By its nature, multiculturalism assails existing assumptions and traditions - relativizing them, making them anaemic, and even threatening the survival of some. But it also calls into being new phenomena that seem to be becoming traditions. Among these is - quelle surprise! - the increasingly frequent official report decrying racial segregation, and wondering what to do about it.
From its 1948 outset, when the British Nationality Act so recklessly extended citizenship to all Commonwealth citizens, postwar immigration was a cause of concern to some senior politicians. Winston Churchill worried about "the magpie society", but was too old and sick to do anything about it, and 1950s Cabinet committees concluded there was no need for Action This Day (or any other). Others took an interest later, most famously Enoch Powell and Margaret Thatcher - but he was too impractical, and she was too busy, for their worries to be translated into serious policy (although the 1981 British Nationality Act did tighten up on some 1948 provisions). Large-scale immigration continued under all administrations, with government employees, the police, and the general public simply expected to muddle through - while immigrants were apparently expected to become British by osmosis.
Whatever hope there may have been for this faintly arrogant approach was removed as multiculturalism introduced itself from American academe. It moved into an intellectual vacuum, because old foci of fealty - Anglicanism, the Empire, the monarchy, nationalism - were disappearing or becoming discredited. It became in effect a new national religion-cum-ideology at a time when new ideas were needed - morally gratifying and electorally useful to Labour, and seemingly harmless to Conservatives smug in cultural certitude, or beholden to big business, or who hoped vaguely that morally conservative immigrants would teach backsliding Britons about ‘family values’. Immigration became barnacled in sugary sentiment and sugary sentiment’s obverse - vitriolic condemnation of those who diverged from the new middle-class morality.
The outcomes were always predictable, and were early observable - distrust, enclaving, misunderstandings, resentments, violent outbursts, white flight. Yet official examination was deferred again and again - and when it finally came zeroed in on procedural failings rather than overarching policies, and actually strengthened multiculturalist rationales. The 1981 Scarman Report into race-riots and the 1999 Macpherson Report into the way the police investigated the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence both focused on police failings, and white racism. 2001’s multiplicity of reports, sparked by rioting and lent impetus by 9/11 - the Bradford Report,the Burnley Report,the Oldham Report, and the Denham Report - were all summed up in the Cantle Report, which popularized the terms “community cohesion” and “British values”, which have since become mini industries, engrossing considerable sums of taxpayer money and a great deal of political time, to little effect - as Prof. Cantle admitted recently.
Although these documents focused mostly on local economic factors, such as housing policies or employment, they were greeted with great anger in some quarters, because they suggested that there were discrete national ideals to which immigrants might consider assimilating. (It is worth remembering that even as the Labour government was publishing Cantle et al., others in the New Labour apparatus were unofficially "rubbing the Right's nose in diversity", as exemplified by Tony Blair's 2004 decision not to impose limits on immigration from Romania (and other E.U. member states.)
Similarly depressing documents, using similar language and reaching similar conclusions, have been published by the Commission for Racial Equality (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission),the Institute for Race Relations, the Runnymede Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, and yet other official, semi-official or charitable bodies. All are well-researched, and make many valid points. But behind the narrow remits and dreary language can be detected plaintive puzzlement - how did it come to this? What will the end of it be? Why, oh why, can’t we all just get along?
The just-published Casey Review is therefore the latest in a line, but it is rather different in tone. This is partly because of the strong personality of its author, Dame Louise Casey, but also because it apportions much of the blame for the failures of multiculturalism to Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. Too many men in these groups, she says, hold “less progressive views, for example towards women’s equality, sexuality and freedom of speech”, and are complicit in excluding women from the workplace and preventing them learning English, forced marriages, ‘honour’ crimes, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and sometimes sexual abuse (Dame Louise previously dissected the Rotherham sex abuse outrage.) Such attitudes are perpetuated by the importation of spouses from rural Pakistan or Bangladesh, and illegal faith schools teaching extreme variants of Islam.
Casey ranges wider and cuts deeper than most official enquirers - the limited life-chances of working class whites, black unemployment, dislike of gypsies, ethnic differences in household income, the 19% spike in “hate crimes” since last year, and yet other areas - an impressively detailed gazeteer of immigration-related problems. She also reminds us that it is not enough to talk about ‘net’ immigration, as if numbers in versus numbers out was a simple matter of mathematics, with no cultural implications. And all of these things are mere symptoms of a chronic failure of national leadership -
“Too few leaders in public office have dealt with this key issue, perhaps hoping it might change or worrying about being labelled racist; or indeed fearing that they will lose the support of minority communities... Too many public institutions, national and local, state and non-state, have gone so far to accommodate diversity and freedom of expression that they have ignored or even condoned regressive, divisive and harmful cultural and religious practices.”
