Charles Moore

Is racism really on the rise in Britain?

Is racism really on the rise in Britain?
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It keeps being said that racist ‘hate crime’ has increased as a result of the referendum. One must bear in mind how the public authorities define these things, as confirmed this week by Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Macpherson report on Stephen Lawrence set the current rule. It defined a racist incident as ‘any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’. The police are instructed to log all such incidents as racist incidents. So you only have to have more people reporting what they see as racist incidents for an exactly corresponding rise in the number of recorded racist incidents.

There is no independent way of judging whether these incidents really were racist (or indeed, ever happened at all), so the uninvestigated figures tell you nothing whatever, except about the number of people who, for whatever reason — good, bad, mad, political — complain. There have also been many incidents of Remain people insulting Leave voters. An artist friend, for example, whose eyesight is too bad to drive, was in a party painting rural landscapes. She was refused a lift to the painting site by one of her fellows because of the way she had voted. There is no way of logging this sort of behaviour with the police (unless the victim wishes to perceive it as racist), but it is just as unpleasant as someone who is rude to Poles. By the way, the worst threats of violence at present seem to be offered not by Leave racists, but by Corbyn fans against his challengers.