As I struggled through the book, yet another terrorist attack was taking place in Europe, this time in Barcelona. I have no argument with Murray on our vulnerability to terrorist attacks, or on the need for effective immigration control. It is not with his accounts of terrorist attacks in Europe or on his detailed description of the immigration crisis that I have difficulty, but with his single unifying explanation for these troubles – a Europe that has lost its Christian culture. Without this, Murray proclaims (and I think this is the correct word, for this book is more polemic than reasoned argument) Europe has become weakened and weary, at the mercy of a political class that has lost touch with its people and has become weak-kneed in the face of the tyranny of political correctness.
In spite of the quality of the writing, I read it to the end. In literary terms, it flows beautifully, but as investigative journalism it is at best shoddy workmanship, and at worst deliberate misinformation. I’d hazard a guess that it is the second, for it smuggles half-truths and lies along with accurate reportage, and that takes some ingenuity.
For example, Murray recounts the emotion stirred Europe by the death of the three-year-old Syrian boy whose parents had had a visa application to Canada turned down. He concludes the paragraph thus:
Political opponents of the Stephen Harper government that was then in office made significant capital out of Canada’s alleged failure to save the life of the three year old. The Harper government lost the subsequent election.
Note that Murray does not say that the emotional response to the tragic death of the child caused Harper to lose the election – he is far too clever for that - rather he adds the final sentence leaving the reader to deduce cause from outcome.
Placing stuff he dislikes within inverted commas is a favourite ploy, suggesting to the reader a sneering tone, as in this passage:
Yet whenever our governments and armies get involved in anything in the name of these ‘human rights’ – in Iraq in 2003 - we seemed to make things worse.
Well, he is a journalist, not an historian, but one still reels from the absurd notion that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was prompted by human rights.
While claiming that in the UK we are abandoning the rule of law, the writer suggests that our human rights legislation (at the heart of our rule of law) should be disregarded. This is the man who regards the English Defence League as the secondary problem and Islamism as the primary one. Why not see both sides equally to blame?
Murray claims that the housing shortage in the UK is ‘largely caused by immigration’, a commonly held belief that isn’t justified by the evidence.  It’s a particularly heinous claim when we consider that London, where the housing shortage is most acute, is deeply affected by property speculation.
Murray wants to alarm his reader by telling them the Muslim population doubled between the 2001 and 2011 census, but again this is simply not true. The Muslim population rose from 3% in 2001 to 4.8% in 2011, in other words it rose by just over half, while meanwhile the rate of increase slowed. And yet, this purports to be a serious, well-researched book, with references and everything.
I started keeping notes on the number of dubious leaps of logic and false reporting, but grew so weary that I almost missed the final insult to the reader’s intelligence. In a passage arguing that immigrants to Europe are unwilling to become ‘European’ (whatever that means) Murray quotes the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as reporting that Mohammed had become the most popular newborn boy’s name in England and Wales in 2016. The problem is that the ONS have not yet reported on 2016, and in their 2015 report, the most popular name was Oliver. If indeed we were to derive understanding of trends from such information, we would surely conclude that in England and Wales the prevailing cultural meme is Dickensian.
Yet the biggest problem for me is not the poor journalism, but Murray’s central argument that there is a homogenous Christian European culture that is now on its knees. I am not certain which golden age he is dreaming of – is it perhaps the 100 years war, the two world wars that dominated last century, or just the fanciful notion of ‘old maids cycling to Holy Communion, long shadows on cricket ground, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers and pool fillers’?. He fetes the presence of churches in towns and villages throughout the land with a sentimentality only surpassed by those who think the loss of the Big Ben bong over the next four years signals the end of empire.
Can Murray really be talking about the values derived from the teachings of Christ? His invective is largely against peoples he describes as ‘dark skinned’ and ‘foreigners’, which seems a far cry from the teaching of Jesus, who challenged the Jews by suggesting that the outcasts of the day – the Samaritans - weren’t all that bad. Murray makes a big issue of the Rotheram child abuse case, rightly identifying the institutional fear of racist allegations that failed the victims, while ignoring the decades of institutional child sexual exploitation hidden within the Catholic Church and the entertainment industry. We tend not to blame Christianity for these abuses, but it seem fair game to blame Islam for Rotheram.
There are also huge gaps in Murray’s analysis. He makes only passing reference to global inequality, the impact of globalisation, and none at all to the UK’s strange willingness to spend billions on weapons of mass destruction, whilst underfunding asylum processing, border control and the monitoring of those likely to become terrorists.
Moreover, Murray offers no answers, except for suggesting Europe taking lessons from Japanese and Australians, ignoring the fact that Japan is rather a long distance from Africa and the Middle East and, unlike Europe, was largely isolated from the rest of the world until the mid nineteenth century. He praises the Australian approach of marooning immigrants on offshore islands, in conditions which resemble concentration camps. The Australian answer seems a far cry from Christian culture, whatever that is – Murray, you’ll remember, does not trouble to define it.
Murray’s book is profoundly pessimistic, but is his pessimism really justified? It’s true we face massive challenges with immigration and terrorism, but his notion of a Europe that has lost its way does not wash. We live with unprecedented levels of wellbeing, increased longevity, reduced infant mortality, greater inclusion of those who experience disability, freedom of speech and freedom to follow our religion – the whole range of protections afforded by our human rights legislation. We no longer put blasphemers or homosexuals to death, a fact that Murray, a gay atheist, surely appreciates.
This is not to say that Europe is perfect. Our enslavement to over consumption and neo-liberal ideology is just one of the reasons we are not doing as well as we might, along with the political fracturing of the continent and the failure of the Eurozone. As Gaby Hinslif says, in the Guardian review of the book;
‘Europe isn’t dying, but it isn’t ageing well, and all that is ripe for critical analysis. Sooner or later, someone will write a terrific book about that. This isn’t it.’
 It’s worth considering for whom it is a ‘crisis’. So far in this decade 678 innocent people have died in Europe as a result of terrorist attacks, whereas at least 750 people immigrants died in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean in just one week in 2014
 The reasons Harper lost the 2015 election are complex, but most commentators agree the defeat was caused by an electorate that was weary with austerity policies which hardened as the deficit grew larger, and disliked how Harper closed down the access of the media to the business of government and got unpleasantly personal about his opponent.
 It’s not clear which ‘Europe’ he means; he gives details of terrorist attacks in Western Europe, but omits those in Belarus and Macedonia.
 John Major famously misquoted Orwell, who made these observations as a sarcastic attack on all he hated about middle England
 I realise it is hard to believe someone thinks so, or imagines the Empire still exists, but this was a response to a BBC reporter on 21 August 2017, the day the clock was stopped for repairs.
 A reading of the full report of the Inquiry identifies many other systemic failures that Murray selectively fails to mention.