BY DAVID EYLES
For the last four years or so, political battles have been fought, won and lost upon the Brexit issue. The punditry in the media have claimed that “Brexit has divided Britain”. But my contention is that Brexit has not, in itself, divided Britain. What has happened is that the internet and social media have developed and become much more widely used at all levels of society. This has enabled the public to be better informed than they ever were under the dominance of the BBC and others. These august, imperious institutions – creations of the early Twentieth Century – acted as gatekeepers for the amount and kind of information reaching the public.
But this hegemony has broken down irretrievably. The public are now better informed and more sharply critical of the failings of the political and administrative classes than they have ever been before. The fault lines in our society were not created by Brexit – they have been there for a very long time. Brexit, and the attendant magnifying glass of the internet, have simply exposed these divisions for all to see.
One of these divisions is that of racism. Racism has always been with us, in a variety of unpleasant forms, and probably always will be in some way or another. But over the decades of my lifetime, racial tensions have gradually declined. The UK is now officially recognised as one of the least racist countries in Europe. However, the media punditry insists that racism is getting worse.
But are they right? And if so, then where is this growth in racism coming from?
One particular form of racism – antisemitism – has made headlines a lot recently. It has been mentioned specifically in the context of the Labour Party. So bad and so many were the allegations against members and former members of the Labour Party, that it is now under the investigation of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The only other UK political party to have been investigated for racism by the EHRC has been the British National Party. Antisemitism never used to be a problem for Labour, but it has increased in intensity ever since Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and his support by Momentum activists. This would suggest that the racism is coming mostly from the hard Left of the party.
Another form of racism which is entering UK political discourse is more subtle. From time to time, tensions between India and Pakistan flare up over disputed territory in Kashmir. These disputes then over-spill into riots and violence within India, usually between Muslims and Hindus. The ripples from these rivalries travel far and wide and sometimes wash up upon England’s shores – albeit in a much diluted form.
Boris Johnson’s Cabinet is made of 22 members, including himself. Of these, four are classified as ‘BAME’ (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic). Notice that on this link, the BBC has handily provided a button so that you can check who the women and/or BAME Cabinet members actually are. From this, it can be seen that the BAMEs comprise 18% of the Cabinet. This is much higher than the population at large, and so the average small “c” conservative will say (as I did) that all the diversity boxes have been ticked and there’s no need to worry about ‘lack of representation’ in the Cabinet.
Sadly, this does not satisfy the Identitarian Left (or Cultural Marxists if you prefer).
The curious observer of recent articles written in The Guardian might notice that a large amount of space has been given over for criticism of a number of Cabinet ministers. Apparently by coincidence, nearly all of this has been directed at the BAME ministers, and very little towards towards the others. Suella Braverman has had particular attention in this respect. In the last four days, Priti Patel has grabbed the headlines continuously for her difficulties with Sir Philip Rutnam. One would be forgiven to thinking that the only members of government worth talking about are the BAMEs.
The Guardian’s obsession with our BAME Cabinet ministers is provocative. Those incorrigible wags amongst you might argue that it is because they are the ‘wrong sort of brown’ and have all originated from India – to the exclusion of other places. Perhaps, one might suggest, it is because they are all non-Muslims. Or maybe a combination of both – and a third characteristic acting as a detonator. That is: these four ministers are a) British Indian in origin, b) are all non-Muslim, and c) are Tories. That BAME electors might wish to vote Conservative is bad enough. But to have them running the country in a Conservative government is too much to bear. It would seem that the Identitarian Left feel strongly that they ‘own’ all BAME citizens of the UK.
This article in The Guardian explains the problem and is intriguing for a number of reasons. Not least are its direct allegation of ‘Tory racism’ and of stirring up racial tensions between Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Muslim during the last election campaign. There is no evidence given for these allegations, but that does not worry its author, Neha Shah, who is identified as an ‘activist and researcher at the University of Oxford’. In which case, no evidence is needed. Apparently.
