The liberal and the conservative libertarian view of immigration is that it is good for society. Immigrants fill the demand for particular categories of jobs, they work hard and contribute to wealth creation. It was a view I encountered in a slightly unexpected setting: a taxi ride in Cambridge, UK. The conversation with the driver went like this:
Taxi Driver: So where are you from?
me: Scotland, mate.
Taxi Driver: (Laughs) No I mean originally.
me: Oh I see. Originally from Bangladesh. And you? (knowing well that he is a local chap)
Taxi Driver: (Laughs) So you must be a millionaire then?
me: em..What? Sorry I don’t follow…
Taxi Driver: All you Bangladeshis come over here with twenty pounds in your pockets and then you become millionaires….
I twigged what he meant. He was referring to the phenomenal success of Bangladeshi owned restaurants in the UK.Â I was astonished by this summary of Bangladeshis. I was still under the impression that Bangladesh is exclusively associated with floods or the George Harrison concert but here was a view where Bangladesh is associated with wealth and, more importantly, wealth creation. For a second I got nervous.Â Â Was his a liberal/libertarian view or was his comment tinged with xenophobia? Was he begrudging the success of Bangladeshi entrepreneurs ? I tested him:
me: So, do you like curries?
Taxi Driver: I love ‘em mate. Been to all the curry houses in the area. Know the owners of….
He reeled off a long list and asked whether I knew some of these formidable restaurateurs..He counted some as his friends. As we discussed restaurants and as I bemoaned the bastardization of the curry in the UK, I tested him further. Tell me, I said, what else do you know about Bangladesh. His answer was not totally unexpected: “Well there’s that bird Fariah Alam.” He even got her name right…I suppose that is only to be expected, as I do believe Fariah has received more headline news coverage in the UK than any other Bangladeshi woman ever!Â So there you have it. The new image we are projecting here in the UK is that we are successful entrepreneurs and we have a b-list celebrity who bonks top football officials. I gave the chap a huge tip and wished he was a PR consultant for the Bangladesh High Commission here. Believe me, I would rather project this image than one associated with fundamentalism, bombs and carnage.