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“The M… word”: multiculturalism under Cameron

Olivier Esteves
p. 21-40

Résumé

This paper seeks to analyse both the immediate context and the specific contents of the Munich Speech by David Cameron (05. 02. 2011), before moving on to a discussion of the extent to which race was a marginal element in the riots that shook England in August 2011. The credit crunch and the massive Welfare State roll-back under the coalition government serve as a backdrop to both parts.

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Texte intégral

  • 1  Quoted in Varun Uberoi, Tariq Modood, “Inclusive Britishness : a multiculturalist advance”, Politi (...)

1 “Multiculturalism is a boo word”: so spoke a Labour backbencher at a conference where Tariq Modood gave a talk in December 20111. Indeed, many British, and more general European politicians don’t exactly know what they oppose when they denounce multiculturalism but they know that they have to oppose it, otherwise they might well court electoral disaster. Quite often, as was the case when the then president Nicolas Sarkozy lamented, on TF1, « dans toutes nos démocraties on s’est trop préoccupé de l’identité de celui qui arrivait et pas assez de l’identité du pays qui accueillait », one gets a (deliberate or not) confusion between a multiculturalist public policy and multiculturalism as a social fact. Sarkozy’s soundbite was heard on February 10th 2011, a mere five days after David Cameron had spoken on the failure of “the doctrine of state multiculturalism”. This was in Munich, during the Munich Security Conference (the 50th of its kind). Such facile critique is confirmed by Pnina Werbner’s appropriate description of what looks like a Manichean political straitjacket :

  • 2  Quoted from Pnina Werbner, “Multiculturalism from Above and Below : Analysing a Political Discours (...)

2It is a discourse characterised by constant seepage across academia, the media, politicians and ethnic-cum-religious public actors on whether multiculturalism is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, whether it has created ‘bridges’ (more solidarity) or ‘failed’ (and is thus divisive). Multiculturalism is in this sense often a performative utterance, played out in front of an audience hostile to immigrants, Islam or the West, or alternatively, ‘liberal’ or ‘cosmopolitan’, enjoying and embracing diversity2.

3Another moot point is that, as the title of her article suggests,

  • 3  Although Werbner does not touch upon this, it is fair to imagine that much of the anti-elitist ele (...)

4 I would like here to broaden the notion of multiculturalism Werbner apprehends the conservative backlash against “multiculturalism” as stemming from a fairly simplistic view that it has been a liberal policy imposed from above. In fact, in the British case, multiculturalism has often been about policy choices negotiated with (Black And Minority Ethnic) BAME communities at grassroots level3. used in this chapter’s title to a discussion of some specific ethnic minority issues under the Cameron-Clegg coalition government. This chapter will prioritise a discussion of the Munich speech held on February 5th 2011 before we move on to the question of whether race was a key element in the 2011 riots. As we go along, a few specific points will be made on the issues of education and housing, in historical as well as contemporary terms. Education under Cameron is more broadly discussed in a chapter by Anne Beauvallet.

The Munich speech

  • 4  Quoted in “An Almost Unbearable Insecurity : Cameron’s Munich Speech”, Working Paper n° 6 given at (...)

5 One word first of all on the immediate context to the speech. This was delivered not during some European conference on integration or discrimination, but during a European security conference, which have been held since 2004. This setting itself invited Cameron, if he were to talk about multiculturalism at all, to deal with it in law and order, intelligence or counter-terrorism terms rather than, say, in terms of unemployment, housing, or discrimination policy. That the British P.M. made clear from the onset : “Today I want to focus my remarks on terrorism”. The fact that Cameron had a kind of double addressee, a global public opinion which includes British citizens (and voters), also invited him to deal with race relation issues in general, even vague terms, understandable to the greatest number, indeed, as we will see, comforting to the (non-Muslim) majority’s sense of themselves. Cameron’s speech was also comforting to both Merkel and Sarkozy, expressing similar general views either before (Merkel, in October 2010) and after (Sarkozy), thereby suggesting that at least in this regard, there is a sense of European cohesion uniting these three countries. Combine these elements together, and you get what Brian Klug has aptly referred to as a pervading, albeit vague, sense of “threat” : “ ‘Threat’ hangs in the air, looming over the speech as a whole : we listen as if under a cloud”4.

6 The Munich speech was in fact the first speech by Cameron on issues of terrorism and the radicalisation of Muslim youths. That it should have taken about eight months before the new conservative Prime Minister was to tackle these questions a in public speech speaks volumes about the way certain race relations issues have somewhat been superseded by other pressing matters, such as the credit crunch and the many questions around it. This is not to say, however, that Muslims have less been prejudiced and less victimized than, say, at the time of 7/7, despite the fact that for such a young religious group -according to the UK 2011 Census nearly half of Muslims are under 25- the London bombings or the twin tower attacks might sound like (very) old history. Indeed, it’s almost as if from having made the headlines post 9/11 and 7/7 and suffered a flare-up in racist assaults all across Western countries, Muslims now are being scapegoated because of these very tough economic times. Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Faith Matters, a charity involved in inter-faith initiatives, has it that “Politicians play political football […] It is quite easy to turn to xenophobia in a time of austerity. Politicians say that the problem with cohesion is that the Muslims are not doing it right, and deflect from the very tough questions raised by the economic crisis, like a lack of investment in housing stock and jobs.”5. Mughal is also involved in the running of the Tell Mama project6. Launched on February 21st 2011 with funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government, this project is mapping and reporting incidents of anti-Muslim hate crime. It’s appropriate to include David Cameron as one of those “playing political football” whilst, in what will look like a paradoxical gesture to the naive, financing an initiative like the badly-needed Tell Mama Project.

