Thinker's Corner

Identity and Politics (Centre for Reform, Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2AF, 0171-222 5121). Just as we all fell asleep over our rebranded Britishness, this paper prods us between the ribs. Modernisation is not a monopoly of new Labour, Michael Ignatieff reminds us, and the government's preoccupation with identity is not just a hobby-horse. People's political allegiances and involvement are shaped by their perceptions of what Britain stands for and how they relate to it. The 20th century has been a conservative one because the Tories successfully created symbols around which people could rally. Now the British identity is in flux again, there is a social conversation about how Britain should be. The government portrays itself as synonymous with the idea of modernisation, but there is a danger that Labour's brave new world will be one of control-freakery. That's why it is up to liberals to make sure that a new identity celebrates the freedom of its people rather than the management skills of its government.

Rich Mix: inclusive strategies for urban regeneration (Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Contact School of Planning, Oxford Brookes University, Gypsy Lane, Oxford OX3 0BP, 01865 483450). Sue Brownill and Jane Darke state what should be obvious: that urban regeneration must take issues of race and gender into account. Ethnic minorities and women are over-represented in deprived areas, but too often regeneration agencies fail to involve them in their efforts. Research sheds light on important differences; for example, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afro-Caribbean males run a higher risk of unemployment than Indian and Chinese men. Expectations differ, too: often, Asian communities put a higher premium on housing and security than on employment. Women may have no say in certain communities and it is important that they are given a space to express themselves. All this is eminently sensible. It is also unashamedly minimalist; gone are the days of war on poverty. We have moved from elimination to amelioration.

This article first appeared in the 20 November 1998 issue of the New Statesman, A prejudice as American as apple pie