Chingford resident Alka Sehgal Cuthbert explains why Brexit can be positive for Waltham Forest
I read the Echo‘s front page article last month, Support for International Community, with some interest.
On the one hand it is nice to know that there is support for European Union (EU) citizens already working in Britain to have their positions secured. My dad was a first-generation Indian immigrant who loved living in Highams Park (and Britain generally during the 1960s and 1970s).
However, I am concerned that there is a danger in over-emphasising the negative consequences of Brexit, be they economic doom or greater intolerance. Reports of both have been greatly exaggerated.
To claim a rise in race hate crimes has been reported, as if it were an incontrovertible fact, ignores the reality that only nine of the 72 post-Brexit incidents reported to the Institute for Race Relations involved a physical attack of any kind. It also ignores the findings of the British Social Attitudes Survey, based on over 3,000 in-depth interviews, that shows a steady decline in racial prejudice since the late 1980s.
Holding a Stand Up to Racism rally in Walthamstow, an area where there has not been any reported increase in racist incidents, is likely to have two unintended consequences.
Firstly, it reinforces a rather ugly interpretation of the referendum result which implies that those who voted to leave the EU are assumed to be either outright racist, or too fearful or politically illiterate to avoid being swayed by the likes of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Secondly, such a rally is likely to exacerbate any insecurity felt by some, such as the August article’s Dutch interviewee, while also exacerbating a climate of political orthodoxy where many, who have questions and criticisms about immigration and the EU, feel unable to speak openly for fear of being regarded as racists when they are not. Arguably, this conformist cultural climate can only contribute to the appeal of the likes of UKIP.
Waltham Forest may have voted to remain, but it is part of a larger entity that clearly voted to leave. I voted to leave because, like many others, I think decisions about arrangements that affect people who live in Britain should be made in Britain. Politicians should have to put arguments, which include the values that underpin their interpretations of facts, to the public.
For too long most have preferred to talk with committees based in Brussels, who share a view of politics as technocratic expertise rather than democratic contestation.
A meeting to discuss Brexit and what it means is being held on Friday 30th September at 6.30pm in the County Arms, 420 Hale End Road, Highams Park E4 9NW