NCF director Peter Whittle has a new column in Standpoint magazine, Whittle's London.
"London Pride has been handed down to us, London Pride is a flower that's free," sang Noël Coward. "London Pride means our own dear town to us, and our pride it forever will be." Coward was a bit before my time, and it certainly might sound corny to modern ears, but as the child of Peckham parents growing up in the 1960s and '70s, there was still for me a cultural resonance in his placing of this understated feeling as flourishing "from the Ritz to the Anchor and Crown".
Does London pride still exist? Yes, but it's a different kind now, and one Coward would probably have been perplexed by: a pride in not really being part of Britain. I've lost count of the number of times people have observed to me how London is no longer a British city, a comment sometimes made wistfully, but just as often with a sense of real achievement, as though something bad has been overcome.
This sort of pride, the New Pride we shall call it, exalts aggressively in London as some sort of breakaway city-state which one can join simply by existing here, a place which defines itself politically and culturally in opposition to nasty, boring old provincial Britain. To this extent London has followed in the footsteps of New York, which has always made the point that it is emphatically not America. To become a fully-fledged New Yorker, however, you do still have to spend a few years in the steel trenches if you want to earn your spurs; New Yorkers are very jealous of their collective identity. Not so now in our capital city — you're a Londoner virtually instantaneously.
Alongside the unprecedented demographic changes, this self-image makeover has happened with startling speed in far less than a single generation. But whether you are one of those who sees vibrancy and dynamism round every corner, or one of that unfashionable band who've been left reeling, most of us would at least agree that to keep the show on the road we should at least be able to understand each other.
If the new London really does see New York as its role model, it should take note of one distinctive difference. New York might be home to as many different ethnic groups as London, but, and this struck me forcibly on my last visit, they generally speak the same language. London, with a decades-old obsession with multiculturalism not shared by New York, is increasingly a fragmented place where it cannot be assumed that your neighbour, or the person next to you in the queue, will be able to communicate with you at the most basic level. And at its worst, this has led to increasingly entrenched communities in the capital in which English is not spoken simply because it doesn't have to be. If a common language is the essential glue which holds a cohesive society together, then London is in danger of becoming badly unstuck.
This throws into even sharper focus the efforts of one London mayor to buck the trend. The borough of Newham in the East End (pictured), which I can see across the river from my vantage point in Woolwich, is best known to the country as the place where the Olympics took place. Perhaps less known is that it is the most ethnically diverse area in the country, with white Britons accounting for less than 17 per cent, and no one group dominating. Newham's mayor, Sir Robin Wales, last year instituted a programme which focused on English as a way of promoting integration. Translation services were cut by 72 per cent, as was funding for events held by and for specific ethnicities which could not prove that they were "inclusive". Even foreign-language newspapers were removed from libraries (although free internet access to native language publications was retained).
There was some disingenuous Tory opposition to this, and the mayor was asked to account for his actions with the obligatory Newsnight appearance. But other than that, what is remarkable has been the very lack of controversy over measures which even in the very recent past would have been damned as intolerably draconian. The fact that the very diversity of groups in Newham has made these initiatives easier to implement than if the borough had been, say, 60 per cent white British, thus leading to the usual charges of racism, almost certainly helped, as probably did the fact that Sir Robin is Labour.
But this isn't the whole story. Right across the political board there is a growing acceptance that multiculturalism has led to far more problems than successes. We have come a long way indeed from the 1980s and the pillorying and subsequent professional destruction of Ray Honeyford, the Bradford headmaster who dared to suggest that it might be a good thing for his Asian pupils if they were taught English. If integration is indeed to replace separation as the new approach, it would be great news, so that it's not just in house prices that London is seen to be leading the way.
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Submitted by peterwhittle on Sun, 2014-03-02 17:52.
A major new report, An Unpunished Crime: The lack of prosecutions for female genital mutilation in the UK will reveal that the incidence of Female Genital Mutilation in the UK is far greater than previously thought.
The report, written by the author and journalist Julie Bindel and published by the New Culture Forum will be officially launched on Tuesday 21st January at Portcullis House as part of a major new campaign, Justice for FGM victims UK.
To download the report, go to the campaign's brand new website, www.justiceforfgmvictims.co.uk
The report features as a major news story in today's Sunday Times .
