Ross Clark Ross Clark

It shouldn’t be surprising that a Muslim son of immigrants is funding Reform

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Should it really be a surprise that Zia Yusuf, a Muslim entrepreneur who made his fortune setting up a company that runs an app providing concierge services for posh blocks of flats, has chosen to support Reform?

It is clear that Mr Yusuf has not thrown his lot in with Reform in spite of its policies on migration, but because of them. Britain, he says, has ‘lost control of its borders’, adding, ‘my parents came here legally. When I talk to my friends they are as affronted by illegal Channel crossings, which are an affront to all hard-working British people but not least the migrants who played by the rules and came legally.’ It shouldn’t really shock anyone, any more than it shocks us to find out that people who pay their taxes are not terribly keen on people who evade them, or that people who took great trouble to stick to the rules during lockdowns tended to be the most upset when it emerged that Downing Street staff treated them with a more cavalier attitude. It is simply human nature: most people who stick carefully to the rules tend to feel affronted when others have cheated.

Yet it seems to confuse many people who, over and over again, get confused by the fact that so many of the politicians who have been toughest on illegal migration have been themselves migrants or the children of migrants. Priti Patel, Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman, and before them Michael Portillo, for instance. Why are these people taking it out on migrants, their left-wing critics ask when they have benefited from migration themselves? For many progressives, someone like Braverman is a traitor to her own kind; they have to imagine deep insecurities which have led her to this dark place.

Progressives struggle with the likes of Braverman because they see people less as individuals than as members of class, racial, and ethnic identities. If you happen to be a British Asian, then you should share the values of all British Asians. Moreover, you should conform to the opinions which grievance politics has assigned to you – which in the case of ethnic minorities is that Britain is a structurally racist country whose white majority population is out to oppress you whether it means to or not.

But that is clearly not how Zia Yusuf, Suella Braverman, and others think. To them, they are not betraying their own people by opposing illegal migration – or even in wanting to slow down the legal variety. Rather, they are thinking back to the efforts their parents put into coming to Britain – which might have required many years of study, filling in forms, paying for visas, etc. – and they feel offended when they see young men (and they mainly are young men) who are exploiting the asylum process by pretending to be gay, Christian, or telling whatever other tall stories help them to play the system.

It all comes down to a basic sense of fairness. This doesn’t mean to say that a party that focuses on migration doesn’t also risk attracting people who are racists – like Ukip before it, Reform UK will face a constant battle to keep out such people, as we have found with its vetting issues this week. But no one should be surprised if other children of migrants are drawn to a party which is serious about wanting to tackle the problem. Reform UK’s opponents will have to find a more intelligent way of opposing it than simply trying to denounce it as racist.