As a timely reminder that my research goes beyond Islamophobia, Muslims, religion etc into the realm of social problems more widely, I was today involved in the launch of a piece of research undertaken last year by a team I led at the University of Birmingham.
Working with Peabody Homes in London, the research sought to understand the views of residents and staff about anti-social behaviour (ASB) and crime on its estates. It hoped to identify best practice to improve intervention and develop better preventative measures.
Launched earlier today at the London Wellbeing Conference in the plush surroundings of Glaziers Hall on London Bridge, the research came up with almost 50 direct recommendations for tackling ASB in the housing sector.
Liz Chambers, head of community safety and support at Peabody said:
“We are very excited about the launch of this research. ASB can cause fear and distress to residents, affecting their health, wellbeing and home life — and there’s a widespread perception that housing providers aren’t doing enough to tackle it. We hope that the research will outline ways in which housing providers can refresh their approaches to ASB.”
New comment piece published today on the Telegraph Online’s ‘Comment’ section. To view the article, click here.
The text of the piece is also reproduced below:
The worrying rise of attacks fuelled by hatred
Both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents have risen recently as British society becomes more sharply divided, says Chris Allen.
Published: 12:27PM GMT 12 Feb 2010
Last year saw the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK since recording began in 1984. In a report by the Community Security Trust (CST), a total of 924 incidents including extreme violence, threats to human life and abusive behaviour were recorded, an increase of 69 per cent from the previous year.
The true picture is much worse, as many victims of anti-Semitic attacks are either unable or unwilling to report such crimes. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this is that attacks of this nature are even more prevalent when you consider the strong similarities between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, which is also on the rise along with its associated incidents.
So here goes, 2008 has taught me (relevant links added where appropriate…) that:
My life has been in a constant state of flux – something that doesn’t (yet…?) appear to be changing…!
A lot of nastiness, rubbish and nonsense has been thrown my way
You shouldn’t ever get comfortable and think that things are getting better as there’s always something else just around the corner
People get offended about almost anything and everything, here
The weight of expectation resting on the shoulders of Barack Obama seems to be beyond the capabilities of any one human being, here
At the same time, Barack Obama is also (allegedly) the Anti-Christ, here
Look back and history is peppered with great speeches. From Jesus’ sermon on the mount to Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream…’ and even taking in Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech, words delivered by mere humans have been repeatedly shown to be able to move people, shift attitudes and even change the whole direction of humankind and the history attached to it.
Given the gushing praise that surrounded Gordon Brown’s speech to the Labour Party conference this week, you would imagine that we were indeed witnessing history in the making. Far from it. Despite the fact that almost every commentator and Cabinet minister were literally falling over themselves to heap praise on Brown – Neil Kinnock even cried so I believe !!! – the speech was little more than nothing. No great rhetoric, no great policy announcements, no need to rush out and join the Labour Party as a catalyst for a new wind sweeping through British society. Instead, it was a return to the good old days of Labour Party spin and little of anything else.
Beginning with the ‘surprise’ of his wife Sarah introducing him to the delegates, Brown went on to play down his ‘celebrity’ status, arguing that because he was a serious politician for serious times, he didn’t do ‘celebrity’ with his family because his children “aren’t props, they’re people”, Given that he’d just been introduced by his wife in front of a bank of cameras and onlookers, isn’t that just a tad hypocritical?
Even beyond this vain attempt at trying to woo voters with a more personal and friendly fronted Gordon Brown, the content of his speech was far from revolutionary. Invisible was the rhetoric of the Left, devoid was it of ideas that would reinvigorate and renew a credible alternative to the personality-obsessed (obviously Gordon’s bug-bear), centre right politics that we have had to endure since the late 1990s.
Instead, we got bland statements about building a “fair society” for all little more than a week after hedge fund ‘gamblers’ and corporate fat cats made huge fortunes on the back of others’ misfortune. Fair to those 40,000 HBOS employees now facing the possibility of job cuts and forced redundancies? A “Britain of fair chances for all and fair rules applied to all”, that is unless you’re an international banking corporation and then you merely sidestep the monopolies commission and its safeguards whilst sipping champagne with the Prime Minister in Canary Wharf.
He apologised for the 10p tax debacle, it “stung me because it really hurt that suddenly people felt I wasn’t on the side of people on middle and modest incomes – because on the side of hard working families is the only place I’ve ever wanted to be”. Maybe as a sweetener to those on ‘modest incomes’ – is that poor to everyone else Gordon? – he unveiled a £300m plan to offer free computers and internet access to more than a million children to boost their chances in the jobs market – even though they won’t be able to pay for the fuel to power the computers given Labour’s reluctance to act against rising fuel costs and spiralling food prices. At least their parents might be able to try and rectify the tax credit system errors that have seen some of the most needy people being forced into debt millions of pounds worth of errors in the tax credit system that continues to punish those who need support the most.
