Image: Vaughan Leiberum/Flickr Image: Vaughan Leiberum/Flickr

A Justice of the Supreme Court says that the UK needs immigrants as Brits are too stupid. He is wrong, of course, but was only wrong because he chose unfortunate wording, the essence of what Lord Kerr said was dead right.

It’s a shame that Lord Kerr, Baron Kerr of Tonaghmore, PC, QC, a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, chose the words he did.

“We native Brits are so bloody stupid that we need an injection of intelligent people, young people from outside who come in and wake us up from time to time,” he said, while speaking at an event organised by the Institute for Government.

It’s a shame because those comments aside, he is right.

It depends on what you mean by stupid. If you define stupid as not being a winner of a Nobel prize in science, then he makes a good general point, not so much about Brits, but about immigrants. After-all, this year, six Americans won Nobel prizes in science related disciplines, but they were all immigrants.

Of course, you don’t define stupid as having not won a Nobel prize, Brits are not stupid any more than any race is. But Immigrants are often highly intelligent, driven, hardworking and entrepreneurial.

And in a way, immigrants can wake us up a bit, shake us out of our complacency, or worse, a tendency to sit on past glories. This does not make us stupid, and presumably, Lord Kerr was using extreme, but ill-advised, language to try and make a point, he probably did not expect to be interpreted literally.

He also said: “It’s completely true that the Leave campaign, by cleverly outsourcing the xenophobia and the racism to the Farage campaign, were able to salve their consciences it seems by pinning Cameron to the fact that we would only take back control when we left.” He makes a good point, most of the Brexit supporting MPs made sensible thoughtful comments, but they were still surfing a wave of xenophobia expressed by others.

Lord Kerr said: “In Wales and the North East, there is a perception of an immigration problem. No political party in Britain is having the guts to address that issue. That’s the principal problem: not the reality of immigration, which is a good thing; but the perception of immigration in the country and that pusillanimity of politicians.”

Again, these are odd comments. Immigration does indeed do a lot of good for the UK, and worldwide is a major driver of innovation. The backlash against immigration is dangerous, and risks sparking off a chain of events that could put global stability back 80 years. But this has nothing to do with Wales and the North East, we are seeing worldwide xenophobia – across Europe and the US, and maybe beyond.

But Lord Kerr is right to say that politicians are not standing up to this, they are not attempting to lead, instead they are being led by the tide of public opinion, which is being distorted by a media that does sometimes feel more xenophobic than not, while unsavoury views are echoing in a filter bubble, with very few people at the top willing to stick their necks out and attempt to offer an alterative narrative.

Humanity is a young species, we can all trace our lineage back to a common ancestor living some 150,000 years ago. If you look at big history, starting with the earliest Homo sapiens to today, then nations are a new concept, a mere blip in the story of humanity. Furthermore, new technologies are changing the world at a pace that has never been seen before during our history. And could draw us closer together, like never seen before. Nationhood will lose its relevance, washed away like a sandcastle on the shore. Unless that is, we listen to the voices of xenophobia, and in attempting to stop these changes that are occurring, create something very nasty indeed.