  • 7  See Olivier Esteves, De l’Invisibilité à l’islamophobie, les musulmans britanniques, Paris, Presse (...)
  • 8  Some would argue, rightly, that “tribunal” instead of “court” should be used here. For more elemen (...)

7 The Munich Speech itself does reproduce that two-fold message, mostly blaming a community, whilst sending a few positive vibes, in some more or less significant details that can be seen as welcome steps forward. For instance the critique, at one end of the religious spectrum, of those who “back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal : an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of sharia”. “An interpretation of sharia” is appropriate in the sense that, in a country that has at least seven main interpretation of sharia law7 (and where it is, as elsewhere, constantly negotiated and debated), one hears incessantly about “sharia law”, from The Times to the English Defence League, from New Labour politicians to the Daily Mail. Indeed, “sharia law” in the singular is those of those foils which makes “multiculturalism” such as boo expression, particularly in some frightened descriptions of “sharia courts”8. The use of “an interpretation of” brings back a hermeneutic dimension into a puzzlingly complex reality too often seen, from the outside in, as a set-in-stone, middle-age law.

8 Secondly, Cameron also made a clear and welcome distinction between devout Muslims and on, the other hand, extremists, by hammering a simple point that many non-Muslims seem to have a problem with : “[Many people talk] about ‘moderate’ Muslims as if all devout Muslims must be extremist. This is profoundly wrong. Someone can be a devout Muslim and not be an extremist”. This difficulty owes something to the way police and intelligence service interpretations of Muslim religiosity (according to which a Muslim at prayer is often suspicious) have managed to impose themselves on Western public opinions9. In The Future of Islam, American scholar John Esposito laments that far too often one will say moderate Muslims instead, for instance, of mainstream Muslims, which conflates a religious identity and a political identity (moderate), a fact which would be considered insulting or just puzzling for “moderate Christians” or “moderate Jews”10. Here, Cameron’s point is consistent with the pro-faith agenda of the coalition government : I’m thinking here of the embracing of faith schools in his free-school projects (a real continuity with New Labour academies in that regard), and of Baroness Warsi’s visit to the Vatican, which she explained during a November 2012 speech to Operation Black Vote at the Young foundation11 by stressing the need for Europe “to assert its Christian identity”, before adding : “If Christian Britain was more sure of its own identity it would be less rejecting of the other”12.

  • 13  Raphael Liogier has analysed the resort to the stigma of “political correctness” by the radical ri (...)

9 At the same time, it could be argued that by exposing the simplistic dismissal of devout Muslims, Cameron resorts to a categorizing which is itself Manichean, dividing the most ethnically diverse religious group in Britain into “good” and “bad” people. He also suggests that Islam is acceptable only when it is out of the political realm altogether; once a Muslim’s religious identity tinges his / her political views, that becomes Islamism, or it borders on “Islamist extremism”, a phrase he uses four times. Of course, he would not consider that “Christian Democrats”, who have been so instrumental in the building of Europe among other things, are extremists. In the same way, how much British or European public opinion is ready to agree with such nuances is very unclear: many would probably shrug this off as unavoidable “politically-correct rubbish”13 and move on.

  • 14  Brian Klug, “Islamophobia : A Concept Comes Of Age”, Ethnicities, 2012, n° 12 (5), p. 665-681.
  • 15  Quoted in Londonistan : How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within, London, Gibson Square, 2006 (...)
  • 16  The Daily Telegraph, 19. 01. 2011.

10 Thirdly, and more importantly, the last significant detail from the Munich speech is Cameron’s use of the word Islamophobia, when saying that the hard-right fuels “islamophobia”. Having been used a few times already by the previous PM Gordon Brown, this hitherto much-maligned concept is probably, to quote the title of an article by Brian Klug, by now “a concept [that] comes of age”14. This too is welcome: the use of the words by Brown and Cameron validates the fact that “Islamophobia” is not what conservative pundit Melanie Phillips sees, in Orwellian tones, as “the thought crime that seeks to suppress legitimate criticism of Islam and demonise those who would tell the truth about Islamist aggression”15. The official acknowledgment of the existence of Islamophobia is largely due, sadly, to the way anti-Muslim prejudice (targeting believers in the faith and / or the faith itself) has passed “the dinner table test”, as Baroness Warsi put it in 201116, 14 years after the publication of the Runnymede Trust report “Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All”, and 30 years after Edward Said’s seminal study Covering Islam published in the wake of the Iranian revolution. Both analyses had already pointed out the way anti-Muslim prejudice is so routine that it doesn’t really require any justification.

  • 17  The Guardian, 05. 02. 2011.
  • 18  The 2009-2010 6th PVE Report (House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee) has 310 (...)

11 All that should not make us miss what is essential in the Munich speech. First of all, as commentators were prompt to point out, what was key about the speech was at least as much when Cameron delivered it than what he actually said in it. Indeed, on Saturday 5th February 2011, the English Defence League organised a demonstration in Luton, the largest demo of its short history, gathering 3 000 people. Nick Lowles, director of anti-extremist group Hope Not Hate, said the timing of Cameron’s speech had allowed EDL members to claim that the government was on its side. Interviewed by The Guardian, Lowles continued: “The prime minister’s comments were unhelpful. On a day when extremist groups of varying persuasions were descending on Luton, his words were open to misinterpretation at best, and at worst were potentially inflammatory. Whatever the intention, the timing of this speech has played into the hands of those who wish to sow seeds of division and hatred”17. Cameron was also blamed for failing to mention that the “hard-right which fuel[s] Islamophobia” (to quote him) includes the English Defence League. His silence over that type of extremism echoes the way far-right extremists did not come under the purview of the PVE (Preventing Violent Extremism) programme when Blair and then Brown were in power. Although it is abundantly clear that in security terms the largest threat from extremists comes from radicalised Muslims, an inclusion of far-right extremists in the speech would have sent Muslims the message that they have no monopoly on extremism, and indeed that indirectly fiery anti-Muslim vociferation by the EDL and the BNP “fuel islamophobia”. If anything then, such an omission suggests a certain continuity linking Blair, Brown and Cameron18, and a failure to grab chances to “win the hearts and minds of Muslims”. As was argued in the Channel Four news that day, “Some British Muslims may feel unfairly targeted, but the Prime Minister, though, has a wider audience in his sights”.

