London Diary: Vignettes of turbulent city life

Racism is still rampant in England


Hasan Suroor

Homeless in Britain

It was billed as the mother of all humanitarian gestures with thousands of Brits throwing their doors open to welcome Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion. There was a scramble to embrace them with the media awash with stories of British generosity. It was hard to escape images of hugs and kisses and of distraught refugees—mostly women and children—expressing their gratitude to their hosts.

But barely ten months later, the pendulum has swung to the other side: people desperately want to be rid of their guests as the war fatigue sets in, and the money they got from the government to host the refugees has dried up. So much so that many have thrown out their guests, making them homeless.

The number of homeless Ukrainian refugees in England has risen by almost 30 per cent in a month, as host families end their support for them. And this is why, as The Times explained: “Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme families pledged to provide support for Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in the UK for at least six months in return for government support of £350 a month. However, with the six-month mark for many hosts having passed, or soon approaching, the number of Ukrainian families looking for emergency accommodation has spiked.”

According to figures, more than 2,000 families with children and 900 individuals are now officially homeless. Officials have described the situation as a “perfect storm”.

The truth is that it was always destined to end in tears: that’s the nature of political honeymoons.

MPs, ministers back in school

A test designed for primary school children should be a breeze for those with more grey hair, especially the all-knowing MPs and ministers. But recently, a group of politicians came unstuck when they went back to classroom to prove their mastery.

Thirteen MPs and members of the House of Lords, brimming with confidence, visited a south London school to sit the Sats tests taken by 11-year-olds in Year 6. While individual results were not revealed, fewer than half reached the expected level for a primary school child in maths. Only 50 per cent reached the expected level in spelling, punctuation and grammar—far fewer than their little children are expected to achieve.

This despite the fact that they were allowed to mark their own papers and sat for the tests on the understanding that their individual scores would not be published.

The participants included some of the more academically inclined MPs such as Robin Walker, the former schools minister, who now chairs the education committee, and Emma Hardy, a former shadow minister for education who is on the treasury committee.

Walker told The Times: “It was interesting to see how these things have changed. I found them stretching but doable. I’m not sure it made the case for their abolition but certainly the maths paper was challenging.”

The experiment was meant to challenge calls for the abolition of these tests on the ground that they were not designed to test intelligence but rote learning. But it seems they are here to stay.

UK still ‘racist’

A brown man may have become Britain’s prime minister, but the perception that it remains a “structurally racist” society persists. And not just among immigrants.

Almost half of young Brits (in the 18-24 year-old age group) believe that Britain was founded on racism and is still racist despite the progress made in race-relations in recent years. They also believe that this should be taught in schools amid a growing campaign for decolonising the curriculum and create awareness about Britain’s history of racism.

Most told a survey by Eric Kaufmann, an academic at Birkbeck, University of London, for the think-tank Policy Exchange, that they were taught, or had heard about it from an adult at school. The findings have prompted allegations that children are being “brainwashed” by “woke” campaigners.

The study comes amid a polarising debate over the so-called ‘critical race theory’, an academic approach to the study of race linked to the ideas of white privilege, and unconscious bias.

“It’s sad but unsurprising that so many young people, befuddled and bemused by militant propaganda, have bought some of the lies peddled by extremists,” Sir John Hayes, chairman of the ‘Common Sense Group’ of Conservative MPs, told The Daily Telegraph.

It’s not the last we have heard on the subject.

Minorities are ‘global majority’ now

London’s Westminster Council has replaced the term “black, Asian and minority ethnic” with the phrase “global majority” claiming that it is more representative of the capital city’s diverse population and is also more inclusive.

The Labour Party, which runs the Council, said it had made a commitment to take “serious action to be more diverse and inclusive”. It’s also committed to removing pay gaps between whites and their non-white peers within the organisation by 2025.

And, lastly, a former British MP, Gyles Brandreth, says he once unveiled a plaque at a doctor’s clinic that read: ‘This plague has been unveiled by Gyles Brandreth, MP’.

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