“very” or “a little” race prejudiced – I am unsurprised by survey of British attitudes

Growing number of Britons admit to being prejudiced

The British Social Attitudes survey has found that nearly a third of people in Britain admit being racially prejudiced, a return to the level of 30 years ago. Of the 2,000 people polled by social research company NatCen, 30% described themselves as either “very” or “a little” race prejudiced. Chief executive Penny Young said the findings were “troubling”, and cited the 9/11 attacks and an increase in concerns about immigration as two possible reasons for the turnaround. However, Ms Young also admitted self-reported prejudice was “very difficult” to study in detail, and Sunder Katwala, director of the identity and integration think tank British Future, said it was a “difficult measure to use” when attempting to draw conclusions. The Telegraph’s Allison Pearson suggests the findings should not come as a surprise and recalls comments made by Margaret Hodge in 2007 about how issues surrounding the ethnicity of people on council house waiting lists could alienate large numbers of working-class voters.

TODAY – BBC News The Daily Telegraph, Page: 17 Daily Star, Page: 23 Independent i, Page: 24 The Guardian, Page: 34 Daily Mirror, Page: 2 Daily Mail, Page: 14 The Independent, Page: 37

Since I became politically aware, as a teenager, it has struck me that racial and indeed homophobic prejudice in Britain is both significant more widely spread than we may wish to admit. In the round this survey says one third of us may well be racially prejudiced and frankly that sounds about right to me in terms of a proportion of the population.

Of course politicians of the right often play to such prejudices as indeed does the right wing press. It is easy to scare people with stories that spread fear and worry about those of differing ethnicity and the ‘threats’ they may bring to the ‘British way of life’. UKIP very much trade on such fears of course so the rise of this deeply illiberal party in times when polls are showing prejudice levels are high comes as no surprise.

The big problem we face is that the main political parties are slowly being pulled towards intolerant and illiberal policies in an attempt to bring the electorate back on board. And we should not think this is a problem that the Tories are most troubled with as Labour’s ‘working class’ (oh how I hate that phrase) supporters are probably where the greatest challenge sits. But the Lib Dems too could well feel they need to sound tougher on racial issues when in fact they need to sound tough on the racists and the intolerant.