  • 19  Quoted in art.cit., p. 200.
  • 20  For a discussion of this, see Sally Tomlinson, Race and Education : Policy and Politics in Britain (...)

12 Obviously, the crucial element is this speech is the exposure of a multiculturalism that promotes “parallel lives” and tends to ghettoise whole communities, which brings together the critique of a system and the critique of a “community” (Muslims). Cameron’s exposure is bafflingly vague: what period is he referring to? When and where has multiculturalism ever been so dominant for so long? When he says “state multiculturalism”, is he referring to the British cabinet (under Blair, during the short-lived heyday of multiculturalism, from 1997 to the northern riots of June-July 2001), or rather to everything that has been done in that field at local level (as in the inner London area in the 1980s, under K. Livingstone)? There is no knowing. What we get is a gross exaggeration of the power of “the doctrine of state multiculturalism” to produce ghettoised communities, with “doctrine” suggesting a confusion between religion and politics, and promoters of multiculturalism being implicitly dismissed as doctrinaire. Also crucial is the fantasy of some top-down doctrinaire imposition of “state multiculturalism”. As Pnina Werbner argues, “for many critics on the left and right, multiculturalism is seen as ‘a conspiracy of top-down state engineering’, whereas in actual fact it is very often a bottom-up negotiation which takes place at grassroots level”19, and has to take into account a contradictory range of pressures, i.e. demands to tackle discrimination, white backlash, financial constraints, local and national authorities. Cameron’s simplification and exaggeration conjure up a whole right-wing rhetorical tradition in Britain, often generously borrowing from military or religious vocabulary, as in conservative tabloid critiques of “multicultural ayatollahs”, “race spies in the classroom”, “multi-ethnic brigades”, “multicultural minefield”20.

  • 21  See Nissa Finney, Ludi Simpson, Sleepwalking to Segregation ? Challenging Myths about Race and Mig (...)
  • 22  Quoted in Brian Klug, art.cit., p. 11.
  • 23  Le Monde, 24. 02. 2011.

13 Similarly, as in so much negative stereotyping of multiculturalism, and against David Blunkett’s year 2000 pledge that “social science should be at the heart of policy-making”, Cameron typically avoids making use of the vast array of available statistics to prove his point, not least because these statistics often reveal a disturbingly complex picture, where, for instance, the areas seen as “ethnic” ghettoes from the outside are the most diverse in the country, and always include at least around a third of whites21. Such cavalier disregard of facts borne out by statistics is what happens when, like Cameron, one places unreserved confidence in a few hunches presented by quite a few “I believe”, a few mental constructions “with a strong dose of the a priori22. This honest expression of a P.M. hunch runs parallel with a confession that “we have been doing it all wrong”, with a degree of unclarity regarding who this “we” is supposed to be: “we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives”. This sounds both like Britain avowing to Europe and the world that they have been mistaken, and also like a conservative critique of the way New Labour has fostered “a terror State within”, to quote Melanie Phillips. In this sense, as Romain Garbaye has argued in a piece for Le Monde, multiculturalism is made into a convenient foil (un épouvantail commode) that ought to be jettisoned straight away, which signals a shift from the more nuanced, wary New Labour critique of multiculturalism23.  

14 The Herman Ouseley report and Ted Cantle Report following the 2001 northern riots had stressed the importance of “comfort zones” for Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, where they feel safe from racist assaults, and can buy halal meat from their butchers, or pray at the local mosque. A more critical view of this tendency is expressed with the reference to “parallel lives” in the 2004 report by the community cohesion panel, or indeed with the French buzz-word “communautarisme”.

  • 24  For a simple and clear discussion of this, see Eric Maurin, Le Ghetto français, enquête sur le sép (...)

15 Among politicians from the key three parties in Britain, generally absent from the discussion on the alleged self-ghettoisation of certain ethnic groups (i.e. Muslims) is an appreciation of the degree to which “parallel lives” happen to be chosen or attributed. Sociology has already proved what is in fact a very easily graspable fact: that the groups which find it easiest to live parallel lives are the wealthiest classes24. And Muslims in Britain happen to be the most socially vulnerable religious group, especially in terms of health, housing, and long-term unemployment.

  • 25  Quoted in Melissa Benn, School Wars : The Battle for Britain’s Education, Verso, London, 2011, p.  (...)
  • 26  Ibid., p. 166.
  • 27  Ibid., p. 167.

