Steve Doughty, Daily Mail (London), January 3, 2009
White families on the country’s poorest estates believe they have been ‘betrayed’ and ‘abandoned’ by politicians who favour newly-arrived immigrants, a Government report acknowledged today.
It found that people on council estates think they always come second to immigrants for housing and benefits.
Many feel they have been shoved aside by politicians who use political correctness and allegations of racism to stifle honest discussion, it said.
The report for the Department of Communities and Local Government drew an admission from Communities Secretary Hazel Blears that white working class people ‘sometimes just don’t feel anyone is listening or speaking up for them.’
She said people should be allowed to talk about their worries ‘without fear of being branded a racist.’
The findings, produced by Mrs Blear’s ‘National Community Forum’, appear another step on Labour’s road away from multiculturalism, the left-wing doctrine that dominated ministerial thinking until the 2005 London July bombings.
Under multiculturalism, ethnic minority groups are encouraged to develop their own identity while critics say values associated with white groups are dismissed as racist.
Today’s report was based on interviews with 43 people on largely-white housing estates in Birmingham, Runcorn, Milton Keynes and Thetford in Norfolk.
It found that ‘by far the most frequent context for referring to ethnic minorities is that of perceived competition for resources—typically housing, but also employment, benefits, territory and culture.’
On the Milton Keynes estate, ‘feelings of anxiety around housing were so acute that respondents claimed they had voted against the regeneration of the estate, which meant pulling down all breeze block houses and rebuilding them with new and better materials, because they feared that their necessary displacement during building work would result in them losing their places on the estate to immigrants.’
Many residents were worried that refugees and single mothers could find council and housing association homes more easily than people whose families had lived in the area for generations.
It said they felt that if they complained they would be told the system was fair and they were racist.
The report said there was a ‘growing sense of unfairness and disempowerment among poor white people’ that was at its deepest in the most deprived areas.
It warned that the resentment could provide fertile ground for far right political groups.
The NCM report dismissed the idea that concerns about political correctness were genuine. The reason people spoke of political correctness, it said, was ‘so that the white majority assume the role of victims.’
Its authors also considered that despite the lack of ‘explicitly hostile language’ from white interviewees, ‘this is still about race’.
But Mrs Blears was more sympathetic to those who fear their interests are ignored.
She said that people were expressing ‘real complexities’ and that the Government would look closely at their concerns.
‘White working class people living on estates sometimes just don’t feel anyone is listening or speaking up for them,’ Mrs Blears said.
‘Whilst they might not be experiencing the direct impact of migration, their fear of it is acute.
‘Changes in communities can generate unease and uncertainty.
‘These changes need to be explained and questions need to be answered or the myths that currently surround the treatment of ethnic minorities “jumping the queue” will become increasingly hard to shift.
‘People who care about their communities and have lived there for generations have every right to ask questions about what is happening in their estate, street, neighbourhood.’
Labour MP Frank Field, co-chairman of the cross-party group on balanced migration, said the Government should start to answer working class concerns.
He said: ‘Hazel Blears says that people on council estates feel ignored. That is exactly our point.
‘And not only on council estates—80 per cent of the public want to see a substantial reduction in immigration but the Government refuses to address the issue.
‘No wonder people feel the Government is riding roughshod over their wishes, and not only in the poorest areas, which are bearing the brunt of the present massive level of immigration.
‘Unless further action is taken soon, immigration will add nearly 10 million to the population of England in the next 20 years.’
Mr Field added: ‘If Labour wants to influence the outcome of the next General Election, it had better start addressing white working class concern about immigration, not simply reporting on it.’
Tory cohesion spokesman Baroness Warsi said: ‘What an indictment of New Labour that they have to have an investigation to show that over the last 10 years they have completely lost touch with their so-called roots.
‘Amongst other things this has also demonstrated the dangers of Labour’s past use of identity politics for electoral purposes.
‘This should be a call to focus on the real core problems of worklessness, debt, welfare dependency, family breakdown and drug and alcohol abuse.’
The allocation of council and housing association homes has become an increasingly difficult problem for Labour MPs and ministers in recent years, particularly in high migration areas.
Former Culture Minister Margaret Hodge complained last year that in her East London constituency migrant families were being given priority for homes over those with a ‘legitimate sense of entitlement’.
Waiting lists for social housing have nearly doubled since Labour came to power and are getting longer thanks to the economic crisis. There are currently around 1.7 million people on the waiting lists.
Homes are handed out on the basis of ‘need’ as assessed by officials. This means that single parents and people who can show they are homeless or workless often get priority over those with jobs and longstanding local connections.
Around one in 12 council or housing association properties—more than 300,000 homes—are occupied by people who are foreign citizens.