For a speech on such sensitive issues – segregation, Islam, terrorism, Britishness, multiculturalism – Cameron’s speech at Munich was like throwing a grenade into the system. Devoid of any ideas for developing policy, it nevertheless by its timing gave very regrettable succour to the EDL marching through Luton – surely Cameron must have guessed the likely impact of juxtaposing these two events? It was one of those speeces which didn’t say anything new, but was clearly designed to influence the political atmosphere by playing to the anti-Muslim gallery and telling the Hard Right that he understood their feelings and sympathised with them. Opening up a Pandora’s Box in such a mindless way can only unleash the forces of racism, suspicion and hostility that he purports to oppose.
The truth is that the increase in immigration and mixing of culturesover the last three decades or more is a by-product of the intense promotion of globalisation by an economic elite seeking to maximise its own economic interests. Capital roaming the world to find the highest returns has been matched by the ever-growing demand by UK employers to import cheap labour to compete with low-priced products from the developing world, especially China. Multiculturalism has been been a social aspiration, more successful generally than is often recognised, to accommodate the cultural consequences of an influx from which the economic elite is insulated by its own self-imposed residential segregation.
Cameron complained that “we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives”, so why doesn’t he end faith schools? Does he not realise that in towns like mine (Oldham) Asian people mostly live in segregated districts, not for religious or ethnic reasons, but because they can only afford the housing in poorer areas? Does he not appreciate that his advocacy of integration is rather compromised by his party’s Thatcherite championing of individualism over all things?
What is really contemptible about Cameron’s outburst is that he ignores the two key toxic factors that fundamentally drive segregation – racism and poverty/inequality. Both of these are still deeply rooted in British society, and Cameron whether consciously or unconsciously is giving latent encouragement to the former and with the spending cuts and non-action on bankers and their bonuses is fostering the latter dramatically. Cameron has often been seen as shallow, slick and opportunistic. This Munich speec also reveals him as anxious about his declining popularity and all too ready to resort to populist demagogy to salvage his fortunes.