Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The politics of hope (but mostly fear)

Finally, an admission from the government, in Ruth Kelly’s speech launching Britain’s own Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Commission on Integration and Cohesion:

“Muslims feel the reverberations from the Middle East. Wider global trends have an impact.”

So despite all the previous denials, foreign policy DOES affect British muslims’ attitudes? Glad we’ve finally got that one sorted.

There’s also a nice nod to Godron Brown’s recurring desire to define what it means to be British with questions about “who we are and what we are as a country” – and even an acknowledgement that multiculturalism may encourage “separateness” to keep the Daily Mail on board. There’s also a subtle adoption of one of the Tories’ most controversial slogans from the last General Election:

“We must not be censored by political correctness”

In other words,

“It’s not racist to talk about immigration”

The only trouble is, of course, that despite Kelly’s assurances that this new Commission “is not, and must not be, a talking shop… [but] a practical exercise”, it’s incredibly hard to think of this government having done anything genuinely practical in the last few months (at least). All we seem to have had is talk and pointless shows of state strength – be they endless assurances about the state of the NHS or high-profile (but ultimately proven to be mis-timed and mis-placed) counter-terrorism raids.

Believe me, I’d love nothing more than to be able to find something positive in politics again, but for the last few years there’s been nothing about HOPE in the rhetoric of any of the parties, merely fear. Fear of the Tories, fear of terrorists, fear of Europe, fear of economic collapse, fear of immigrants. The few times our politicians have appealed to our aspirations rather than our night terrors, their promises have proved to be either empty or ill-founded, their policies soon either abandoned or altered in the face of adversity.

Even Kelly’s speech, which seems to be trying to promise a brave new world of cross-cultural harmony, focusses more on the current negatives than the possible future promises. She asks about “who we are and what we are as a country”. I’m rather worried that the answer to both may be “distrustful wannabe-isolationists” – and that refers as much to the Don’t Attack Iraq brigade as the Little Englanders…