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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Shouting Fascist!

February 9, 2009

When I was a kid growing up in the east-end on London, there was only one Bangladeshi boy in my class in the first year at school, but by the time I was in the sixth form there was only one white boy in the whole first year. The east-enders feared this immigration and some residents on the Exmouth estate signed a petition calling for no Asian families to be housed in their block. The GLC accused them of racism and threatened to have them evicted, even though some of the petitioners were black.
Shortly after this scandal, I was around my mate’s house on the Loxley estate when I overheard a conversation between his parents and the residents of the block, who had gathered to discuss what to do about the Asian family that the council were bringing around to view a flat. I’d never known my mate’s parents to be racist before or since, but what they were saying seemed pretty nasty to me. They wanted to put the Asian family off by giving the impression that the block was filled with racists, but they were frightened of getting evicted by Ken Livingstone. So they decided to have people on the landings shouting “Smelly Paki” and throwing things at the family then ducking before the council officer could identify them. It was a nasty idea and one of the residents dissented saying it was wrong to treat a family this way, but his someone else shouted, “We have to do this. If we don’t we could lose everything!” They feared their community and identity was being swept away from under them. I thought at the time that they were like the Red Indians.
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