than a third. The findings come from a ground-breaking study into more than 5,000 women born in 1970 and tracked throughout their lives by researchers at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, based at the Institute of Education in London.
It revealed that 40 per cent of the graduate women were childless at age 35. The researchers forecast that by the time they reach the likely end of their child-bearing years at 45, about 30 per cent will still be childless. Of a panel of older graduate women born in 1958, only 32.7 per cent were childless at 35.
The results help to explain the low birth rate which is leading to an ageing population in Britain and much of western Europe. Overall population decline is only being prevented by immigration and a higher birth rate among non-graduate women.
Meanwhile, as incomers arrive, the natives get out. Telegraph 1
More British people are leaving this country than before the First World War. Yesterday's figures from the Office for National Statistics confirm what has been apparent for years: we are in the midst of the biggest inflow of migrants in history.
Until recently, Britain was a country of net emigration, not of immigration. During the period of Empire, people left in their droves to live and work in the colonies.
But in the past 10 years, that has changed. People are still leaving but they are not coming back, or at least not as often as they did.
Meanwhile, there are more immigrants who are coming to stay for good. Emigration is now on the rise once more, with 207,000 British nationals leaving the country in 2004. This was the highest number since before the Great War, when more young men were leaving the country every year than died on the battlefields of Europe. While more foreign nationals are coming here and staying on, at the same time more British nationals are leaving.
Without this immigration, given the negative birth rate of indigenous people, the population would be declining. Cumulatively since 1997, 1.6 million British nationals have left the country and 806,000 have returned. At the same time, 2.93 million foreign nationals have arrived and 1.41 million have left. So, for every two Brits that leave, one returns; but for every two foreign nationals that arrive, only one leaves.
The ONS stats are here, if you have lots of time and are a spreadsheet wizard.
Telegraph 2 - more analysis
Overall immigration has been steadily rising since the 1990s and is now at unprecedented levels, but there has been a big change in the nationality of incomers, many of whom used to be British citizens returning after working abroad. The ONS said: ''There has been a noticeable upward trend of out-migration in recent years. This, coupled with lower numbers of in-migration of British citizens, has resulted in increasing net emigration since 2000.''
It added: ''Conversely, immigration of non-British citizens has more than doubled since the early 1990s. Out-migration of non-British citizens has been considerably lower... This has resulted in a pattern of high and increasing net immigration.''
In 2005, there was a net emigration of 107,000 British while net immigration of non-British people amounted to 292,000. In 1991, one third of all citizens entering the UK were British. By 2005, this dropped to 16 per cent.
The 2005 figure was down on 2004, which with net immigration running at 223,000 was the highest ever. When Labour took office in 1997, net immigration was around 50,000 a year, a level at which it had remained for about two decades. More than 4.3 million people born abroad were living in Britain at the time of the 2001 census, an increase of around one million compared with 1991 and two million higher than 30 years ago.
The majority of those granted settlement in 2005 were relatively young, with 116,950 under 35.
Labour politician fesses up. His article can be found here.
Mr Byrne also challenges the idea that immigration concerns have been media driven. ''The only problem with the 'it's all the media' thesis is that it is not quite true,'' he writes.
The good news is that in a democracy, you can get out and vote to do something about these issues.
The result of a close election, whether local or national, might well be affected by nearly 1 million non - British citizens from the Commonwealth currently resident in the UK who, in a hang-over from the past, have the right to vote here, says a new report out today.
Sir Andrew said that, given the massive increase in the immigrant population in recent years, this has become an important issue – exacerbated by the encouragement of postal voting – which could mean that the outcome of a close run election could be affected by the votes of people who are not British citizens and who may not even have the right to vote. 'At present, for example, there is nothing to stop an Albanian claiming to be a Cypriot or a Somali posing as a Kenyan,' he said.
The report quotes the Electoral Commission as saying that "... the security of existing voting methods is to a considerable extent illusory, since it depends more on the honesty of the voter than on systematic measures to prevent fraud ..."
The honesty of the voter, eh ? Once upon a time there was little doubt about that. No more.