The left must get over its queasiness at displays of national prideby Chuka Umunna / December 16, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: A vote against the mass immigration society
Social divisions sap our communities of trust—increasing anxiety, prejudice and the fear of crime, restricting social mobility and augmenting the sense that there is more which divides us than binds us together. The result is a self-perpetuating cycle of fragmentation which fuels feelings of difference and dislocation—and makes it all too easy for people to pin the challenges facing our country on “the other.”
In order to drain Britain’s politics of the venom of blame and recrimination, we must build a more socially integrated society. This will mean seriously engaging with the vital task of managing change and crafting a politics which speaks the concerns of all Britons. As those of us who believe in open societies have been repeatedly reminded this year, political movements which attempt to suppress or circumvent the need for solidarity and community have a limited shelf life.
There are some very practical steps we can take at a local level to support communities and foster integration. When I visited Boston in Lincolnshire, one woman said to me that she wanted to talk to her neighbour and build a friendship, but she had to wait for her neighbour’s children to come home to translate because her neighbour didn’t speak English. However, local authorities have had their funding cut for English language services and are not able to provide the scale and depth of services needed.
Another resident told me that they were made to feel unsafe with young Eastern European men drinking on their street at night. However, as our conversation went on another local resident said that the only reason people drank on the streets was because of private sector landlords who only allowed tenants access to their room at certain times of day. A local community issue creating division and fear was actually due to exploitation in the private rental sector showing that the right reforms to tackle rogue landlords can have a positive impact on the whole community.
More than any other issue, immigration has been the fulcrum around which political debate has revolved over the last few years. At times, this conversation can seem hopelessly, irreconcilably polarised—with one group of voices claiming that Britain is…