There a number of levels at which this article can be read. A number of people thought it amounted to racism. The following tweet from Frank Furedi, who is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent, gives one interpretation:
This certainly stacks up because of the way the article uses historical events to arrive at an ideologically driven conclusion. It is the stuff of post-colonial studies and critical race theory – or, as Furedi points out, it is identity politics writ large. In particular, Furedi highlights Shah’s use of the term ‘subordinate ruling class’ which is an equivalent of the term ‘subaltern’ as used by Antonio Gramsci. Both terms mean “any group that is excluded from the dominant hegemony [the ruling class] of a society and is thus denied the same benefits of the dominant class.” 
What Ms Shah seems to be saying is that modern British Indians and their political allegiances are merely re-playing their former colonial roles and acting as ‘subalterns’ or inferior rulers, to the Conservative government and Boris Johnson’s Cabinet. This is remarkably crass and does not countenance the possibility that these ministers might actually have been chosen for their abilities and beliefs in Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. In a more general sense, it insinuates that British Indians are still, here in the Twenty-First century, the craven servants of their colonial masters.
The Left seem to have a big problem with racism. Their growing antisemitism is well recorded and was especially noticeable during the election campaign. But the more acute observers of the Left, who have watched the growth of identity politics, have observed that the ultimate logic of making everyone conscious of the colour of their own skin has consequences. That is, the identity and colour automatically (and without appeal) then assigns people to a Victim Class or an Oppressed Class. People are then serially patronised or insulted, by the Left, according to whether they are deemed to be Victims or Oppressors. An example of those distinctions being used to political effect is here demonstrated by Diane Abbott.
Ms Shah has unwittingly affirmed that the ultimate destination of critical race theory, identity politics and all the rest, is to lead us right back to racism – which is what most of us thought we had got rid of thirty years ago.
The Guardian has a perfectly legitimate line of commentary and criticism of the BJP government in India led by Narendra Modi. It is no secret that The Guardian is very Left-wing and that they seem to favour Muslims in their news reporting. However, it also seems to be concentrating unduly upon the ethnicity of members of the UK Conservative government, whilst commenting adversely upon the activities of those ministers. Neha Shah’s article has brought these biases into sharp relief.
Whilst the Muslim/Hindu unrest continues in India, we should be aware that the effects are also felt here in the UK and that tensions between the two communities are rising. This is a short clip of a group of Muslims who, on the 27th February, staged a prayer session on the public footpath in Ealing High Street – an area of Hindu majority. I will leave it to the reader to decide whether this is an altogether commendable, if rather public, display of religious observance. Or whether it was a deliberate act of provocation. Whichever it was, the effect was to raise tensions between Hindu and Muslim in London.
For its own part, at a subliminal level, The Guardian seems to be operating a similar provocative tactic. The post-Brexit divisions in our society are not entirely a figment of the media’s fervid imaginations. But the media itself does a good deal of agitating to exacerbate any differences – until these differences become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps it is time for a period of self-reflection for The Guardian’s editorial team.
David Eyles spent the first twenty years of his career as a quantity surveyor in civil engineering. He started work on the Thames Barrier Project in the mid 1970s and from there moved on to building hardened aircraft shelters in East Anglia – those being the days of a rather warm Cold War. On RAF Lakenheath, he was once observed nearly slithering his mini under the wheels of a taxiing F111 loaded up with tactical nuclear weapons. If nothing else, it would have been one helluva motor insurance claim and a sense of humour loss by the US Air Force. Later, he went to Nigeria for two years to build roads and see first hand what corruption can do to bring down an intrinsically prosperous country. There he had his first experience of seeing British overseas aid being wasted. He returned to the UK and attempted to write a novel, but was instead diverted into bird ringing and spent far too many nights chasing radio tagged Nightjars around Wareham Forest at dangerously high speed. By a mysterious route, then fell into farming via six worn out commercial hens; and wound up with a flock of 350 Dorset Down ewes and forty Traditional Hereford cattle. He then divorced, changed his life and arrived in Cornwall to find solace in the pedantry of hard data, wonderful pubs, good people and writing. His other interest include walking; some very poor quality photography; the philosophy of consciousness as it pertains to animals and humans; and a certain amount of politics. David’s writing can be found here.