Migration Watch UK, said to be an “independent” and “non-political” think tank, has made the following observations with respect to the influx of migrants into the UK:
● 3.1 million migrants had come to the UK in the period between 2001 and 2016.
● 2.5 million children had at least one parent born overseas.
● Based on, inter alia, such general data, it is said that Migration Watch UK research findings “shine a light on the elephant in the room” [my emph., and cf. The Telegraph, 23.08.2018].
These synoptic statistical data presented to us by Migration Watch UK may or may not corroborate some of the figures presented in Paper 2a, where we introduce the question of racial polarization in the UK. Statistical figures are in any case – and as with all statistics – rather slippery eels and should always be taken with a pinch of salt. Comparing any set of data with whatever other set may be further hampered by a range of factors – such as the exact time-period a particular statistical datum may apply to; the different geographical regions a datum may presuppose; and especially the different criteria used to measure any wave of migrant influx. But all this should not necessarily deter us from espousing the think tank’s basic inference that the problem of migration constitutes the UK’s own “elephant in the room”. Interestingly, one of the more open-minded and objective Left-wing intellectuals in the UK, Tim Pendry, would comment as follows in the Facebook pages of British Politics after Brexit [24.07.2018]: “Indeed… and, of course, it is understood that no one mentions the elephant in the room – migration…”. The insinuation is that statistics pointing to the actual existence of an “elephant” in UK society are better left unmentioned, this being one defining characteristic of UK State ideology.
The “elephant in the room” is, however, an indubitable fact for Quillette, the well-known online magazine [cf. Paper 2a] – according to this source: “Between 1991 and 1995, the annual average level of net migration [i.e. the number of people coming in minus the number leaving] had been just 37.000. Between 2012 and 2016 it averaged 256.000” [my emph.].
We know that the most important repercussion of such “elephant” has been the phenomenon of “White flight”, also referred to as “decamping”. The research body Understanding Society [cf. Paper 2a] has itself come up with a series of data on the question of migrant influx and has spoken of “White flight” as UK’s “emerging story”. The study has pointed to the following set of statistics [inter alia]:
● According to the 2011 census, London grew by 12% – to 8.2 million residents – over the last 10 years.
● Within that same time-period, London’s White British population fell by 620.000.
● Ethnic minorities now represent 40% of London’s population.
● Similar patterns apply to other British cities [specific data are provided to verify this].
Always keeping in mind what we have said above as to the relatively questionable nature of most statistical studies, we may make a number of observations on the figures presented to us by Understanding Society, and note the implications of these with respect to migrant influx and, especially, White “decamping”:
● One should first note the sheer extent of the presence of ethnic minorities in London itself, and that in comparison to, say, the decade of the 1960’s. We know that, in the late 1960’s, the non-White population of the whole of Britain amounted to barely over 1 million. According to figures presented by Understanding Society [and based on the 2011 census], the non-White population for London alone now amounts to more than triple that number – viz. 3.280.000. It is also known that, for the present period, migration to the UK is growing by an average of 500 people per day.
● The figure indicating “White flight” – that 620.000 – does not tell us the full “emerging story” [as Understanding Society puts it] unfolding within UK society. While this figure may be taken to be relatively accurate as to the number of Whites who have abandoned London for other regions of the UK, it tells us nothing about those thousands of White Britons whose own “flight” has taken the form of a relocation to one of the many White “cultural clusters” or “sub-clusters” of self-imposed segregation right within Greater London itself.
● Those White Britons who decided to “decamp” by merely moving to “cultural clusters” within London did so because they simply did not possess the economic capacity to escape to regions outside the capital. It is, however, also true that many would decide to remain within the Greater London area for reasons other than purely economic: these could include various family obligations; emotional attachment to familiar places; the sheer obstinacy to perpetuate old cultural habits, and so on [we shall be examining some such cases in forthcoming papers on Newham, East Ham, etc.]. It should nonetheless be emphasized that it was the economic factor that would play the determining role as to the form that “decamping” would take – thus, one may safely state that those 620.000 White Britons who would join the “White flight” out of London possessed the economic capacity to do so – unlike many others who did not or do not possess such capacity.
● It is important to note that such economic capacity would not necessarily be limited to the middle classes – the study undertaken by Understanding Society suggests that White Britons who have moved outside of London could also include certain better off elements of the White working class. The exact proportion with respect to the relative class position of White “decampers” is difficult to gauge – and yet, it does seem that it is the middle classes that constitute most such “decampers”. According to the online magazine Quartz [cf. Aamna Mohdin, “White people abandon diverse neighborhoods for racial, not economic reasons”, https://qz.com, 13.04.2018]: “… a large amount of white people leaving a neighborhood is more likely to occur in a middle class one, rather than a poor area” [my emph].
The 21st century phenomenon of White “decamping” in UK society is indisputable, and it is so even for those who insist on doubting the exact figures – cf., for instance, Jonathan Portes, writing for the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, https://www.niesr.ac.uk, 06.05.2013. Having indulged in a series of statistical acrobatics – and very much in keeping with what we have said above with respect to most statistical analyses – Portes has no choice but to humbly admit: “This doesn’t mean white flight doesn’t exist, or that we shouldn’t worry about segregation at a local level…”
For the UK, of course, the phenomenon of “White flight” is not something completely new – its history dates back to the 1960’s. Writing for The Hindu, Hasan Suroor [cf. Paper 2a] has observed: “The term ‘white flight’ first came into vogue in the 1960s and 1970s when white native Britons started to flee areas where they felt ‘threatened’ by an influx of non-white immigrants” [my emph.]. And yet, this historic phenomenon is of a rather new order in the 21st century, both in terms of quantity as also in terms of quality. To give us some idea of this historically significant newness, we shall quote an anonymous Briton directly responding to the statistical acrobatics of the likes of Portes [op. cit.]. This lengthy comment was submitted to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research on May 8, 2013, and was signed by “tuhmunga” – part of it reads as follows:
“Now [in contrast to the 1970’s-1980’s], you can’t walk down a street in Worcester without hearing an estuary [London] accent. There’s a new suburb called St. Peter’s where I have been twice and asked for directions, and been answered in the plangent diphthongs and triphthongs of ex-Londoners… I went to Norfolk for the first time a couple of years back. Right in the middle of nowhere we went into a pub. The publican turned out to be a cockney. In the rest of Norfolk and Suffolk ex-Londoners are abundant. There weren’t Londoners when I lived in Lincolnshire in the early 1980’s – now it’s full of them. I went on holiday to Devon. Londoners. They’re everywhere. For some reason, all the old talk about it [London] being ‘my city’ and ‘my family have lived here for generations’ has gone… Why do Londoners, when they discover that they can get far more for their money in terms of property, prefer to move to dull places like the countryside and predominantly white provincial cities or market towns, rather than to Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, Leeds where they can have a much bigger house but also carry on enjoying the vibrancy and life-enhancing qualities of multicultural environments?”
There are at least five important points this comment makes, all of which more or less encapsulate the phenomenon of White “decamping” in the present period:
● The quantitative dimension: [i] The observer points to a variety of areas where the presence of ex-Londoners is clearly discernible, based on his personal experience – he mentions places such as Worcester, as also its new suburb of St. Peter’s, but also Norfolk, Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Devon. His empirical observations are corroborated by official statistics – we know, for instance, that the residents of Worcester, in the West Midlands of England, are 96.5% all-White; of these, 94.2% are all-White British [based on the 2001 Census]. Worcester’s suburb of St. Peter’s – also known as St. Peter the Great – was established as a Civil Parish as late as 1993-1994. The establishment of the Parish would, in effect, mean the concentration of a population of Whites amounting to almost 94%. [ii] The observer sees a distinct quantitative difference in the presence of ex-Londoners around the English countryside between the present and the past – he compares the situation in the early 1980’s to that of 2013, and especially with respect to places such as Lincolnshire in the East Midlands. Lincolnshire, he notes, is now “full of them” – viz. ex-Londoners. [iii] The significantly increased presence of ex-Londoners in the English countryside is a generalized phenomenon – he uses expressions such as “abundant” and “they’re everywhere” for places such as Suffolk in the east and Devon in the south-west of England.
