Thursday, July 21, 2005

"They're all Londoners"

More bombs in London... at the moment a lot of people seem more weary than anything, but as the reality sinks in that we could be in for a long campaign, who knows what forms the creeping paranoia and edginess will take? One possible direction is racism, already being stoked by the British National Party, who used images of the bus bomb in their Barking election leafet, and by the Daily Mail, where Melanie Phillips bemoans 'the disaster of multiculturalism'.

Obviously this is an insult to the 7/7 dead, who included people from Poland, Italy, Israel, Turkey, Afghanistan and many other places. Anyway the BNP's ethnic purism is actually very close to the ideology of the bombers, leaving aside the fact that the last bombing campaign in London was carried out by an ex-BNP member, David Copeland. There has always been a link between the Islamist far right and their European counterparts, going right back to the mutual admiration of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Third Reich.

The Daily Mail might want to distance themselves from the BNP, but how could the monoculture they dream of be imposed except by ludicrous patriotic propaganda, repression and ethnic cleansing? My street in New Cross would be pretty empty once they'd driven away my French, Portuguese, Brazilian, West Indian and African neighbours, and I'm not sure that many of the 'White UK' remainder would want to take any kind of citizenship oath to Queen and Country. Count me out for a start.

Anyone would think that London's diversity was dreamt up by some committee in the 1980s. In fact, London was created and has always been sustained by constant migratory flows, a fact that has often been celebrated. In 'London belongs to Me' (1945), Norman Collins wrote:

'And the people. They're London, too. They're the same Londoners that they have always been, except that from time to time the proportion of refugees has altered a little. At one moment the doubtful-looking newcomers are the Huguenots. At another the Jews and it is the Huguenots who are the Londoners wondering whatever London is coming to. They're all Londoners - the French and the Italians in Soho, the Chinese in Limehouse, the Scotsmen in Muswell Hill and the Irish round the Docks'.


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