An Integration Nation: Breaking down the barriers
Baroness Warsi’s speech to Operation Black Vote at the Young Foundation
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Britain wouldn’t be the place it is today without the contribution of people from ethnic
Think of the Commonwealth soldiers who served with the Allies in the wars.
Think of the immigrants, people like my dad, who came here to build up our
industries in the mid 20th century.
Think of our diverse communities contributing to every section of society today.
Think of Mo Farah. Our national hero.
When Mo crossed the finish line – twice – this summer.
The nation got behind this London lad.
No one batted an eyelid over the fact that he was a Somali-born Muslim.
After all, this guy is British – very British.
As he told one interviewer: “Look mate, this is where I grew up.
“This is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I’m proud.”
It said a lot about the diverse, integrated state of our country today.
Where everyone – black, white and brown – was proud to drape themselves in red,
white and blue.
But despite great individual examples, there are still barriers to integration.
And today this is more of a problem for us as a country.
Why? Because today Britain is in a global race
And we can’t just rely on Mo Farah to win this one for us.
It’s a race that pits us against counties around the world.
It’s a huge challenge of global, economic competition that will determine our future.
And we have got a secret weapon to succeed in the global race –
The races from around the globe that make up Britain today:
Our diverse communities.
People with links to places across the world, with business acumen and ideas, with
cultural insight and experience and with endless untapped talent and networks.
It’s our duty – it’s crucial to our future – to unlock this potential.
And it flies in the face of the survey in which 52 per cent of people said that migrants
in Britain were bad for our economy.
So today I want to focus on what the barriers are to integration and how we can
First, let’s look at the barriers.
I believe that the things that stop people getting on with each other are the same as the
things that stop them getting on in life.
In other words, integration and social mobility are inextricably linked.
Some ethnic minority groups have much lower levels of English than others.
15 per cent of Bangladeshi and 12 per cent of Pakistani women report having little or
Research shows that English language is the second biggest predictor in occupational
success, after qualifications.
And 60 per cent of people believe that the biggest barrier to being integrated is not
speaking the language.
We need to get on top of this.
The solution isn’t to throw money at translation and interpretation services or at
teaching assistants for non-English speaking pupils.
It’s helping more people to learn English.
That’s why I’m delighted at my department’s commitment to fund English language
And it’s why I want to see us go further, finding new and innovative ways to help
people learn English.
Whether it’s a DVD at home, a CD in the car, a volunteer at the community centre, or
an after-school club.
Because a common language is the fundamental basis of common understanding.
It’s not just language that holds the key to integration. It’s also got to start in our
It could not be right that a decade after Labour chanted ‘education, education,
There were huge gaps in attainment on the basis of ethnicity.
With British Caribbean, British Pakistani and British Roma children falling way
behind the national average.
So what does this mean?
It means freeing up communities to start Free Schools in areas of deprivation, like the
King’s Academy in Bradford, so that everyone, whatever their background, has access
to the best schooling.
It means supporting failing comprehensives to become Academies, so that hard-done-
by catchment areas suddenly get the best facilities and the best chances.
It’s also means changing the way we support and engage with different communities
to bring them into the fold – not leave them out in the cold.
This government has moved away from intervention on the basis of race towards
increasing the impact of mainstream policies on minority communities.
Backing mainstream organisations, like Youth United, which bring together people of
And championing National Citizens’ Service.
Not just funding national bodies, but also supporting local projects.
My good friend, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric
Pickles, has led the way in this endeavour.
Spearheading the Big Lunch and the Bandstand Marathon, which have brought people
together over food and music – shared experience in shared spaces.
Championing A Year of Service and the Near Neighbours programme, which have
united people of different faiths so they can make a difference, together.
And driving forward the Localism Act, so people can bid to run local services and
shape the areas in which they live.
This sends out a clear message to our BME communities:
No longer are you getting the crumbs off the table;
You now have a stake in the cake.
Second, let’s look at our values.
For people to integrate in our society, I think Britain needs to be better at asserting its
Back in 2006, Tony Blair urged minority communities to adopt British values and to
But he forgot to point out that Britain needs to be equally sure of its values.
As a nation, we need to be stronger about asserting shared British principles
Like freedom, fairness and responsibility.
Opportunity, aspiration and tolerance.
Doing as you would be done by, being proud of the country in which you live.
How can we ask people to sign up to our values if we are not sure of them ourselves?
