SubScribe: Beware the foreigners: 2013, a year of xenophobic front pages Google+

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Beware the foreigners: 2013, a year of xenophobic front pages

Scene 1: A group of Romanians runs a car wash franchise in the car park of a DIY store. It's a cold, drizzly day and there are few customers. A woman drives up and the entire dozen-strong workforce emerge from their warm hut and get to work on her car. No one sits back to watch others work, and with everyone pitching in, the job is done in five minutes.

Scene 2: A gang of Romanians cases a London antiques fair and follows one of the jewellery dealers home. They set up camp in woodland at the bottom of her garden and watch her movements for a few days. They see her coming home with new stock. At 3am they remove the bolts and padlocks on her doors and break in to steal everything. Her life's work gone in minutes.

Which would be the better news story?

No contest. One is an everyday occurrence, the other a cruel assault on a woman's home and life. And we know that an essential element of news is that it should be out of the ordinary.

So why does SubScribe suspect that the raid would be reported by many of our newspapers not as something unusual, but as typical of the sort of behaviour to be expected of eastern European immigrants?

And why, given our endless fascination with the subject and the reams of newsprint devoted to it, is so little written about work ethic and immigrants' contribution to the economy?

As Big Ben chimed midnight yesterday, thousands - even millions - of Romanians and Bulgarians were supposed to swarm into Britain to steal our jobs, our benefits and our wallets.

The mass migration did not materialise on cue, but that doesn't mean we're safe. You never know with sneaky foreigners; they might be biding their time, waiting for us to be preoccupied with the storms, before invading.

And there's plenty to fear, as the Daily Star warned us yesterday:
"Fears grew of a crimewave last night as hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians bought every seat on planes and buses to the UK...
Police experts predicted a fresh wave of crime as the country already struggles with an influx of foreign crooks.
Shock figures revealed that the eastern Europeans already topped the crime league tables before Britain opened its borders to millions from the two countries today.
Almost 1,000 Romanians were detained by police in just one county alone over the past three years..."

As SubScribe wrote on Tuesday, the new rules on immigration change little. Seasonal workers, those in other specific trades and the self-employed were already able to come to Britain to work. They also had the same right as other EU nationals to enter the country for up to three months as a visitor - and to be deported if they engaged in criminal activity. Romanians and Bulgarians may now come to seek work in any field and stay for any length of time. But they still won't be allowed to stay if they start begging or stealing.

The newspapers most terrified of this foreign invasion have been reluctant to make this clear. They don't seem to have grasped the notion that if someone's intention is to come to Britain to break the law, they didn't need to wait for the law to change to do so. Wouldn't it make sense for them to pop over, make hay for as long as they could without getting caught, and then go home with their ill-gotten gains? They could have been doing this for seven years.

Twitter has been a joy the past couple of days, mocking the tabs that predicted floods of evil migrants. Buzzfeed, as ever, put together a good compendium - and just going on to Twitter and searching 'Romanians and Bulgarians' brings a rich harvest.

SubScribe would like to make a three-part contribution to the conversation. The first was published on Tuesday. The second, below, is a collection of the British front page splashes from the past 12 months that have focused on the subject of them darn foreigners. The third is an analysis of the winner's tactics.
















And the winner is...

Well, it was neck-and-neck into the final strait. The Express made the early running and built up a good lead over the Mail. But then it got distracted by the scorching summer and, possibly suffering from a touch of arthritis, started to flag. It rallied in the autumn, just as the Mail put on a burst of speed. For a while it looked as though the Mail was going to come through, but the favourite managed to hold on and find enough in reserve to romp home the fairly convincing winner by four editions.

The white-top tabs left the rest of the field trailing. The Telegraph put on a solid show to finish third in front of the Times, which veered from one rail to the other throughout the race.

There was then a gap before the  Independent and its little sister the i crossed the line together, just ahead of the Guardian. All adopted quite different race tactics from the three in front.

The Sun and the Star were too distracted to give of their best - the Star even confused the rules and went round in circles chasing foreign killer spiders instead of foreign human beings. Both put in an effort at the halfway mark and also tried a last bolt for the finishing line, but neither ever had a hope.

The result

Express 25; Mail 21; Telegraph 10; Times 8;  i 5; Independent, 5; Guardian 4; Sun 2; Star 2

Non-runner: The Mirror (special award).

The Sunday Stakes was far more bunched, but the Telegraph was a clear winner ahead of the Express, Sunday Times and Observer, who could not be separated at the line.

The final result for the stables was:

Express 27; Mail 22; Telegraph 14; Times 10; Independent 10; Guardian 6; Sun 2; Star 2

And the losers are...

Our national reputation and anyone who looks to the middle-market Press for a fair and balanced view of the value - or cost - of immigrants to society.

Front pages from

A new SubScribe website with archived blogposts and new features is being prepared and should be ready to make its first appearance at the end of the month. If you have any ideas of elements that should be included - or avoided - please get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or email. Thank you.



1 comment:

  1. You're right about your national reputation, and how sad it is to the eyes of the European countries. I come from Catalonia, Spain, and front pages like the ones you show would be unthinkable, no matter how badly damaged is our economy or corrupted our politicians. People first and equal rights, that's the only rule for any truly progressive country.