● The qualitative dimension: The exodus from London has been accompanied by sentiments that are qualitatively different from those of the past – in the present conjuncture, the feelings of White “decampers” with respect to London are either ambivalent or even somewhat negative. They are no longer prepared to look upon the capital as their own, or no longer bother to claim it as the “womb” of their family lineage and/or English heritage. According to “tuhmunga”, and as we read above: “For some reason, all the old talk about it [London] being ‘my city’ and ‘my family have lived here for generations’ has gone…” [my emph.]. Such sentiments are in themselves complex – one could perhaps understand why the observer is obliged to admit that he cannot pinpoint the exact reason for such willingness, on the part of ex-Londoners, to disown London [“for some reason”, he states]. Of course, were one to spend some time walking around the streets of a place such as East Ham, one would fully understand why the average Englishman cannot possibly see the locality as his own [let alone as exclusively his own]. In fact, his feelings of alienation with respect to places like East Ham – and which need not necessarily be accompanied by any racial hostility towards Asians – are quite explainable. For historical reasons, East Ham has simply come to be possessed by Asians [we shall of course be discussing the specific cultural practices of East Ham neighbourhoods, and how these practices assert possession, in forthcoming papers]. Again for historical reasons, Asians residing in East Ham have acquired the right to call themselves “British Indians”, and have similarly acquired the right to call the area their very own “home”. But that, so to speak, has been all the much worse for the average cockney: the latter has lost the battle for the area and left it. Thereafter, he cannot possibly refer to East Ham as his own, and the “womb” of family lineage and history continues to fade into the past. Very many cockneys that have found themselves in such a situation have come to accept it as a matter of mere fate. Or the sense of being displaced may be further accompanied by a more “politicized” feeling that it is the State itself that has abandoned them to such fate [and it was precisely such types of sentiments that UKIP would come to work on by 1993, and naturally so] This state of affairs, we need note, would not necessarily apply to all cockneys originating from East Ham, some of whom still insist on residing in the area [but here we are mainly focusing, in any case, on the “decampers” – forthcoming papers shall dwell on a much more detailed examination of the sentiments of cockneys still remaining in East Ham and other localities of Newham].
● The willful rejection of multicultural communities: In discussing the quantitative dimension of “tuhmunga’s” observations, we noted that the presence of ex-Londoners in places such as Worcester was clearly evident in the fact that the city’s residents were overwhelmingly all-White. Theoretically at least, this could be interpreted as something purely coincidental. And yet, our observer goes on to present this as a deliberate choice on the part of ex-Londoners to avoid “multicultural environments”. We note his words: “they prefer to move to… predominantly white provincial cities or market towns”. And their decision-making is such despite the so-called “dullness” of these places. The observer goes on to list a string of locations which are supposedly filled with the “vibrancy” and “life-enhancing qualities” of multiculturalism – places such as Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester and Leeds. It is noted with surprise that all such areas, and despite their supposed blessings, are simply not the chosen final destinations of ex-Londoners.
● The question of the class position of “decampers”: Although it would be completely unfair to expect of “tuhmunga’s” sketchy commentary to attempt whatever analysis of the class composition of White British “decampers”, his observations do shed light upon their economic status. He points to the class position of such status when he refers to how these people could get “far more for their money in terms of property”. The implication of course is that these “decampers” – or a certain proportion of them – are or have been property owners. Yet once more, “tuhmunga’s” observation has been verified by statistical analyses undertaken by think tanks such as Understanding Society [op. cit.]. The latter has specifically spoken of “white homeowners” departing from the London area [and which may be further compared to the observations of Aamna Mohdin above].
● The question of cockney cultural practices: The “tuhmunga” comment further points to an issue that we shall have to investigate in much greater detail in forthcoming papers – viz. that of cockney cultural practices in boroughs such as Newham, and how such practices have been affected following the advent of ethnic minorities in various localities. One such cultural practice has been that of the cockney pub – we shall see that such White British “cultural hub” has either been peripheralized, or wiped out, or simply taken over by ethnic minorities. Now, it is possible that the process of “decamping” has been accompanied by a relocation of cockney pub culture to areas outside London – it may be argued that the “decamper” has simply taken along with him the traditional cultural practices of his ancestors and “reinvented” these within his new-found destination. It is within such context that one may read “tuhmunga’s” observation when he states: “I went to Norfolk for the first time a couple of years back. Right in the middle of nowhere we went into a pub. The publican turned out to be a cockney” [my emph.]. The extent to which cultural practices per se are being geographically relocated remains unclear – but what is absolutely certain is the demise of the cockney pub within London, a reality that has further driven White Britons towards “decamping”. With respect to such demise, we may here quote Peter Watts, writing for Time Out magazine [https://www.timeout.com]. In an article entitled “Death of the cockney” [02.07.2007], Watts notes: “Rightly fêted as the world’s most multicultural city, London lacks only one thing – the culture of its original indigenous population. Time Out goes in search of pearly kings and jellied eels [the latter being a traditional East End dish], and asks: whatever happened to the cockney?” [my emph.]. Referring to “the battered body of the cockney”, the article tells us that “the pubs are dying out”. For Watts, cockney culture is “on the decline because of the change of population in London” [my emph.] – and thus further corroborates our observations regarding the phenomenon of White Briton “decampment”. It is quite possible that such “decampment” may occur as Whites are being “pulled” to the countryside for a variety of reasons [we shall come back to this below] – and yet, we here see very concrete culture-based reasons why Whites are being “pushed” out of the capital.
The brief observations made by “tuhmunga” seem to be well-founded and may be said to constitute a fairly accurate synopsis of the phenomenon of “decampment”. What we find especially useful is his reference to the particular areas where White Britons have chosen to “decamp”. His is a list of places based purely on personal experience. A great number of people – ranging from academic researchers to journalists, as also a motley host of activists [of various ideological denominations] – have posed the key question: Where have all the English gone? Groupings across the UK political spectrum – from Generation Identity-UK/Ireland [https://www.generation-identity.org.uk] and right through to Islam 21st Century [https://www.islam21c.com] – are all posing that very same question. While they all take White “decamping” as a de facto reality [their interpretations of the phenomenon usually being diametrically opposed], most such sources merely offer scattered data on the final destinations of White “decampers”. For a more reliable picture of locations opted for by “decampers”, we shall here present data published by BBC News [https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-21511904, 20.02.2013]. In an article entitled “Why have the white British left London?”, Mark Easton presents us with geographical areas of the UK where the biggest increases in the White British population have taken place in recent years. He shortlists ten such areas, giving us the percentage increase for each:
● South Derbyshire, in the East Midlands, approximately 128 miles from London: plus 13.7%
● North Kesteven, in the East Midlands, approximately 142 miles north of London: plus 13.0%
● Uttlesford, a non-metropolitan county of Essex in south-east England, approximately 46 miles from London: plus 11.8%
● East Northamptonshire, in the East Midlands, approximately 104 miles from London: plus 10.9%
● West Lindsey, a district of Lincolnshire in the East Midlands, approximately 166 miles from London: plus 10.7%
● East Cambridgeshire, a local government district of Cambridgeshire in the East of England region, approximately 81 miles from London: plus 9.7%
● Mid Suffolk, a local government district of Suffolk in the East of England region, approximately 97 miles from London: plus 9.7%
● South Norfolk, a local government district of Norfolk in the East of England region, approximately 115 miles from London: plus 9.7%
● Mid Devon, in south-west England, approximately 185 miles from London: plus 9.5%
● Forest Heath, a local government district of Suffolk in the East of England region, approximately 81 miles from London: plus 8.8%
Throughout our study thus far [Paper 1; Paper 2a], we have been suggesting that the tendency of a significant segment of White Londoners to “decamp” has been primarily caused by racial polarization, and the different forms that this may take. We have further argued that such “decamping” has, especially in the last decade, been exacerbated by the new waves of migrants settling in various localities of the Greater London area. Writing of London’s East End in 2016 – and with special reference to particular localities in the Borough of Newham – Joe Shute notes: “… as record numbers of new arrivals move in, the families who gave this area its famous cockney culture and soul are decamping, en masse, to [places such as] Essex and Kent” [my emph.; cf. Joe Shute, “The last Whites of the East End”, The Telegraph, https://www.telegraph.co.uk, 21.05.2016 – we intend to dwell on this text in much greater detail below, especially in forthcoming papers focusing on Newham and the district of New Ham].
And yet, sociological explanations of the phenomenon of “decamping” have frequently diverged. While writers such as Shute [op. cit.] would wish to underline the factor of migrant influx as the basic cause of the phenomenon, quite a number of important think tanks would, at least partially, disagree. Writing for Demos [“Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank” – https://www.demos.uk], Professor Eric Kaufmann and Dr. Gareth Harris offer the following explanation regarding the “retreat” of White Britons from London: “Whites may be leaving for better schools, cheaper homes, fresher air, or because they are more likely to be retirees, wealthier or better educated” [cf. “Are we seeing ‘white flight’ from London?”, 10.1.2013]. While some of the factors mentioned do not seem to pair well with others in their list [for instance, why is it that those who happen to be “wealthier” would wish to seek “cheaper homes”, etc.], there is nonetheless no reason to reject such factors as possible motives for wishing to leave London. On the other hand, one could argue that these two academics may wish to deliberately by-pass or downplay the issue of race per se, and thus simply focus on more “neutral” [albeit real-life] issues such as the need for “fresher air”. What they do not seem to address is that it is whites en masse – or as a social bloc – that seek “fresher air”. They further do not probe into the fact that whites do not merely depart for “fresher air” – they do so in particularly “whiter areas”. Perhaps it would not be too unfair to suggest that the Kaufmann-Harris explanations are slightly ideologically-laden.
