Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

On Immigration, Ukip Is out of Step in Modern Britain; A New Study Reveals That Attitudes to, and among, Ethnic Minorities in the UK Are Changing for the Better

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

On Immigration, Ukip Is out of Step in Modern Britain; A New Study Reveals That Attitudes to, and among, Ethnic Minorities in the UK Are Changing for the Better

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew d'Ancona

WITH each passing day, the rise of Ukip reminds me ever more of the funniest book in the English language, Wodehouse's The Code of the Woosters. You may recall that the villain of this Jeeves and Wooster masterpiece is Roderick Spode, who leads a fictional fascist group called the "Black Shorts": a figure both sinister and absurd.

Nigel Farage's party is not, of course, fascist, and Farage himself is no "amateur dictator". But he and his colleagues, with their dismal rhetoric and thundering warnings that parts of Britain are becoming "unrecognisable", are showing, shall we say, distinctly Spodean tendencies. Yesterday Roger Helmer, who considers homosexual behaviour "abnormal and undesirable", was selected as Ukip's contender for the Newark byelection. Let us add his nasty beliefs to the pile: Ukip candidates for office have already declared that "Islam is evil", that Lenny Henry should "go and live in a black country" and that Ed Miliband was "not British". In all this, Farage postures as New Spode, Spode-Lite, the sensible reactionary who disowns all such extremity. But he is the prime offender in the sense that he encourages, stokes and depends upon public anxiety about "mass immigration".

How refreshing, then, to read A Portrait of Modern Britain, a well-timed report by the think-tank Policy Exchange. The research, by Rishi Sunak and Saratha Rajeswaran, is both hearteningly upbeat and impeccably nuanced. Quarrying data from the Office for National Statistics, the Understanding Society study and other academic sources, Policy Exchange has delivered an empirical study of contemporary Britain that is quite at odds with the phobic rantings of Ukip.

What do Farage and co make, for instance, of the fact that 90 per cent of white and minority residents "feel that their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together"? Or the powerful sense of loyalty to Britain felt by the overwhelming majority of citizens from ethnic minorities? To take one example: 71 per cent of Bangladeshi Britons identify themselves as solely British.

The report's most illuminating premise is that black and ethnic minority (BME) citizens should not be regarded as a single entity but as a series of distinct groups: Indian, Pakistani, Black African, Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Sikh, and others. This approach means that the portrait is more vividly pixellated: 24 per cent of Pakistani men are taxi drivers; 75 per cent of Indian pupils achieve five A*-C grades (including English and Maths); south Asians are six times more likely to have diabetes than the general population, and so on.

What does unite BME citizens is that, for the most part, they do not trust the Tories. Only 16 per cent of minority voters backed the Conservative Party in 2010, while 68 per cent supported Labour. All that can be said in defence of this lamentable performance is that it was better than the 11 per cent scored by Michael Howard in 2005.

In the early years of his leadership, David Cameron made much of this deficit and the need to craft a form of Toryism that was welcoming to BME voters. …

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