The Polish Invasion of Boston
One of the things that is different than it was 10 years ago is that there are a hell of a lot more Polish people living in the UK. This isn't exactly new news, but the release of the actual figures has made everybody think about it again.
About 1 in 8 people living in the UK in 2011 were born outside the UK. Poles are now the largest group of non-British citizens living in the UK, and the second-largest group of people born outside the UK (the largest group are people born in India). Ten years ago, Poles didn't even appear on the list.
The problem with census statistics is that they lack a human perspective. Journalists get around this by identifying one community where the statistics are at their most extreme and then going there and asking the local people how they feel about it. That place was Boston – the original Boston in eastern England, not the one in Massachusetts.
Boston is not a terribly interesting place. The most interesting thing about Boston is that, 400 years ago, some people there got so bored they decided to sail across the Atlantic Ocean and build another town called Boston in the hope the new one would prove to be more exciting.
Nothing much happened in Boston after that until 2006, when it was discovered that the town had the highest proportion of obese people in England (an amazing 1 in 3). Now, for the third time in half a century, Boston is in the news again – this time because it has the highest proportion of non-British people of any place in the UK.
About 10 percent of the people living in Boston are not British, and the great majority of these are Poles. One the town's main roads, called West Street, has been renamed East Street by locals because there are so many Polish and Lithuanian shops and restaurants. Why are there so many Poles in an obscure town in the east of England? Because there is work there.
The part of England around Boston is very flat and very empty, which makes it perfect for growing vegetables. The people of Boston are, however, very fat, which makes it difficult for them to bend down and harvest the vegetables. With the UK's minimum legal wage now at £6.19 (31 złoty) per hour, there are plenty of Poles willing to fly over and do the bending down for them.
Last week, there were even more journalists than Poles in Boston. Predictably, the newspapers that like to put exclamation marks in their headlines managed to find some angry local people who like to use exclamation marks in their sentences. Even more predictably, these people complained that the 'foreigners' were stealing their jobs and destroying their culture. It's hard to understand what this 'culture' is, given that the only thing Bostonians seem to do is eat cakes and very occasionally build cities in other people's continents.
There was a very small and badly organised demonstration against immigration in Boston last month. About 12 people turned up, and half of them were there because they thought it was a pub crawl. The very sensible local member of parliament pointed out that there are 1,300 unemployed people in Boston and about 10,000 immigrants. 'Who,' he asked 'is going to do all the work if we send the immigrants home?" The demonstrators looked uncomfortably at their feet, and then decided to go to the pub instead.