Britain is in the grip of an epidemic, apparently. An epidemic of hate. Barely a day passes without some policeman or journalist telling us about the wave of criminal bigotry that is sweeping through the country. It’s been bad for years, they say, but has become worse since the EU referendum. Police forces tell us that hate crime has ‘soared’ in recent weeks; there’s been an ‘explosion of blatant hate’, according to some newspapers. Twenty-first-century Britain, it seems, is a pretty rancid, rage-fuelled place.
Brendan O’Neill and Kevin O’Sullivan discuss the real hate crime scandal:
If you feel this doesn’t tally with your experience of life in Blighty in 2016, you aren’t alone. There is a great disparity between the handwringing over hate crime and what Britain is actually like. The open racism even I can remember in the 1980s has all but vanished. Racist chants at football matches are a distant memory. Hard-right, foreigner-bashing parties may be thriving on the Continent, but they are dying over here. The likes of the BNP and EDL have withered due to lack of interest. This is a British triumph.
It’s not vainglorious to say that Britain is the most tolerant country in Europe, perhaps the world. In France, for instance, a national news-making hate incident is the attempted burning down of a mosque, which happened last month in Toulouse. In Britain, it is somebody shouting something nasty on a bus.
It’s almost impossible to argue reasonably that Britain is a bigoted country where ethnic minorities are somehow kept down. On the contrary, they are now more likely than whites to hold top jobs (doctors, lawyers, chief executives). More than a million Londoners voted for Sadiq Khan in May, giving him the largest direct mandate enjoyed by any individual in British history — not bad for the capital of a nation in which, according to Lady Warsi, it has become ‘socially acceptable’ to despise Muslims.