Britain’s black and poor communities could end up like those exposed in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, minister Harriet Harman has warned.
Her comments echo those of Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, who believes the UK must heed the lessons of the catastrophe.
Hundreds of America’s poor were left homeless by the disaster which struck Louisiana last month. The majority of them were black.
Constitutional Affairs Minister Ms Harman said: “We don’t want to get into a situation like America, but if you look at the figures, we are already looking like America—in London, poor, young and black people don’t register to vote.”
Ministers fear the failure of many to register is evidence of their disengagement from civic society—in the same way the poor of New Orleans had no power to improve their position.
Latest figures show that 20% of people aged 20 to 24 were not on the electoral register.
On Thursday, Mr Phillips will tell Manchester Council for Community Relations in a speech: “We are a society which, almost without noticing it, is becoming more divided by race and religion.
“Our ordinary schools . . . are becoming more exclusive and our universities are starting to become colour-coded with virtual ‘whites keep out’ signs in some urban institutions.”
In an assessment of the UK after the July 7 terror attacks, Mr Phillips said: “We are sleepwalking our way to segregation.”