16  Just as importantly, some conservative party policy choices in the past (as in the present) do fuel this segregation along ethnic and religious lines. Education, which has a crucial impact on housing -where you live being more and more often conditioned by what schools are in your area- offers an interesting case in point. Lady Hooper, minister of state for education, had already openly confessed in a 1987 Times Educational Supplement that “Racial segregation may be the price we pay for giving some parents more opportunity to choose” [the schools they send their kids to]25. The current coalition government’s to promote faith-groups in free schools actively partakes of that ghettoisation process: among the first 8 free schools to have been approved, one is a Jewish school, one a Hindu school, one a Church of England school; Muslim and Sikh groups have also expressed keen interest in jumping on the free school bandwagon. Needless to say these have full leeway in terms of admission policies and are entitled to accept only those who share their faiths. Melissa Benn ironically notes that probably the only place in the UK where you get a real willingness to promote integrated schooling now is Northern Ireland26. She also quotes a few disgruntled faith school governors who wish their admission policies were more integrative. Here is Sharon Wright, who resigned from her job as a Church of England school governor: “Wasn’t it blindingly obvious how unfair and socially divisive it was to be allowed to reserve priority places for your own churchgoers? And weren’t troubled children the most in need of Christian love?”27

  • 28  Quoted in Boston Against Busing, Race, Class and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s, Chapel Hill (N. (...)
  • 29  Quoted in Kevin M. Kruse, White Flight : Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism, Princeton (...)
  • 30  Jill Quadagno, The Color of Welfare, How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty, Oxford University P (...)

17 In more general terms, White Flight, much as in the U. S. where it has taken much larger proportions (being “the greatest exodus in United States history”, as Boston historian Ronald Formisano pus it28), is generally apprehended as a natural consumer choice in a liberal society, for people who demand to exercise the right “to select their neighbors, their employees, and their children’s classmates, the right to do as they please with their private property and personal businesses”29. This suggests tensions which are at the heart of competing definitions of “liberty”30. Or, to put it bluntly, the negative freedom from having neighbours with weird religions and strange languages is usually translated into a positive freedom to have a nice garden, a larger house and a garage, although both are usually part of the calculations which have been at the heart of white flight. Ultimately too, “white flight” is not apprehended as a “white” social phenomenon precisely because when making up a majority (and despite the 2011 census figures for London), whites don’t think of themselves as bearing a racial identity.

Colour-blind riots ? (6th-10th August 2011)

  • 31  Newsnight, 12. 08. 2011.

18 At the onset of the violence, there was an attempt at a racialisation of the riots : in some sense, Tottenham 2011 was evocative of Broadwater Farm, 1985. More crucial was the fact that it was the shooting of Mark Duggan by the police which sparked the initial rioting, and he was happened to be mixed race, with a White mother and Black father. Some radical groups (like the English Defence League) tried to defend local shopkeepers in a cynical attempt to impose a sort of racialized reading of the ongoing riots. Then, when it escalated nationally, another form of Othering took place, which wasn’t strictly racial in nature. The language of the media galvanized the divide between « us », the law-abiding public and “them”, the criminal looters. That, again, is better understood by keeping in mind a kind of racialisation of undeserving white working-class people, as is exemplified by the 2004 word of the year (« chav ») and by equivalents such as pram face, NEETs (for “Not in Education, Employment or Training”) or Asbos and Hoodies. Helpful to make sense of that stigmatisation is the 2009 Runnymede Trust report entitled “Who Cares About the White Working-Class ?”. This racialisation of the “white trash” was, to say the least, graphically illustrated by conservative historian David Starkey’s remark that “the whites have become black” when interviewed on Newsnight after four days of rioting31.

19 To investigate seriously the role of race in the riots has been no easy task, owing to the absence of a full government inquiry into the riots, despite their sheer scale. This absence fits the “sheer criminality” approach by Cameron and the British Cabinet ; the idea is that to explain is already to legitimate, thanks to the ambiguity of the verb “to understand” (to analyse ? to justify ?). Civil society, though, has been very active in investigating the causes of the riots and trying to make recommendations for the future. The following pages will mostly consist of summaries and analyses of inquiries carried out by The Runnymede Trust, The Guardian / London School of Economics and, last but not least, the independent “Riots Communities and Victims Panel”, which published its 145-page final report on 28th March 2012. If anything then, the “sheer crime” rationale was more deeply-entranched in government thinking in 2011 than in 1981, since nothing like the Scarman enquiry actually materialized under the coalition government. Yet, a few decisions after the riots were out-of-kilter with this official, get-tough rationale : in January 2012, the Metropolitan Police Service announced a new approach to stop and search in order to increase public confidence and trust in the police. In this regard, Section 60 of the Public Order and Criminal Justice act 1994 would be used in a more intelligence-driven and targeted fashion. Indeed, in 2012, the equalities watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), found that Black youths were 28 times more likely to be stopped and searched under Section 60. Likewise, the coalition government set up a Troubled Families Programme (TFP) in order to address the needs of 120 000 most challenged families, although the overlap with rioters and their families is itself probably limited.

20 The Runnymede Trust held some roundtables with local populations in Birmingham, Bradford, Coventry, Croydon, Lewisham and Westminster. The results were published in a report available on their website since 201232. More ambitiously, the “Reading the riots” project, spearheaded by LSE and The Guardian, was directly inspired by interviews held in Detroit back in 1967, where a fruitful connection was made between American media and the press. “Reading the Riots” mobilised 30 researchers ; 270 people directly involved in the riots were interviewed in London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Salford, Manchester, Liverpool. There was also a separate analysis of more than 2.5 million riot-related tweets, that time conducted by Manchester University. The Riots Communities and Victims Panel investigated around 80 affected communities and held interviews with shopkeepers, looters, etc.

