British Future: The Integration Consensus Report: The View from Yorkshire and Humber

Following the publication of British Future’s Report entitled The Integration Consensus, Sunder Katwala’s article for the Racial Justice Bulletin assesses the emerging evidence from the Yorkshire and Humber Region.

Levels of prejudice have fallen in the twenty years since the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, but British Future’s new report ‘The Integration Consensus’ also reports widespread public recognition of the challenges which remain to tackle discrimination and racism in Britain today.

57% of respondents in Yorkshire and Humberside believe racism in Britain is lower today than 20 years ago, compared to 51% nationally. 17% think levels of racism are similar and 13% that things have got worse. Yorkshire had the most optimistic improvement score for any region, though the regional differences are fairly narrow, with the main difference being that Londoners (33%) were a good deal less likely to cite an improvement over the last two decades. Londoners were as likely to say don’t know (20%) or that things had remained the same (22%) as to think they had got worse (18%).

These results come from a nationally representative poll, conducted by Britain Thinks. The 2032 respondents across Great Britain included 175 from Yorkshire and Humberside. Care should be taken, in citing these results, to note the small sample sizes at a regional level. The regional pattern, overall, rarely presented striking differences in the shape of attitudes across different parts of Britain. The Report captures a rise in everyday tolerance across recent decades as Britain has become more diverse. 6% of people say they would be uncomfortable at having a neighbour from a different ethnic background, and 4% about their children’s best friends. 44% of respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey in the 1990s said they would be uncomfortable at their children marrying across ethnic lines, that has fallen to 9% in this 2013 poll. The role which sparks the highest level of discomfort (for 13% of people) is the Prime Minister being of a different race to themselves.

However, clear majorities recognise that prejudice still plays an important role. 54% today perceive a lot of prejudice against Muslims (a figure which was about 25% higher than for any other minority ethnic or faith group). Yorkshire responses on this were similar level to those across Britain. 29% of respondents believe there is a lot of prejudice against Asians in Britain today, including 38% of Yorkshire respondents. That figure was significantly higher than in London (23%). 24% of people perceive a lot of prejudice against Black Britons, a view shared this time by 21% in Yorkshire and 29% in London. Nationally, perceptions of levels of prejudice against Muslims in 2013 are similar to early 1990s views of levels of prejudice against black and Asian Britons, as over 50% of people told the 1991 British Social Attitudes study that there was “a lot” of prejudice against Blacks and Asians. Today, three-quarters of respondents across Britain do still recognise prejudice persists against Asian and Black Britons, but at lower levels, so public attitudes overall would seem to strike a balance between recognizing progress and the persistence of prejudice today.

11% of respondents in Yorkshire and Humberside perceive a lot of prejudice against White Britons, in line with the national findings, suggesting a small but limited audience for this form of “backlash” grievance politics. A slightly smaller proportion (43%) in the region declared that there is “hardly any” prejudice against the majority group, a view held by 53% across Britain. The British Future publication reports on a two-day citizens’ jury held in Eltham, South London, bringing together 38 year olds, who grew up at the same time as Stephen Lawrence, with 18-year olds today. The jury discussions captured significant shifts in attitudes to race and diversity in an area, which had been sharply polarized around issues of race in the 1990s. Participants felt there was more contact as the area had become more diverse. Eltham was 93% white in 1991 and 69% white British in the 2011 census.

While the far right had a visible and polarizing presence in the 1990s, they were largely absent today. The jury’s priorities for good community relations were increasing attention on vocational skills in schools; improving contact between the police and young people, and ensuring the police were visible, diverse and came from the communities they served; enabling community groups to use local spaces, such as schools, more easily; and increasing public engagement in how money is spent locally, especially at a time when budgets are under pressure.

The jury proposals were put to a panel of MPs, David Lammy and Gavin Barwell, during an evening debate. A subsequent national poll on the jury’s proposals saw increasing vocational skills in schools (62%) and ensuring police are visible and represent local communities (61%) emerge as the most popular priorities for improving life in communities around Britain.

The report “The Integration Consensus” can be read in full at

www.britishfuture.org or http://www.britishfuture.org/publication/the-integration-consensus/

Sunder Katwala is Director of British Future