Not, of course, that this has stopped him dishing out similar treatment to others. Trevor Phillips may not be the most extreme race hustler around, and he may find that he is himself targeted by the more hardline elements of the race relations industry, but a race hustler he nonetheless remains. He's right about multiculturalism, though.
A veteran of race politics, it was Phillips who declared that multiculturalism wasn’t working, sounding the death knell for that oh so British doctrine that for 30 years decreed we should live alongside each other, let different communities and races do their own thing and not worry about integration, helping immigrants learn English or inculcating British values. It was a doctrine that died on 7/7 when British-born Muslim suicide bombers murdered their fellow citizens.
Though undoubtedly the right thing to do, Phillips’s condemnation of multiculturalism made him massively unpopular with many of his former brothers – as I found out when I interviewed him about his new job on stage at the CRE’s farewell race convention last year. I was there to talk to him about the role of the new commission. Questions from the floor were hostile. Voices were raised. Many veterans of the race riots of the 1970s saw Phillips as a sell-out, furious that the focus on race was to be lost as the CRE merged into a wider body. Phillips was taken aback by the “bullying” attitudes.
This time we are in his offices in Victoria Street without an audience, but he is still uncompromising on his old comrades. “They have to grow up. That militancy must be consigned to the dustbin of history. The CRE was set up to deal with a different set of circumstances. Now we have to chart a course for how we can deal with difference. We have to be more proactive and more friendly.”
Race is, as he puts it, “no longer black and white”. In terms of life chances, a black African girl is likely to do better than a white British boy. A Chinese baby born today will probably be much better paid than his or her white contemporaries. It is no longer the case that ethnic minority kids get a raw deal because of white racism.
Indeed, it could arguably be said that some white children are getting a raw deal because of anti-white discrimination in the education system. After all, there is £178 million set aside each year specifically to help poor non-white pupils, but no comparable funding aimed at the white working class.
But despite such progress, Phillips is aware of the challenges we face to integrate the new arrivals. “We are now in the age of difference, not just in our big cities, but everywhere. We are all struggling to get used to this. But people like Andrew Green at Migrationwatch are saying these new arrivals can’t fit in. I believe that shows contempt for the tolerance of the British people. As a nation, because of being Welsh, Scots, Irish, English and still British we are pretty good at absorbing people. Once we get our brains in gear and stop being frightened about race, we are pretty good in this country at doing the immigration job. We just have to treat it positively. We have to tell immigrants the rules and what we expect.” Tell that to Cambridgeshire police.Quite. And, far from Sir Andrew Green showing contempt for the British people, I think that it is Phillips who is doing so. After all, he appears to imply that any failure of immigrants to integrate is down to a failure of tolerance on our part, with the immigrants themselves bearing little or no blame. Of course, this is completely wrong. The British people have been exceptionally tolerant of immigrants - too tolerant for our own good, some might say. Those immigrants who have wanted to integrate have been embraced with open arms. However, most immigrants, particularly Muslim ones, have actively rejected British society. After all, given the diametric opposition of our culture and theirs, Muslims at least could not embrace British culture unless they rejected every tenet of their own culture and religion. And given the extreme tolerance we have extended to them, whatever their behaviour, they have had no incentive to do so.
Another particular problem has been the level of immigration. It is notable that those immigrant groups which have integrated best tend to be those that are small in number - the Chinese, for example. By contrast, those that have come here in bulk, such as the Pakistanis or the Bangladeshis, are the least well-integrated. After all, they have been able to retreat into substantial ghettos comprised entirely of their own people, and to thereby minimise their contact with native British culture. A somewhat more "intolerant" attitude towards mass immigration, resulting in a substantially reduced number of immigrants, would have compelled those immigrants that there were to have more to do with the natives, substantially increasing the likelihood of their full integration.
“Governments since the 1960s have been terrified of talking about race because of the spectre of Enoch Powell,” says Phillips. “They are scared of raising these issues for fear of being branded racist. But we must be able to have an honest conversation about racial difference and immigration. We must recognise diversity, not pretend it doesn’t exist. It is okay to say ‘I don’t like what you do’, but not okay to say ‘I don’t like what you are’. Many of us don’t know how to talk to each other. My job is to work out how to make it work.”It's good to hear that Phillips objects to the label 'racist' being used to stifle debate about racial and cultural issues. But, once again, what he says has the faint reek of hypocrisy about it. After all, Phillips has been prominent among those quick to stick the 'racist' label on the BNP, often for saying things not much different from what he himself has lately come to advocate.
So what are his proposals? He thinks that in divided communities such as Oldham or Burnley that rather than quotas to mix the races in schools, or bussing pupils from one part of town to another, the key is getting different kinds of kids together for music or sport – or sending them on summer camps (all things his new body will be advocating and funding).I don't believe that these plans are likely to work. The children will go away to Summer camp together, probably get along reasonably well, and then go back to their own, separate, lives. If there is to be genuine integration and community cohesion, the key is to genuinely annihilate multiculturalism. And that is going to entail destroying the non-white ghettos, in which cultures utterly alien to our traditional way of life fester. Whether this can be done is unclear.
It is also going to entail what I have already mentioned: an end to mass immigration. Since integration can only be achieved with a limited number of immigrants, it is essential that immigration be very limited. Too many immigrants, and you get the creation of ethnic ghettos, after which, fostering integration becomes difficult, if not impossible.
I will leave off the quotes from the interview here. Suffice to say, that Phillips's ideas for bringing about an integrated society are that we should promote "Britishness", and that everyone should speak English. While I have no objections in principle to either of these aims, I do not believe that they will succeed, at least not in the situation this country is presently in. For a start, "Britishness" has become an utterly meaningless concept. When asked to define it, our politicians blether on about tolerance, fair play, and democracy; all things good enough in themselves, but utterly inadequate as an attempt to truly describe British culture. Tolerance and fair play are indeed part of British culture, but so too is our history, our arts and literature, and, yes, our national religion (Christianity, for those who might mistakenly have assumed that it was Islam). If we are going to promote British culture, and we should, then it must include all these things. Anything less will simply serve to belittle, and, ultimately, to undermine, it. Certainly, one cannot build a common culture out of fair play and tolerance. Nor can one build it out of a shared language. The evident linguistic differences between immigrants and natives are merely veils hiding the more substantive cultural and, yes, racial differences.
I do not know whether we can succeed in creating a unified society. Certainly, I do not believe that we can if we merely promote Britishness of the half-hearted kind generally favoured by politicians. Even if we promote Britishness as I define it, then I am dubious as regards the chances of success. For example, the Muslim population in Britain is numbered in its millions, and growing fast. I cannot see that Islam is in any way compatible with Britishness, correctly understood. Unless they renounce their religion, can those millions of Muslims ever be truly integrated into our society? And that is without considering the tension caused solely by racial differences, a tension that I regard as unlikely to go away, even in the unlikely event that a unified culture is forged.
So, what do I make of Trevor Phillips? Well, he is to be congratulated on recognising the wrongness of multiculturalism, and the extent to which the word 'racism' is used to stifle debate. However, I do not believe that he understands what is necessary to build a cohesive society, nor do I believe that he has really cast off the mantle of the race hustler. I continue to dislike and distrust him, and it will take more than this interview to change that.