It’s incessant and pervasive, but it largely sneaks under the radar. The language of invasion by foreigners on social media, news and entertainment channels, but with a twist: non-native animals and plants. Take cosy Sunday evening Countryfile, for example. Almost very week you’ll hear how plucky Brits are fighting off this takeover by threatening species that are not like us. Examples? Here, here, here and here. Are we being besieged by illegal immigrants? It’s all over the news – just a few samples from the BBC News site here, here and here.
The American invasion: overpaid, oversexed and over here
You can understand why the red vs grey squirrel battle is such a popular media trope. Native red squirrels (it’s a code for white, obviously) are being outbred by foreign, invasive grey ones (substitute the word “brown” here) in an animal world version of the Great Replacement. This relentless dog-whistling has radicalised Tufty, a previously mild-mannered former road safety red squirrel from Tunbridge Wells, to fire an angry missive to the Daily Telegraph – “The American ‘gray; squirrels are overpaid, oversexed and over here. And they can’t even spell their own name the proper English way”. Tufty will be livid when he hears about how our most famous frog, Mr. Jeremy Fisher, was evicted from his Lake District cottage by American bull frogs, how American mink are edging out our home-grown water voles, and how aggressive American signal crayfish are driving out their smaller white-clawed native British cousins. Perhaps at some stage the signal crayfish will change the colour of their claws in order to assimilate.
Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Hitler?
Meanwhile, the hordes pour in from Europe. Quagga and zebra mussels from Romania have prompted an outbreak of clichés about foreigners “musseling in” on their hapless British counterparts. We’ve never forgiven the Romans for introducing the European rabbit in the 1st Century, but a more recent terror is a Tale of Two Cities – bed bugs emigrating from Paris to London. Meanwhile, from the south we’ve got the Iberian invader, also known as the Spanish slug. Sightings of this marauder can be reported on the Slugwatch website, although, encouragingly, slug pellets have been shown to work on Michael Gove.
But the real threat to Blighty may come from the Far East. Invasive Chinese mitten crabs are about to overwhelm us. They’re the size of dinner plates, but things could get even worse when the next wave hits us – these one are reckoned to be the size of breakfast plates. Meanwhile, the National History Museum has set up “Mitten Crab Watch” to encourage us to dob in anyone who walks sideways or has slightly different shaped eyes. Rishi Sunak is so concerned about the Asian hordes that he’s called in the expertise of Britain’s foremost expert on crustacean extermination – Tees Valley Mayor Ben “Crab Killer” Houchen. And we’re in danger of being overwhelmed by Asian hornets. Ask your racist uncle for more information. If all of this information is too subtle, read all about Africanised bees.
Day of the triffids
It’s not just animals though. Their dastardly plants are overwhelming us too. From China, Buddleia, which sometimes cunningly describes itself as the harmless sounding Butterfly Bush, and Himalayan Balsam. And it’s a terrifying two-pronged attack from the East. Next door in Japan, they’re planning to replicate the raid on Pearl Harbor with an invasion of knot-weed. If you’re having sleepless nights about the rhododendron that was brought in to the UK 250 years ago you might be watching too much news but, then again, if you enjoy a really good spooking the government has got 2,000 invasive species for you.
When the dog whistle becomes a bullhorn
So yes, it’s not really much of a leap from grey squirrels to brown people, and you end up with the monstrous MP Jill Mortimer channelling 1933 Nazi Germany by standing up in the House of Commons and inciting violence against refugees in a tirade of blatant lies about her Hartlepool constituency office being “besieged” by illegal asylum seekers. Jill has hardly visited the town since being elected two and a half years ago, and even the local Teesside press have cottoned on to this dangerous rabble-rousing garbage. She could publish the visitor log to confirm how many asylum seekers have visited her office, let alone besieged it. To save time, I’ll let everyone know the correct number. It’s zero. Still, we need to worry about those grey squirrels.