by Abdul siddique
“The risk to community cohesion nationally is great. The vote has shown that people and places which are prosperous, or feel they have a chance of becoming so, have said yes. Whereas those which feel they have less chance have said no.” Prof. Michael Parkinson University of Liverpool Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Director of the Heseltine Institute.
Hate crimes have surged by 42 per cent in England and Wales since the Brexit result. Following the United Kingdom narrowly voting for Brexit, there have been numerous reports of ethnic minorities and immigrant families being targeted for racial abuse.
The facts, figures and fascination with the shape of post Brexit Britain continues.
However I feel there has been less written on how to navigate these unchartered waters and more written on how unruly, uncivilised and inhumane we will all become once the divorce settlement has been agreed on our troubled European marriage. Keeping in tune with the marriage metaphor I think it is useful to ponder over the contours of community cohesion once we are officially single again. People divorce for many reasons sometimes the marriage is missing the spark it once had, the partners are not compatible or both feel a mutual agreement is better as the marriage had run its course. Whatever the reason for divorce one thing remains for sure; it is a chance for the singleton to learn from the past and be positive about the future.
So for this reason I will be discussing three main points Britain can learn as it heads in to a post-Brexit future.
1: Promote our historically tolerant narrative.
First and foremost Britain did not become tolerant the day it joined the European Union and shed this tolerance the day it left. This binary narrative should be dismissed. We had been a tolerant nation long before the European Union was created. Secondly, many people have historically voiced their opposition to immigration (exctera) long before our Brexit vote and with much more colourful palettes [cue] Enouch Powell and his ‘rivers of blood’ speech. An example of our tolerance was the immigration of the Jewish community to these shores in the early 1930s fleeing persecution and the windrush arrival of Asian and African communities in pursuit of a better life post 1948. This demonstrates how we have the compassion and resolve to absorb and respect difference.
2: Harness the power of social platforms to facilitate physical interactions
In a social media minute 28 million whassap messages are sent, 600 hours of youtube videos uploaded and 3.3 million facebooks messages posted. There’s no shortage of interactions but it appears they are all happening in cyber space! In post-Brexit Britain the acid test for community cohesion will be the manner in which Local Authorities harness the power of social media platforms to facilitate physical interactions in the real world between different ethno-religious communities.
3: Keep us healthy, wealthy and wise
The North-South socio-economic divide is startling. Manchester has the lowest healthy life expectancy rate in the UK (55 compared to the average of 63.3), disadvantaged children in The North are 13% less likely to attain 5 good GCSEs then disadvantaged children in The South, Government spending per person in The South equates to £9176 but in The North totals £7623 and so forth. The fact that Beveridge’s five giants are alive and well in The North does not really help the plight of community cohesion. There has always been a historic link between civil unrest and poverty and underlying currents of social issues that make communities insular. The challenge therefore is for central government to level the playing field in the coming years and focus on equality of outcome rather then a tokenist promotion of equal opportunity.