Hatred, hope and a wet balloon

Last night I watched Panorama ‘Undercover: Hate on the doorstep’ which was looking into the abuse that ethnic minorities encounter in some areas of Britain and the hook / contrast was with the Equality Commission having said that Britain was pretty good in terms of tolerance and issues of race. The program set out to disprove that statement – pretty successfully.

Two undercover reporters, one male and one female and both Muslim, moved into a house on an estate near Bristol. For the eight weeks they were there they were abused, both verbally and physically, by local youths and children. Things were thrown at them, they were threatened and beaten on one occasion – just for existing.

This morning I was listening to Nick Ferrari on LBC talking about how London is not friendly to fat people. A woman came on – afraid have forgotten her name – who had been beaten up and abused on the tube because she was fat. She said, and other callers to the program said, that they faced verbal abuse every single day of their lives because they were overweight.

So what is this all about? In the end it has to be about people feeling they have nothing and are nothing and the only thing that makes them feel better is abusing someone else. But how do you change a culture? Punishment is fine and necessary – as are laws – but that doesn’t mean that things will be different in future. So how do you change behaviour?

Funnily enough, today one of my meetings was with the Prince’s Trust who came to brief me on their work. One of their programs – called Team Project – is about getting the long-term unemployed aged 16 to 25 back into work, education or training. It is a twelve week program which kicks off with a residential week which is pretty physical, outward bound kind of stuff. The kids then do voluntary work with the community and also learn skills and experience work environments etc.

I asked what the number of young people in any one cohort year was – 44,000. The Prince’s Trust put through about 12,000 of the most challenged and marginalised youngsters through the Team Project each year. They then do an assessment on the success of those who have gone through the scheme which is rigorous and tough. About 70% of the young people after the project – go into work, education or training. That is a pretty stunning result.

We had a bit of a meander through the philosophical issues around how you get the have-not kids to mix with the haves (how to heal a divided society) and whether a national, civil youth service would be an answer. If it was – should it be compulsory? But the real answer – whatever the programs and projects – is that there are no quick, cheap fixes. Any work undertaken amongst the challenged groups they work with – like the long-term unemployed, the socially excluded, ex-offenders and so on – needs to be sustained and relatively long term. The Team Project is twelve weeks so not cheap – but in the end – if that investment works then it has to be worthwhile.

It was a bit of a meetings day really – with Shadow Cabinet/Home Affairs team/briefing by Prince’s Trust/lobbying by Relate / meeting with Martha Lane Fox and Nick Clegg about the digital divide and then to top it off – the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, Second Reading.

This Bill was meant to be a Bill that would start rolling the great reform agenda for decades to come. Sadly – it has turned out to be a wet squib. Where is the abolition of the hereditary peers? Where is the end of the male line of accession kicking females out of the way? Where is anything worth having a constitutional bill for – all gone, all watered down. Alack and alas.

0 thoughts on “Hatred, hope and a wet balloon

  1. It is an estate in Bristol, within the City boundary, with a mix of Council and ex-Council houses. And there is a report that two of the people featured (sic) have been arrested today, one a minor.
    This evening I have been talking to someone who used to work for the Council there, and to someone else working in a Pupil Referral Unit in another LA. And I’m remembering what a friend who used to be a Deputy Head in a Junior school in a similar estate in another part of Bristol used to tell me over a pint, about children with no place they could call home, but having to find some relative who would let each little’un sleep there tonight. Basically, there are much worse areas, and Southmead is a lot better than it used to be.
    Don’t, please, lose sight of the stories of families being really tormented, stories about which events have been featured elsewhere in the news recently, with claims that ASBOs don’t work and that the police repeatedly fail to keep order.

  2. So a BBC panorama investigation has sensationally discovered that uneducated people form broken families living in poverty on a rough estate known for racial tensions can be a bit racist.

    I’d dare say that any outsider entering such an estate would be in danger regardless of their ethnicity, and the thugs would just find some other characteristic they didn’t approve of – be it their accent, colour of their hair, weight (fat OR thin) height, sexuality etc etc.

    I have to say the timing of the programme is incredibly suspicious (though there is a small chance it could be coincidence). Additionally, for it to be considered a reliable investigation they would have need several groups of people to have moved in so the results could be compared. On top of that it would have been interesting to see a white couple move into a racist asian area, e.g. parts of Burnley etc, but I don’t suppose doing that would be very PC would it?

  3. That was a point I was making – that possibly anything that makes someone ‘different’ race or weight – is enough to be targeted by those who appear so disenfranchised. The program clearly didn’t go far enough, wide enough or deep enough – but it sure showed that in one place amongst some people – what does goes on.

  4. Its always the case Lynne, If you are in any way shape or form different, you are perceived as not being with the group. Groupthink or belonging to a certain class or grouping, and being different in the midst of that is psychologically going to be difficult unless people are tolerant. What we are seeing in our overcrowded neighbourhoods and towns and cities is division along group levels, you are perceived to be something when you are seen by someone else, someone makes a judgement and then acts on that Its graphically illustrated by the man with the green hair in the Naked Ape by Desmond Morris.

  5. The point is that the programme was not very successful in disproving the statement that Britain is “pretty good in terms of tolerance and issues of race” as they deliberately sought out uneducated, racist people in a deprived area where they were already racial tensions.

    It’s probably true that this isn’t the most tolerant society, especially when you consider the problems and mistrust resulting from some communities being to seperate and failing to intergrate. However the programme didn’t disprove anything either way and certainly wasn’t a success.

  6. Very disappointed after your illiberal response to home educating to see you saying without further comment:

    “We had a bit of a meander through the philosophical issues around how you get the have-not kids to mix with the haves (how to heal a divided society) and whether a national, civil youth service would be an answer. If it was – should it be compulsory?”

    Liberals are naturally appalled at the idea of a compulsory civil youth service, such an idea, even if some allowance is paid, amounts to little more than slavery and implies that the state owns people.

  7. I’m confused about your comments on a civil youth service – I thought you were Liberal?

    Surely, therefore, compulsion for any reason makes you gag, not philosophize. What ever the problem is, coercion isn’t an acceptable option, as it is the very opposite of the basic liberal values…and in this particular instance (i.e. forced voluntary work), it’s not just a reduction of individual liberty, it’s advocating slave labor.

    In fact, I’m amazed anybody as even entertained such a disgusting idea in this day and age. People, of any age, should not be forced to do anything, or not to do anything, within the bounds of law.