The Commission for Racial Equality has released a new study on British identity. CRE chief Trevor Phillips comments:
This research is certainly heartening. It is encouraging to know that people in Britain, no matter what their race or faith share a common set of ideas about what makes us good citizens. This is a great foundation for us to build on.
There are people in our society who do not feel they belong, that they don’t have a stake. But this shows there can be a common bond between us all if we are ready to create it. These ‘British’ qualities are found in all sorts of people. Perhaps there is more that unites us than we all think. (CRE)
Although there are no quantitive findings in the report, it’s conclusions are a little more complex than Phillips suggests:
- People who feel most British are those from ethnic minorities living in England. But they do not see themselves as English.
- In Scotland and Wales all those asked have a much stronger identification with their respective country than ‘Britain’.
- In England, white English people see themselves as English first, but also as British.
In reality, if there is a consensus, it is that most people see themselves as English, Scottish and Welsh first and British second. This consensus extends to ethnic minorities in Scotland and Wales, though not in England.
That presents a particular problem for state institutions which are themselves British first and foremost.
The lack of any quantitive data makes me all the more suspicious of the spin placed on this report.
I can’t help feeling that the promotion of Britishness, and the implied denigration of Englishness, has more to do with the need to prop up an unbalanced devolution settlement than promoting racial harmony.