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Tuesday 29 January 2013

Reluctant Racists – Or Maybe Not

The appearance in the Maily Telegraph of an article under the by-line of Jane Kelly, titled “I feel like a stranger where I live” – fortunately without the intervention of the comments sewer – brings a predictably Islamophobic tone to proceedings, as she tells how Acton Vale has changed “almost overnight” into “Acton Veil”. The Tel loves this kind of thing. But then you get to the end of the piece.

And here, readers are informed that Ms Kelly “is consulting editor of the ‘Salisbury Review’”. Anyone not hearing alarm bells ringing long and loud may not have made the connection. I will explain. The Salisbury Review was founded in 1982 under the editorship of Roger Scruton, and promoted as a journal of “traditional Conservatism” of the small state variety.

However, the Review also espoused the concept of voluntary repatriation for those it labelled immigrants (for which read those from the Indian sub-continent and Afro-Caribbeans). But very few people read it, at least for the first two years. Then an article on race and education by headmaster Ray Honeyford was reproduced – not by accident – in the rabidly Conservative Yorkshire Post.

The Honeyford Affair looked set to initially damage, but then made the career of, up and coming West Yorkshire politician Eric Pickles, whose later tenure as leader of Bradford Council achieved such popularity that he later became MP for a constituency A Very Long Way Away. When Honeyford died last year, the Telegraph willingly reproduced his Review piece.

Put directly, the Telegraph’s staff know what the Salisbury Review is about. When they get its “consulting editor” to pen an article about what it’s like to live in an area of west London where there is a significant Muslim population, they are sure enough about the result that they disallow comments on it. They cannot be surprised when Ms Kelly asserts “mass immigration is making reluctant racists of us all”.

Nor can they be surprised at some of the characterisations used: her part of Acton “has been transformed into a giant transit camp and is home to no one”. She says there are “other Europeans in my area who may share my feelings but I’m not able to talk to them easily about this situation as they are mostly immigrants, too”. And she’s read all about what happens with Muslims patrolling Tower Hamlets.

She whines that “most of the tills in my local shops are manned by young Muslim men who mutter into their mobiles as they are serving”. Yes, they’re bloody busy having to do several things at once. Welcome to the world of the overworked small businessman. The Telegraph ought to be ashamed of publishing this drivel, yet it went ahead, knowing exactly what its source would write.

Not that the Tel is racist, you understand. The thought never entered their heads.


Unknown said...

Quick primer on Acton, which is up the road:
* Perennially touted as the 'next Chiswick' (i.e. gentrification/massive house price boom). Never quite happens
* About to become incredibly well connected through Crossrail
* Toby Young lives there
* There's a pocket of middle class Torygraph types NE of Acton Central station and N of the Vale who think they're at the Alamo and are waiting until Chiswick rescues them for all I know
* Rest is genuine multicultural London, large black, Muslim and Indian communities plus lots of east Europeans.
* Swing seat, currently Tory, fairly nailed on to go back to Labour.

That's about it.

sara nathan said...

Tom Barry is wrong - not many Torygraph readers even north of the Uxbridge Road.

But as he's right about there being no comment slot available at the DT, I thought I'd try the old-fashioned route:

Dear Letters' Editor,

I have lived in Acton, West London for a quarter of a century. I don't recognise my London village community from the bigoted description given by Jane Kelly of the Salisbury Review in your newspaper.

The place I live in is diverse, yes, and it is also a community that looks after each other. The shopkeepers I meet talk to their customers and offer good service over long hours. We have vibrant community associations, school PTAs, churches and mosques. Acton hosted many Jubilee street parties this year as well as a Christmas Fair and our summer carnival.

I love living somewhere I can source all of Ottolenghi's myriad ingredients just a step away, where the vicar forms a band of homeless men to play at local events, where we have local websites, an "I Love Acton" facebook page supported by thousands and a local community garden which rings with carols in winter and cream teas in summer.

Where has the contributing editor to the Salisbury Review been living? Within her own blinkers? Certainly not on my patch.

Yours faithfully

Sara Nathan OBE
chair emeritus,
Churchfield Community Association.

damon said...

While I appreciate Sara Nathan's view above, it's just one person's view of a place like that described in the Telegraph article. For some it's a great and vibrant community, and for others it's a little too diverse and disconnected. Being a member of a community organisation means that Ms Nathan is probably more connected and rooted in the community than many others.
I do wonder when I read responses like that though whether there could be any areas in our multi-cultural inner cities that were thought to be not so sucessful.
It seems that it's the duty of left and liberal people to always stand up for places that recieve criticism - even if it's in places where there obviously are difficult social problems.
A high number of new arrivals from poor and war-torn countries, and having perhaps unresolved visa and legality issues as far as their presence in the country is concerned, is a legitimate area of discussion I think. And my experience of areas such as Acton is that there is a ''transitory'' nature to some of the new population. They are here for now but not really settled, and having trouble getting settled often.