"Britain's body politic has been shocked to the core by this week's election of two British National Party candidates to the European Parliament.
Their success is described as 'the ultimate protest vote'. It has been attributed to public disgust with MPs of all parties following the expenses scandal.
Few, if any, Parliamentarians of any persuasion admit what is self-evident to the rest of us: that many thousands of voters back the BNP because it opposes further mass immigration to Britain.
We live in an age and a society allegedly committed to openness as the supreme virtue. Yet our politicians show themselves no more capable of frankness about the massive problems posed by immigration than about the future of an insolvent NHS, the absence of any sensible energy strategy for the future and the gradual collapse of pension provision which will soon start hitting the state sector as well.
In the face of deafening silence about migration from Tories, Labour and LibDems alike, some desperate people vent their bitterness by backing the only group they think willing to speak up for them, even though its character and attitudes are repulsive.
Polls show that most BNP voters are male and working class. More than one-third of them are manual workers. This means that they live among migrants, in a way that the liberal middle class does not.
Some 77 per cent of BNP voters believe that white people in Britain are now victims of discrimination. Many are former Labour voters and think their old party has betrayed them.
Only about half of BNP supporters explicitly admit to being racists. The rest are simply people who believe that their traditional communities are being destroyed, jobs lost or put at risk, by uncontrolled immigration.
The main parties, and especially the Tories, believe that by saying little or nothing about immigration, they escape the charge from the Left that they are promoting racial hatred, going back to their bad old Powellite ways.
Instead, however, there seems a powerful argument that they are thus failing in their duty as an opposition, to lay bare the failure of government policy.
They ignore a matter which deeply troubles voters. Some 80 per cent of people questioned in a YouGov poll for the independent think-tank MigrationWatch say that they are 'concerned' or 'very concerned' about levels of immigration.
Many thoughtful, educated people who would not dream of voting for the BNP nonetheless daily use such phrases as 'It's not our country any more', and 'I don't feel I belong in the place where I grew up'.
Only a tiny handful of people, notably the brave and impeccably liberal figures of Labour MP Frank Field and Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman Trevor Phillips, have shown themselves willing publicly to acknowledge the huge social and political strains which immigration imposes on our society.
Scarcely one of Britain's mainstream politicians is anywhere to be seen in a debate of vital concern for our national future.
The figures show clearly that this Labour Government has sanctioned and promoted a vast increase in migration, and thus in Britain's population, without the most tenuous mandate for its policy from the nation.
For 20 years before Tony Blair became Prime Minister, immigration averaged 54,000 a year. It then rose steeply to 97,000 in 1999. In 2007, the last year for which figures are available, 333,000 more foreign nationals entered Britain than left.
In addition, there are estimated to be 725,000 illegal immigrants in the country, 518,000 of these in London.
On the Government's own, almost certainly understated, numbers, our population will pass 70 million by 2028. It could reach 80 million in the course of the century.
We are the most overcrowded country in Europe, save Malta. Some 24 per cent of all births in this country are to foreign-born mothers.
Asylum-seekers now account for only 10 per cent of newcomers - though still 30,000 a year. Nor, contrary to popular myth, are most migrants East Europeans, the fabled Polish plumbers. Only 87,000 of the 2007 intake came from Eastern Europe, less than a quarter of the total.
Most new arrivals come from the Third World, at a rate which is increasing the national population by almost one per cent every two years.
How has this state of affairs come about? First, since 1997 the Government has quadrupled the number of work permits issued to foreigners. After five years here, permit-holders have a right to apply for permanent residence.
Second, Labour greatly eased restrictions governing the rights of anybody married to a resident to enter Britain. Numbers of those entering with a certificate of marriage, real or fixed for the purpose, have doubled.
Finally, there are students - 360,000 a year. There are no effective checks, first on whether they come to attend bona fide places of learning, and second upon ensuring their return home after completing their courses.
David Blunkett, as Home Secretary, was one of the villains of the piece. He is one of many New Labour standard-bearers who both proclaim the value of large-scale immigration to this country, and greatly eased the path of those seeking to come here.
In 2004, he asserted defiantly: 'Migrants don't just come to fill jobs - they also create jobs, helping our economy grow and giving us a more vibrant culture.'
These arguments were brutally dismissed last year in a report by the House of Lords' Economic Committee, one of the very few political bodies to have dared to conduct a serious review of policy. The peers concluded that, contrary to New Labour propaganda, immigration has had 'little or no impact' on the economic well-being of Britain and offers 'insignificant' benefits to the existing UK population.
