Wednesday, 9 February 2011


Cecil Rhodes, the colonist of central Africa, is said to have claimed that: "To be born British is to have won first prize in the lottery of life." The French take a similar view, and believe that to be French is the greatest privilege civilisation can bestow. Hence immigrants to France have the good fortune to be able to embrace its culture and the most beautiful and logical language in the world and enter into that privileged state. This view has a certain logic

Historically Britain has taken a more liberal stance. In the Guardian of 28th November 2007 Timothy Garton Ash wrote: "Liberalism properly understood (is) a quest for the greatest possible measure of individual freedom, compatible with the freedom of others." Hence immigrants over the centuries have, give or take a few glitches, had the freedom to continue their own way of life to the extent that it did not interfere with the established one, and our culture and diet have been greatly enhanced, and our economy stimulated.

The modern name for this liberal tolerance is multiculturalism , and it is a nonsense to say that it has failed. Of course there are problems. Ghettoisation is one, although immigrants themselves are hardly solely responsible. As Tariq Modood writes in yesterday's Guardian: "Research shows that all minorities - including Muslims - want to live in mixed neighbourhoods , and ghettos are created by those who move out." A more intractable problem arises where a traditional norm, such as an inferior status for women, clashes with the liberal value of equality held by the host country.

For centuries both Roman Catholics and Jews were regarded as suspicious aliens: today hardy anybody notices, though their faithful still carry out their own customs and practices. It is a nonsense to declare our present multicultural society a failure The solutions to the problems it presents are dialogue, tolerance, measures to promote interaction and prevent discrimination and, above all, time.


  1. Multiculturalism is a fact of life when there is such a variety of different cultural backgrounds among the citizens and other residents of the UK.

    The question is more how well or not it works. I can't see how it can work well while we have an established state religion (practised in reality by a minority).

    It's also no help when funding has been available to so-called community groups based on ethnicity and/or religion. If people of every race and/or creed can't get together in a community centre no wonder we've got problems

  2. Spot on Peter. As are all your blogs.

  3. Thanks, Tony. It's good to know there is a like-minded fellow traveller "out there."

    Re Anonymous: I'm not sure that I share your view that the establishment of the C of E is a major stumbling-block in this issue. The Church claims that other religions are pleased that there is space in the constitution for an official voice on behalf of religion (but they would say that, wouldn't they!) Is there any evidence that people in Wales, where there is no longer an established church, are more comfortable with multiculturalism?

    I do agree with you, though, about public funding for community centres for one particular minority. There's one here in Kirklees, set up when Labour controlled our council, and it has generated some resentment.

    Equally, I feel that the public funding of faith schools has now outlived its usefulness and become counter-productive. It is crazy that the present government is actively promoting them.