Ben Quinn, The Guardian, September 28, 2023
Rishi Sunak has praised the UK’s “fantastic multicultural democracy”, in direct contrast to Suella Braverman’s claims this week that multiculturalism had failed.
The home secretary was criticised by fellow Conservative MPs after she claimed during a speech to a rightwing US thinktank that world leaders had failed to make wholesale reform of human rights laws because of fears of being called “racist or illiberal”.
Asked on the BBC if he agreed with Braverman, the prime minister declined to back her, saying instead: “I think this is something that is incredible about our country, is that it is a fantastic multi-ethnic democracy.
“We have done an incredible job of integrating people into society and one of the lovely things about getting the job I have, as the first person from my background to hold this job, that’s a wonderful thing, but it’s also not a big deal in our country.
“I think that speaks to the progress we’ve made over the years and how far we’ve come and something we should all be collectively incredibly proud of.”
Braverman used her speech on Tuesday – which was regarded by some as another thinly veiled pitch for support from the Tory right ahead of a future leadership election – to claim that multiculturalism was a “misguided dogma” that had allowed people to “live parallel lives”.
Speaking in Washington DC, she also claimed that the international community had failed to reform the UN’s refugee convention of 1951 – prompting the UNHCR to later issue a highly unusual statement defending the 1951 refugee agreement – and the European convention on human rights (ECHR).
When Sunak was asked on Thursday if he would be prepared to walk away from the ECHR, he reiterated that he was confident that the government’s immigration strategy – including stalled plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda – was compliant with its international obligations.
Braverman drew a rebuke from the UN’s refugee agency soon after her claims on Tuesday. In a statement, the UNHCR backed the convention and questioned Braverman’s distinction between persecution and discrimination.
“The refugee convention remains as relevant today as when it was adopted. Where individuals are at risk of persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it is crucial that they are able to seek safety and protection,” it said.
In her speech to the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday, Braverman said: “Multiculturalism makes no demands of the incomer to integrate.
“It has failed because it allowed people to come to our society and live parallel lives in it … And, in extreme cases, they could pursue lives aimed at undermining the stability and threatening the security of society.”
She added: “We are living with the consequence of that failure today. You can see it play out in the streets all over Europe, from Malmö to Paris, Brussels to Leicester.”