The social impact of migrants on existing communities is enormous, of course. Almost all choose to settle in England rather than the Celtic fringes. Anyone who walks the streets of London or any major English city today hears 20 languages spoken as readily as English.
This may be 'richly culturally diverse', as New Labour-speak puts the matter. But it causes many English people to feel deeply disorientated in their own home towns.
Because we are vastly less assertive than the Americans in imposing our own culture on migrants, many newcomers resist learning English.
Today, there are 300 primary schools in England where more than 70 per cent of pupils - nearly half a million children - use English only as a second language.
It is unlikely the virtuous liberals of any major political party send their own children to such schools. I doubt that they would be happy if they had to do so.
It is sometimes suggested that migrants offer useful cheap labour. But there is no really cheap labour in a welfare state. Each new arrival represents an additional burden on policing, health, education and infrastructure which must be paid for. Many police forces have expressed concern about the pressures and costs imposed by the huge influx of migrants.
Police officers in Cambridgeshire, for instance, must deal with cases in almost 100 languages. The county's translation costs have risen from £220,000 in 2002-3 to £800,000 in 2006-7. Its drink-drive figures show a 17-fold increase in arrests of foreigners.
Of the 94,200 people predicted to move into Cambridgeshire by 2016, 69,000 are expected to be foreigners. And this is just one county.
There are also heavy health costs - which seem especially relevant in a week when new figures show the NHS heading for a major financial crisis by 2011.
A few years ago, tuberculosis was all but extinct in Britain. Today, there is a striking increase in reported cases, 65 per cent of them involving patients not born in Britain, with 21 per cent Africanborn. Hepatitis B cases have almost doubled in six years, to 325,000, 96 per cent of these involving patients born outside the UK.
Even the Government halfheartedly and unconvincingly acknowledges that too many migrants are coming to Britain. Yet nothing effective is being done to check to the flow.
Ministers have committed themselves to what they call 'an Australian-style points system' for assessing candidates for entry. Yet this will lack the indispensable feature of Australian policy - a defined upper limit on overall numbers.
Scrutiny of visa applications at British embassies abroad has become less rather than more stringent, because much of the work is now handled by local rather than British staff.
The Government lies again and again about its real commitment to address immigration. This is partly because it fears to tangle with its own Left-wingers, who are viscerally committed to the ideal of open borders.
The Government's carelessness on this issue can scarcely fail to be influenced by the fact that ethic minorities vote pretty solidly for Labour.
In some constituencies, socalled 'community leaders' of minorities exercise significant influence, because they are able to deliver a block vote at elections which can amount to 2,000 or more ballots.
The Tories have raised the prospect of introducing a specified upper limit on migrants, but have given no hint of what this might be. Most Conservative front-benchers maintain a trappist silence on an issue which the leadership fears can be used by Labour to raise once more the spectre of themselves as 'the nasty party'.
In a pitifully mute Commons, one of the boldest and most reasonable initiatives came last September from Labour MP Frank Field and Tory Nicholas Soames, who together published a pamphlet calling for a policy of 'balanced migration' - allowing into Britain each year no more people than leave - in 2007, some 96,000.
'Our concern,' they wrote, 'is not the principle of immigration, but its scale. This rate of arrival is 25 times higher than any previous influx of immigration in nearly 1,000 years of our nation's history. Nor is this influx due to globalisation. It is largely the result of government policies.'
Yet there is no evidence that, since the publication of Field's and Soames's report, the Conservatives are any more wiling than Labour to grasp the issue with conviction.
Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch, whose relentless, but calm and objective, barrage of statistics is often criticised but never plausibly disputed, says: 'The Tories decline to discuss immigration at all. The LibDems have no policy except for an attack on illegal immigration. The Government gives an appearance of activity, but has not yet taken effective action.
'We have been warning until we are blue in the face that if the major parties fail to address this issue, extremists would start to gain public support.'
And thus it was, this week, the repulsive BNP gained more votes in the European elections than Sir Oswald Mosley's fascists dreamed of in the 1930s Depression.
Whether Britain's mainstream politicians admit it or not, a major cause of public disillusionment is their bland, frankly craven refusal to address an issue about which a vast number of British people care deeply: the perceived alienation and transformation of their own society.
Max Hasting in the Daily Mail.