Saturday, December 09, 2006

Who Moved My Multicultural Britain (Again)

Back in August I enthusiastically joined the widespread panic generated by Ruth ‘Head Girl’ Kelly in her new role as Community Secretary. My jaw dropped in dismay as I watched her launch a shiny new Commission for Integration and Cohesion by announcing,

‘We have moved from a period of uniform consensus on the value of multiculturalism to one where we can encourage that debate by questioning whether it is encouraging separateness.’

Moved? We didn’t even realise that our old friend multiculturalism was on the market. Still, if you’re going to have a year long commission into something, it obviously needs to start with a question or what would be the point? And, if you are going to be the head of a brand new government department, you need to get yourself noticed. Brightly coloured Oxfam jackets and resolutely unkempt hair just won’t distinguish you, as every other woman in cabinet is following the same style guidelines. You need to get in there and start stamping your mark out on sensitive ground. And it worked. Once we realised that our dear old multiculturalism was about to be wrenched from us and replaced with a duty to ‘integrate’, we legged it to the nearest community centre to add our individual squares to the first available ‘Respect with a capital R’ quilt.

Today, Blah Blah Blair made a small step towards realigning us with our natural inclination to be indifferent to each others’ beliefs and lifestyles. We are still allowed to celebrate our diversity. There was relief all round as he even encouraged us to do so. Just as well as I didn’t want to have to throw away the ‘living in harmony’ fridge magnet I made at our last neighbourhood fun day. However, there are some harsh provisos which, in a bold display of clarity, he conveyed to some young people at Downing Street this morning. Such a shame he finally masters the art of sentences just as he’s about to go. Heigh-ho - that’s politics. He explained,

‘The right to be in a multicultural society was always implicitly balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain, to be British and Asian, British and black, British and white.’

I must say I was not previously aware of my duty to be multicoloured but I will do my best to comply if it will contribute towards greater community cohesion. I have a tube of Loctite somewhere too and I’ll be happy to dig that out if it will help. Blah Blah demolished contention by crystallising the main issue,

‘Integration is not about culture or lifestyle but about shared values.’

These shared values are not, as you might suppose, a duty to eat chips with all meals, get bladdered on Friday night and drive your child to school even if the school is next door. Blah Blah left us in no doubt,

‘When it comes to our essential values - belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage - then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common.’

It would not be a Blah Blah speech without the launching of a ‘raft’ of those lovely ‘practical measures’ of which he is so fond. In a speech prefaced on fairness and tolerance it wouldn’t be right to flag up a particular section of the community for failing to meet its integration targets. Blah Blah was, of course, the very soul of diplomacy. In outlining six ‘key elements’ of a new policy designed to ensure everyone achieves this heightened understanding of ‘what it means to be British’, Blah Blah simply pointed out some areas where remedial assistance may be offered to those still struggling to comply with what, after all, is just common sense. I didn't get it all down verbatim so you will have to rely on my interpretation which is as follows:-

1) There’ll be no more grants for ethnic communities to squander on getting us to sample their strange music and over-tasty food. Although it should be noted that Bangra music is quite cool and therefore inherently British and curry always was British as everyone is aware.

2) Unequal treatment of women will not be tolerated except where there is money involved (e.g. wages, pensions, services, family breakdown etc). Sexual harassment will obviously still be allowed (especially if alcohol is involved) but should be limited to those outside the immediate family.

3) There will be no recognition of any religious laws other than the Ten Commandments. Those unfamiliar with these should check Christmas TV schedules for a reading by Charlton Heston.

4) No religious fanatics will be allowed into Britain apart from Billy Graham and George W Bush.

5) Faith schools will be twinned with schools of a different faith to afford them the opportunity to discover how much they have in common and hold competitions for the best window boxes.

6) There will be a new requirement for all immigrants to demonstrate a decent command of English as a condition of full citizenship. Nurses and school teachers will obviously be exempt as drastic shortages mean we can’t be too picky.

People not adequately contributing to integration will know who they are. Blah Blah is not prepared to accept any excuses for radicalism and especially not that hoary old chestnut about aggressive foreign policy. Britain has always been aggressive towards other countries and it is an integral part of our rich cultural heritage. Citizens should also note that, ‘deprivation is a bad thing.’ Anyone found being deprived will be dealt with severely and will forfeit their Farepak hamper containing Spam, R Whites lemonade, pound shop mince pies and other Christmas essentials.

News just in – Spanish authorities are considering new rules for British citizens resettling in their country. Ex-pats may be asked to at least learn how to say 'please' and 'thank you' in Spanish, pay taxes on their bar takings and Gibraltar bank accounts and make more of an effort not to become involved in cocaine smuggling. The Foreign Office will be putting forward a swift and robust objection to this unacceptable threat to human rights and civil liberties – and rightly so…

Picture - Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments (by a higher power of your choice)


hairdresser said...

I am so sick of all of this. Thanks for treating it with the contempt it deserves.

NewsElephant said...

I heard that would-be immigrants are to be asked special integration questions as part of the UK Citizenship Test.

Ms Melancholy said...

Pants, thank you so much. I have had a truly horrible day but you have made me laugh so much I was reaching for the Tena Lady. BTW, did you see George breaking the incredible news at his conference with Blair that 'Iraq is very bad......[long pause]'? We all wait expectantly for his astute political analysis....and then wait some more. Even Blair looked embarrassed.

That's so pants said...

Hi Hairdresser. I'm quite sick of it too but if it didn't exist I'd have almost nothing to write about. It gives me something to do.

Welcome newselephant - great name. Yes the UK citizenship test is a great one. It will certainly catch out those who aren't serious about contributing to our rich heritage in a positive way. Reminds me very much of the excellent movie Green Card.

Hi Ms Melancholy - glad to be of service since you make me laugh very often too. Who needs Little Britain? Yes - Blair/Bush press conference gave me a giggle. I was very comforted to see the anguish on Blah Blah's face. He who sleeps with loose canon could end up with balls on toast for breakfast.

Ms Baroque said...

I'm dying to take that citizenship test, actually. Especially after the fracas I had with Imimgration lat summer, long story, suffice to say it was not pleasant. But I'm still here. I eagerly await my opprtunity to show hoiw intergrated I am: "What? What do you MEAN, life in the UK? I remember when Thatcher as in power, at least you knew who the enemy was, selling off the family silver, never had it so good, and have you BEEN on the tube lately, talk about care in the community, see there's no aircon planned for the bloody Victoria Line, they should think of THAT, and the Olympics! we'll all be bankrupt after that, someone should be strung up, Red Ken my eye, and the state of the pavements...!! Don't talk to ME about it, the way the council tax goes up at this rate we'll all be in negative income brackets and will they fix the street lights THEN? Bloody do-gooding PC councils, did we even get a Christmas tree outside town hall this year? Trying to ban christmas, bloody immigrants. English culture, what we want is..." (fade out into Great Bores of Today)

Do you think they'll let me stay?

That's so pants said...

Ms B - congratulations, you are a true Brit. Your season ticket for Millwall is in the post. See you on the terraces. Mine's a pint btw.