Could the Olympic Legacy be a tolerant society?

There was some really bad news for some people about the winning GB team at the recent Olympics. Some had foreign sounding names; some of them were immigrants or the children of immigrants; some of there were even… well black or brown.

Now for most of us that didn’t matter. They were all people who were British by culture; definition and desire. Sometimes people who are not born here are more ‘British’ than those of us that were born here because their earlier experiences help them to relish to a higher degree the freedoms and the advantages that some of us take for granted.

Listening to Mighty Mo bat off a question about whether he would have preferred to run for Somalia where he was born rather than Britain where he was raised was marvellous. He made clear that he considered himself British because he felt British. And 99+% of us want him to continue in just that way.

Some people, though really have a problem with this. They are just two faced. “We like these immigrants but not those immigrants. We like Moslems that we know but not the lunatic lot. We like people who come over here and make a contribution but not those that want to take advantage our generosity”. All these comments in some ways are fair enough except that they are improperly applied. I don’t want immigrants to come here who are lazy, idle scroungers who want to cheat the benefits system. The reality is that such people are a tiny, tiny percentage of immigrants.

Most immigrants have a thirst to succeed. Have a massive desire to contribute. They want their children to have a better education and a better future than they had. They are prepared to do work that native born Brits aren’t prepared to get out of bed for because they see it as a good start for them and their family but aspire to better.

Just look at the fate of the Asians thrown out of Uganda by Idi Amin. They are now as a ‘group’ one of the most successful in the Country. Starting with very little, in some cases nothing, they have built businesses that employ large numbers of native born people.

And if we have any doubt that white Brits are not always the best leaders or the best model to follow just look at Jaguar land Rover. 4 years ago under Anglo Saxon control of many types it was in danger of failing and an internationally known British Marque was in danger of disappearing abroad as Rover had already done. Who turned that company round so that is now on 3 shifts in Halewood for the first time in 50 years? A company, TATA, owned by people from India.

Some people will think that either I am not proud of my country and/or that I believe in unchecked immigration. Neither of those is true. But I do know the limitations of my country; I do know that we are not always the best at everything (even post London 2012!)I also understand the history of my country. This Country greatness has happened because for at least 2 millennia ‘foreigners’ came to our Islands and by combining with the people already here created innovation and enterprise.

That must be the starting point for a discussion about immigration. Not what problems immigrants will bring (and they will bring some) but what opportunities they will bring. I believe that immigration brings more plusses than minuses so let’s have a practical and pragmatic debate about the issue and stop responding to right wing dog whistles from the populist press.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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One Response to Could the Olympic Legacy be a tolerant society?

  1. Ace Gikmo says:

    Richard,
    You want a tolerant society? Stop using racial sterotypes like: “They (immigrants) are prepared to do work that native born Brits aren’t prepared to get out of bed for”. Is this the official Lib-Dem line, or just your own? You wouldn’t dare say it about ethnic minorities, not will you be saying it on the doorsteps in 2015 when your party will be begging native born Brits for their votes to avoid losing deposits. You’re happy with immigration? Yes, the native working class are delighted also, they’re thrilled to share the few jobs there are, and are quite happy about the added strain on scarce resources like social housing, schools and healthcare. It’s the land fit for heroes that our grandparents fought and died for! Good job they weren’t too lazy to get out of bed, eh?

    You quote TATA as a shining example of foreign ownership – tell you what, go up to Redcar and say that out loud to the Corus (ex)steelworkers, whose plant was closed by TATA, not because of poor productivity or quality issues, but because they had 7.5 million EU carbon credits worth hundreds of millions of pounds that could be “cashed” if the plant was shut, plus your beloved EU offered them money on top to cut greenhouse emissions. Yes, post war Britain has been marvellously enriching for its native population, I can’t imagine why people are so disgruntled!

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