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Is Britain becoming more racist?
Great Britain today is one of the most diverse and multicultural societies of the modern era; the 2011 Census declares that 13% of residents in England and Wales were born overseas, and that less than 90% of the country is white. Every day, 250 different languages are spoken in the city of London alone. Why then are we as a country plagued with this disease that is prejudice and discrimination towards people of other races, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds.
A recent YouGov poll, funded by the Economic and Social Research council (ESRC) acknowledged that a third of the British public would feel “uncomfortable” should an ethnic minority prime minister be elected. The figures were almost double among United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) voters with 59% agreeing that they would feel uncomfortable should a ‘non-white’ person be elected into power as role of prime minister. The results were also sizably worrying among other political parties, with 41% of Conservatives, 28% of Labour voters, and 25% of Liberal Democrats agreeing that they would be uncomfortable with an ethnic minority PM. As well as this, the study asked how people would feel about non-white people in other responsible roles, finding that 18% of people would be uncomfortable with a ‘non-white’ babysitter. UKIP voters again showed the most concern with 32% agreeing that they would be uncomfortable, compared with 16% of Conservatives, 18% of Labour voters, and 12% of Lib Dem’s expressing concern at the idea of having an ethnic minority babysitter. Even though this particular study only polled 1,869 British adults, these findings are worrying, and are also quite bizarre.
However, this was not the only recent poll which should be a cause for alarm, a BBC Radio One Newsbeat poll of 1,000 people, lately found that one in four young people in Britain distrust Muslims and believe that the country would be better off without them. 44% of the 18-24 year olds involved in the poll believe that Muslims do not share the same values as the rest of Britain and 28% gather that the country would be better with fewer Muslims. The hatred towards Muslims was greater than that of other religions, with 16% showing distrust to Hindus or Sikhs, 15% towards Jewish people, 13% towards Buddhists, and 12% towards Christians. 47% who expressed anti-Islamic feeling deemed that Islamic terrorist groups or acts of terror, whether they be in the UK or abroad, were the reason behind their distrust for Muslims. However on a more positive note, 48% agreed that Islam is a peaceful religion, and 23% blamed the media for Islamic hostility.
As of late, we have also been bombarded by accusations of bigotry, racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism from the media, directed at the UK Independence Party. Whether it be future candidates photographed making Nazi salutes or deputy chairman of the party, Paul Nuttall, proclaiming that “Brits fear all immigrants, regardless of where they would come from.” However, UKIP cannot solely be blamed for the stifling of Britain’s acceptance of other cultures and religions, even David Cameron himself back in February 2011 announced that he believed multiculturalism in Britain has failed, although he specifically targeted the Muslim community in the same speech, arguing that multiculturalism is creating extremist ideology and supplementing home grown Islamic terrorism. This preposterous speech targeted only Islam, making Cameron’s argument that the whole of multiculturalism has failed all the more laughable.
The issue is not that multiculturalism has failed, it is how Britain has reacted to multiculturalism that is the issue. There seems to be a negative reaction in Britain towards other cultures, especially of late, for example, the hostility towards the Niqab. In my own personal opinion, there should be no restrictions in regards to how people can dress, that is the beauty of the free and democratic society in which we live. UKIP’s policy to ban the Burqa is extremely contradictory when they consider themselves to be a libertarian party which supports the freedom of the individual from the state, yet they would be willing to tell individuals that they cannot wear a harmless clothing garment. There is no law which prohibits the wearing of any face covering in public, and so singling out the Burqa is as ludicrous as much as it is discriminatory.
Finally, we must address the recent assault on immigration by this government, which is only a result of the Conservatives running scared of UKIP; not reacting to something which Nigel Farage has proposed to react to seems to be something which David Cameron cannot even comprehend. Recent government proposals contained within the new Immigration Bill involve limiting migrant’s access to healthcare and housing in an effort to deter them from coming to Britain. Overseas nationals must be able to prove that they are in Britain legally before they are able to visit a hospital or even a GP. A survey conducted for the think-tank Migration Matters however, found that the public does not support these tougher immigration techniques with 60% arguing that current immigration rules are not being properly enforced. This could suggest that the media’s attempt to demonise legal migrants is indeed failing. Newspapers such as the Daily Mail would have you believe that migrants are stealing British jobs for low incomes, which isn’t true. Immigrants and migrant workers tend to occupy jobs which British people are not willing to do, as for the argument that they are accepting low incomes, this is no fault of the workers desperate to make a living, but is the fault of the companies which offer them such small rates of pay. The government should be attacking the companies which offer such small wages for hard labour and not the hardworking individuals who work long hours for next to nothing, especially when they claim that they are a party ‘for hardworking people’.
Perhaps the animosity in Britain of late towards multiculturalism has been caused by the rise in popularity of UKIP and the Conservative’s efforts to combat such a rise by proposing policies similar to that of the right wing libertarian party. Perhaps UKIP’s surge in demand has caused a stir due to the debating of the controversial issues which it stands for. Perhaps the media and recent surveys do not provide a fair representation of the British public on such issues. Perhaps the rise in UKIP’s support is not as worrying as it appears. One would hope that these statements are true, and that the British public aren’t in fact turning away from the multiculturalism and integration which truly makes our society a beautiful and neighbourly place for all to live.