The report estimates that the number of girls at risk of FGM in the UK has increased several times over the last decade from 20,000 girls in England and Wales under the age of 15 to over 65,000 girls in England and Wales under the age of 13.
It also shows that during the last decade the number of women and girls in England and Wales aged 15 and over who are living with the consequences of FGM has increased approximately 2.5 times from 66,000 to an estimated 170,000.
‘Although public awareness of FGM has undoubtedly increased in recent years,’ says Julie Bindel, ‘it is astonishing that the issue is still being discussed on the basis of figures compiled well over a decade ago. These new figures, we hope, will bring a much needed urgency to the discussion of what should be done about what is, after all, a terrible form of abuse.’
Despite the escalating prevalence in Britain of FGM, and specific legislation enacted to outlaw the practice – the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 and the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 – not a single FGM perpetrator has been prosecuted.
All of this is in sharp contrast to the more rigorous approach in developing countries such as Kenya and Burkina Faso where three and over 95 people respectively have been prosecuted. France too has brought prosecutions.
Amongst the highly experienced professionals interviewed for the report are Keir Starmer KBC, former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Alison Saunders, the current DPP, and Linda Weil-Curiel, lawyer and specialist in the French legal position on FGM. Other interviewees include the activist and midwife Comfort Momoh MBE, Jason Ashwood of the Metropolitan Police and Jane Ellison MP.
Alongside identifying misplaced cultural sensitivities in relation to FGM, the report confirms alarming gaps in the responses of the UK’s health, education, social, policing and legal services to FGM. As part of the research, over 1,800 FOI requests were sent to police forces, local authorities, hospitals and schools across the UK and Wales.
The results unveil a worrying inadequacy in proper across-the-board training in FGM, as well as the recording and referring of cases, by and within institutions.
For example of the 166 local authorities that responded, a significant minority (51) stated that they did not provide FGM training at all; 58 out of 161 hospitals and 71 out of 296 schools also admitted to no training.
The FOI requests further reveal a worrying variation in the type and quality of training offered by these institutions. Owing in part to this lack of training, of the 3,032 FGM cases treated by hospitals during the 3-year period, a mere 248 (just 11%) were referred to local authorities and only 10 (5 %) to the police.
And of the 161 hospitals that responded to the FOI request, a remarkable 83 stated that they did not formally record FGM cases. In addition, of the 89 FGM case referrals to local authorities, only 11 girls were sent for medical examinations on the grounds of suspected FGM.
‘The lack of prosecutions in the UK has not been because of a lack of policy or legislation,’ concludes Bindel, ‘but rather an institutional unwillingness to, and ignorance about, enforcing the law”.
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Submitted by peterwhittle on Sun, 2014-01-19 09:34.
The findings of the NCF's major report Groupthink: Can we trust the BBC on Immigration? which was published last year, have been fully vindicated by the statements made by the corporation's own political editor, Nick Robinson.
Robinson, who presents The Truth About Immigration on BBC Two tonight at 9.30pm, has criticised the corporation for making a "terrible mistake" over its coverage of immigration, admitting it censored concerns amid fear they could trigger racism. He said BBC figures in charge during the late 1990s and early 2000s believed a "warts-and-all" debate over immigration would "unleash some terrible side of the British public".
The NCF report, which looked at the BBC's coverage of immigration over a 15 year period, revealed a sustained and systematic imbalance in the coverage of this hugely important issue across the whole of the corporation. It received widespread media coverage when it was published in June.
The author of the report, Ed West, commented: 'The BBC is part of the British social fabric, but as a monopoly broadcaster with far more political and cultural influence than all newspapers combined, and the gatekeeper of public debate, it has a responsibility to give space to both sides of a vitally important argument. In regards to immigration and wider issues of diversity and multiculturalism, it failed to do so. One of the many consequences of this historically unprecdented wave of immigration has been a steady decline in public institutions; I suspect that the considerable decline in trust in the BBC, as recorded in opinion polls over the last decade, is partly due to a feeling that it no longer represents the views of the British public.'
The report is available to download, left.
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Submitted by peterwhittle on Tue, 2014-01-07 15:42.
Very best wishes for 2014 from the NCF
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Submitted by peterwhittle on Tue, 2013-12-31 12:47.