Yeah, I thought it was you!

The story I covered in yesterday's 'Haven't I seen you somewhere before?' was just the opening shot in an anti-immigration scare story salvo in the Mail. Today we have:

'1 Million more Britons in just three years as immigration fuels biggest population boom in a century'
'One new British passpport is handed out every three minutes'
'More than 200,000 Britons quit the country each year for a new life abroad'

At least two are spectacularly dishonest and, curiously for a paper that complained about the 'mountain' of stats released yesterday, cover six month old figures the paper reported on last November.

'1 Million more Britons in just three years...' starts as it means to go on - with a massive lie in the headline. Yesterday's 'Persons granted citizenship United Kingdom 2007' shows that the number of Britons added to the population by migration in the last three years is less than half the headline's claim - at 480,355. The 1 million figure is the figure for net migration of non-British citizens in the last three years, which will include people on temporary stays of a year or more, from November's 'Emigration from UK reaches 400,000 in 2006'. These people aren't now Britons - they're the other Daily Mail demon - 'foreign nationals'. This story isn't news - it's just been added to create a connection with the number of people granted citizenship and a rise of a million furriners in three years.

'One new British passport is handed out every three minutes' covers the same figures as yesterday's 'Over 200,000 Britons fleeing the UK each year as record 160,000 foreigners are granted citizenship' but adds an extra bit of spin by doing the 'each minute' calculation. This is just farting around for scaremongering's sake. You could do a similar calculation that said 'One foreign national leaves the UK every three minutes' and it would be just as accurate and tell you about as much. (In fact, it would be more than one every three minutes, but let's not split hairs, eh)?

Not to be outdone, 'More than 200,000 Britons quit the country each year for a new life abroad' includes two big whoppers in the headline. More than 200,000 left the country in 2006, but less than 200,000 did in every other year since 1997. That's whopper number 1. Whopper number 2 is the 'for new life abroad' since some of the 200,000 will be returning at some point. 81,000 Britons returned to the country in the same year. Again, this article is based on six month old figures that appeared in the paper last November.

It's fine to use older figures for context, but basing two entire articles on them as well as heavily relying on them in another is a bit much. Especially if the paper in question moans about the 'mountain' of stats released in one day but ignores two whole reports in three out of four articles about the same issue.

But of course, the paper isn't about reporting the facts, or about giving us an honest appraisal of what the figures might mean. It's about trying as hard as it can to make us think that immigration is a terrible, terrible problem that will be the doom of us all. The paper starts with its conclusion and fits the evidence to it rather than the other way around.

It isn't racist or xenophobic to examine what impact immigration might have on the population - including the immigrants themselves - and try to come up with decisions that minimise negative effects on everyone involved. It's not even necessarily xenophobic to argue for limits and restrictions on the numbers. What is xenophobic and does border on racism is muddying the waters by artificially exaggerating the numbers and negative impacts to scare people, or to misrepresent the nature of migration to make temporary changes look like permanent ones. The Mail does this all the time.

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