21  Among other things, the results show that :

  1. 85 % of the rioters interviewed saw police stop and search practises as important or very important causes of the disturbances ;

  2. The role of gangs has been grossly overplayed (especially by David Cameron and Theresa May), many gangs had a tacit truce during the time of the disturbances ;

  3. Although half of the Guardian / LSE interviewees were Black, the immense majority did not consider these “race riots”;

  4. Many rioters described the disturbances as the chance to obtain “free stuff” from looted shops ;

  5. Analysis of more than 1,000 court records suggests 59 % of the England rioters come from the most deprived 20 % of areas in the UK ;

  6. Anger over the police shooting of Mark Duggan, which initially sparked the Tottentham rioting, was mentioned over and over again by rioters, even outside London ;

  7. Three-quarters of those already brought before the courts for the disturbances had previous convictions - and a quarter of those had committed more than 10 offences.

  • 33  “5 Days in August, an Interim Report on the 2011 Riots”, p. 58.
  • 34  For “Satellite Navigation”.
  • 35  Elsewhere I have made a parallel with Dario Fo’s play “We Won’t Pay ! We Won’t Pay”, see Olivier E (...)
  • 36  For these quotes, see Interim Report, p. 61-62.

22 In keeping with point 4, it is fairly clear that the acquisitive impulses of many rioters (more than 50 % of the recorded offences were acquisitive in nature) made racial criteria virtually irrelevant. Based on the evidence provided by 40 affected communities, the “Riots, Communities and Victims Panel” interim report estimated the number of active rioters nationally at between 13 000 and 15 00033. The super-consumer nature of the riots has been regularly discussed, and it is in this sense interesting to quote some of the motivations aired by rioters themselves. Many of these sound like purely consumerist slogans : “It wasn’t political. It was shopping”, or “Get me a Sat Nav34” (parent shouting after a child)35. Others bespeak an element of fun in the process, an unprecedented chance of getting noticed. One Mancunian rioter recalls : “It was like our Olympics, it was so exciting, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity”. Others try to legitimate their action by exposing unfair double-standards, in tune with the credit crunch unrest : “I nick a radio and the world comes down on me, bankers take a million and nothing happens”. Others, especially sympathetic members of the communities who themselves did not riot, insist on the nothing-to-lose element among the looters : “the have-nots in a must-have society” encapsulates well what the riots were about36.

  • 37  See The Guardian, “Birmingham Riots : Intense Anger After Deaths of Three Young Men”, 10. 08. 2013
  • 38  I have analysed this tendency for the 1958, 1980-1, 2001 rioting in « ‘Goin’ Racial’ ? : La constr (...)

23 This is why it seems to me, risky as this prediction may sound, that unlike for Notting Hill (1958) and the 1981 riots in Brixton and elsewhere, it will probably prove well-neigh impossible for British public memory to digest the 2011 violence into race riots. This is despite the few racial skirmishes pitting distinct ethnic groups against each other, as in the tragic events in the Winson Green area of Birmingham, where three Asians were run over by a car driven by some West Indian youths37. If this be so, then it is welcome, and a far cry from past tendencies, which have conveniently simplified very complex issues into a single cause : the failure of ethnic minorities to integrate, etc38.

  • 39  On 15 March 2011, Emmanuel died, from a self-inflicted stab wound, while the police were searching (...)
  • 40  Riots Panel Final Report, p. 103.
  • 41  Ibid., p. 101-102.

24  In keeping with point 6, it is fairly clear that for interviewees both in the “Reading the riots” report and for the Runnymede Trust report, the death of Mark Duggan appeared to trigger a deep and real memory of historical injustices and grievances that BAME communities have had with the police and the criminal justice system over the past few years. Some made references to Reggae singer Smiley Culture39, Cynthia Jarrett, Roger Sylvester and Joy Gardner, who were all members of the African Caribbean community that died in suspicious circumstances at the hands of the police. This fuelled a two-fold myth among Black communities, according to which only Black people die in police custody, and that no police officer is ever prosecuted for these deaths40. In more general terms, public confidence in and satisfaction with the police is significantly lower among Blacks than among Whites, as the final report by the Riots Communities and Victims Panel indicates41.

25 Counter-terrorism legislation such as Schedule 7 has also been linked to widespread feelings of persecution and harassment, this time among Muslims more specifically, and yet less than 1 % of Schedule 7 stops result in an arrest42 and not one arrest for terrorism-related offences. So much so that there is a smouldering resentment among BAME police officers themselves. During the annual National Black Police Association Conference held in Edinburgh on October 5th 2011 (two months after the riots), a list of ten grievances was made public, the first one being a call for “an immediate halt to the adversarial culture against BAME officers”43. In a few cases (especially in West Yorkshire), Muslim officers have found their integrity challenged when it was discovered they were Muslims ; some have carried out so-called “fishing expeditions” in order to know more about the type of charity these officers were connected to.

  • 44  The Guardian, 24. 06. 2013.

26 Probably in an effort to ease tensions with BAME communities, the Cameron government has opened an inquiry into the investigation of the Stephen Lawrence case. Peter Francis, a former undercover police, confessed in June this year that his superiors had wanted him to find “dirt” that could be used against members of the Lawrence family, in the period shortly after Lawrence’s racist murder in April 1993. David Cameron said he was “deeply concerned” with this and asked for an immediate inquiry into the matter44. This welcome gesture is both symbolically important and quite easy to make.

27 In more general terms, I’d like to suggest the following aspects which contribute to making race an important aspect of the riots, not the crucial aspect though, particularly in the sense that the neo-liberal welfare state roll-back, which was accelerated under Cameron, obviously impacts more vulnerable sections of the population, among whom the ethnic minority themselves. All these elements are referred to in the three reports discussed here :

  1. The “silent riot” : simmering anger over the increase in tuition fees, which disproportionately affects the poorest students and BAME communities ;

  2. The loss of jobs in the public sector under Cameron, a sector where BAME communities tend to be over-represented ;

  3. Welfare roll-back : the scrapping of Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA, Oct. 2011) and of the Future Jobs Fund (Jan. 2011) ;

    • 45  For a discussion of this, see Adrian Elliott’s article for the “Local School Network” news website (...)
    • 46  The Guardian, 28. 03. 2012.

