Who are the British?

The week of the Conservative Party conference is always good for a laugh, and this year’s has been one of the best. Or at least it would have been if what they have been saying was remotely funny. Now that they are back in power without the moderating influence of the LibDems we are beginning to see what they are really all about.

In their efforts to bring back supporters who have drifted into parties such as UKIP, they have ramped up the “little Britain”, approach that has always been there, but recently kept under wraps. But as the likes of Ian Duncan Smith, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove pour out their idiotic and damaging ideas to an increasingly right wing audience, Theresa May’s approach to Immigration is not only laughable, it is frightening and divisive.

But even she was outdone by last weekend’s Mail on Sunday article that criticised BBC’s The Great British Bake off for having a Muslim woman in the final. It is not often that a newspaper article gets me angry, but this one did. Not that I read it first-hand! Heaven forbid that I would ever actually read a reactionary rag like the Mail – it was quoted in the “I” earlier this week, and repeated a few times online.

I have always felt proud to be British, to be part of a tolerant and multicultural society. But when I come across the likes of Britain First, UKIP and some elements of the Tory party, I just feel shame and embarrassment.

I remember a debate many years ago when one anti-EU campaigner said to me: “nobody asked us if we wanted a multicultural society.” Well no, they didn’t, but that doesn’t matter because they we born into it anyway. Britain has embraced multiculturalism for generations but often without realising it. Our society is built on a mixture of nationalities and cultures. From the early invaders (Romans, Vikings, Saxons and Normans) to the more recent migrations from the old Empire and those fleeing persecution (the Huguenots and the Jews), Britain has always offered a safe haven for those in need. Our language and culture reflect this continual influx of ideas and influences. That is the Britain I am proud of. Not the Empire building, jingoistic Britain that some would have us believe we are.

When things are tough, as they are now, it is easy to point to the finger at those in our society who are different or present and easy target and lay the blame for our woes at their feet. But it is not migrants fleeing persecution and war that have caused our economic problems, but greedy bankers and politicians. Our housing shortages cannot be blamed on the “foreigners”, but by the lack of investment and foresight by successive governments, both Labour and Conservative. And the NHS is facing financial melt-down because of a lack of funding and a top down culture, or by the growing costs of dealing with home-grown health problems related to diet and alcohol. It is not being brought to it’s knees by migrants.

We are an island nation, but we are also part of a much wider global community. Britain’s strength stemmed from our willingness to embraced new ideas and absorb other cultures and make them our own. Don’t let the radical ideas of a minority threated that great heritage.

I truly believe that the majority of people in the UK feel as I do, that we must continue to embrace people from other cultures. It is what has made us the nation we are.

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