Thursday, 21 November 2013

English Integration

David Blunkett was on the radio a couple of days ago, carrying on from where he left off as home secretary. i.e. he was spouting a load of nonsense that skirted awfully close to plain old racism.

This time his victims were the Roma residents of Sheffield. He was sounding off about them congregating in large numbers, he made some rather cryptic remarks about them not living in a village any more and needing to use toilets, and he finished by predicting some kind of conflagration if `something isn't done'.

The key word in this largely incoherent rant was the word integrate -  woe betide the immigrant who does not integrate, for they shall not be welcome.

Two responses: let me note first that there are quite a few Roma people living round my neighbourhood in Bristol, some of their kids go to my son's school, one old man busks outside our local greengrocers etc etc. We do not seem particularly close to a conflagration. I'll go further - I rather enjoy having them about - brings a bit of colour init.

Secondly, on `integration'. What does it actually mean? Who's integrating into what in this county? An anecdote: We moved house about three years ago, just round the corner. As we were  visiting the house to see if we'd like to move in I had a brief conversation with the woman who is now my neighbour. It was a 3 sentence conversation and it's still our longest - her opening gambit was ``ooh, you'll like it round here. People keep themselves to themselves". I remember thinking to myself  ``Brilliant. So I can live here for years and make no friends. A perfect English neighbourhood.''

Three years on, living in the same house, it turns out we have made a couple of friends. Only a couple, mind. We live in a cul de sac, which would be perfect community material you might think, yet more than half of the people who live here I've never said more than ``Good afternoon" to... and some I've never sighted. We've had a street party for the last two years and about 2/3 of the people have stayed away.

So this is England - the country where people keep themselves to themselves. Where our home is our castle. Where we don't bloody well integrate. So what exactly is Blunkett's problem? Perhaps it's that the Roma are a little too willing to speak to those around them? Are they over-integrated? Enlighten us please David, because thus far you aint making much sense...

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Actually David Blunkett has turned up in my life a couple of times in the last week. We watched an old episode of Gavin and Stacey, in which Nessa muses on the glory years with John Prescott - reminiscing about `Dave Blunkett and his bitch coming round for dinner'. Hilarious! I only hope he didn't bore her rigid with his after dinner rants on immigration.

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