It is the debate on everybody’s lips – just how British are we? Last week came plans for a British Day. Then Gordon Brown spoke of ‘British jobs for British people’. As a new study demands we celebrate ‘where we live’ to combat social division, is there any way to define a nation’s values? Report by Ned Temko, Jo Revill and Amelia Hill Luton yesterday morning was bathed in early summer sunshine. A Women’s Institute stall peddled home-made cakes outside the Arndale Shopping Centre. Giggling Asian schoolgirls in full veils, or niqabs, shared benches with African immigrants and eastern Europeans. It was, on the face of it, an advert for happy multi-culturalism. But it is precisely places like this ancient English market town, now more famous for its airport, which Gordon Brown and other politicians have in mind in their fevered efforts to bind an increasingly diverse nation together with some shared sense of ‘Britishness’. Luton, by all appearances a tranquil mix of its estimated 140 different nationalities, gained unwanted notoriety after the cars used by the British-born 7/7 suicide bombers turned up in a local car park. One recent African Muslim immigrant yesterday remarked: ‘Britishness is a hazy thing. Even if we want to adopt the culture of this country, the dictates of religion remain a far clearer and more precise identity. This isn’t immigrants’ fault. It doesn’t mean anything sinister about loyalty to Britain. It’s human nature.’

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