With what amounts to staggering insensitivity and arrogance, the left-leaning Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), it was reported this week, is to publish a report saying that the celebration of Christmas should be downgraded to improve race relations.
In the interests of “evenhandedness”, the report says, and “if we are going to continue as a nation to mark Christmas - it would be very hard to expunge it from our national life, even if we wanted to - then public organizations should mark other religious festivals too” (my italics).
The timing of this pronouncement from one of the government’s favourite think tanks is extraordinary, given that, in the past few weeks, the wall of obfuscation, evasion and downright dishonesty which has for years surrounded the immigration and multiculturalism debate has finally started to crumble under the weight of reality.
However it shows that at the heart of the new establishment there remains a cultural self-loathing and lack of sympathy with the very idea of a national culture, something which is illustrated clearly in the wording of the above quote.
Next week, another annual national ritual takes place with Remembrance Day. The wearing of poppies remains a simple and universal way in which the public can show their respect for those who gave their lives in the service of their country.
Of course, with their extraordinary inverted logic, the so-called ‘peace’ lobby tends to eschew such gestures. We’ve come to expect this. Poppy-wearing is least in evidence on university campuses, or among gatherings of the self-appointed citizens of the world. Last week, I spoke at a conference attended by those who would mostly characterise themselves as being on the liberal left. Among the hundreds of the apparently caring, concerned individuals there, I saw not a single one wearing a poppy.
However amongst the wider population, it is becoming increasingly clear how this simple piece of quiet national commemoration has fallen foul of the disastrous social fragmentation which the IPPR, with its statements on Christmas, seems intent on promoting.
In particular, it is noticeable with each passing year how few members of ethnic minorities wear poppies. This is hardly surprising when one considers how different groups have been encouraged by the liberal establishment to retain their own cultures at all costs. Remembrance Day is seen as a tradition of the majority culture, of little relevance to minorities, and thus not one to be unduly encouraged.
This is completely wrong. If Remembrance Day is to remain, as it should, part of our national annual life, then the background and meaning of it must be explained at the first opportunity to all people living in this country. It is very simple. The best way would be for all primary school children – an increasing proportion of whom are from ethnic minorities – to be issued with a free poppy which they should wear for a week up to Remembrance Sunday itself.
It should be fully and fairly explained to them what is behind this small gesture. The prejudices and bigotry of the educational establishment should not be allowed to intrude.