I’ve not yet read the Commission on Integration and Cohesion’s report on Our shared future, which is obviously a substantial piece of work, comprising some 168 pages. What little I have read, however, does not bode well; one can feel few emotions other than profound suspicion, I think, about a document containing the announcement
In this chapter, our recommendations are about:
- A shared national vision
- A national shared futures campaign
- How Local Authorities can better understand their communities and mainstream integration and cohesion
- A new performance framework Strong leadership and local democracy – including political parties acting responsibly
- How we can move away from a “one size fits all” approach
and which contains — this I’ve picked out at random — statements like
Our proposal therefore is that we use integration and cohesion policy to generate a working sense of citizenship that is based on a set of rights and responsibilities appropriate for the changing UK of the 21st century, and one that chimes at a national as well as local level.
The document proposes, among many other things, yet another Quango (don’t look so surprised),
a national body to manage the integration of new migrants, sponsored by Communities and Local Government, but independent of Government.
The authors tell us that
we see the priority actions for this body as being:
- To clarify the objectives of a strategy […]
- To baseline the evidence: clarifying the current situation and building an evidence base […]
- To consolidate and take forward the good practice work currently being developed […]
- To provide guidance on how to work with settled communities in areas experiencing high levels of migration […]
- To explore whether asking new migrants (from the EU or elsewhere) to attend the local town hall to pick up local welcome packs when they arrive might address some of the data tracking issues outlined in Chapter 7 below. This could mean not only providing the information they need at first point of contact with a local area, but could also introduce local agreements or contracts that cover behaviours, norms etc. [quoted in full]
- To secure buy-in and joined up policy making from Whitehall and the third sector: acting as a catalyst for policy development, and an independent voice both for new migrants and those settled communities experiencing rapid change. [again,quoted in full]
I don’t think they anywhere actually promise to hold seminars and deliver endless PowerPoint presentations, but I doubt these can be far from the authors’ minds.
I quote the last clauses of bureaucratic prose in full for two reasons. The first is that the BBC were actually able to persuade a spokesman for the Commission to explain a bit about these proposed local agreements or contracts that cover behaviours, norms etc.
The proposed packs are based on work by some councils to explain basic facts about British ways of life to newly-arrived migrants.”The packs might say that we like to queue at the Post Office and the bus stop and we don’t really like spitting in the street,” said a spokesman
I’m not completely sure if this spokesman is a blithering idiot or possessed of Machiavellian cunning. At first I inclined to the former view, chortling as I was about the bathos of his examples, and, indeed, their utter irrelevance; do many people find themselves beset by newly-arrived migrants jumping queues in Post Offices and spitting in the streets? Then I started having fun wondering what happened if you didn’t sign one of these patronising ‘contracts’ and wondering what else might go in them– ‘we don’t really like people chucking their empty coke cans and Macdonalds cartons in the streets or letting their dogs crap all over the pavement, either, but don’t worry … lots of people do it.’
But then I thought, ‘Hang on; he’s smuggling in, under cover of this risible example, the somewhat un-British notion that aliens have to register with the local authorities.’ I was used to having to deal with the OVIR (ОВиР, “Отдел Виз и Регистрации”, “Office of Visas and Registration”) back in Russia, but I’m a bit alarmed to see the idea brought in here, even inadvertently.
The final clause, though, really irritated me. We’re used to, I thought, and many of us are profoundly fed-up with, self-appointed ‘community spokesmen’ or ‘community leaders’. Now, here we have someone proposing ‘a national body […], sponsored by Communities and Local Government, but independent of Government’ that will purport to act as ‘an independent voice both for new migrants and those settled communities experiencing rapid change.’
Errm… am I alone in spotting a bit of a problem with that?