Similarly ideologically-laden are the explanations offered by the Left-Liberal platform, Open Democracy UK [https://www.opendemocracy.net]. While acknowledging the racial divisions that beset UK society generally, this platform often obfuscates the realities of places such as east London. John Denham, in an article published in this platform and entitled “A nation divided? The identities, politics and governance of England” [16.08.2018], has this to say regarding the question of “decampment”: “The English are more concerned about the cultural impact of immigration… While some do reject migration for racist reasons, as trade unionist Paul Embery says about rapid migration into east London, it wasn’t their sense of race that had been violated by the sudden upheaval in their community; it was their sense of order”. Denham, for his part, does not shy away from admitting that migration must have had a particular cultural impact on the English. Further, he points to the “racist reasons” for rejecting migration – though, and quite predictably, he refuses to explain such possible “racism” in terms of that cultural impact he has himself spoken of. As for Embery, the issue of race has nothing to do with the given state of affairs – for him, Whites abandoned London because it was their “sense of order” that had been violated. And yet, one could easily counterargue here that whatever “sense of order” is a de facto sense of “cultural order”, and which may therefore potentially revolve around issues of race. Put otherwise, one may argue that, in the specific case of Englishmen residing in an area such as east London, the “cultural order” that was being disturbed – by non-Whites – happened to be an “order” mainly expressive of White citizens, and thus could only but have raised issues of a certain race consciousness. Such consciousness, as Denham himself points out, may give birth to the more extreme forms of “racism”, as it has [though only sporadically so].
Adopting such argumentation [as we do] presupposes a very specific methodological approach to the question of racism [and there is absolutely nothing original about such an approach – it is indeed profuse in the 1970’s and 1980’s bibliography of South African historical sociology dealing with the objective relationship between race and capital accumulation]. Such phenomenon is here not treated as a “stigma” or as some morbid mindset that urgently needs to be reeducated or otherwise ostracized from society. Racism is seen as a concrete social phenomenon – a potentially popular ideological discourse – that needs to be objectively explained in terms of real material conditions and real culture-based clashes between strata of the population [cf., for instance, “Hate speech, xenophobia, and the élan vital of national consciousness”, gslreview.com, 08.01.2018]. In that sense, naming certain White segments of the UK population as “racist” would be no defamation whatsoever. It would constitute an objectively “neutral” datum demanding a sociologist’s interpretation.
The majority of UK intellectuals, of course, would never adopt such a strictly sociological position. But be that as it may, when they do stigmatize a group of people as “racist”, they willy-nilly recognize the de facto polarization and clash of cultures.
The racial or ethnic polarization is most clearly revealed when it comes to Muslim intellectuals attempting to explain the phenomenon of White “decampment”. Their stigmatization of elements of the White British population as “racist” points to the reality of racial conflict, and thus confirms such conflict as a cause of “White flight”. We may here refer to what we consider to be an important text published in the UK Muslim platform, Islam 21st Century [op. cit.]. Written by the website’s Editor, and characteristically entitled “Where have all the white folks gone?” [03.11.2016], it says: “… white residents abandoned neighbourhoods as minority residents moved in. ‘White flight’ meant that areas that had been exclusively white quickly became dominated by ethnic minorities… The truth about segregation in Britain is that it is the white middle class who are by far the most ‘self-segregating’. The suburbs and rural commuter zones are almost exclusively white and middle class… The self-segregated white middle class is assumed to have the correct values and therefore does not need to be integrated into the nation…” [my emph.; the Editor indicates that the source of his information is The Guardian].
For certain analysts, it has been the dire need for “fresher air” that has “pulled” White Britons to areas outside London. For yet others, it was a matter of salvaging their “sense of order”. Further, for a group of Muslim intellectuals – and as we see in the Islam 21st Century quote above – it is the supposed supremacy of White middle class values that “pushes” segments of White Britons to “self-segregate” themselves from ethnic newcomers. Of course, the insinuation here is that the White middle classes are motivated by a supremacist sense of their own values, and which would render them racist.
It is true that all such approaches contain some element of truth. As with all social phenomena, the cause of the White exodus is multicausal. And yet, it is within such multiple causality that one needs to identify the overdetermining factor of the “decamping” that one sees taking place. When a certain locality changes its character – becomes, for instance, Asiatic in all or most of its cultural practices [as in East Ham] – an exodus will almost inevitably follow on the part of those residents who wish to stick to their time-honoured habits. We know that habits are as real as the air one breathes – and it is these that constitute one’s “sense of order”. To avoid a recurrence of “disorder”, those who decide to “decamp” do so to areas that are “whiter” in terms of cultural norms. Or, in any case, “decampers” happen to concentrate around predominantly “whiter” areas. There is therefore much truth in the observations of the Muslim intellectuals referred to above: secreted within the mindset of most “decampers” is some form of “racism”. But such ideological discourse may be completely free of race-hatred or xenophobia – it may simply be a positive assertion of the wish to abide by one’s own familiar cultural values.
Such wish, one should add, is definitely not an attribute exclusive to White Britons. While Muslim intellectuals might be critical of the White middle class for opting to abide by its own “correct values”, these very same Muslims go on to propagate their own Islamic values for their particular community. The Editorials of Islam 21st Century are rather typical of Muslim self-affirmation within the UK – we quote just one sample [published 10.09.2018]: “By the Grace of Allah Islam 21C has been honoured to have had yet another year of articulating Islam in the 21st century… [We wish to] rekindle our community’s connection with the Book of Allah and the teachings of His Messages [alayhim al-salam]…” [my emph.]. Objectively speaking, such a stance is fully understandable – but then, so is that of White British “decampers”.
Now, perhaps the most tangible form of the so-called “racism” amongst White Britons [but which, as we have noted, can have its corresponding mentalities within other ethnic groups] is best revealed in their behaviour related to the English schooling system. It is what happens – or has happened – within the UK classroom that best explains the phenomenon of “decamping”, and it is to this aspect that we shall now turn.
Writing for The Hindu newspaper in 2009 [updated 2010], Hasan Suroor [op. cit.] makes the following observation: “White parents are increasingly withdrawing their children from schools with ‘too many’ non-white pupils”. He relates this directly to the phenomenon of “decamping” and the ensuing ethnic-based segregation in UK society. Suroor is that type of writer who is usually prepared to trouble his readers with the hard facts of culture clashes at grassroots level. Often enough, his analyses are supported by verifiable data.
An important source on which Suroor bases his observations is the Institute of Community Cohesion. This Institute – usually referred to as “iCoCo” – was established by the well-known Professor Ted Cantle [whose work has been much referred to above] in 2005. It is part of Coventry University and its objective is said “to provide a new approach to race, diversity and multiculturalism”. Referring to one of the Institute’s papers, Suroor writes: “The survey, commissioned by the Institute of Community Cohesion, an independent left-wing think-tank, simply confirms a hard reality about modern Britain. Its report, based on interviews with mostly middle class parents, says there is ‘strong evidence’ of white flight across Britain, especially in the northern towns with a large Asian immigrant population. One school in a predominantly non-white area reported that white parents started withdrawing their children once the number of non-white pupils rose beyond what they considered a ‘tolerable’ threshold” [my emph.].
The key concept here is that of “tolerable threshold”. Suroor illustrates such concept by focusing on events that had unfolded in the school he writes of above – we quote: “Described simply as ‘School X’ in the report, it had 15 per cent non-white pupils at the end of 2005. And then this happened: ‘Over the next two terms around 15-20 Somali families brought their children to the school. Many white parents reacted negatively, arguing that their children were being disadvantaged by large numbers of non-English speakers. There was pressure from large parts of the white community to move away from the school. By Sept. 2006, sixty white children had been removed from the school. Total numbers fell from 320 to 240 and the percentage of BME [black and ethnic minorities] pupils rose to 45 per cent” [my emph. – BME/BAME stand for “Black and Minority Ethnic” and “Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic” respectively, and is terminology normally used in the UK to describe people of non-White descent, cf. www.irr.org.uk].
We see here that the arrival of a certain extra number of BME pupils at ‘School X’ would immediately trigger a “negative” reaction on the part of White parents. For them, the “tolerable threshold” had been crossed as soon as they suspected that their own children were being “disadvantaged”, at least as regards the question of languages spoken within the classroom [note the reference to “non-English speakers”]. This might or might not be regarded as a “racist” attitude on the part of these White parents: it seems that they were not necessarily reacting to the mere presence of non-Whites at the school – what rather concerned them was the effect that such presence would have on the medium of instruction [and, possibly, the impact of that on the quality of education]. Of course, the ultimate abandonment of that school by a segment of White families merely served to further amplify the problem of racial polarization, having – as noted above – increased BME presence from 15% to 45%. It would be important to add here that the circumstances described in the case of ‘School X’ are by no means exceptional – we merely note that “More than 300 different languages are now spoken in British schools. And in England, over 20% of primary school children use English as an additional language… This equates to over 900.000 children for whom English is not their first language” [cf. the at times highly biased Left-wing on-line journal, The Conversation, theconversation.com, 21.08.2017].
