THIS TOPICAL BOOK should be compulsory reading for all immigration officials and politicians eager to sound off on one of the most emotive issues facing Britain today. People on every side in the immigration debate will find their complacent assumptions shaken by this brilliantly argued, well-researched and challenging work. Those who believe this small island is being swamped by foreigners from alien cultures who will destroy an ancient way of life can learn how often in the last thousand years similar predictions have been made. Liberals who have convinced themselves that, if The Sun and the Daily Express did not exist to whip up nasty xenophobia, the natural generosity of the British public would assert itself with a loud welcome to 'outsiders' had better think again. Intolerance has always fought closely with tolerance in the British character, and sometimes it has won. Immigrant communities, too, d be faced with some searching questions. Whatever lip service might be paid to multiculturalism in modern Britain, many new migrants may ask themselves whether it would not be more pragmatic to integrate and try to blend in rather than emphasise their 'otherness'.
Robert Winder insists he is not a polemicist. But, with brilliant timing, he wades into the anguished, never-ending debate about the nature of British (or English) identity with so simple a point that it is almost a platitude: everyone in this country comes from immigrant stock; it just depends on