• Sunday, April 21, 2024

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Britain needs to be more socially cohesive: Sajid Javid

The Bromsgrove MP says there is a need to encourage greater integration and come together under a shared sense of what citizenship of this country means

Sajid Javid

By: Shajil Kumar

Former Cabinet minister and Conservative party MP Sir Sajid Javid said he still believes the UK is the most successful multiracial democracy in the world, but lamented that it is not at ease with itself.

In a signed article in The Times, the Bromsgrove MP said the government’s new definition of “extremism” has resulted in a debate that is “high on emotions, low on solutions”. He said, “At the heart of the matter is a sickness of social cohesion across the country, and one that must be finally addressed.”

Recalling one of his initiatives as communities secretary, he said he had launched an integration strategy, “hoping to start a wider conversation about how we can build stronger, more united communities. Then, as now, it was clear that there are far too many divisions across the country. In the worst-affected areas, social mixing is reduced, distrust is prevalent and misunderstanding easily created. These are the perfect conditions for divisive voices to flourish.”

Javid pointed out that the problem is not simply a consequence of a “failure” of immigrants to integrate.

“Last week there was outrage from some about the creation of a war memorial to commemorate brave Muslims who served in the British armed forces. This hostile reaction did not exist when memorials were announced for equally valiant Sikh or Jewish soldiers.” He said some of the reactions were painful to hear as a ‘proud British Muslim’.

He also recalled his childhood in the seventies when “extremism was part of everyday life”. He says there is still “hostility on the streets” and there are politicians who are adding fuel to the fire.

To address this deep-seated separation it is important to debate beyond the “lightning rod of this new definition”.

“The first concerns a critical area of integration: improving language skills. In 2018, the ONS estimated that nearly 770,000 people in the UK could not speak English well or at all. Today, that figure has increased to almost one million,” he said.

“Building bridges between communities is clearly impossible if we don’t have a shared language,” he pointed out.

He has called for building more resilient communities based on British values.

To achieve this aim it is necessary to create a new “Department for Citizenship, Borders and Immigration”.

They can be drawn from the Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up “that can bring these issues together, without being distracted by other priorities such as policing and planning”.

Javid said the third area is looking at social cohesion as an economic problem.

“The underperformance of white working-class boys and high deprivation in areas of industrial decline highlight the challenges of many. Creating more opportunities for both immigrant and deprived communities is therefore essential in offering hope for the future.”

Javid lamented that politicians have shied away from these issues for far too long.

He said, “Extremists will always seek to sow seeds of division. But alongside targeting their hate, we urgently need to strengthen our communities, encourage greater integration and come together under a shared sense of what citizenship of this country means — and requires.”

He warned that failure to do so would have grave consequences.

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