Our assessment that the reaction of these White families to the arrival of the Somali children at ‘School X’ was not necessarily expressive of “racism” is borne out by Suroor himself. Yet still, research does point to the operation of the “tolerable threshold” – or, alternatively, the “safe option” – as a criterion for withdrawal from a school and ultimate “decampment”. Suroor explains: “Parents deny that they are racist but say they do not want their children to stand out as a ‘visible minority’. Researchers found that although most people claimed they wanted their children to have a mixed education, the fact was that they preferred the ‘safe option’ of sending them to schools where they were likely to meet children from similar backgrounds… According to Professor Nick Johnson, director of policy at the Institute [iCoCo] and one of the authors of the report, parents do not want their children to be the ‘odd ones out’… ‘People don’t mind a diverse school but what they do mind is their kid being in a visible minority. This trend has increased in the last few years’, he told one newspaper”.
One can see here some sort of a discrepancy between what White parents say and what they actually do. Such discrepancy is indicative of the typically complex forms that any cultural and/or ideological practice takes in the real world. Complexity is usually a consequence of the contradictory elements that coexist within an apparently united amalgamation of thoughts and actions. But this would not mean that the disparity between words and deeds – as in the case of these White parents – is beyond explanation. What we hear White parents uttering is an attempt, on their part, to adjust to the dominant ideology of “diversity”. We know, of course, that the discourse of such dominant ideology may even be enforced by the laws of the UK State – the latter has been producing a series of such type of laws [for instance: the Public Order Act of 1986; the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994; the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006; the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act of 2008, etc.]. But adjustment to the dominant ideology should not merely be understood as the need to comply with the laws of a “threatening” State. The fact is that the ideological discourse of “diversity” has, to some extent at least, also come to be imbibed by the civil society of the UK for purely historical reasons [given Britain’s “Age of Empire” and its deep repercussions on the British people at grassroots level – cf. E.J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 1875-1914, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1987]. It is therefore both the “threat” coming from “above” and the history of things coming from “below” that helps us understand what White parents may say with respect to “diversity”.
But what White parents do – i.e. “decamp” – is a rather different kettle of fish. Here, it is what Suroor has referred to as the “hard reality about modern Britain” [op. cit.] that determines how people actually decide to act. Action is triggered by what is estimated to be – as already noted – “tolerable thresholds” and “safe options” according to the concrete material conditions of a particular locality. Were a locality and the prevailing situation within its educational institutions to render Whites a “visible minority” [with various concomitant possible consequences], then these Whites may opt to move out of both school and area.
Adopting such an approach towards an understanding of “decamping” would mean that one is obliged to adopt a set of strictly sociological concepts appropriate to this specific object of research – the implication of course is that the term “racism” cannot possibly be used here as a tool of analysis in trying to make sense of White British behaviour, it being hopelessly subjective.
In the last instance, it is that “hard reality” of particular material conditions that determines people’s manner of thinking and behaviour – it is specific factors that may galvanize the “safe option” of “decamping” and the ultimate reality of segregation within the UK classroom. Suroor quotes the iCoCo report to show how the “safe option” is galvanized in cases where there has been a significant increase in the number of Muslim pupils in certain UK schools – we read: “The changes in population over time in some parts of the country have led to a significant increase, for example, in the number of Muslim schoolchildren. Recent newspaper reports suggest that some Church of England schools in cities in the north of England now have a majority of Muslim pupils. As a result some Christian parents have decided to send their children to secular schools”.
The case of these Church of England schools is especially interesting. There is a sense in which, in this case, Christian parents here seem to have been “pushed” out of a public space which they had once occupied. But, as we know, this phenomenon is indicative of a more generalized situation: apparently, Whites are continually being “pushed” out of their own cultural settings in certain localities while non-Whites are “pulled” to these localities which then assume a new cultural setting. One could argue that Whites find themselves being unwittingly “pursued” by non-Whites [elsewhere, we shall be examining cases where Whites are moving even further out in response to “Black flight” itself]. In fact, one could further imagine Muslim pupils ultimately moving to those secular schools presently dominated by White pupils – there are in any case certain UK institutions promoting this [and despite the proliferation of Muslim faith schools]. This could ultimately ignite a clash between secular and non-secular values within these secular schools. Clashes between secular and Muslim non-secular practices within UK schools are already a present-day reality. Very briefly, we may note here some of the observations made by the UK’s National Secular Society [https://www.secularism.org.uk], an influential campaigning organization promoting secularism in the UK [its foundation dates back to 1866 and is presently an NGO]. Samples of such observations [made 05.11.2018] include:
● It is noted that “the hijab [the Muslim veil] is compulsory at dozens of schools in England” [my emph.].
● And yet, the National Secular Society insists that “no child should be forced to wear a hijab” [my emph.].
● The Society has pointed out that certain independent Islamic schools… “[deny] boys the opportunity to study art” [my emph.].
● And it has further pointed out that “at least 17 [county] councils [are] supplying unstunned halal meat to schools, despite the controversial nature of non-stun halal slaughter” [my emph.].
These observations – randomly selected – simply describe some of the cultural/religious practices taking place within Muslim faith schools in the UK. However, the transference of such practices to secular schools inevitably leads to a culture clash between Western secular and Muslim non-secular values, and thereby further exacerbates the phenomenon of “decamping”. It is precisely such clash of cultures and values that forces White parents to adopt stances that are apparently “racist” or “segregationist”, at least in the sense that they are unwilling to have their children “mix” with Muslim children. Suroor writes: “Worse, it [the iCoCo report] found that in some cases… social segregation was reinforced by their parents’ unwillingness for them [their children] to ‘mix’ with others or to invite people from other communities into their homes”. The implication here is that culture clashes or potential culture clashes within the classroom naturally extend outside of it, spilling over to the wider community.
But it is not only what happens within the UK classroom that radiates within the community as a whole, and thereby determining the attitudes of White parents – the opposite process could as much apply. It is also possible that the changing “character” of the area itself may further bolster the tendency to “decamp”. As Suroor puts it: “The survey shows that ‘white flight’ occurs not only in response to changes in school population – as happened in School X – but also when the character of the area starts to change, creating a ‘perception’ [among native whites] that the nature of the whole area would change” [my emph.].
Thus far, one gets the impression that it is White parents who are the prime decision-makers as regards reactions to cultural changes taking place either within the classroom or in the community itself. One may wish to assume that white children are merely the passive receptors of decisions made by their – perhaps more conservatively self-conscious – parents. That, however, is not necessarily the reality. According to the iCoCo report – and as quoted by Suroor – “… even when such contact occurs [i.e. between White and non-White children]… we heard consistently from focus groups, interviews, research enquiries that once left to themselves, young people ‘stick together’ with others from their own communities” [my emph.].
Based on such findings, one could draw the conclusion that young pupils themselves choose to reinforce segregationist tendencies. And one could go further and suggest that such tendencies are a “natural” or “spontaneous” reaction to particular circumstances, and therefore not simply a product of “learnt” attitudes emanating from the mindsets of their parents.
One could certainly argue such an approach – but our intention here is not to interpret that type of White youth behaviour. We need to above all simply record such weighty manifestations of White youth’s reactions to “mixing”, and we intend to provide some further evidence indicating such reactions. We shall, however, have to steer clear of whatever systematic explanations, and that if only because the issue at hand is markedly over-complex to handle somewhat seriously. Above, we had pointed to the already existing rich bibliography dealing with the relationship between race and class – here, however, one would have to deal with the even more composite tripartite relationship informing both race, class and teenagehood as one unit of human experience in itself. The available academic literature on the matter leaves much to be desired – most studies attempting to explain “racism” amongst Britain’s young people have to be rejected out of hand for their subjective bias and what we may call Leftish ideological fetishisms and phobias. We need simply mention here a “study” edited by Jan Laurens Hazekamp [of the Dutch-based Stichting Alexander Foundation] and Keith Popple [of the University of Plymouth], entitled Racism in Europe: The Challenge for Youth Policy and Youth Work [Routledge, 1997]. Their explanation for what they call “racism amongst Britain’s young people” may be put down to Europe’s “racist roots” [p. 7]. Reducing the whole of the European continent to such “roots”, as also reducing past conjunctures to those of the present, they do disservice to their academic backgrounds – their work, like that of so many others, is simply not worthy of whatever consideration.
What, in any case, are the recorded reactions of young people to the question of “mixing”? Before we briefly delve into such a question, we should note that it cannot be accurately answered unless we examine samples of youth coming from both White and non-White groups. As we shall see below, it is non-White children as well that tend to avoid “mixing” [such a reality, of course, flies in the face of the Hazekamp-Popple diatribe: we know that non-White children and their parents were themselves in no way historically entangled in the so-called “racist roots” of the European continent].
