The festival of diversity took place on a day when Trevor Phillips, who seems a very sharp cookie, was warning that there is a real danger of the emergence of a ghetto-ised and segregated underclass in this country, however much we may think of that as an American problem.
The evidence of the say suggests he’s right. We’re only about fifty miles from London — an hour from Victoria Station if you’re lucky with the tube change. Yet the reports about gun crime, or Polly Toynbee’s argument that
“Nationally 27% of people have no savings, not one penny; 25% of the poorest have at least £200 in debts … 12% of households (many more individuals) have no bank account”
might as well come from another country. I do know there are pockets of real poverty on the estates here, but nothing like half the children live under the poverty line, as they do in London.
All this happened almost imperceptibly. But it will be very hard to undo. Trevor Phillips suggests bussing — surely a counsel of despair. Polly says it would require only quite small redistributions of wealth to reverse. But quite small shifts in the tax burden have a way of growing at election time to intolerable proportions. It’s quite possible that wehave reverted to the two nations attitude that seemed natural in 1939, when Evelyn Waugh wrote a very funny squib about children being evacuated from London to the quiet countryside whose inhabitants would pay almost anything to have them billeted elsewhere. It took six years of real war to produce a government which would really exert itself to end this condition. Six more years of the “war on terror” are unlikely to have anything like that effect. In fact, if there is a war on terror here, it will be a civil war.