Last month I led an ESRC Funded Thinking Futures Event on Migration and Belonging at the St Werburgh’s Community Centre, Bristol. The event was attended by twenty-six people who had experience of applying for British citizenship or had personal stories to share about migration. Storytelling gives a direct voice to research participants and this was the theme of the event. Artist Sam Church who is a graphic artist simultaneously sketched the stories which were being shared. Continue reading
The distribution of political rights in the UK undermines the assumption of equality that underpins democratic practice, writes Sean Fox. He makes the case for extending voting rights to all legal immigrants living in the UK – whose lives are affected by government decisions as much as those who, by virtue of their citizenship, get to have a say in elections.
The vote to leave the EU was fundamentally undemocratic. Theresa May’s clear determination to plough ahead with Brexit therefore compounds an act of injustice that reveals a basic flaw at the heart of Britain’s electoral system. If this seems a provocative opening salvo for a radical cosmopolitan polemic, you may be surprised by the current distribution of voting rights in the UK.
What is the spectre haunting Europe today? It’s simple. The thing that truly dogs us, that really drags at our heels, is ignorance. Ignorance of the fundamental ideas at the heart of politics. Ignorance of the key terms of political argument: liberty, equality, power, justice, and so on. Ignorance of the subject matter of political philosophy.
This ignorance is a spectre precisely because it is invisible to us. You might, for example, not know how a microwave works. But you know you do not know that. Now imagine there are purple aliens growing yellow mushrooms on the other side of the moon. In this case you are unaware that you unaware of them.
The Brexit referendum result was a shock. Especially surprising – given that the whole exercise was as a result of the divisions within the Conservative Party – was the fact that about 30% of those who voted Labour in 2015 voted Leave. It is clear that the Leave vote disproportionately consisted of those without a degree and over the age of 45. Equally over-represented in the Leave vote in England were those who say they are more English than British or only English and not British.
There is some reason to suppose that this new and rising English nationalism is anti-immigration, and even worse – given that England is a highly diverse country – anti-multiculturalist. While it is worrying that the Brexit result seems to have led to an uptick in racial abuse and harassment, there is no reason to suppose that English nationalism and multiculturalism must be opposed to each other.
To many, multiculturalism as a political idea in Britain suffered a body blow in 2001. In the shock of 9/11 terrorism and after race riots in some northern English towns, many forecastthat its days were numbered. If these blows were not fatal, multiculturalism was then surely believed to have been killed off by the 7/7 attacks in London in 2005 and the terrorism and hawkish response to it that followed. But this is far too simplistic.
And today, a multicultural identity among some ethnic minorities could help to create more of a sense of “British identity” among the English.
The security of someone’s status as a British citizen would not generally be expected to depend upon the operation of foreign nationality laws. It seems logical that there should be something fundamentally British about British citizenship. However, it is often the case that when decisions are made by the special court – the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) – the vagaries of foreign laws play a part in determining who gets to continue as a British citizen and who does not. One such case was decided this month by the UK Supreme Court after having been heard by the SIAC in 2008 on appeal from an order made by the Secretary of State in 2007. This is the case of Mr Al Jedda. ( UKSC 62; judgement delivered on 9th October 2013).