It is Suroor who provides us with some sample reactions of UK youth – he does this by quoting from the iCoCo report. We are informed that these are “some tell-tale quotes from children growing up in a supposedly multicultural society” [my emph.]. The children’s comments include the following:
● A White pupil: “Races don’t mix in my school. We are four whites and [the] rest are Asians – no matter what we do to mix, they will not let us”.
● A focus group of Muslim boys: “Asians on one side and whites and African Carribbean’s [sic] on the other, with only one or two individuals who have friends belonging to a different group”.
● A focus group of school pupils [the race of participants is not stipulated]: “People stick to their own communities and cultures and people don’t want to learn [about the culture of other communities]”.
Segregation within the classroom further aggravates the already prevailing racial segregation within localities. Suroor writes: “The segregation in schools has implications for broader social cohesion, the [iCoCo] report argues, as it sows the seeds of division at a very young age and children grow up divided by narrow racial boundaries” [my emph.]. The exact relationship that holds between school segregation and residential segregation has been investigated by various academics although, yet again, their findings remain problematic: their usual purpose is to downplay the realities of racial polarization per se. An excellent example of such attempts is the work undertaken by a group of academics writing for Belgeo [The Belgian Journal of Geography, https://journals.openedition.org/belgeo/18730]. Ron Johnston, Richard Harris, Kelvin Jones and David Manley, in a text entitled “Segregation at school and at home: An English exploration” [02.03.2017], try to elude the question of racial/ethnic tensions within UK society – yet still, they have no choice but to grudgingly allow for such a reality. Their research work commences by pointing to the supposedly overstated manner in which the UK media usually present the issue of ethnic segregation. They write: “Ethnic segregation, in both neighbourhoods and schools, is an issue regularly raised in the British media, usually associated with arguments that it is growing and generating an increasingly-divided society. Segregation in schools is often presented as particularly problematic, and as greater than neighbourhood segregation…” What these writers fear to admit are the possible implications of a reality which suggests that “Britain is sleep-walking towards segregation”, and which is in any case something forewarned by the iCoCo report itself.
The work of Ron Johnston et al, we have said, can only but acknowledge the realities of racial segregation at both the level of the UK classroom and at the level of residential areas. One conclusion they have to draw goes as follows: “Residential segregation… is especially intense in many of the older manufacturing towns… with substantial concentrations of South Asian ethnic group members. Their schools are similarly segregated; most are either predominantly South Asian and Black in their ethnic composition or are predominantly White British” [my emph.].
The writers nonetheless devise a variety of conceptual contraptions meant to demonstrate that racial segregation in the UK is not necessarily expressive of sentiments related to race. But one could here simply quote just one British newspaper – well-known for its overtly Left-wing and pro-multiculturalist editorials – on the question of so-called “racism” in the UK, and especially as regards the “racism” of British youth. Sarah Marsh and Aamna Mohdin, writing for The Guardian [30.11.2018], speak of a “record number of UK children excluded [from schools] for racist bullying”. And they further refer to a “call for urgent action as [the] rise in numbers [of those excluded is] blamed on toxic rhetoric around immigration”. They also go on to quote, inter alia, an English teacher – the interviewee had this to say on the issue of youth “racism”: “Young people are merely reflecting the prevailing climate… Schools need to not pretend the problem does not exist”.
We do not mean to suggest that either residential segregation or segregation within the classroom merely hinge on the racial polarization of UK society. Even the tendency to “decamp” is not itself purely expressive of such racial polarization. As we shall attempt to show in forthcoming papers, most forms of social reality in the UK are manifestations of a fusion of the race-class combinatory [and this shall become especially clear on undertaking an examination of what we call the “City Type”, and how such “Type” lives and thrives in and around London in a manner that further elucidates the major factor of class stratification as such]. As regards the question of segregation in UK schools, and how such segregation is also based on class factors, cf. John Coldron, Caroline Cripps and Lucy Shipton, “Why are secondary schools socially segregated?”, Centre for Education and Inclusion Research, Sheffield Hallam University, 2009. This paper focuses on what it calls the “class mechanisms” of school segregation [its understanding of the concept of “class”, however, remains almost infantile; as superficial is its reference to what it terms the “marketisation of education”].
Now, to the extent that UK society is in large measure racially polarized [cf. Paper 2a], and to the extent that important segments of White Britons choose to “decamp” [our present focus], a major question inevitably arises: what is the role of the UK State with respect to such social reality?
Any attempt to answer such a type of question has to keep two basic points in mind: First, when one speaks of the UK State – or of any State for that matter – one should not limit that organizational structure to functions merely pertaining to the central State and its central Government: there are sub-structures and organs that constitute a mesh of bodies which reproduce the prevailing ideological discourse at a mass scale. This mesh is composed of public, semi-public and even “private” organizations. Think tanks, universities and corporate organizations such as the BBC constitute extensions of the State – that which unites them is their ideological discourse and function. Second, both the central State and its related mesh of sub-structures and organs are not ever the mere “instruments” of some “dominant” grouping or social class: citizens, organizations of citizens, lobby groups and unions, etc., are all actively or passively participating in the various structures and practices of the State. In fact, the mere physical reality of their participation implies that they are [part of] that State: the degree to which they compose it would depend on the balance of power within a given political “moment”. When, for instance, the Labour Party is voted to power, its presence in State structures may be such as to have its own ideological discourse and practical policies permeate institutions and society at large. That would not imply that Labour policy is rendered ubiquitous – nor would it mean that such policy would not meet a series of obstacles within the echelons of power. But the sheer presence of such Party policies within the structures of the State would mean that the latter is, in the last instance, a relatively “inclusive” body within UK society.
Both of these two caveats need to be emphasized: it is precisely within such context that we shall now briefly examine the ideological role of the UK State in celebrating a new multiculturalism. The latter, of course, is celebrated independently of the particular Party in power – why there happens to be a common cementing ideology of multiculturalism amongst all major UK political parties shall take us beyond the scope of our present study, although certain allusions shall be made [admittedly, however, this issue does seem to constitute the crux of the matter].
And yet, while it is true that the dominant forces within the UK political system are all pro-multiculturalist and “protective” of non-White immigrants, it has been the Labour Party – above all – that has played the major role in boosting the influx of migrants into the UK. This is a definite fact, at least as regards the period of the 1990’s. Understanding Society, the research body referred to above, has pointed to the Labour Party’s mass immigration policies on coming to power in the mid-1990’s – it writes: “Some groups that criticize the previous Labour Government’s ‘mass immigration’ policy say it led to large numbers of immigrants flooding into big cities and driving out the local white population”.
Of course, we know that it is not merely certain “groups” that have been critical of such Labour policies and their long-term repercussions. In fact, it would be such policies of mass immigration that would plunge both the Labour Party and the British Left generally into a deep ideological crisis. Such crisis became clearly evident in 2016, when large segments of the British White working class would ignore Labour leadership and vote pro-Brexit. EUobserver [https://euobserver.com/opinion/134072] would have this to say with respect to the results of the EU membership referendum: “… swathes of Labour seats in the North East, South and West Yorkshire, saw Leave majorities of 60-40 [percent] and more… Corbyn utterly failed to persuade the party’s base, particularly the white working-class, to vote Remain” [cf. Benjamin Fox, “Brexit vote devours UK’s Labour Party”, 28.6.2016]. It was precisely this Brexit movement that would bring things to a head as regards the internal crisis of the British Left – and we know that the central most important catalyst of that movement would be the issue of migration.
What had really ensued following the mass influx of migrants in the course of the 1990’s was the debunking – generally amongst members of the White working class – of the ideological discourse of so-called “New Labour” [which constitutes a specific period in the history of the British Labour Party from the mid 1990’s until 2010]. Blair’s emphasis on the essential virtues of both globalization and migration would come to be seen, by these working people, as a threat to their interests, be these material or “existential”. Sensing the depth of crisis within their ranks, a number of Left-wing intellectuals would themselves embark on a critical reassessment of “New Labour” policies and ideology. Before we consider the more permanent effects of such ideology on the various organs of the UK State [and especially its various ideological apparatuses], it would be of some interest to note what certain Left critics of “New Labour” have to say on the latter’s ideological orientations. Erica Consterdine, Research Fellow at the University of Sussex and writing for The Conversation [op. cit.], dares to raise an issue that must surely be highly provocative for the present-day Left as a whole – she wishes to explain “How New Labour made Britain into a migration state” [this also being the very title of her article, 01.12.2017]. Of course, we find her usage of the phrase “migration state” exceedingly interesting, if only because such a description certainly verifies the degree to which the UK State has become permanently saturated with the policies and ideology of Britain’s Labour Party. Consterdine makes a number of important points – some of these include the following:
● “Under Blair’s Labour government, Britain’s economic immigration policy went from a highly restrictive approach to one of the most expansive in Europe…” [my emph.].
● This decision “resulted in one of the largest migration flows in Britain’s peacetime history…” [my emph.].
● “Public concern about large-scale immigration contributed to Labour’s electoral defeat in 2010 and 2015. In no Western country can a party appear to gain votes by favouring new immigration” [my emph.].
