April 1, 2022 - 7:00am

No issue has, over recent years, more tested the patience of ordinary voters — or thrown into such sharp relief the ideological chasm between them and the political elites — than that of immigration.

At the turn of the century, the spectacle of the National Front spewing hatred in England had become largely a thing of the past. While nobody could, of course, claim that racism had been abolished, the issues of race and immigration had certainly become less of a dividing line in our society than ever before.

Ultra-liberal immigration policies, and a turn in the public stocks for anyone who opposed them, followed. Hyper-progressives set the tone and tempo of this enormous social change.

You might have thought the backlash that followed — first with Brexit, then with the 2019 General Election, might have made the chief exponents of a borderless world reconsider their priorities.

Yet even those who have shown themselves willing to take heed of the backlash and put their shoulder to the wheel in the task of bringing our fragmented communities together often remain unrelenting in their belief that open-borders signpost the way to a higher civilisation.

For example, a paper — “Homes for Afghans” — published jointly this week by think-tanks More in Common and British Future recommends (among other, more laudable, recommendations) that our country “turn the welcoming wave of 2022 [in respect of Ukrainian refugees] into a sustained social norm” and the government establish a “multi-million-pound fund” to this end.

Of course Britain must do its bit when it comes to providing shelter to individuals, such as those from Afghanistan and Ukraine, seeking to escape from war and persecution. But to attempt to turn these often unique and distinctive phenomena into a “sustained social norm” is surely to seek open-borders in everything but name — little more than an attempt to achieve through the back door what has been roundly rejected at the polls.

One must ask what such a measure would achieve except to further inflame tensions. In my experience, the vast majority of Britons are prepared to show compassion to those forced to flee their homelands. But the recommendation in the paper would, if realised, simply have the effect of exploiting their goodwill yet more and ensuring that the issue of immigration remains a running sore in our society.

Studies show overwhelmingly that Britons support immigration. But voters understand that, as with many good things, immigration works best in moderation — not least to ensure we can maintain the highest levels of social solidarity and cohesion.

I am ceaselessly staggered — though I know I shouldn’t be — at how the perfectly reasonable stance of millions of voters on this question is regarded by the liberal intelligentsia as somehow unconscionable. They still aren’t getting it. I’m not sure they ever will.

Paul Embery is a firefighter, trade union activist, pro-Brexit campaigner and ‘Blue Labour’ thinker