I’m posting here in full a piece by Evening Standard columnist Andrew Gilligan on Trevor Phillips’ comments over the weekend. I’m doing this because it captures what I (and many others) think of his scare-mongering soundbites. And because it’s not available online.
PHILLIPS CRIES WOLF OVER RACIAL TENSIONS
Evening Standard – 23/10/2006
BY ANDREW GILLIGAN
WITH HIS latest warning that failing to debate race segregation will bring ‘civil strife’ and ‘fire’ to our streets, and his claim that racial divisions in many urban schools ‘cannot get any worse’, Trevor Phillips, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, risks becoming the new Enoch Powell, an apparently authoritative figure specialising in false, populist and inflammatory rhetoric on race.
Just as Powell was not personally a racist, nor is Phillips. But both men have exploited public anxiety over race relations. Last year, the CRE chief spoke of ‘black holes’, ‘fully-fledged ghettoes, crime, no-go areas and chronic cultural conflict’, with ‘the walls going up around many of our communities’. And yesterday he wrote: ‘All the recent evidence shows that we as a country are becoming more socially polarised by race and faith.’ In fact, all the recent evidence, as Phillips must know, shows nothing of the sort.
I’ve spent the past few weeks talking to and reading the work of people who, unlike Phillips, actually are experts on British segregation. Professor Ceri Peach, of Oxford University, describes Phillips as ‘alarmist’ and says the most commonly used statistical measure shows ‘decreasing or stable degrees of segregation in English cities’.
Dr Ludi Simpson, of Manchester University, says Phillips is ‘peddling falsehoods’. Professor Simon Burgess, of Bristol University, co-author of research only last month on ethnic mixing in schools, says that ‘school ethnic segregation is not generally increasing across England, except in a few areas’.
Some areas are becoming more predominantly non-white, but not many. And there are very few areas indeed – particularly in London – where a single ethnic minority or faith group dominates. Even in the most ‘non-white’ places, there is usually a mix of Muslims and Hindus, or Asians and blacks. Far from growing levels of ‘crime and conflict’, race crime in London fell by 10.7 per cent last year.
Ask Phillips’s own people at the CRE what evidence they have for their boss’s claims and they shrug their shoulders. Privately, one of them even condemns his chief’s ‘crude’ treatment of a ‘complicated’ issue.
Few would claim that everything in Britain’s multi-racial garden is lovely, but Phillips’s ‘debate’ desperately needs to be conducted with far greater precision. Overall racial integration in Britain (as measured by rates of mixed marriage) is among the highest in the Western world. Multiculturalism works. But there are specific integration problems with specific communities in specific places. These can be addressed quietly and locally without stigmatising entire races and faiths.
Powell’s motives for predicting a race war (which never materialised) were simple enough: political ambition. Phillips’ motives are harder to guess. To the despair of many, he has already won his desired job as head of the Government’s new equality ‘super-regulator’.
Perhaps it’s simply this: Phillips is a former journalist. We hacks love the sound of our own voices, and we can’t resist a simple, dramatic story. But we should never be placed in positions of responsibility.
Of course, what Gilligan does not say is that newspapers such as the Evening Standard and Daily Mail, part of the same group, that thrive on Trevor Phillips’ hysterical ruminations.
|Post to del.icio.us|
Filed in: Media,Race politics