● “Labour claimed there was simply no alternative to globalization… With immigration being ‘the human element of globalization’, it was assumed to be both inevitable and intrinsically positive by the leading faction of the party” [my emph.].
Such events, both in their ideological dimension as also in the sheer fact of a massive migrant influx, would imprint themselves within the structures and practices of the UK State. This was no smooth and easy process – we need keep in mind that the original inception of the ideology of globalization-cum-immigration had already led to the defeat of the Labour Party by 2010, given what Consterdine euphemistically calls “public concern”. And yet, the indelible traces of “New Labour’s” world view would be ultimately adopted by the UK State as-a-whole – the latter was merely aligning itself to the forces of global corporate capital [and especially finance capital] that had come to prevail across the globe, and which had come to dominate the “City” itself. Henceforth, the UK State and its ideological organs would celebrate globalization and immigration as an essentially “natural” flow of post-modern history. It was in such new context – and given the mass arrivals of migrants starting from the 1990’s – that the State would come to celebrate a new, rejuvenated ideology of multiculturalism [we speak here of “new”, keeping in mind that British society had always been characterized by a long-standing multicultural element, given its colonialist history]. As suggested, this newness would originally emanate from the “New Labour Speak” officially inaugurated by Blair himself, and would ultimately present itself as “universal humanism” with respect to all migrant flows [closely related to Blair’s “human element” of globalization per se].
And yet, there would be a deep disjunction between the State and large segments of civil society. The Conservative Party would certainly attempt to address itself to such cleavage, at least by initiating the 2016 EU membership referendum. This would not, however, mean that the “New Speak” celebrating globalization and multiculturalism would be given up by major State organs such as the mainstream media and the universities. Precisely in response to the anti-immigration sentiments of at least some Brexiteers, as also in response to the reality of self-imposed segregation and/or “decamping” on the part of segments of White Britons, the new ideology of multiculturalism would become even more trenchant. The ideological polarization would mean that society would be divided into two major camps: on the one hand, there would emerge an unholy alliance between the interests of the “City” and the new Muslim Mayor of London [representative of the ethnic element] and, on the other, Britons rallying under the Brexit banner.
Suroor attempts to describe this ideological polarization by pointing to the present-day wave of “white flight” and contrasts this to the new ideology of “New Labour” prevailing throughout the echelons of State power. As he writes: “Three decades later [viz. after the 1960’s and 1970’s period], Britain is seeing a second wave of “white flight”… [in a] decade that also saw greater acceptance of cultural diversity, or what in New Labour-speak is celebrated as multiculturalism”. Of course, one may safely assume that when Suroor speaks of a “greater acceptance” of “multiculturalism”, he is most probably referring to the ideological prevalence of such discourse as articulated by State organs – it is Suroor himself who takes great pains to underline, as he puts it, “the growing racial segregation” [itself triggering the “white flight”].
The disjuncture between the UK State and civil society would be reflected in the dissonance of the primary ideological discourses prevailing in early 21st century England. And yet, we have suggested that that civil society has a presence in – or, to an important degree, is – that UK State. Such reality would not necessarily contradict our understanding of either the UK State or whichever capitalist State formation. The point here is that any capitalist State may be characterized by a composite number of internal contradictions – and that, given the multiple array of structures and sub-structures that compose such formation. In the case of the UK State, one major internal contradiction defining it – in the present conjuncture, and especially following the advent of “New Labour” – is the functioning of its various ideological apparatuses. These would include, as already mentioned, the network of Liberal-Left university schools, the mainstream mass media and other institutions. To the extent that such bodies have more or less autonomized themselves from the sentiments of large segments of civil society, one may speak of ideologically Bonapartist State or semi-State structures. The most appropriate example of such ideological Bonapartism is, of course, the BBC [and its variety of related networks].
We do not intend to analyze the specific ideological functions of the BBC as an ideological apparatus [that would obviously require in-depth research-work fit for a PhD thesis]. Nor shall we comment on the particular line it has toed with respect to major issues such as that of Brexit. Rather, we shall briefly present here a sample of how the BBC very subtly promotes what we have identified above as the new multiculturalism. Guy Pewsey, a journalist writing for London’s Evening Standard, presents to us the British TV chef, author and television presenter, Nadiya Hussain. This Muslim lady has been systematically promoted by the BBC as “the ideal poster girl” symbolic of present-day multiculturalism [we know, by the way, that Hussain has been on BBC News’ 100 Women list]. Some of the comments Pewsey makes include the following [cf. his “Bake Off was just the start – Nadiya is Eliza Doolittle for a new generation”, Evening Standard, 16.07.2018, p. 35]:
● EXTRACT 1: “IS NADIYA Hussain the greatest culinary talent to emerge from British TV sensation The Great British Bake Off? Probably not. But that’s why she’s the perfect alumna of the former BBC ratings winner to continue its legacy now that it has jumped ship to Channel 4. A young, Muslim woman with a supportive, photogenic family, she is the ideal poster girl as the corporation finds its place in multicultural Britain. But she has proved she is far more than a box-ticker: she is also a charming, engaging talent for a new generation of cooks” [my emph.].
A number of critical observations may be made regarding the above extract:
1. Generally speaking, the most effective manner in which a political ideology may be promoted is to allow it to operate as a discourse well outside the terrain of the political as such. In the case we are presenting, the terrain is – as we see – that of everyday culinary practices. Thereby, one is able to “distract” the mind from the underlying agenda; further, one’s catchment area is the widest possible amongst the population. When Channel 4 presents Nadiya Hussain to its viewers, its intention is apparently simple: it asks of them to engage in the culinary practice of baking. Such practice is, not only completely apolitical, it is also a ubiquitous, “national” practice for all and sundry [as we shall see further below, Pewsey himself uses the term “everywoman” to refer to the TV presenter]. Nadiya the baker is thus placed on the widest possible mass platform – viz. the “British TV sensation”.
2. Now, such apolitical, “national” practice is presented to viewers by a Muslim person: at this point, the hidden intentionality of the programme commences to lose its political innocence. The discourse of the programme now takes on a double form – it involves both everyday culinary practices and a very specific enactor of such practices. The choice of the enactor may be mildly expressive of a particular political ideology.
3. But Pewsey does not beat about the bush when it comes to the intentions of the programme – as we have seen above, he explicitly states that Nadiya the baker is, at the same time, “the ideal poster girl” enabling the corporation to “find its place in multicultural Britain”. Nadiya is thereby used as an “ideal” symbol of the rejuvenated multiculturalist political ideology [something which the “City type” would fully endorse, though not necessarily those segments of society that Suroor and others have been writing of].
4. Notice further what it is that the corporation wishes to do – its own ideological project must “find its place” within the new ideological conjuncture of British multiculturalism. The added implication is that everyone in UK society has found – or must find – his “place” in that conjuncture. Channel 4, therefore, aims at imposing integration or multiculturalism onto segments of society which have freely chosen to pursue the course of self-segregation – be these the non-Whites of East Ham or the Whites that have “decamped” from there.
5. Multiculturalism is imposed, not by extolling the virtues of so-called “diversity” [and which would include both non-White and White cultural models], but by presenting a young Muslim woman as the “type” that encapsulates all British values. Nadiya is supposed to encapsulate the values of the British family per se [“A… Muslim woman with a supportive… family”]. Her family unit is the “ideal” family [“photogenic”]. Further, she encapsulates the values of British youth [“young”].
6. Perhaps most important of all, British culinary practices and tastes – and the “national values” these historically circumscribe – are here celebrated by a non-White individual who is naturally foreign to the traditions of “Englishness” per se.
7. Finally, and in keeping with the resonances of the latest “New Labour” ideology, Nadiya addresses herself to “a new generation of cooks” – while the reference is to “cooks” in particular, the ideological insinuation is that this “new generation” includes all young Britons, who are by definition multiculturalist in their lifestyle [again, the apolitical practice of a “cook” is used to convey a political message].
● EXTRACT 2: “… much of Hussain’s inspiration for a long list of fun and creative bakes were the dishes she whipped up at home for her husband and children. So Nadiya’s Family Favourites is a smart and organic choice to best show her skill: nothing is too complex – episode one provides how tos for a samosa pie, which looks delicious, cheese biscuits and a prawn saffron biryani. All three are supposed to be useful for a family day out, and she has done an impressive job of taking on the theme in a new, individual way that most home cooks will be able to manage” [my emph.].
Observations to be made here include the following:
1. This extract further confirms Channel 4’s intention to present a Muslim individual as the “type” epitomizing the “ideal” of the British family unit – Nadiya is the smart, skillful housewife who knows how to provide for her home.
2. But more than that, she is the chosen personage that can advise “most home cooks” – or at least the “new generation” of these – on the “how tos” of their kitchen.
