Interesting comment from CRE head Trevor Phillips in Cardiff today.
"I think it may be rather easier for people to be Asian and Welsh or Black and Welsh than Asian and English or Black and English," he said.
"The Welsh have always identified with two things, with being a minority and not being English."
The fact that studies show that Black and Asian people are more likely to regard themselves as British rather than English/Scottish/Welsh has recently been regarded as one of the stongest arguments in favour of British identity.
Phillips himself has long been a staunch supporter of New Labour’s vision of Britain, calling last year for ethnic minorities to assert a core of Britishness.
This drew some interesting responses that perhaps show that the relationship of ethnic minorities to British identity is not a straightforward as the polls suggest:
Robina Qureshi, director of a Glasgow-based anti-racism pressure group, said she was “disgusted” by Phillips’s comments and questioned what “Britishness” meant to Scots, Irish and Welsh as well as Asians.
Gordon Brown’s recent statements on the British Empire drew a similarly strong response from Labour peer Bhiku Parekh.
"For Gordon Brown to say we have nothing to apologise for, that’s too rosy, one-sided a view of empire which is false and rather insulting to people who are its victims because these people who felt pain and tragedy are brushed aside. In the case of Mau Mau, for example, we set up concentration camps, people were tortured."
Phillips’ latest remarks in Cardiff chime remarkably well with the imperatives of New Labour’s devolution non-settlement. A Welsh or Scottish civic identity is conceivable because those nations have been conceded civic institutions. New Labour is not prepared to consider real devolution for England and so English identity must remain suspect, racialised, and subordinated to Britishness.
The apogee of this tendency was Jack Straw’s statement that the English are "potentially very aggressive, very violent."
In reality, imperialism is an institution produced by definite historical circumstances, not some metaphysical defect of national character.
The irony is that in order to preserve the remnants of the British Empire in the form of the UK state, the establishment is prepared to stigmatise the broad mass of the English people as congenital imperialists.
It is a remarkably cynical exercise.