The report on “opportunity and integration” lacks rigourby Oliver Kamm / December 5, 2016 / Leave a comment
Probably not even Nigel Farage’s closest friends would claim that a grasp of detail is his most salient characteristic. In tweeting this morning that Louise Casey’s review into opportunity and integration was “excellent” and “much of what I have been saying for years,” Farage may have been judging the report without the benefit of reading it.
I have read the report, however. It is indeed the type of document that would appeal to a politician who blames traffic jams on immigrants and expresses discomfort when hearing foreign languages on public transport. It warns that segregation and social exclusion are at “worrying” levels, and it does so—extraordinarily—without indicating what it would accept as countervailing evidence.
The Casey review is a vapid and ill-conceived intervention by a public servant with a record of superficial statements. In her review “Engaging Communities in Fighting Crime” (2008), for example, Casey stirringly declared that “the public are not daft. They know what’s wrong, they know what’s right, and they know what they want on crime and justice.” The idea that the public should be informed by a review rather than dictate what’s in it apparently didn’t occur to her. Casey’s venture into community relations is additionally mischievous as it insinuates into public debate the notion that responsibility and blame for a lack of integration lie with minority communities—especially with British Muslims.
To attack the Casey review will inevitably draw accusations of complacency or (tell me about it) being in a metropolitan media bubble. But Casey herself cites a finding that ought to dominate the discussion of integration: “In 2015-16, 89 per cent of people thought their community was cohesive, agreeing that their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. This feeling of cohesiveness has risen slowly from 80 per cent in 2003.”
That’s a good thing and a substantial improvement. It’s 15 years since urban riots in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford caused fears of ethnic segregation in British towns. An official report concluded that communities were living “parallel lives.” Yet things have been getting better. Meanwhile, patterns of ethnic concentration ebb and flow: you’d expect this, as communities become settled and then disperse. What matters is the aggregate picture. And figures from the last three censuses…