    A significant proportion of those arrested had been excluded from school – at least a third permanently. This point has been developed at some length in the Riots Panel report, and later exploited by London Mayor Boris Johnson45; the crux of the debate is here summarised by journalist Estelle Morris: “Over the years, schools with high levels of exclusions have, in turn, been criticised for abandoning pupils and praised for being tough on discipline… national policy has never been sure whether success would be more or fewer exclusions”46;

  4. Too few “Black” shops : African and Caribbean self-employment rates are well below those of whites, and below those of Asians, regardless of the latter’s religion ethnicity ;

  5. Unemployment figures for BAME people has been at an all-time high.

  • 47  See Melissa Benn, op.cit., p. 22.

28 The fact that Cameron’s government is not ready to hear that kind of critique is because they tend to stick to a strictly behaviouristic interpretation of social phenomena. Not only in law and order issues, in fact ; in the field of education, any serious taking into account of the sociological reasons for under-achievement in certain schools and certain areas is dismissed off-hand as “moral frailty of the left” by the government, which is why they decided to scrap, in early summer 2011, the “Contextual Added-Value measures in school league tables”47.

Conclusion

  • 48  Ratna Lachman, Just West Yorkshire’s director, argues : “Those who have worked with Kris Hopkins i (...)
  • 49  See BBC News, 13. 11. 2012.

29 I would like to suggest that the welfare state roll-back in all its guises obliquely fuels the white backlash, and makes multiculturalism ever more “the m… word”, notably by contributing to racialize issues which are primarily non-racial. Hopefully one example will suffice at this stage. The town of Rochdale has made the headlines since 2012 because of some grooming cases of girls by Asian or non-Asian boys. There was a comprehensive report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner entitled Report into Child Sexual Exploitation, a 2-year investigation of 2,409 cases of children and young people who were confirmed victims of child sexual exploitation in gangs or groups over a 14-month period. The report unambiguously warns against any simplistic racialised reading of those cases. Based on current data, perpetrators and victims come from all ethnic groups ; what’s more, the ethnicity and faith of 6/10 perpetrators was not recorded by the police. Despite that, the “Asian-grooming” narrative makes the headlines regularly, and may be an electoral trump card for some MPs fearing for their reelection (such as conservative Kris Hopkins for Keighley, in the Bradford district)48. What’s crucial here though is that the scrapping of a number of health workers’ programmes in Rochdale (and elsewhere) leaves some victims unassisted, and promotes a context which is conducive to racialized narratives of “gangs of Muslim men raping white kids”49, as Kris Hopkins said in the House of Commons, echoing similar claims by Labour MP Ann Cryer for Keighley before him, itself another cosy continuity between New Labour and current conservative rhetoric.

  • 50  See his article “ ‘Muscular liberalism’ : surviving multiculturalism ? A historical and political (...)
  • 51  The full text is available on : http://www.libdems.org.uk/latest_news_detail.aspx ?title =Nick_Cle (...)
  • 52  Tommy Robinson, one of the key founders of the EDL, is a shopkeeper from Luton ; since creating th (...)
  • 53  Equality and Human Rights Commission, which came into being on October 1st 2007 ; it took over the (...)
  • 54  The New Statesman, 07. 02. 2013.

30 The fact that Cameron, like others, has been playing political football with multiculturalism (both as a public policy and as a plain social fact) might be better understood by the way his party has been pushed rightward by what are less and less fringe parties : the B.N.P and U.K.I.P. It can also be better understood by Lib-Dem’s relative ineffectiveness in the British Cabinet. Vincent Latour50 is right to insist on how the Luton Speech51 delivered on March 3rd 2011 by Nick Clegg was a critical echo of the Munich Speech, pronounced one mere month after it and in the very place where the EDL demonstrated52, but ultimately this critique has been to little or no avail. The main reason is that the Liberal-Democrats have lost nearly all credibility in the field of race relations, having been mostly silent about racism, discrimination, Islamophobia, and having agreed to some quite damaging reforms, like the scrapping of the EHRC’s53 budget by two-thirds. Their participation in the coalition government has also caused a great deal of frustration and resentment among those Lib-Dem members that actively engage with these issues. Lester Holloway, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Sutton and executive member of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, is scathing about his own party in a piece for The New Statesman, in which it is lamented thatThe party entered government without a clue of how to tackle endemic race inequality in Britain. And after two-and-a-half-years of drift, many BAME activists in the party are now at their wits’ end”54. This is only the ethnic minority chapter in the long story of betrayal by Lib-Dem in government, a bitter form of integration indeed.

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Bibliographie

Benn, M., School Wars: The Battle for Britain’s Education, London: Verso, 2011

Esteves, O., « En Grande-Bretagne, les émeutes urbaines découlent des inégalités sociales », Le Monde, 12. 08. 2011

Esteves, O., « ‘Goin’ Racial’ ? : La construction d’une mémoire raciale des violences urbaines, de Nottingham (1958) à Bradford (2001) », in Philippe Vervaecke, Andrew Diamond, Jim Cohen (eds), L’Atlantique multiracial : discours, politiques, dénis, Paris : Karthala, 2012

Esteves, O., De l’Invisibilité à l’islamophobie, les musulmans britanniques, Paris : Presses de Sciences-Po, 2011

Finney, N., Simpson, L., Sleepwalking to Segregation ? Challenging Myths about Race and Migration, Bristol : The Policy Press, 2009

Formisano, R., Boston Against Busing, Race, Class and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s, Chapel Hill (N.C.) : University of North Carolina Press, 2003 (2nd edition)

Garbaye, R., « David Cameron, le New Labour, la ‘community cohesion’ et le multiculturalisme », Le Monde, 24. 02. 2011

Hajjat, A., Mohammed, M., Islamophobie : comment les élites françaises fabriquent le “problème musulman”, Paris : La Découverte, 2013

Klug, B., “Islamophobia : A Concept Comes Of Age”, Ethnicities, 2012, n° 12 (5), pp. 665-681.