In a message to the Daily Mail/ Daily Express angry mob: “The dole is only for those looking for work or actively preparing for it. That’s only fair to the people pulling their weight..And let me be clear about the new Labour policy on crime; taking action on the causes of crime will never mean indulging those who perpetrate it. Fairness demands that we both punish and prevent”.
He repeated his plan to extend free nursery places for all two-year-olds over the next 10 years as well as offering free prescriptions for cancer sufferers and other long-term illnesses – at a time when the ‘progressive privatisation’ of the NHS via Public Finance Initiative schemes are already well under way and where multinational drug companies take immense profits from the NHS
And then of course, Brown went into ‘bankrupt’ political mode taking a swipe at David Cameron/ George Osborne/ David Milliband (delete as applicable to the newspaper that you read): “I am all in favour of apprenticeships, but let me tell you this is no time for a novice” before ‘attacking’ the Tories suggestion that society is “broken”: “I think it’s the best country in the world – I believe in Britain”
I believe in Britain too Gordon but I don’t believe in either you or the Labour Party at the moment. Rid yourselves of the spin and personality politics and get back to offering credible and real policies. No matter how many times the GB – Gordon brown rather than Great Britain – sycophants tell us that things are great we have to take this with a pinch of salt. Yes, one speech can metaphorically move mountains as history has shown us. But all history will show us about this speech is that it has a memory only for the memorable.
Having gone through four ‘waves’ of security including showing my passport to get into the ICC and watching a guest in front of me being forced to drink half the contents of his ‘Buxton Spring’ water (because it might have contained some ‘chemicals’ so I was told later…!!!), the first thing that struck me was that it was unbelievably corporate. There were few that were not in ‘suits’ and as I said to one of my colleagues accompanying me, if we wanted to be taken seriously we must buy some ‘big pin stripes’ (pin stripe suits that is). As the event went on, this became even more apparent – most of the guests were from trade and industry backgrounds something that was apparent in much of the reporting that followed the event, many describing it as being one where the Cabinet met with business leaders.
At the final security check-in (that’s now five times), I was handed a card. On the card I was told that I had to tick one of the boxes. These boxes – health, education, crime, the economy or employment & skills – were followed by a space to add your name, table number and question. Outside of these five boxes, it was obvious that you had no chance of getting your question heard. Where was equalities in all of this, where was the space to ask about living in Birmingham, where were the questions (and the people) about ‘normal’ things…???
We I went to my table, I found out I was with Hazel Blears (amazingly small but someone I warmed to immediately). The rest of my table was made up of representatives from the manufacturing industry – all wearing suits. As such, the discussion was skewed towards growing and supporting businesses including inspiring young people and providing them with the skills to be ‘work ready’ (their term not mine).
This enabled me to get an angle and I suggested that if we are to inspire and provide skills, then we need to get a level playing field established for all. Yet in a time of economic downturn, funding equalities projects and our commitment to equalities, may be one of the first ‘luxuries’ to be slashed. How can we ensure that the work to address inequalities and discrimination wouldn’t be ‘lost’ along the way?
Hazel Blears responded by saying that it was necessary for equalities policies and programmes to be seen as valuable to all, not just minority or excluded minorities. She gave an example of the value that the REACH programme was making in trying to address the educational attainment of young black males but also highlighted the problems currently being faced by young white males. She added that Government couldn’t do everything themselves and so needed the support of parents, families, communities and organisations to make equalities work and to bring about the change needed to level the playing field.
As an insight to the level of engagement with equalities issues and how important these were to the people round the table, the representative from the Chamber of Commerce stated that whilst this was fine, we had to focus on ‘work readiness’ because many of the businesses they represented were employing people that didn’t have the necessary skills required. The reason why this was a problem for him and those he represented was because they could not ‘get rid of them’ (his words not mine) once they found out that they didn’t have the right skills and/ or knowledge.
Surely, this is a rallying cry for more protection and a need for businesses to improve the recruitment process rather than reduce the legislative protection rightly afforded to employees? Since this comment I’ve been nouyed by the rhetoric and stance taken by the TUC at their conference. Thankfully, it seems that some are still focusing on the protection of the employee rather than the maximising of the profit.
At the end, Hazel Blears acknowledged our contribution and said that she would respond to all the issues that were raised whether on the card or in person round the table. If and when I get this, I’ll publish it here on the web.
Ever the opportunist, I took the opportunity to give everyone around the table a copy of Speak Out magazine including the minister herself.
The event then opened up and selected questions were put to various ministers around the room.
