Montage: Dan Murrell
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Commons Confidential: Ed, the vet, Yvette and Harriet

Harriet Harperson misunderstands her MP hubby Jack Dromey after the couple acquire a kitten called Otis.

The workers are revolting. Staff at United Utilities complain they were duped into forming an audience for David Cameron to deliver Tory propaganda. The water company, keen to board the fracking bandwagon, told employees to be at its Warrington HQ to receive “very important information”. The press-ganged staff were informed they were required to sit, smile and applaud Cameron blowing his Tory trumpet.

 

Two summer observations on Ed Miliband after talking in recent months to his office and Labour’s shadow cabinet: the first is that he swears more than he did. “Fucking” is the leader’s curse of choice. The second is his sensitivity to the merest hint of criticism of election maestro Douglas Alexander’s strategy. One Mili loyalist who had received a tongue-lashing told me that Sweary Ed uses the former whenever he detects the latter.

 

Veterans of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign report gazebo wars between the Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party. The rival Trots apparently compete for the best plots to pitch tents on at Gaza protests and brag about who handed out the most placards. It might be funny if Palestinians weren’t being slaughtered.

 

I overlooked the grand digs that come with the Italian job should Cameron reward Old Etonian retainer Ed Llewellyn by appointing him our man in Rome. The Villa Wolkonsky is perhaps the grandest residence of any British ambassador, originally owned by a Russian princess and a Nazi hangout when Mussolini and Hitler were partners in crime. The Foreign Office bought the pile after the war. It was recently cased by a parliamentary delegation, including Charlie Elphicke, Chloe Smith and Stephen Pound. I’m assured that the bedrooms are vast and the swimming pool large enough to host a regatta. Cameron and Llewellyn would be in it together.

 

Fur is flying in Devon after ex-strawberry farmer George Eustice, a one-time Ukip candidate-turned-Tory environment minister, opposed building new homes for beavers. His excuse is that much has changed in the 500 years since the beavers left the river, before returning a few years ago. Surely he doesn’t fear that if the government built lodges for beavers Iain Duncan Smith would count occupants to impose the bedroom tax?

 

Harriet Harman was guilty of everyday sexism at a TUC dinner when she announced football gags could be dropped now that Frances O’Grady is the unions’ general secretary. Harperson’s stereotyping led her to believe, wrongly, that only blokes like footie. Sister O’Grady is a fanatical Arsenal fan. That faux pas aside, Hattie tells a nice joke. Her latest is misunderstanding her MP hubby, Jack Dromey, after the couple acquired Otis, a kitten. When Dromey shouted, “Call the vet, his balls have to go!” Harman claims she heard: “Call Yvette, Balls has to go!” My informant muttered that some in the audience preferred the misheard statement. 

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 06 August 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Inside Gaza

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The 8 bits of good news about integration buried in the Casey Review

It's not all Trojan Horses.

The government-commissioned Casey Review on integration tackles serious subjects, from honour crimes to discrimination and hate crime.

It outlines how deprivation, discrimination, segregated schools and unenlightened traditions can drag certain British-Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities into isolation. 

It shines a light on nepotistic local politics, which only entrench religious and gender segregation. It also charts the hurdles faced by ethnic minorities from school, to university and the workplace. There is no doubt it makes uncomfortable reading. 

But at a time when the negative consequences of immigration are dominating headlines, it’s easy to miss some of the more optimistic trends the Casey Report uncovered:

1. You can always have more friends

For all the talk of segregation, 82 per cent of us socialise at least once a month with people from a different ethnic and religious background, according to the Citizenship Survey 2010-11.

More than half of first generation migrants had friends of a different ethnicity. As for their children, nearly three quarters were friends with people from other ethnic backgrounds. Younger people with higher levels of education and better wages are most likely to have close inter-ethnic friendships. 

Brits from Black African and Mixed ethnic backgrounds are the most sociable it seems, as they are most likely to have friends from outside their neighbourhood. White British and Irish ethnic groups, on the other hand, are least likely to have ethnically-mixed social networks. 

Moving away from home seemed to be a key factor in diversifying your friendship group –18 to 34s were the most ethnically integrated age group. 

2. Integrated schools help

The Casey Review tells the story of how schools can distort a community’s view of the world, such as the mostly Asian high school where pupils thought 90 per cent of Brits were Asian (the actual figure is 7 per cent), and the Trojan Horse affair, where hardline Muslims were accused of dominating the curriculum of a state school (the exact facts have never come to light). 

But on the other hand, schools that are integrated, can change a whole community’s perspective. A study in Oldham found that when two schools were merged to create a more balanced pupil population between White Brits and British Asians, the level of anxiety both groups felt diminished. 

3. And kids are doing better at school

The Casey Report notes: “In recent years there has been a general improvement in educational attainment in schools, with a narrowing in the gap between White pupils and pupils from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and African/Caribbean/Black ethnic backgrounds.”

A number of ethnic minority groups, including pupils of Chinese, Indian, Irish and Bangladeshi ethnicity, outperformed White British pupils (but not White Gypsy and Roma pupils, who had the lowest attainment levels of all). 

4. Most people feel part of a community

Despite the talk of a divided society, in 2015-16, 89 per cent of people thought their community was cohesive, according to the Community Life Survey, and agreed their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. This feeling of cohesiveness is actually higher than in 2003, at the height of New Labour multiculturalism, when the figure stood at 80 per cent. 

5. Muslims are sticklers for the law

Much of the Casey Report dealt with the divisions between British Muslims and other communities, on matters of culture, religious extremism and equality. It also looked at the Islamophobia and discrimination Muslims face in the UK. 

However, while the cultural and ideological clashes may be real, a ComRes/BBC poll in 2015 found that 95 per cent of British Muslims felt loyal to Britain and 93 per cent believed Muslims in Britain should always obey British laws. 

6. Employment prospects are improving

The Casey Review rightly notes the discrimination faced by jobseekers, such as study which found CVs with white-sounding names had a better rate of reply. Brits from Black, Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds are more likely to be unemployed than Whites. 

However, the employment gap between ethnic minorities and White Brits has narrowed over the last decade, from 15.6 per cent in 2004 to 12.8 per cent in 2015. 

In October 2015, public and private sector employers responsible for employing 1.8m people signed a pledge to operate recruitment on a “name blind” basis. 

7. Pretty much everyone understand this

According to the 2011 census, 91.6 per cent of adults in England and Wales had English as their main language. And 98.2 per cent of them could speak English. 

Since 2008-2009, most non-European migrants coming to the UK have to meet English requirements as part of the immigration process. 

8. Oh, and there’s a British Muslim Mayor ready to tackle integration head on

The Casey Review criticised British Asian community leaders in northern towns for preventing proper discussion of equality and in some cases preventing women from launching rival bids for a council seat.

But it also quoted Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and a British Muslim. Khan criticised religious families that force children to adopt a certain lifestyle, and he concluded:

"There is no other city in the world where I would want to raise my daughters than London.

"They have rights, they have protection, the right to wear what they like, think what they like, to meet who they like, to study what they like, more than they would in any other country.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.