Klug, B., “An Almost Unbearable Insecurity : Cameron’s Munich Speech”, Working Paper n° 6 given at the University of South Australia, International Centre for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding, 2011

Kruse, K. M., White Flight : Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism, New Jersey : Princeton University Press, 2005

Latour, V., “ ‘Muscular liberalism’ : surviving multiculturalism ? A historical and political contextualisation of David Cameron’s Munich speech”, Observatoire de la Société Britannique, Fons, J.P. (dir), La Nouvelle donne politique en Grande-Bretagne, 2012.

Liogier, R., Le Mythe de l’islamisation : essai sur une obsession collective, Paris : Le Seuil, 2012

Quadagno, J., The Color of Welfare, How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty, Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1996

Riots Communities and Victims Panel, “5 Days in August : an Interim Report on the 2011 English Riots”, 2012, available at :

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121003195935/http://riotspanel.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Interim-report-5-Days-in-August.pdf

Riots Communities and Victims Panel, “After the Riots : the Final Report of the Riots Communities and Victims Panel”, 2012 : available at : http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121003195935/http://riotspanel.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Riots-Panel-Final-Report1.pdf

Tomlinson, S., Race and Education : Policy and Politics in Britain, Maidenhead : Open University Press, 2008

The Guardian / London School of Economics, “Reading the Riots : Investigating England’s Summer of Disorder”, 2011, available at : http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/46297/1/Reading%20the%20riots%28published%29.pdf

The Runnmyede Trust, “The Riot Roundtables : Race and the Riots of August 2011”, 2012, available at : http://www.runnymedetrust.org/publications/174/32.html

Uberoi, V., Modood, T., “Inclusive Britishness: a multiculturalist advance”, Political Studies, 61 (1), 2013, pp. 23-42.

Werbner, P., “Multiculturalism from Above and Below : Analysing a Political Discourse”, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 33 (2), 2012, pp. 197-209.

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Notes

1  Quoted in Varun Uberoi, Tariq Modood, “Inclusive Britishness : a multiculturalist advance”, Political Studies, 61 (1), 2013, p. 28.

2  Quoted from Pnina Werbner, “Multiculturalism from Above and Below : Analysing a Political Discourse”, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 33 (2), 2012, p. 198.

3  Although Werbner does not touch upon this, it is fair to imagine that much of the anti-elitist element in this backlash takes its inspiration from conservative responses against racial desegregation in the United States, where historical research for cities like Baltimore, Atlanta, Boston indeed suggest that policies like busing and affirmative action were often introduced by liberal elites, which imposed these policies on working- and sometimes middle-class white Americans who were directly affected by the social and urban consequences of this desegregation. Historians such as Ronald Formisano, Kenneth Durr and Kevin Kruse point out that the judges and liberal elites imposing those changes generally had left to white suburbia and were totally unaffected by those inner-city changes.

4  Quoted in “An Almost Unbearable Insecurity : Cameron’s Munich Speech”, Working Paper n° 6 given at the University of South Australia, International Centre for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding, 2011, p. 7 ; available at : http://w3.unisa.edu.au/muslim-understanding/documents/klug-almost-unbearable.pdf

5  Quoted in The New Statesman, 03. 10. 2013.

6  Check : www.tellmamauk.org

7  See Olivier Esteves, De l’Invisibilité à l’islamophobie, les musulmans britanniques, Paris, Presses de Sciences-Po, 2011, p. 254-5.

8  Some would argue, rightly, that “tribunal” instead of “court” should be used here. For more elements, check Kathleen M. Moore, The Unfamiliar Abode : Islamic Law in the United States and Britain, Oxford University Press, 2010.

9  For a discussion of this tendency in France, see Abdellali Hajjat, Marwan Mohammed, Islamophobie : comment les élites françaises fabriquent le “problème musulman”, Paris, La Découverte, 2013, p. 118-9.

10  John L. Esposito, The Future of Islam, Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 169-170.

11  A “centre of social renovation”, based in London’s Victoria Park.

12  12. 11. 2012 ; https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/an-integration-nation-breaking-down-the-barriers

13  Raphael Liogier has analysed the resort to the stigma of “political correctness” by the radical right in his study of the paranoid style in political rhetoric across Europe. See Le Mythe de l’islamisation : essai sur une obsession collective (Paris, Le Seuil, 2012).

14  Brian Klug, “Islamophobia : A Concept Comes Of Age”, Ethnicities, 2012, n° 12 (5), p. 665-681.

15  Quoted in Londonistan : How Britain is Creating a Terror State Within, London, Gibson Square, 2006, p. 21.

16  The Daily Telegraph, 19. 01. 2011.

17  The Guardian, 05. 02. 2011.

18  The 2009-2010 6th PVE Report (House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee) has 310 pages, 2 mentions of the EDL and 3 mentions of the British National Party.

19  Quoted in art.cit., p. 200.

20  For a discussion of this, see Sally Tomlinson, Race and Education : Policy and Politics in Britain, Maidenhead, Open University Press, 2008, p. 88-89.

