I'm Proud to Be Part of Middle Britain. but the Virtues That Make Me Love This Country - Gentleness, Decency and Sexual Restraint - Are under Growing Attack

Article excerpt

Byline: by Barnie Choudhury FORMER BBC SOCIAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT

THE DEBATE about immigration has raged intensely in recent years. Yet the fierceness of the controversy has sometimes obscured the truth that huge numbers of migrants, particularly those from South Asia, now help to make up the backbone of Middle Britain.

Far from weakening the traditional fabric of British society, long-established families in the Hindu and Sikh communities want to uphold the values that made this country great.

So they cherish hard work, aspiration, education and family life, while abhorring the degradation and squalor that too often have become features of our modern urban landscape.

A Social Attitudes survey published this week illustrated how much Hindus and Sikhs have become part of the British middle class. They have, for instance, higher-than-average household incomes and tend to live in leafy suburbia, the classic location of upwardly mobile Britons since the late Victorian age.

It is no coincidence that, according to researchers, the town with the highest density of Middle Britain residents is Slough in Berkshire, which also has one of the country's largest Sikh and Hindu populations.

Diligence

As a Hindu, born into a family of Indian immigrants, I could be said to fit exactly into this category.

My home is a semi-detached property in Leicester and my wife and I send our 14-year-old daughter to private school because we attach such importance to a good education. Like so many South Asians, I prize diligence and, after 24 years at the BBC, I now have a variety of work, including a lecturing post at the University of Lincoln, helping to run a community radio station, writing a book and managing a media production company. All this regularly involves 14-hour days, though I love the responsibility.

Contrary to the fashionable belief in some political circles that migrants cannot be devoted to their adopted country, I am deeply patriotic towards Britain.

I stand proudly for the National Anthem and often weep when a British athlete wins a gold medal at the Olympics. I love so many aspects of this unique country, from the green rolling countryside to the tradition of liberty. I must have inherited this abiding love of Britain from my father. A high-ranking lawyer in India, he was always determined to settle here because, through his past service in the British Army, he had developed a deep affection for everything British.

Proof of his admiration for Britain came when he gave up his distinguished legal career in India to take up a manual job in the late Sixties at the giant GEC telecommunications plant in Coventry. The rest of the family, including myself when I was just four years old, followed in 1969.

In material terms, I supposed it could have been viewed as a tough childhood, since we lived on a big housing estate. But in reality it was a wonderful time, and I still cherish the happy memories of the strong sense of community.

I barely experienced any racism. In fact, all my white friends heroically protected me, just as our neighbours showed nothing but kindness. All this helped to give me an allegiance to Britain.

Indeed, when I left university (with a degree in chemical engineering), I tried to join the Royal Corps of Signals, though a nasty injury prevented me following that path. Instead, I joined the BBC, itself an archetypal Middle Britain institution.

But it is precisely because I love this country that I am so disturbed at what I see in modern British society.

The virtues that once made Britain so attractive, like selfrestraint, tolerance, modesty and gentleness, seem to be under constant threat. …