Kitchen Table Extremism

December 19, 2015

Imagine yourself as a Muslim child growing up in the east end of London. Your immigrant parents are hard working and your home is warm. Everything in your life is normal and safe except for one strange thing. Each day your dad tells you that the western world is conspiring against Islam. That America and Britain are attempting to destroy your religion, your community, your identity. He then tells you that Islam is a peaceful religion.

Your childhood is happy. You do well at school. By the time you reach your teens, you are expected to go to university and achieve far more than your parents ever could. Again, each day, your dad tells you that the west wants to destroy Islam. It’s hurtful to know that the white people around you pretend to be friendly but in fact are duplicitous.

At the age of 15 you discover ISIS videos on the internet. They also tell you that the west wants to destroy Islam, but they tell you that your father is wrong. Islam knows how to fight back. You are inspired. You steal your brothers passport and credit card and you go to Syria with the intention of joining them. When your parents discover this, they are furious that the police did nothing to stop it. They blame the local mosque for radicalising their child. Read the rest of this entry »


What do the British really think?

April 14, 2014

British attitudes

According to a study by Ipsos Mori, the British people seem to believe themselves to be surrounded by foreigners and scroungers. People perceive that there are five times as many Muslims as there are in reality. They believe that there are three times as many unemployed. They think that Christians are only a third of the population, when in fact they are almost double that figure. What to make of it? Read the rest of this entry »


Labour’s response to the BBC license debate

March 10, 2014

The Tories have gotton so excited about the idea of decriminalising the BBC license fee, that it’s difficult to avoid the suspicion that they see this as an opportunity to do down the national broadcaster. Labour needs to have a response, or else the debate will be guided by those who wish to see television controlled by press barons and oligarchs.

Apparently 10% of cases before the magistrates’ courts are for evasion of the license fee. On the face of it this sounds extraordinary, but before we accept this figure on face value, we should first recognise that it came from the Magistrates Association, a body with a history empire building.

In recent years they have campaigned for fewer cases to be sent up to the crown court for sentencing, for themselves and not the police to give cautions to offenders, and for the abolition of fixed penalty notices, in order that they can have a monopoly over fines.
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C’mon Ed, fight!

August 5, 2013

In case the reader needs reassurance that Osborne is a failed Chancellor, you only have to look at what the financial services people are saying. A couple of weeks ago, Citywire ran with this headline, “Hooray for the (debt-fuelled) UK recovery!”

How about this funny analysis from the stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdowne: “Former US president Abraham Lincoln has been credited with saying the problem with politics is you can never please all of the people all of the time. In a more contemporary setting and with the UK yet to regain ground lost during the 2008-09 recession chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne has struggled to please anyone at any time since stepping into 11 Downing Street three years ago.”

However, the one thing that the Tories do massively better than Labour is this: When they are down, they come out fighting. Even when the world took note that Keynes had won and austerity lost, they carried on fighting. The question is, what does Labour do? Has Ed Miliband and Ed balls given up? Do we only have an opposition on a Wednesday lunchtime?
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Tackling racism is important but we can’t just see minorities as eternal victims

January 27, 2013

When I was a child, a lad in our street threw a stone through the window of the first Bangladeshi family to move into our street. We were rounded up by the local vicar and taken around to the family, and they gave us biscuits and lemonade, and made friends with us. Other Bangladeshi families arrived over the next few years, but they didn’t get their windows smashed.

More recently, I did some community work on the Boundary estate, near Brick Lane. One of the issues was the relations between the new middle-class white residents and the existing Bangladeshi community. Leila’s cafe and shop, which sold organic food, had her windows smashed by the local Bangladeshi teenagers. Her response was to make friends with them, and these days they treat Leila with great respect, because they all want jobs in the cafe.
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Miliband needs practical policies on integration

December 28, 2012

Today, Ed Miliband promised that in 2013 we will see some concrete policies that define what being a one nation party means. Good. We need them. There are many areas the detail is necessary, not least on integration.

Before Christmas, Ed made a good speech on the subject. He struck the right notes in a measured manner, acknowledging the benefits migrant communities have brought to Britain while stressing the importance of the basics such as everyone speaking English. So far, so good.

Now we need to explain what this means in practice. For those that can’t speak English, what will we do?

A practical example. In my experience, if I can’t understand my Bangladeshi client, when I’m filling out the legal aid form, then I just pass them the pen and ask them to fill in their own details. In the box marked “place of birth”, quite often, they will write, “London hospital, Whitechapel”.
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Making Immigration Policy Tangible

June 25, 2012

A couple of years ago, following a spate of gang violence, I chaired a youth crime task force, where we strove to create workable ideas for providing employment and occupation to young white and black lads who were hanging about on the street corner, getting bored and getting into trouble. We found ourselves discussing the fact that east-end families used to go fruit picking in the summer, but the tradition seems to have been lost.
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