21  See Nissa Finney, Ludi Simpson, Sleepwalking to Segregation ? Challenging Myths about Race and Migration, Bristol, The Policy Press, 2009, p. 136-7.

22  Quoted in Brian Klug, art.cit., p. 11.

23  Le Monde, 24. 02. 2011.

24  For a simple and clear discussion of this, see Eric Maurin, Le Ghetto français, enquête sur le séparatisme social, Paris, Seuil, 2004.

25  Quoted in Melissa Benn, School Wars : The Battle for Britain’s Education, Verso, London, 2011, p. 82.

26  Ibid., p. 166.

27  Ibid., p. 167.

28  Quoted in Boston Against Busing, Race, Class and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s, Chapel Hill (N.C.), University of North Carolina Press, 2003, 2nd edition, p. 11.

29  Quoted in Kevin M. Kruse, White Flight : Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism, Princeton University Press, 2005, p. 8-9.

30  Jill Quadagno, The Color of Welfare, How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 6-7.

31  Newsnight, 12. 08. 2011.

32  The full text is available on : http://www.runnymedetrust.org/publications/174/32.html

33  “5 Days in August, an Interim Report on the 2011 Riots”, p. 58.

34  For “Satellite Navigation”.

35  Elsewhere I have made a parallel with Dario Fo’s play “We Won’t Pay ! We Won’t Pay”, see Olivier Esteves, « En Grande-Bretagne, les émeutes urbaines découlent des inégalités sociales », Le Monde, 12. 08. 2011. I still believe this parallel valid.

36  For these quotes, see Interim Report, p. 61-62.

37  See The Guardian, “Birmingham Riots : Intense Anger After Deaths of Three Young Men”, 10. 08. 2013.

38  I have analysed this tendency for the 1958, 1980-1, 2001 rioting in « ‘Goin’ Racial’ ? : La construction d’une mémoire raciale des violences urbaines, de Nottingham (1958) à Bradford (2001) », in Philippe Vervaecke, Andrew Diamond, Jim Cohen (eds), L’Atlantique multiracial : discours, politiques, dénis, Paris, Karthala, 2012.

39  On 15 March 2011, Emmanuel died, from a self-inflicted stab wound, while the police were searching his house in Hillbury Road, Warlingham, Surrey. His death came an hour and a half after officers arrived with a search warrant relating to the import of Class A drugs into the UK. A post-mortem examination revealed that he had died from a single stab wound to the heart. He is survived by his mother, son, daughter, sister and three brothers. His death was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. In their final report - which at the request of the coroner was neither made public nor made available to Emmanuel's family - the IPCC concluded that there was no evidence justifying the pressing of criminal charges against any of the four officers present at the house during the raid. In the IPCC statement following the inquest, it was stated that there was both no criminal conduct by officers, and also no individual failings by officers that might amount to misconduct. Nonetheless, the report also pointed out flaws in the police raid and called on the Metropolitan Police Service to improve the planning and execution of their drug seizures.

40  Riots Panel Final Report, p. 103.

41  Ibid., p. 101-102.

42  This is part of the Terrorism Act 2000 ; Under the schedule, the UK police can stop, examine and search passengers at ports, airports and international rail terminals. Unlike with some other police powers to stop and search, there is no requirement for an officer to have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone is involved with terrorism before they are stopped.

43  For the full speech, see http://fr.scribd.com/doc/103334805/Speech-to-the-National-Black-Police-Association-Conference

44  The Guardian, 24. 06. 2013.

45  For a discussion of this, see Adrian Elliott’s article for the “Local School Network” news website, “Were The 2011 Riots Caused by Poor Schools ?”, 31. 03. 2012.

46  The Guardian, 28. 03. 2012.

47  See Melissa Benn, op.cit., p. 22.

48  Ratna Lachman, Just West Yorkshire’s director, argues : “Those who have worked with Kris Hopkins in local government know him to be a rising star in the Conservative party, but one with only a slim 2940 majority which a 6.1 percent swing would deliver back to Labour in the next General Election. There are many temptations for a politician in such a position. But if he really wishes to scale the political heights, he would do well to remembered his maiden speech in which he declared to his constituents that he has the “privilege of representing a beautiful place which is immensely diverse, with a huge populace and huge social issues that need to be addressed.” (see The Guardian, “The Northerner Blog”, 22. 11. 2012).

49  See BBC News, 13. 11. 2012.

50  See his article “ ‘Muscular liberalism’ : surviving multiculturalism ? A historical and political contextualisation of David Cameron’s Munich speech”, Revue de l’Observatoire de la Société Britannique, La Nouvelle donne politique en Grande-Bretagne,2012, p. 4-5.

51  The full text is available on : http://www.libdems.org.uk/latest_news_detail.aspx ?title =Nick_Clegg_speech :_ An_Open,_Confident_Society&pPK =25e28e0b-a8e7-4104-ba5e-e860d752c31a

52  Tommy Robinson, one of the key founders of the EDL, is a shopkeeper from Luton ; since creating the EDL, he has moved, most bizarrely, to the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation.

53  Equality and Human Rights Commission, which came into being on October 1st 2007 ; it took over the responsibilities of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission (which dealt with gender equality) and the Disability Rights Commission.

54  The New Statesman, 07. 02. 2013.

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Olivier Esteves, « “The M… word”: multiculturalism under Cameron », Observatoire de la société britannique, 15 | 2014, 21-40.

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Olivier Esteves, « “The M… word”: multiculturalism under Cameron », Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 15 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2014, consulté le 24 mars 2017. URL : http://osb.revues.org/1584 ; DOI : 10.4000/osb.1584

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Olivier Esteves

Maître de conférences à l'Université de Lille 3

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