It may be difficult for those new to politics to understand that when Labour won the 1997 General Election, they did so not merely by a landslide, but on a wave of public goodwill. The brutalities of the Thatcher years, and the stumbling chaos of John Major’s time in office, were over. Tony Blair was a genuinely popular Prime Minister. It was the same four years later. Things really were getting better. And not just at Labour PR events.
His take on integration seems odd, until you realise ...
The NHS was getting better. The economy was getting better. There was less poverty, less hate, little homelessness. And then it all began to go wrong. Everyone knows about the Iraq war that Britain should never have joined, but there were also the fiascos of ID cards and attempts to force 90-day detention without trial through the Commons.
A significant part of this was down to Blair always weighing up at the big decisions with the knowledge that he had Rupert Murdoch looking over his shoulder. But, it seems, there is more than a hint of an authoritarian - and ignorant - streak in the man himself, as the Observer has shown in an article by Michael Savage for today’s paper.
The headline “Tony Blair: migrants should be forced to integrate more to combat far right … Former PM claims that ‘failure’ of multiculturalism has led to rise in bigotry” gives a flavour of what is to follow. A report by his Institute for Global Change “calls for compulsory citizenship education, a ban on segregated shift patterns and the creation of a new cabinet post created to oversee integration”. And his foreword is in the same vein.
“Over a significant period of time, including when we were last in government, politics has failed to find the right balance between diversity and integration. On the one hand, failures around integration have led to attacks on diversity and are partly responsible for a reaction against migration. On the other hand, the word multiculturalism has been misinterpreted as meaning a justified refusal to integrate, when it should never have meant that”.
There is more. “Government cannot and should not be neutral on this question. It has to be a passionate advocate and, where necessary, an enforcer of the duty to integrate while protecting the proper space for diversity. Integration is not a choice; it is a necessity”. So perhaps that alleged lack of integration should be considered.
... the nature of his audience
What have those who have, over the years, emigrated to the UK done to integrate into wider society? Well, apart from start their own retail and service businesses, become doctors, surgeons, nurses, dentists and other health care professionals, work in the media, engineering, financial, construction, service and Government sectors, run for elective office, and add significant value to the economy, perhaps not such a great deal, eh?
Blair’s proposition is bunk. Of course successive waves of inward migration have integrated into society. The idea that they have not comes not from actual analysis, but from the xenophobic right-wing. Tone is finding fault where there is none.
Unless, of course, he’s still seeking to please old Rupe, even after their falling out over what he did or didn’t get up to with Wendy Deng. That would explain rather a lot.
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