That’s why I’ve been so outspoken on Britain remembering its Christian heritage.
It’s why I went to the Vatican and called on Europe to assert its Christian identity.
If Christian Britain was more sure of its own identity it would be less rejecting of the
And I believe this government’s pro-faith agenda has reflected that.
With Britain, once again, growing confident of its Christianity.
And that’s why I’ve been so outspoken on the need for schools to teach history.
And I’m delighted that Michael Gove has put history at the heart of our curriculum.
Because, as I’ve said for years, how can we know where we’re going if we don’t know
where we come from?
But not only must we assert our values – we must ensure those values are afforded to
everyone, whatever their faith, colour or creed.
For too long authorities have dismissed many of the more difficult issues facing
Some said ‘don’t meddle in these matters’.
Others steered well clear for fear of offending.
We’ve been treating our communities like foreign embassies…
…where rules from abroad apply and wider society keeps well out of it.
And for too long, cultural sensitivities have often led our leaders to become morally
I believe we’ve dealt with matters differently.
When it came to forced marriage, we said enough was enough.
Yes, Labour legislated on this issue, but this Government said that forcing someone to
get married was nothing short of criminal – so we are making it a criminal offence.
It’s the same with the issue of drugs.
Where a drug is harming a specific communities it’s not enough to say it’s part of
their cultural practice.
It’s right to say they deserve the same protection from harmful drugs like everyone
And that is why for many years I have campaigned for the banning of khat.
Likewise we should come down equally hard on attitudes that can lead to tragic
Earlier this year I spoke out on the issue of child sexual grooming.
I said that a small minority of predominantly Pakistani men thought women were
second class citizens and white women were third class.
Because if we shy away from the difficult issues in this country, however
uncomfortable, we will never confront them.
And how can people integrate in a society when, in the name of cultural sensitivity,
we continue to entrench barriers?
Third, let’s look at discrimination.
Discrimination, intolerance, prejudice and bigotry.
We need to stamp these out if we want our society to be better integrated.
These un-British traits mean that at best some people feel they don’t belong and at
worst their lives and livelihoods are under threat.
Labour have done well on legislating on racial discrimination and religious hatred.
The Coalition is building upon that, by putting hate crime at the top of our agenda.
So in 2010, we made it a requirement for all police forces to record anti-Semitic
We are funding tighter security measures in Jewish faith schools.
We appointed the first UK Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues, Sir Andrew Burns.
We are funding the Holocaust Education Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz project.
And are committing further funds to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
And more than that – we are now finally starting to tackle the more recent scourge of
As we announced last week, we are funding the Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks
And we established the Cross Government Anti-Muslim Hatred Group, allowing us to
respond to the growing problem of Islamophobia, department by department.
Fighting bigotry and intolerance is key to enable people to integrate, to participate and
to reach their full potential.
FUTURE OF BRITAIN
We can’t afford to let people be held back
Be it by language, by education, by discrimination, by disengagement.
As I have said, Britain’s migrant communities are key to our future.
Who better to sell Britain to the world than our diverse communities?
Whose links extend from Ankara to Islamabad, from Shanghai to Saint-Lucia.
Who better to offer the world the products it wants?
Than the country that sells naan bread to India; canoes to the Eskimos; tacos to
Who better to rebalance our economy and accelerate our recovery?
Than some of our most can-do businessmen and women.
Our diaspora communities and entrepreneurs hold the key to linking businesses across
Lady Thatcher once said: “Britain is now, more than ever, a multicultural society:
and I think that we are beginning to appreciate the challenges and opportunities for
learning that this diversity offers.
“A new resilience derived from diversity can only strengthen Britain”
She was right.
Estimates show that our economy is missing out on £8.6 billion a year – probably
more – from failing to fully empower people from ethnic minorities.
Imagine what Britain could do if we unlocked all that untapped talent.
So we need to break down these barriers.
Expose those opportunities and those values.
Bring people in from the sidelines, into the mainstream.
So the young black British boy doesn’t think he’s more likely to fail at school and less
likely to get on in life.
But realises that he is not part of the problem, he’s part of the solution.
And there is a growing political imperative to this.
Now I know the Conservative Party carries baggage on the issue of integration.
And the proof is in the polling: the number-one driver of not voting Conservative is
not being white.
But I believe it’s time for us to reject that baggage.
As a Conservative politician, I wholeheartedly do.
Whether it was campaigning against Apartheid in the 80s.
