ACCORDING to my doctor, there are two sorts of cholesterol: the goody variety, HDL, which makes us purr like a Rolls-Royce, and naughty LDL, which clogs up the blood vessels of those with a lusty appetite for animal fats.
Likewise, there are two, principle types of immigration: talented, educated incomers, who help make the host nation richer, and those at the fag-end of the earning scale, who do the low-skilled, heavy-lifting.
Like it or not, every post-modern economy need a dollop of each, from degree-burnished graduates to oil the gears of industry, the professions and City, to those who’ll serve minimum-wage hard time in jobs beneath the dignity of work-shy locals, like the 100 Hungarians to be employed by sandwich-maker Greencore in Northampton.
But how much of each commodity is tolerable is the question driving politicians across the industrialised West to distraction.
In the USA a debate rages about President Obama’s call to decriminalise ‘wetback’ illegals – ‘wetbacks’ because they crossed the Rio Grande to reach their promised land – while Europe wrestles with porous borders inflicted by the Schengen Agreement.
Meanwhile, Calais’s mayor chides Britain for having a benefit system so generous that’s it turned the drab Channel port into a magnet for stateless Asians and Africans, looking to hitch an illicit ride to Dover.
Hardly surprising, then, immigration has become the most emotive of buzzwords and a dark spectre haunting the UK’s 2015 general election.
Predictably, it once again played into the UK Independence Party’s clutches in Thursday’s Rochester by-election, when Tory defector, Mark Reckless, reclaimed his old seat to become the archly anti-EU party’s second MP, after Douglas Carswell held Clacton.
Whether Nigel Farage’s purple bandwagon gathers further momentum by next May 7 is a matter of intense debate.
What’s clear, though, is UKIP’s anti-politics populism strikes a chord with a section of the electorate heartily disaffected with the snotty Westminster elite’s belief it rules by divine right.
Meanwhile, as Clacton and now Rochester has proven, even rabid Tory Euro sceptics are realising it’s a waste of hustings time trying to outstrip UKIP’s Little Englander agenda.
And Labour’s latest wheeze, newly unveiled by shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, is one of the feeblest attempts yet at playing to the gallery’s fears about Johnny Foreigner.
After months of inertia and leader Ed Miliband’s ratings plummeting like a thermometer outside an igloo, the party that opened the floodgates to unfettered immigration is now calling for Britain’s border police to be boosted by 1,000 extra personnel.
This, says Cooper, can be funded by charging a £10 ‘entrance fee’ to incomers. Except – as the Home Office was delighted to enlighten her – thanks to the European Union’s visa-waiver scheme, the moolah raised will hire just 59 immigration cops.
Similarly inane is Labour’s plan to stop migrants claiming benefits until they’ve been in Britain for two years, not the current ceiling of three months.
This, of course, would require an EU treaty change, by which time piglets will take off from Heathrow’s tenth runway, alongside the usual procession of Jumbos.
What gets forgotten, overlooked and ignored, however, is that the great immigration debate in Britain is several centuries old and every wave – from Farage’s French Huguenot, lace-making ancestors to Irish navvy canal-builders, Jewish tailors and West Indian NHS recruits – met with vehement hostility before they melted into the fabric of British society.
Even Enoch Powell, UKIP’s spiritual godfather and best remembered for his notorious, 1968 anti-immigration ‘rivers of blood’ speech, once played a leading role in wooing Commonwealth citizens to settle in the UK to fill staff shortages in the health and public transport sectors.
Today, UKIP is banging Powell’s drum and giving a disingenuous, one-dimensional picture of greedy, grasping, benefit-scrounging foreigners – of which there are undoubtedly an untold number – for whom Britain is a land of give and take…the nation gives and they take.
And this demi-truth is resonating, especially in deprived areas where immigration has had a detrimental impact on housing, schooling and jobs, because successive governments have serially failed for decades to heed the warning signs.
Only now has their folly been rumbled and the three major parties – that’s if the Lib-Dems still qualify as one – are playing catch-up, though they don’t stand a snowball in Hades’ chance of out-UKIPing UKIP.
However, obscured by Farage’s scare tactics is a multi-faceted image of immigration, one in which business cries out for talent that can only be sources from abroad and industries, like farming, which needs minimum-wage labour to bring in crops that defy automated harvesting.
The recent report from University College London (UCL), then, makes uneasy reading for the anti-EU, anti-immigration lobby, because rather than draining Britain’s exchequer, European migrants made a net contribution of £20bn to it between 2000 and 2011.
If there is a downside, don’t blame the Czech nannies, Spanish nurses or Polish plumbers drawn to the UK because of high unemployment in their own states, but non-EU migrants who, according to UCL, cost Britain £120bn in 1995-2011.
Even this huge sum, though, should be put into context, because it’s dwarfed by UK nationals, who cost the country £591bn over the same time frame.
So, at the risk of sounding neo-liberal, I suggest that much of what Farage peddles is selective twaddle as he and his mavericks ride a wave of xenophobia on a balloon of hot air.
That in no way diminish the glaring fact that the putrid edifice of the EU – not its peoples – is in drastic need of reform and there should be no further empire-building by an unelected commission and its clique of Europrats, who mainly serve no useful purpose but their own.
Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to renegotiate Britain’s terms of EU membership and put them to a referendum in 2017 should he be re-elected next spring.
If Europe’s leaders ignore his rational arguments Britain will quit, UKIP will be cock-a-hoop and parties beyond the EU’s fringe – especially France’s far-Right National Front – will be further embolden to copycat Farage.
So UKIP’s second by-election win on the spin spells trouble not just for the UK’s political elite, but for all those at the helm of every nation in Europe.
Brussels take note…and beware.