The passing of Margaret Thatcher and the publication of David Goodhart’s new book, The British Dream, took place in the same week. Yet the two events share a more substantive connection. Goodhart, though a stronger supporter of the welfare state than Mrs Thatcher, endorses her view that white working-class people in areas of immigration “need to be reassured rather than patronised.” Accordingly, Goodhart welcomes the Tory government’s pledge to reduce immigration and its focus on integration. He notes that Thatcher presided over a period of relatively low immigration in which far-right movements like the National Front were in abeyance.
Yet even if net immigration is reduced to 100,000 a year, ethnic change in Britain will remain brisk: minorities are considerably younger and still have somewhat larger families than the white British. If white anxieties are powered by the sense that the white British are becoming a minority, then the challenge will not abate and far-right support will remain buoyant. No amount of talk about the sunlit uplands of a new Britishness can conceal the fact that being a member of a dwindling ethnic majority is conducive to alienation: just look at the mood of Northern Ireland’s Protestant working class in depopulating areas like Belfast’s Shankill.
Upwardly mobile whites can identify with their achieved status, but the working class cannot, and therefore remains more committed to English ethnic nationalism. How can one reconcile Britain’s growing ethnic minorities with its often-alienated white working class? Is trampling on the white nationalism of the ethnic majority and the multicultural comforts of minorities in the name of integration really the way forward? Perhaps there’s an alternative that can better satisfy everyone.
Here a powerful insight in Goodhart’s book caught my eye: there are many different ways to be British. I would go further—there are many ways to think about what England is now and what it ought to be tomorrow. Everyone, I argue, sees their nation through different local, ideological and ethnic lenses. In short, it’s time to localise the national identity debate.
If you are a white resident of an English market town, your England will likely be a green and pleasant land with a white British character.…