3. British culinary practices and tastes are more or less reduced to the Indian – or, more accurately, the Bangladeshi – cuisine. We note the promotion of the Indian-inspired samosa pie or the five-spice prawn saffron biryani dish. The latter, also known as panch phoron, originates from the Indian subcontinent, and is used especially in the Muslim cuisine of Bangladesh [Nadiya is herself a Bangladeshi]. But it is not simply a question of promoting such non-White cuisine – often enough, Nadiya may go so far as to ask of her viewers to actually abandon the Western, classical cuisine for that of Bangladeshi eating habits. One of her sites [The Happy Foodie] is absolutely clear on this – we read: “Switch the classic chicken for prawn with Nadiya Hussain’s delicious biryani recipe, as seen on her BBC series…” The site as openly places the promoted recipes within a very specific socio-cultural, ethnic context – Nadiya herself writes: “I’d never made a biryani until my sister married her Punjabi husband”. Now, having said all this, we do not wish to be misunderstood – it cannot be denied that Nadiya’s dishes are popular because they must be delicious. But that would miss the point: we know that all ideological apparatuses drill into a real material reality [here, the deliciousness of the “happy foodie”] and draw out their own particular discourse [here, the new multiculturalism].
● EXTRACT 3: “Her time, since winning the progamme has made her more confident in front of the camera and a more comfortable, polished cook, and it is a delight to watch her grow as a presenter. I only hope that the BBC, in nurturing her as a beloved new host, doesn’t forget why the country came to adore her ever since her first appearance… Perhaps it’s because Hussain was so earnest… – her facial expressions and one-liners made her a social media favourite whenever something went wrong in the Bake Off tent, and her inspirational words and professional achievements since have been accompanied by humility and a real sense that she can’t believe her own luck…” [my emph.].
This extract allows us to make the following important observations:
1. As already mentioned above, the BBC’s strategy has been to place the symbolic “ideal” of a Muslim woman on a national, mass platform – and it was able to do so by making use of the apolitical, socially omnipresent nature of cooking. Thus, Pewsey may speak of how “the country came to adore her”. The BBC took it upon itself – as a deliberate ideological choice – to “nurture” the image of that symbolic “ideal”, thereby enabling Nadiya to “grow as a presenter”. Put otherwise, the BBC would adopt an ideological strategy that would facilitate the systematic reproduction of a specific ideological “ideal type” functional to the new multiculturalist milieu as a prevailing ideology.
2. We have suggested that such “ideal type” would encapsulate values that would accommodate “Britishness” to multiculturalism [the latter completing the former] – that “type”, however, would further symbolize the essential [or essentialist] virtues of being Muslim, non-White and/or Bangladeshi. Nadiya, a Muslim woman of Bangladeshi origins, is said to combine all the virtues that any proper Briton should be emulating – viz. the virtues of “earnestness” and “humility”, in combination with “professional achievement”. It is implied that the average working class cockney, instead of bewailing his plight or resorting to anti-social behaviour characteristic of “White flight”, should rather look to Nadiya’s paradigm if he wants to be an achiever in the modern world of multiculturalism.
3. Finally, Pewsey tells us that it has been precisely such essential virtues that have made Nadiya “a social media favourite”. Now, this statement raises an extremely important – if not the most important – issue, at least as regards our understanding of 21st century ideological State apparatuses [and especially when such apparatuses have assumed a “Bonapartist” functionality]. Simply put, the rise of the social media has rendered all 20th century analyses of ideological State apparatuses completely redundant. Particularly Marxian understandings of all such apparatuses as one-way disseminators of so-called “bourgeois ideology” no longer hold water – the ideological functionality of apparatuses is systematically checked by the open, interactional terrain of the social media [we shall have to come back to this]. The very discourse of such apparatuses stands to be verified or rejected by the popular masses via the use of the social media – and it is for this reason that Pewsey’s comment regarding Nadiya as a “social media favourite” is so important. Here, and in contrast to what Pewsey has to say, we shall merely quote the words of a certain Mr. Chris Stewart, who happens to be one of Nadiya’s most consistent “fans” – he writes in her own Facebook pages: “The more I see the grief this lady gets on social media the higher she rises in my estimations” [my emph.].
● EXTRACT 4: “In Hussain the BBC has found its new Eliza Doolittle, the plucky everywoman… The discovery has paid off: the programme is sweet, fun and informative and will continue to cement her [Nadiya’s] status as a national treasure” [my emph.].
Some very important points are made here, all of which underline and summarize our attempt to explain the ideological discourse of apparatuses such as the BBC – we note:
1. According to Pewsey, the BBC wishes to present Nadiya as “Eliza Doolittle”. We find this of great interest: very simply, Shaw’s cockney flower girl has now been replaced by the BBC’s Bangladeshi baker. In some way, and keeping in mind the phenomenon of “decamping”, this is quite reflective of what has been happening in UK’s real life situation. But the BBC wishes to convey a sense of continuity in the changes that have been occurring within civil society: both Eliza and Nadiya are “plucky”, in the sense that while both belong to the “weak” and relatively “poor”, they nonetheless possess the “courage” to overcome their limited prospects of social success. If, in the case of Eliza, the barriers were based on social class, in the case of Nadiya one knows that she will have to surmount barriers based on racial prejudice [if not those of social class as well]. The point here is that the BBC wishes to promote “social progress” by trumpeting the virtues of multiracialism or multiculturalism – the cockney element has here vanished from the scene as a present-day social agent. If such element still retains whatever relevance, it is its historical role in the past which now helps us understand the life of a young Bangladeshi woman. Nadiya might come from an underprivileged Bangladeshi background, but she will ultimately succeed because she is a “professional achiever” – a trait very much reminiscent of Eliza’s own “pluckiness”. Of course, also reminiscent of Eliza, is Nadiya’s “earnestness” and intrinsic “humility”.
2. If, in the past, it was Shaw’s Eliza Doolittle that had come to symbolize Britain’s “everywoman” in her struggles to overcome the barriers of “social injustice”, it is now this new “type” – a young Bangladeshi woman – that constitutes Britain’s modern “everywoman” in her own struggles to overcome the barriers of “racial injustice”. Shaw’s Fabian socialism has mutated into the BBC’s multiculturalism – both are components of the long-standing Left-Liberal ideological alliance. That allows the BBC to point to the popular sentiments of the past so as to legitimize the multiculturalism of the present.
3. What we see here is a gradual movement or development of ideological concepts ultimately yielding a virtuous multiculturalism that defines a “nation” and its necessary “values”. Starting off from a physical reality [a Muslim Bangladeshi woman], one moves on towards the concept of the British “everywoman” [representative of all British women, and thus all British people]. From there, one moves on further to the “status” of a Muslim Bangladeshi “everywoman” as the nation’s “national treasure” [a “status” once occupied by a cockney woman]. Such ideological “sliding scale” – and the overall ideological implications that it subsumes – is a confirmation of what we have been arguing all along in discussing an ideological apparatus such as the BBC.
We have noted how Guy Pewsey has interpreted the BBC’s ideological intentions as regards Nadiya’s television programme – the idea is “to continue to cement her [Nadiya’s] status as a national treasure”. This is not to be taken as Pewsey’s own, subjective understanding of what the BBC is trying to do. Nadiya’s The Happy Foodie site likewise informs us that “The nation’s sweetheart is back with a brand new cookbook and TV series…” [my emph.].
Of course, when ideological apparatuses celebrate the new, multiculturalist Eliza Doolittle as “a national treasure” or “the nation’s sweetheart”, they do so for a very specific purpose – they wish to offer an ideological counterbalance to the social reality of racial polarization, self-segregation and “decamping” which we have been presenting in this paper. One could perhaps contrast Nadiya’s “status” as an all-inclusive “national” paradigm to what one commentator in Nadiya’s own Facebook pages has to say. Samantha Jane Prosser, quite sincerely, writes as follows to Nadiya herself: “Love your programme and recipes and you seem like a lovely person but could you please stop saying ‘Oh my God’ everytime [sic] you eat something. I think I counted eight this time. You are extremely careful not to say Christmas throughout the show so please stop using the name of my God as an expletive. I’m sure if I said ‘Oh my Allah’ I’d be arrested”.
It is difficult to gauge the extent to which Prosser’s sentiments constitute a significantly representative sample – they nonetheless do point to the at least furtive ethnic-based or religious-based polarization within UK society. Such sentiments, further, point to the internal contradictions of whatever ideological project undertaken by apparatuses such as the BBC with respect to the new multiculturalism. These contradictions are not only apparent in the generalized dissonance that characterizes the relationship between the BBC and large segments of its viewers. Even active participants in BBC programmes do not always align themselves with the ideological intentions of such programmes. Nadiya herself is a case in point: while the BBC wishes to present her as a “national” paradigm, she does not necessarily see herself as such. In her other, more personal, blog [simply named Nadiya], we read of a TV conversation she held with BBC’s John Bishop – there, “Nadiya speaks candidly… on being ‘the most vocal representative of Muslims on British TV’…” [my emph.]. Here, the whole concept of Nadiya as a “national treasure” is radically delimited in terms of a very specific ethnicity.
