The Census and Today’s Britain

What a year it has been for understanding the ‘new’ country that we live in. How we all cheered on ‘black’ sports people and others who had been very recent immigrants as they soared to Gold medals on our behalf at the Olympics. No Tebbitt type nationality test was required. Did they want to be British, were they proud to be British was all that was required as we became so proud of them.

I have already blogged about the amazing day I had at the citizenship ceremony in Liverpool when 24 people became British citizens and even more importantly Scousers!

Now the census in a cold and clinical way shows the depths to which changes are happening inside our Country, changes which I believe are overwhelmingly good but which are important to understand for good or bad.

The figures a massively increased mobility with large numbers of current citizens not having been born here. That is inevitable in a  country where we have what is becoming the universal language; where our country is much respected in the world as a whole and where we tend to eat the same things; buy the same things; do the same things as happen in every country.

Many of our leading companies that provide jobs for ‘British‘workers are themselves dependent on international figures at their helm. Look at the number of jobs that have been created more than 20 years ago by Uganda Asians forced to leave Uganda under the despotic rule of Idi Amin. We gained – Uganda lost as I saw clearly from my recent visit to Kampala. Here in Liverpool it is likely that Jaguar would be a company of the past if it had not been taken over by an Indian Company Tata under whose control profitability and therefore employment has soared.

Incidentally, (those that know me also know that this is not a field of knowledge of mine) are there any major football clubs who are not owned by wealthy foreigners these days? As an outsider it seems to me that we are still happy to support our local team in our national game without being too bothered by foreign ownership.

The number of people of mixed race has doubled. Perhaps we will one day achieve what was described in a 60s folk song as ‘khaki coloured people by the score’. Not quite the words I would have used but a clear expression of a move to race neutrality where we don’t even notice the colour of the skin of a person but only look at the colour of their heart!

It seems to me that many people with their blinkers on full want to moan about some of the problems of immigration – and yes there are some – but ignore the benefits that an influx of vitality, talent and raw courage has brought to all of us who live here.

In religion there has also been a major change. The big leap in the past 10 years has not been an influx of much feared Muslims but the growth of those who say they have no religion to about a quarter of the population. Christianity now accounts for only about 50% of the population and many of those are serial none-attenders! What does this say about the use of church schools? Particularly what does it say about the continued occupation of the House of Lords by Bishops of the Church of England (especially after the fiasco of the women bishops vote).

Ironically on the day that the Government rightly announced its introduction of gay Marriage Laws the census showed that most people don’t agree with marriage at all with more than 50% of people not being married. Perhaps an influx of ‘Gays’ getting married could be just the boost that this institution (which my wife tells me I support!) clearly needs.

So the UK is changing and most of us are changing with it. Now that chicken tikka masalla has become our national dish instead of roast beef there is a clear change in attitude. A small minority still have fears and concerns about immigration and what it will mean to them. We must respond to them with patience and facts. Too many of us lack the courage to stand up to the wild distortions of the Mail and the Express and do not stand up to be counted about the benefits of living in a vibrant, multi-ethnic, entrepreneurial democracy. That must change!

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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