Jacqui Smith said that addressing the ‘guns and gangs’ issue in Birmingham was going well and that positive development were well underway. Gordon Brown spoke of wanting a local, regional and national campaign – involving footballers – that sends out the message that carrying knives is wrong.
Ed Balls said that academies were often in the most deprived parts of the country and that they were making serious in-roads into increasing the attainment levels of those who were previously expected to fail. He said that the Government were breaking the cycle of poverty and low education.
Alan Johnson said that the role of carers was vital but were also placing new and quite unprecedented demands on the benefits system not least because people were living longer. James Purnell said that the Government were considering the costs and financial Implications of providing care for the elderly along the lines of childcare whilst stating that this sounded extremely expensive.
Hilary Benn compared the technological advances that were occurring in Britain today as being similar to the advances being made during the Industrial revolution. He said this would add towards improving the environment and halting climate change.
John Denham said that £1 billion was being invested into the creation of better skills for adult learners and this too would improve on climate change (???).
David Miliband stated the foreign policy would increasingly focus on the battle for resources and the issues of climate change.
Liam Byrne said that the West Midlands had a strong heritage of development and innovation. But more importantly had been the unity between industry and culture. Through this partnership, the regeneration and rejuvenation of the West Midlands was gathering steam citing the development of Stratford upon Avon. He also cited the shortly to be announced the establishment of Channel 4’s new digital media studios in the city. He concluded that in Birmingham and the West Midlands, “we have more in common than what sets us apart”.
Alistair Darling said that the US purchasing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was a sign of good governance: of government standing behind the economy to stabilise it. This is what the British Government was also doing with the economy. He was also confident that the UK would get through the current economic downturn and come out of it even stronger.
Gordon Brown opened and closed the event but in all honesty, I lost a little interest – it wasn’t that engaging and if you want to read his speech, then click here.
On the whole, slightly disappointing in the way that Government sees consultation and in the way that it was skewed towards trade and industry, but an interesting insight into British politics and the personalities that make up the Cabinet.
Would I do it again if invited…???
Of course…EVERYONE given the opportunity to speak or engage with politicians and politics at whatever level should take the opportunity. You never know, you may actually make a difference.
This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at www.chris-allen.co.uk.
I’ve been informed that the BNP have written about me on their ‘Birmingham Patriot‘ website. Pasted below is the article…enjoy the notoriety that I’m acquiring even though I didn’t actually say these things !!!
Does the ‘B’ in BRAP actually stand for ‘Black’?
The Birmingham Race Action Partnership (BRAP) is in the news again, this time for criticising a new stop and search policy. BRAP are upset because the government want to deploy the tactic in crime hotspots and unfortunately here in Brum some of these happen to be areas dominated by black people.
BRAP are not happy about this and claim that it could result in a repeat of Handsworth-style riots. This predictable whingeing follows Gordon Brown’s announcement that he is considering adopting new powers that no longer require police to fill out paperwork every time they stop a member of the public. At the moment police officers have to take down particulars every time they stop someone, regardless of whether the individual is consequently placed under arrest. These details include the ethnicity of the person being stopped, a requirement that enables the establishment to identify if certain groups are being specifically targeted.
Another provision is that officers have reasonable suspicion to carry out the search in the first place, but this is also for the chop if Brown gets his way. The two proposed changes drew the following response from BRAP spokesman Chris Allen:
“This has been a contentious issue in British policing for some time. Since the early 1980s, many have questioned the high proportion of black and minority ethnic people being stopped and searched by police. Recent figures show that black people were four times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people. It is to prevent this type of racial profiling that rules around reasonable suspicion were first introduced. Without the requirement to demonstrate this, past experience would suggest that racial profiling is likely to increase. This could result in the police running a grave risk of further alienating and even criminalising ethnic minority communities. Reasonable suspicion was introduced to address the concerns of people involved in riots like Brixton and Handsworth. We must not forget that history can teach us a valuable lesson and so cannot ignore the risks that go hand in hand with racial profiling of suspects.”
Mr Allen and his colleagues are well aware that non-white areas form many of the crime hotspots and for instance it would be nigh on impossible for officers to find a white person to stop and search on the Soho Road. It is almost as if the black leaders of BRAP have an axe to grind where the police are concerned. They are not only playing the race card, but displaying a grudge held from the eighties and insinuating that their community will react violently.
Meanwhile, the rest of us will continue to argue that stop and search paperwork is needlessly excessive and keeps officers away from proper police work. If, as a consequence, black people are stopped in an area dominated by blacks and which has a high level of crime committed by blacks then so be it. Would we create the same rumpus if white people were being stopped in an area dominated by whites and which had a high level of crime committed by whites?
Then again, we don’t have a ‘victim’ mentality when it comes to criminals of our own ethnic background.