Last week, Dame Louise Casey published a detailed review into integration in the UK, a review commissioned by the then Prime Minister David Cameron in July 2015.
It was an important piece of work which acknowledged the opportunities and the challenges presented by mass migration and the impact it has had across the country in the last 25 years. The report found that although most people from different backgrounds generally wished to get on well together, a sense of community cohesion was not universal and that areas of the country could be characterised too easily as mono cultural ghettos and a result of endemic cultural, religious and economic issues.
This is not a new phenomenon: In 2001, in response to civil disorder in some northern towns, Professor Ted Cantle described the concept of “parallel lives” – where certain religious and ethnic groups weren’t able to or refused to integrate, were effectively excluded from mainstream society with fewer interactions with people from wider backgrounds and as such mistrust, prejudice and anxiety grows across the whole community. These problems manifest themselves especially, the report found, in the Pakistani heritage community and are marked by a failure to learn English, welfare dependency, the poorer treatment of women and outright misogyny and a more fundamental disregard or even repudiation of British values like freedom of speech, tolerance, equality between the sexes and basic civil rights like a right to work. They in turn give rise to poorer outcomes in those communities in education, employment and healthcare, which naturally also then leads to anger and resentment from those same communities, who are more likely to be on low incomes or benefits and unemployed. Places like Bradford, Burnley and Birmingham are facing these very acute challenges and need to deal with them. In short, failure to integrate and the resultant geographical, religious and cultural segregation is bad for the whole of society. Dame Louise costed this failure in respect of social and economic costs at £6billion a year.
In Peterborough, we have (largely) avoided such errors: Although we have seen unprecedented immigration over the years from Pakistan we haven’t see some of the worst aspects that Louise Casey identified: religious intolerance, sharia courts, widespread misogyny and ghettoization have not happened here and indeed Muslim community leaders have been open and welcoming to others of different faiths and none and those outside their own communities.
That said, we have more to do: Manipulation of the postal votes system to coerce Pakistani women voters is still prevalent, too many youngsters start school not speaking English, because their mums and aunts who bring them up them don’t, we need to do more to avoid an overconcentration of one community alone in our schools and we need to make sure we don’t encourage segregation by using taxpayers’ money to pay for translation and interpretation services.
Louise Casey has produced a timely and vital fact-based document which reverses the politically correct tide of recent years which characterised any such comments as “racist”.
When all is said and done, it is in the interests of the whole country that we celebrate not just difference but the things that bring our society together. Our British values are a source of pride and we should celebrate them.