These last two sentences effectively denounce every administration, from Attlee to May, for having caused or exacerbated grievous divisions that seem likely to persist into the far future - “sometimes with good intent”, as she notes mischievously - and successive generations of bien-pensant opinion-formers, from academics to journalists, for decades of platitudinising and thought-policing. It seems unfair to single out for criticism, as she does, the civil servants who in 2011-12 and 2012-13 spent more on promoting the Cornish language than on English, because of course these merely reflect political priorities and cultural attitudes. (How wonderful it would be, by the way, to live in an England in which preserving Cornish was the most pressing cultural dilemma.)
While Casey’s candour about causes is welcome, most of her recommendations have been advocated previously - by Cantle, Trevor Phillips and others. Promotion of the English language, helping Asian women into work, more social mixing, indices of integration, better teaching of “British values, laws and history”, “reviewing the route to British citizenship”, and even her most original idea - an “integration oath” for immigrants intending to settle in Britain - are all perfectly reasonable notions, but they run up against realities.
What are “British values”, for example? Britishness is in some respects an abstract identity, but it is embedded in centuries of complex and interlinked tribal histories, classical and Christian culture, overlaid with Enlightenment ideas. British values stem from ancient English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish traditions welded more or less together over the course of more than three centuries of shared experiences.
While admirable in themselves, Caseyan ideals like democracy, equality, fair play, the rule of law and tolerance are scarcely unique to Britain (some would have seemed frankly laughable to the founders of the modern state, to whom democracy meant royal prerogatives and rotten boroughs, equality was a chimera, the rule of law meant hangings and transportations, and immigration meant granting citizenship to future Queens and their possible progeny). Dame Casey recognises this herself:
“While individually these values are recognised as not uniquely British, the current Government in its Counter Extremism Strategy considers the following combination integral to a successful and cohesive nation: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, equality, freedom of speech, and mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of different faiths and beliefs.”
Who could really be inspired by so bloodless a list? “Integration oaths” are only significant if the national culture is substantial, and serious about perpetuating itself as thought-form and political entity. Who now in ironic and understated England would be willing to stipulate cultural norms, with history misremembered, the classical legacy disregarded, Christian belief fading, and even Enlightenment reason menaced by politically correct fanaticism? Government could act if it really wanted to, but it would entail new legal obligations on individuals, local and national government, and all kinds of institutions - extra expense, extra nuisance, extra time spent in such paradoxical tasks as imposing tolerance, enforcing “mutual respect” by curtailing freedom of speech, and exchanging individual liberty for equality.
“Reviewing the route to British citizenship” would be much more to the point, if by this Dame Louise meant swingeing reductions in immigration, making obtaining citizenship harder, and the removal of citizenship easier. But on this she is irritatingly unspecific. To make it worse, Mrs. May has a poor record on immigration, and besides is likely to be too busy with Brexit to think seriously about other things. Brexit could even theoretically lead to more immigration from problematic countries, as the supply of East European labour dwindles.
Dame Louise rejects the widespread notions that “diversity and modern Britain or Islam and modern Britain are somehow incompatible”. “Of course they [Islamists and what she dubs “the far Right”] are wrong”, she says briskly, before moving on swiftly for some decidedly un-brisk emoting, which is at best rhodomontade -
“We have always been at our strongest when most united. We are better for being open and inclusive as a society. Every person, in every community, in every part of Britain, should feel a part of our nation and have every opportunity to succeed in it. There can be no exceptions to that by gender, colour or creed. Those are our rights. Those are our values. That is our history. It must be our future too.”
This is poor stuff, but it would be unjust, as well as unrealistic, to expect even so shrewd an observer to see everything that should be seen, say everything that should have been said a very long time ago by ‘responsible’ politicians. Like her equally earnest predecessors, she too has her remit, and is making the best of an extremely bad job. This will hopefully not be the last official word on this most existential of national questions, but a way-station towards a whole new understanding, and kind of politics.
…........................................................................................- Derek Turner has appeared in a number of top-notch news outlets, including Taki's, Chronicles and the Times. And if you like reading about the UK, you'll like Derek's last book, because it is about Ireland, and neither should be in the EU.
Follow him on Twitter: Follow @DerekTurner1964 or e-mail to: email@example.com
Check out some other articles from Derek Turner:Taking back the city
FALSE FLAGS, AND TANGLED GROWTHS
FLIGHTS OF FANCY