Who Should We Let In? Ian Hislop on the First Great Immigration Row

Who Should We Let In? Ian Hislop on the First Great Immigration Row


At one stage here Ian Hislop has a discussion with shock-columnist Katie Hopkins that makes for an extraordinary few minutes of television. Their dialogue could form a programme in itself, but instead acts like a shard of broken glass reminding us Hislop’s open-minded approach to immigration isn’t the only one available. (“These individuals from some of these countries,” Hopkins tells him, “are feral humans.”)

The rest of the programme is a shrewd, witty look at the struggles Britain went through when it first tried to deal with mass immigration from the 1890s onwards – and what we might learn from them.

One interesting revelation is how proud the Victorians had been of their open door policy: Hislop reads from a Times leader of 1853 declaring Britain “the asylum of nations”. He profiles the campaigners who subsequently shaped the debate, including an MP who in 1904 warned about “insular prejudice against foreigners” – Winston Churchill.


As Brexit Britain prepares to draw up new rules on who is welcome in the UK, Ian Hislop explores the decades from the Victorian era to the First World War, when modern Britain introduced its first peacetime restrictions on immigration. Until then, the Victorians had an open door to foreigners, but rising numbers in the late 19th-century triggered a fierce disagreement over who should be allowed in, mirroring the ongoing modern-day debate.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Ian Hislop
Contributor Anna Chen
Contributor Katie Hopkins
Contributor Alan Johnson
Contributor Jennifer Nadel
Contributor David Rosenberg
Contributor Sayeeda Warsi
Contributor Robert Winder
Director Nick Tanner
Editor Bernard Lyall
Executive Producer Debbie Lee
Producer Archie Baron
Producer Nick Tanner
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