Our attempt to understand the role of the UK State in a context of racial polarization and White “decamping” has underlined the role of ideological practices, and especially as these are being executed by the BBC. We shall here end our discussion of the BBC by simply adding some more general observations pertaining to this corporation:
● In response to an article published in LinkedIn [Jeff Jarvis, “The Spiegel scandal and the seduction of storytelling”, 29.12.2018, https://www.linkedin.com], a commentator by the name of Chris Blake – who focuses his attention on the BBC in particular and does so “from a British perspective” – points to “… the very left wing Jill Darbyshire show five mornings a week [on BBC Two]…” [my emph.]. He is most probably referring to Victoria Derbyshire’s daily news and current affairs show, which has often been dubbed “a left wing propaganda machine” by BBC viewers [cf., for instance, Neil Maclean, 29.05.2017, bbccomplaints.com].
● Chris Blake also notes that decisions taken on questions of BBC editorial content are “blatantly political and blatantly politically biased”.
● Finally, he makes the following very important observation: “If any government in the UK proposed a reform which benefited 99.9% of the population, the Beep [BBC]… would choose a case from the .1% to highlight, and give it prominence, with suitable balance. Balance itself is deceptive…”
● Blake’s observations would be seconded by other, better known, British personalities. These would include people who have worked or are working for the BBC [and which further confirms our suggestion above, in discussing the case of Nadiya, that even active participants in BBC programmes do not always align themselves with the ideological intentions of the corporation]. Consider the following text published in Chortle [“BBC comedy is unchallenged left-wing propaganda”, https://www.chortle.co.uk, 14.11.2018]: “BBC political presenter Andrew Neil has complained that the corporation’s comedy output is too left-wing… He especially singled out BBC Two’s The Mash Report as ‘self satisfied, self adulatory, unchallenged left-wing propaganda… When it comes to so called comedy, the BBC has long given up on balance, on radio and TV’…”
● Even British Left-wing intellectuals have pointed to the BBC’s promotion of a specific ideological agenda and concomitant lack of whatever objectivity. Writing in the Facebook pages of British Politics after Brexit, Tim Pendry has made a number of critical observations with respect to the corporation. Bemoaning the quality of Channel 4 programmes [“Channel 4… oh how that station has fallen!” – cf. his text entitled “Degradation”, 5.01.2019], Pendry writes: “Why is the quality of research at major broadcasters like Channel 4 so poor? Is this evidence that they are not looking to ask questions but have become entities seeking to make points? Are they tapping into our emotions at the expense of trying to get us to ‘think’? All the evidence of narrative driven, ‘story-telling’ journalism is that it is shallow and useless when it comes to driving effective policy change. Journalism today degrades policy-making by forcing it into patronizing [or matronizing] simplifications and human interest angles that allow the public to graze emotionally around difficult issues”. And he concludes: “… we have a piss-poor media community that seems incapable of asking basic analytical questions or offering a semblance of objectivity because of the appalling level of critical thinking amongst their researchers and editors” [my emph.].
Put together, the observations made by Blake, Maclean, Neil and Pendry allow us to draw the following important conclusions regarding the BBC [as also the UK’s mainstream media community]:
● The BBC is ideologically biased [Blake, Maclean, Neil, Pendry];
● The BBC promotes a specific Left-wing ideology [Blake, Maclean, Neil];
● The BBC’s promotion of ideology is non-critical and emotion-based – it is thus characterized by a patronizing over-simplification of social reality [Pendry];
● The BBC uses apparently apolitical programmes – such as comedy – to promote its ideological discourse [Neil – and remember also the case of Nadiya’s own apolitical show];
● The BBC focuses on minority interests [Blake];
● The functioning of the BBC as an ideological apparatus is autonomous of the government [Blake];
● In the last instance, the functioning of the BBC as an ideological apparatus is ineffectual or “useless” [Pendry], pointing to the disjuncture characterizing the relationship between such an apparatus and large segments of civil society. As noted above, such disjuncture has been further exacerbated by the fact that apparatuses such as the BBC are almost obsolete, one-way disseminators of information that are now systematically being challenged by the open and multiple interaction available to civil society via the social media. It goes without saying that this yawning ideological gap between the BBC and large segments of UK society is not restricted to that particular institution. In fact, all ideological apparatuses of the “old establishment” that could once decree what – or who – was “proper”, “influential”, etc., are now confronted by the interactional challenges ensuing, on an ongoing basis, from the social media. When, for instance, the UK’s Debrett’s [the authority, founded in 1769, on questions of etiquette and proper behaviour] rules that Nadiya Hussain belongs to one of the 500 most “influential” people in the UK, one cannot refrain from raising a critical eyebrow, albeit perhaps unfairly so.
We know that the BBC’s so-called Left-wing ideological discourse is of a very specific nature – viz. to promote a multiculturalism very much reminiscent of the “New Labour” discourse referred to above. Such ideological functioning, we have argued, must be placed within the context of a racially or ethnically polarized UK society, and the concomitant phenomenon of “decamping”. We shall end this paper with a number of observations further demonstrating such social context, as also pointing to the corresponding reactions of the State.
In 2016, Ted Cantle – the Government adviser on matters relating to “community cohesion” [op. cit.] – would suggest that, by 2021, racial and/or ethnic polarization would be even greater [cf., inter alia, www.dailymail.co.uk, 04.11.2016]. His advice was that Government should “intervene” so as to ensure what he calls “ethnic balance”. This indicates that academics such as Cantle would wish to see the “ideological interventions” of apparatuses such as the BBC being further supplemented and reinforced by direct, administrative “interventions” on the part of the State or central Government. It is in response to just such advice that, by 2018, Theresa May’s Government would come up with its “Integrated Communities Strategy green paper” [cf. https://gov.uk, 14.03.2018 – the official description of this green paper reads as follows: “The Integrated Communities Strategy green paper invites views on the government’s vision for building strong integrated communities where people – whatever their background – live, work, learn and socialize together, based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities”]. While the Conservatives are not exactly toeing the line of “New Labour” ideology, they nonetheless have little choice but to attempt to deal with a de facto situation – that of racial polarization – inherited from Blair’s Government. We in any case know that David Cameron had himself said in 2011 that he would want to see the end of “state multiculturalism” [cf. BBC News, 11.02.2011].
An important quasi-Parliamentary apparatus promoting different forms of administrative “intervention” in the field of race or ethnic relations is the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration [APPGSI – cf. its website, https://socialintegrationappg.org.uk; cf., as well, our Paper 2a]. This “informal” cross-party group – chaired by the Labour politician Chuka Umunna – has as its aim the “breaking down [of] barriers to integration”. Umunna explains the group’s position as follows: “Too often the integration of immigrants is depicted as a means of shutting down multiculturalism and replacing it with the politics of assimilation or, worse still, pandering to the politics of hate. This is a fundamental misunderstanding. A strategic and proactive integration agenda is the best way of protecting our diverse, multicultural communities from the peddlers of hatred and division”.
The APPGSI wishes to make practical recommendations in response to UK’s situation of racial polarization – its “Interim Report” of 2016 states: “So the task before us now is to design and deliver a meaningful integration programme which will work for all parts of the UK…” [my emph.]. Its overall strategy is to push for some sort of a decentralized, “regionally-led immigration system”. And yet, Umunna more or less openly admits that the phenomenon of racial polarization continues to be a vicious circle – as he puts it: “It’s clear that, whilst the UK is becoming increasingly diverse, levels of integration are not keeping pace” [cf. Mail Online, op. cit., my emph.].
The intended function of State or quasi-State apparatuses such as APPGSI is to intervene in UK society by attempting to promote, coordinate and, in the last instance, impose a “multiculturalist integration” onto a civil society segments of which have already chosen a self-generated “social apartheid” or “decamping”. Why such intended imposition is not keeping pace with social reality is best explained by Umunna himself: “This has real implications for community cohesion – with social segregation having been shown to undermine trust between neighbours, to grow the fear of crime and bolster the prejudice which fuels the politics of recrimination and blame” [ibid., my emph.]. Umunna therefore clearly acknowledges the reality of a grassroots-generated “social segregation”. Such spontaneously engendered “apartheid” determines the sentiments between different ethnic communities – these include lack of trust, fear and a mutual “prejudice”. It is this ingrained division between ethnic communities that creates the need for State intervention in its attempt to break the viciousness of the circle.
To conclude, we may quote Hasan Suroor [op. cit.], who argues that this viciousness of the circle cannot be broken since it is “multiculturalism” itself that causes UK’s “social segregation” [and that, despite the intentions of Umunna’s APPGSI] – he writes: “There is a strong view – once restricted to the right but now increasingly mainstream – that… segregation… is, in fact, a direct result of multiculturalism, which has allowed people to remain trapped in their own cultural milieus with no pressure to integrate. Nor, for that matter, has the ‘host’ community been encouraged to integrate with immigrant groups, leaving both sides to, just about, tolerate each other” [my emph.]. That such a view is becoming “increasingly mainstream” points to the contradictions and limits of State ideology.