I watched David Cameron’s speech live last weekend and the first thing I thought of was ‘political symbolism’ and not ‘sincerity’. Let’s look at the facts: he was in Munich with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Merkel last year told us how multiculturalism has failed. Cameron, coincidently had also pulled out of the European centre-right alliance, which angered Merkel, amongst others. It seems a little convenient how he is now he is saying how multiculturalism has failed.
Regardless of the symbolism, however, I would like to discuss the ethos of the speech. If there was a possibility of everyone thinking and being the same through their own free will then the idea of ‘being British’ first could seriously work. Unfortunately for Cameron this is an impossibility and so the almost secular path he is looking down is full of pitfalls and tensions.
My next issue is this concept of ‘being British’ – is there such a thing? The closest thing I could think of was how we, as a nation, are tolerant – flies further in the face of the words last weekend. You cannot impose a wooly concept anyway, let alone by rules which are wooly themselves.
With no thought of how the English Defence League was protesting in Luton on the same say he could only be perceived to be referring to Islam – a dangerous tactic. Whether he knew about the EDL event or not I seriously question his judgement.
However, it is also important to define what we mean by ‘integration’ and ‘multiculturalism’. This is key as often it means different things to different people and as such can cause major tension. If integration means we must all live in the same street then this is dangerous. Regardless of race/colour/creed/political views/class etc some people don’t get on with some people.
What is important is educating people to understand the differences and accept that the sterotypes are not necessarily true. As far as I can see we have two options: fully secular state which puts the nation ahead of beliefs/views or we educate people to be more tolerant through mixed schools and try and work through our differences (my notion of being ‘British’).
Cameron’s views are not necessarily wrong but completely unrealistic regarding his ‘Britishness’. He did it on the wrong day, with the wrong words and his vagueness only stokes the fire. The debate on multiculturalism and integration is politically charged – clearly defined terms should lead to a legitimate discussion rather than crossed wires and tensions.