Cameron: immigration policy ‘hasn’t worked’

Rising high: Tonight’s Bake Off final features three culturally diverse contestants. © BBC

Top Conservatives suggest that ‘too much’ immigration makes a ‘cohesive society impossible’. But fans of the Great British Bake Off take a rather different view as the finale arrives.

Today, two very different stories dominate the headlines: David Cameron’s views on immigration, and the grand finale of the Great British Bake Off. But there are some surprising common themes.

The prime minister had defended a speech by his Home Secretary Theresa May, who argued that high numbers of immigrants were making it ‘impossible to build a cohesive society’ in Britain. She claimed that immigration contributes ‘zero’ to the economy, and with around 330,000 more people entering the country in a single year, thousands are being ‘forced out of the labour market’.

The speech received heavy criticism. It was described as ‘tawdry’ and ‘dangerous’, she was accused of stoking prejudice and retailing woefully inaccurate ‘facts’. But Cameron argued that Britain would not remain ‘the most successful, multi-racial, democracy on earth’ if it did not combat rising immigration.

But a day earlier, he also took the time to name his favourite Bake Off finalist: British-Bangladeshi mother-of-three, Nadiya Jamir Hussain, because she is ‘cool under pressure’. Meanwhile, Hindu heartthrob Tamal Ray maintains his staggering online popularity.

To some, Bake Off is just a show about cakes. But to others it is something more — its warm tone and diverse range of contestants are inspiring symbols of the UK’s open-hearted multicultural society. Its cosy image of modern Britain directly contrasts with the ‘impossible’ position described by Cameron and May.

According to Times columnist Alex Massie, the show’s popularity proves that the average citizen is ‘relaxed about who you are and how you lead your life’, as long as you also subscribe to ‘British principles’.

Britain’s history of immigration has made it one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the western world, and Bake Off makes a point of reflecting that. Its millions of viewers — roughly the same proportion of adults who voted for the Conservatives — don’t seem to mind.

Melting pot

Bake Off has got it right, say some. British identity is not about your race or religion — it’s about being good-natured, a little bit eccentric, and not taking yourself too seriously. That’s why one in four adults will be tuning in to celebrate those virtues tonight on BBC One. It’s also why politicians’ rhetoric against immigration will never really succeed.

But perhaps there is something troubling about this rosy view of society, say others. Applying such subjective virtues to Britain’s national identity makes it easier to alienate those who do not fit the mould. Different cultures should be allowed to live side-by-side without having to jump through vague personality hoops — Bake Off, and the Conservative Party, should let them.

You Decide

  1. Who do you want to win The Great British Bake Off tonight?
  2. Is there a set of characteristics which are inherently ‘British’?

Activities

  1. Imagine you are a finalist on The Great British Bake Off tonight. Design a show-stopping cake that could win you the trophy.
  2. Write your own 300-word speech about the role of immigration in British society.

Some People Say...

“There is no such thing as a British culture.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Why are people so excited about cakes?
Good question. Last year, there were around 12 million viewers for the final, and that figure is expected to climb as high as 15 million tonight. It is on track to be the most popular non-sporting TV event of 2015. Some believe this comes down to its feel-good nature, offering an escape from a dangerous world with its gentle competition and penchant for puns. Others argue that we are returning to simple pleasures like baking and crafts as an antidote to technology.
Sounds like fun!
It is — and simple recipes like cupcakes can be fairly cheap to make, as the main ingredients are flour, butter, eggs and sugar.
So who’s going to win?
Nadiya is currently the favourite, but there is no public vote, so that could all change tonight...

Word Watch

Home secretary
Theresa May is in charge of the UK’s internal affairs, including immigration policy.
330,000
This is the net migration figure for the 12 months leading up to March 2015. Although the total number of immigrants entering the country was 636,000, it is offset by the 307,000 people who emigrated overseas.
Inaccurate
Just last year, her own department reported that there is ‘little evidence’ that immigration affects the jobs of UK citizens, and numerous other studies have highlighted the contributions it makes to the economy.
Multicultural
A society in which different cultures — often, but not always, related to ethnic backgrounds — live side by side.
Ethnically diverse
Ethnic minorities make up around 14% of the UK’s population, but a report last year predicted that this could rise to a third by 2050. More than 300 different languages are spoken by pupils in Britain’s schools.

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