INTEGRATION IN THE UK: THE NEED FOR A DIFFERENT MOTIVATOR?

Pictured: An “We Love LDN” sign, erected in London Bridge after the attacks this summer. 12th July, 2017. Picture: author’s own.
This author believes that integration and extremism in the UK may have a link (that is still under- researched), but we should be wary of using incidences like London Bridge, Westminster and Manchester to ramp up efforts of integration — issues of integration need an agenda of their own, and shouldn’t be pursued for reasons aside from their own importance.

From Trevor Phillips’ 2005 assertion that we, as a country, were “sleepwalking to segregation”[1] to last year’s report by Louise Casey[2] that we still weren’t doing enough for integration in our communities, the UK has had a tough ride when it comes to the concept of integration and this looks unlikely to end anytime soon.

Regardless of the fact that both reports had methodological inconsistencies, and from Phillip’s view, were not geographically sound, it is indeed true that the UK has attempted- and short of failed- to promote policies of integration that we could be ‘proud’ of and that other countries would emulate.

This, I believe, was not through want of trying. A good example of a time where integration was considered an issue was through the lens of identity alignment/construction. This was enabled through citizenship classes in the education system and a respectable effort to promote the idea of the UK having shared values[3]. People from my generation will remember their citizenship classes- and learning about critical thought, democratic involvement and the appreciation of equality and diversity in the UK. It is easy to see how this promotes integration- by promoting the idea of British identity itself, and the benefits that come with actively participating in society with this identity, the idea of whole communities actively participating is higher.

However, the era of New Labour and citizenship classes as a measure to deal with integration is long over. With new governments come new political challenges. The foremost challenge that the country faces after Brexit, you can argue, is extremism. These thoughts, presented as an ideological chasm in our communities, seek to wreak havoc on the same things as I was taught in citizenship: how the extremism that made Thomas Mair to murder a MP in broad daylight or the extremism that led Salman Abedi to blow up 22 innocent people has no place in the UK, in the communities that we love, and the values that we know and share widely.

Furthermore, tackling extremism in the UK has led to policies that we believe will act as defence against extremism: the teaching of “British Values” as a statutory footing in replacement of citizenship and a duty of nurses and teachers to report actions or thoughts that they think undermine these values. Of course, within these defences is the idea that integration could be the key to success: the idea that a community that is integrated is more likely to deter religious conservatism and help foster relations of trust between its citizens (and assuming that if this is the case, they are more likely to report extremism).

It is easy, or perhaps lazy, to link such political challenges with issues like integration and segregation. I ask- do the communities of the UK not deserve more than a set of local indicators [4] in which to measure their integration?

Integration matters do not warrant the muscular liberalism that Cameron famously exampled in his 2011 speech in Munich- “[W]e’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong”[5]- but an understanding that integration success is also a success for rule of law; for democratic involvement; for productivity and for its health geographies. It does not simply defend these elements, it protects their right to exist.

In the UK, it is only when we stop regarding integration as the solution to other problems that we can help improve it. Matters of integration should not need, and do not need, a political by-line- they didn’t pre-2001, and they shouldn’t now.

[1] Trevor Phillips, September 2005, speech to Manchester Council for Community Relations. Available from: https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A3=ind0509&L=CRONEM&E=quoted-printable&P=60513&B=%EF%BF%BD%E2%80%94_%3D_NextPart_001_01C5C28A.09501783&T=text%2Fhtml;%20charset=iso-8859%E2%80%931&pending=

[2] Louise Casey, 2016, “The Casey revew: a review into opportunity and integration”. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/575975/The_Casey_Review_Executive_Summary.pdf

[3] Sir Keith Ajedbo, 2007, Diversity and Citizenship Curriculum Review [pdf]

[4] ibid., p.17

[5] David Cameron, 2011, speech at the Munich Security Conference. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-at-munich-security-conference