What happens when new immigration figures don't warrant scary headlines?

The latest immigration figures are in, and as I covered in 'Let's get ready to rumble!' they're not as scary as the tabloids would normally like. More foreigners leaving, more UK citizens staying, fewer foreigners arriving, lots of Polish people leaving, lowest net migration in years. So what to do? Print celebratory headlines? Print cautious headlines welcoming the relevant drops and rises and hoping they continue, or even heavily implying that they wouldn't?

Umm. No. Here are today's front page headlines from the Mail and the Express. (Below the jump).

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Of babies.

Turns out immigrants are still bastards. Who'd have thought it.

The mid-market tabloids do usually cover the number of babies born to foreign mothers, but not this prominently. In fact, both papers covered these same figures back in May, in 'Baby boom: Nearly quarter of babies are born to mothers from outside the UK as birth rate hits all-time high' in the Mail and 'UK'S FOREIGN BABY BOOM' in the Express. These are based on stats in the press release 'Births and deaths in England and Wales' published on 21 May. It's this exact document that yesterday's new press release 'UK population grows to 61.4 million' links to. The stats in today's front page stories are three months old and have already been reported. The Express even uses the same photo to illustrate both its stories.

But neither of today's stories are really about fertility rates. We're only three sentences into the Mail's 'The migrant baby boom: Foreign mothers help push Britain's population past 61m' before we're talking about 'record immigration levels over the past decade', and the Express, in 'IMMIGRANT BABY BOOM' (by far the most misleading) goes through just five sentences about immigrant mothers before mentioning that 'Half a million newcomers came to live in Britain during 2008 while asylum claims increased by four per cent between April and June this year, the Office for National Statistics revealed,' and waits another seven before mentioning that this represents a drop.

So how huge is this 'migrant baby boom'? Well, the percentage of live births to mothers born overseas has risen from 23.2% to 24.1%. A huge less than one percent. But without this rise, population wouldn't have gone above 61 million, right? Wrong. Even if no babies were born to mothers from overseas last year, population would still have topped 61 million. The total number of births to foreign mothers last year represented under 0.3% of the population. Worth a front page about migrant baby booms, I'm sure you'll agree.

That aside, the figure is used in both to suggest that immigration is not currently under control despite the fact that the women involved will have arrived in this country at any point in the last 40 odd years.

The Mail comically attacks Phil 'brainaches' Woolas with these words:
The figures from the Office for National Statistics show that net immigration - the balance of those arriving over those leaving - fell by 44 per cent between 2007 and 2008 as economic turmoil triggered an exodus of foreign workers.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas seized on those figures as proof that Britain's borders were 'stronger than ever' and migration was 'under control'.

He insisted that previous projections showing the UK population rising to 70million within 30 years were now 'not true'.

Ignoring the baby boom, Mr Woolas said: 'Of course it's the net migration increase that has been worrying people, including me.'

Opposition critics and immigration campaigners reacted with incredulity, pointing out that immigration remains at near-record levels and it is foreign-born mothers who are pushing up the birth rate.
It's natural that the Mail would be incredulous at the suggestion that people were worried about net migration pushing the population above 70 million, since in articles about the subject like, 'Home Secretary rejects cap on immigration amid forecasts population will hit 70m by 2030', ''I'm not losing sleep over rising immigration numbers' says Home Secretary Alan Johnson, as he rules out imposing a cap',
'UK to have Europe's biggest population: Migration will force us ahead of Germany, says UN' and 'Labour's migrant plan 'won't work': Population will still hit 70m, says study', the paper gives birth rates the prominence they deserve by not mentioning them at all.

Birth rates are only the main focus for the papers now that the immigration figures themselves have dropped. The latter will probably drop again next year since the recession has continued throughout 2009, but the papers need something to hang their anti-immigration narrative. It shouldn't be much of a surprise that they'll focus on children who - if they remain in the country - will grow up British, and in all likelihood be UK citizens.

One of my predictions from 'Let's get ready to rumble!' has come true with the Mail coverage, at least. Ther Mail, predictably, says this:
An estimated one million people have flocked to the UK since Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia joined the EU in 2004.
This isn't true. An estimated one million people have applied to the Worker Registration Scheme in that period (but some of those were rejected, some never arrived, some arrived for a short period), but according to the same source as the one the paper used a couple of sentences ago to talk about how many Eastern Europeans have left, 421,000 have arrived. Less than half the Mail claims. Plus, loads have left so only 176,000 people from A8 countries who have arrived since 2004 to stay for more than a year are still here. (**Update** reading that again, I've noticed that the Mail hasn't directly claimed that the million people came from eastern Europe this time. It's just created an impression by putting the million figure next to the 'since Poland...' bit. Nice).

Still, we're talking about the way the Mail and Express work here. Who knows what the next few days might throw up?

I was going to look at the Telegraph coverage here, but thought my time would be better spent looking at the Mail and Express since their front pages were more blatantly about migrants. How wrong I was. Anton Vowl covers how the paper has printed a disgusting call for middle class people to out-breed the foreigners and the lower classes. It includes this lovely gem:
The people most likely to take their views to heart are the agonised Anglo-Saxon liberals, for whom excess fecundity is never going to be much of a problem in the first place. They don't seem to cut much ice with the Somali mothers you see in West London.
I've checked, and she doesn't even bother to say 'I'm not racist, but

Also, check out TabloidWatch - who had the stomach to look through the Express and find out that the paper did actually go with an 'EXODUS OF BRITONS GROWING' despite that being an enormous lie.


Mike Booth said...

I may be reaching here, but do you think the Express's decision to print a photo of a gorilla directly over the word IMMIGRANT was a simple coincidence...?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Good spot Mike, it's not a reach, it's part of their cut and paste racism.