Imagining the New Britain

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown presents the various social and political transformations that took place in Great Britain during the latter part of the 20th century (Brown 3). Because of class mobility and increasing differences in population structure, values, and cultural identities, the country had undergone alterations in terms of its domestic, foreign, and military policies. Thus, the author notes that these changes would decide the political, economic, and social history of the country.

Social and racial changes were highly noted in Britain during the 1950s and 1960s. According to the author, prior to the said period, racial discrimination was absent in Britain. The ‘colored’ people comprised only an insignificant portion of the population. Their political influence was of no value to the ruling counties and districts. Beginning in the 1960s, the population of black and Asian migrants increased. Discrimination began to take course, as some of these migrants were able to acquire economic and political power in the noted sectors of the country.

Although reluctant to put the migrants to equal footing with the “native” citizens, the Parliament passed successive race relations acts in order to prevent racism from taking grip of the social climate of the country. In other words, the government of Britain feared a US-type of racism; a form of racism that would cause riots and possibly revolutions. The “native” population reacted indifferently to the social changes occurring in the country since it did not really changed their political and economic standing.
Political changes were also noted in the 1970s. With the increase of Asian and black migrants, there was also an increase of Asian and black MPs in parliament. The increase though was insignificant compared to the number of seats acquired by traditional politicians representing the “native” population of Britain. When the Labour Party won the election in 1997, several Asian and black MPs were appointed to important positions in the government.
This was in recognition of the important contributions of the colored minority in the economic rehabilitation of the country in the 1980s (and their significant contribution in the country’s GDP). In addition, the inclusion of Asian and black MPs in the prime ministers cabinet was a startegy of the Labour Party to acquire the votes of the minorities (especially in large industrial cities). Here, one would note that the minorities, although still underrepresented in parliament had acquired some “slice” of political power.
The author notes that in recent years, religious discrimination is being revived by fundamentalist Anglicans (Brown 19). The establishment of several Catholic schools (run by the Jesuits) in the country infuriated many Anglicans; religious hatred that can be traced in the 15th and 16th centuries. According to these fundamentalist Anglicans (interviewees of the author), Catholic converts in Britain were being brainwashed by the Catholic clergy on certain issues like abortion, divorce, and the use of contraception.
This “brainwash” was according to them a grand strategy of the Roman Catholic Church to disrupt the social and political infrastracture of the country. The author concludes that these changes were the result of Britain’s increasing mixed population. As the number of migrants increases, their political, social, and economic significance also increases. Work Cited Brown, Yasmin Alibhai. Imagining the New Britain. New York: Routledge, 2001.

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