Helping to set up OBV in the 90s.
Taking on BNP leader Nick Griffin in the 2000s.
Or today, as Minister for Faith and Communities, focusing on getting the message
That this Government is committed to a practical, no-nonsense approach to ensuring
Britain is fair and inclusive.
It’s an approach that works for our ethnic minority communities.
As much as it does for the broader population.
The debate on multiculturalism has been misunderstood
So let me be clear: the multiplicity of cultures in Britain is a good thing.
Multiculturalism is the inclusion of various cultures in Britain.
It’s chicken tikka masala becoming a national dish.
It’s Slumdog Millionaire becoming a British box office smash.
It’s a politician who wears a shalwar kameez.
But ‘state multiculturalism’ is not good.
This means government engagement and funding in a siloed way, which encourages
people to live, work and play in separate ways.
As I said in 2009, this state multiculturalism is not integration, is not unifying, and is
not the British way.
The fact is, multiculturalism is a strand of Britishness, not the other way round.
The Conservative Party has made some headway in its Parliamentary party starting to
reflect the look and feel of our nation in 2010.
In fact, in 2010 we made a historic increase in the number of BME candidates we
But even when Parliament’s composition reflects the UK’s demography that in itself
won’t make us an integrated nation.
I used to say that a government couldn’t responsibly govern until it represented all its
The reality is that parties in the future won’t have an opportunity to govern unless
they have the support of all communities.
This issue has gone from being a moral imperative to an electoral reality.
President Obama’s re-election last week was an important example.
The Brookings Institute was right when it published a paper in May called ‘Why
Minorities Will Decide the 2012 US Election’.
Because last week over 70 per cent of Latino and Asian voters came out for Present
In fact, Latinos probably tipped it for Obama in Colorado and Nevada.
And over 90 per cent of black Americans voted for Obama.
Credit to OBV and Simon Woolley – you’ve been focused on the need to engage and
enfranchise people from black and ethnic communities for many, many years.
And you have done a huge amount of work in terms of talent-spotting, mentoring and
supporting successful elections of candidates including our very own Helen Grant.
The Conservative Party needs to take heed.
After all, more than one in ten voters is BME.
And by 2050, ethnic minorities will make up a fifth of the population.
At the last election, the Conservative Party won only 16 per cent of the ethnic
Earlier this year, I was at the Republican National Convention when Mitt Romney
was adopted as the presidential candidate.
At almost every meeting that I had, there was a recognition that Republicans needed
to engage with more non-white voters and a concern that they may have left it too
And as Barack Obama’s re-election showed, they did leave it too late.
As I have said on numerous occasions, you can’t turn up at a BME community centre
weeks before a poll and expect to win hearts and minds.
It’s got to be a long-term strategy.
And that’s something we need to realise closer to home.
Lord Ashcroft put the Conservative Party’s shortcomings in this area down to a ‘brand
In his report ‘Degrees of Separation’, published in April, he said the Conservative
Party’s ‘problem with ethnic minority voters is costing it seats’.
He said it wasn’t right that in contemporary Britain a large part of the population
should feel a mainstream party, one which aspires to represent every part of society,
has nothing to say to them.
And that despite the fact that the party has modernised in recent years, despite David
Cameron rooting it firmly in the centre ground, despite addressing the core issues that
voters care about, it seems there is still a perception that the Conservative Party is
hostile towards minority voters.
In fact, many people cannot imagine someone like them, either culturally or
economically, could be a Conservative candidate.
So therefore we must go further.
We need to ensure our language and our tone reaches out to and is relevant to people
from different backgrounds.
To talk about the values of responsibility and enterprise, self-reliance and hard work,
connecting our policies with the aspirations of voters from all our communities.
To show that we are united – as a Government and as a country – by a desire to propel
Britain forward in this global race.
Showing that our diverse communities are crucial to that ambition.
It’s just as Lady Thatcher said, all those years ago:
Resilience derived from diversity will strengthen Britain.
David Cameron talked about today’s Britain at Conservative Party Conference last
And called on us to become an Aspiration Nation if we want to win the global race.
I believe we also need to be an Integration Nation.
Taking away those barriers that stop people playing their part.
Asserting shared British values – and affording everyone those values.
Removing discrimination, tackling bigotry and hatred, wherever they arise.
And, crucially, unlocking the full talent of Britain’s diversity – a diversity which is so
essential to our country’s future prosperity.