Ethnic Minorities More Likely To Feel British Than White People

Ethnic minorities are now more likely to feel British than white people, research has found. The study by the Institute for Public Policy Research said that 51 per cent of blacks and Asians describe themselves as British compared with just 29 per cent of whites.

The left-leaning think tank warns of a ‘growing divide’ in England between those who consider themselves English or British.

It argues that UK is in the grip of a national identity crisis as the white population increasingly fragments into English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish identities.

More than half of whites describe themselves as primarily belonging to one of Britain’s four constituent nations compared with just 11 per cent of blacks and Asians.

The report suggests that while Englishness and Scottishness are seen primarily as ethnic terms by minority groups, Britain, its flag and institutions are perceived as more neutral.

Rick Muir, a research fellow at IPPR who co-wrote the study, said: ‘The rise in English national identity is worrying because people who tend to define themselves as English are most hostile to cultural diversity.

‘There’s a worry that the growth of English national identity is divisive.’ Sir Bernard Crick, an educational expert, who helped the government devise the citizenship curriculum, agreed with the findings.

He said: ”To the immigrant, Britishness is essentially a legal and political structure. It doesn’t mean the culture.

‘When the immigrant says I am British, he is not saying he wants to be English or Scottish or Welsh. Britishness does not threaten their own culture. It is not an all-embracing term.’

Sir Bernard added that minorities preferred the term British because it can be combined with their own ethnic or racial terms such as British Pakistani or British African.

The study charts a steady decline in the sense of Britishness.

In 1996, 52 per cent of respondents to a poll said they saw themselves primarily as British. By 2005, this had fallen to just 44 per cent. The IPPR study said that Scottish and Welsh devolution had damaged British feeling.

It also found that religious identity, particularly among young British Muslims, was becoming more important than national identity.

The report concluded: ‘This no doubt has its roots in long-running social disadvantage at home, as well as resentment at British foreign policy and a sense that British Muslims are being viewed with increasing suspicion and hostility.’

Last month, the British Social Attitudes Survey warned that the trend away from feeling British could have damaging consequences for society. Gordon Brown has spoken of the need to reinforce a sense of Britishness in schools and everyday life. He has even suggested a holiday to celebrate the nation.

His comments last month came as a Government report found that white pupils attending mixed race schools often feel marginalised and lack a sense of Britishness.

David Cameron has warned of ‘clunking’ attempts to impose Britishness and ‘bully’ people into being patriotic.

Olympic gold medallist athlete Darren Campbell comes from a Jamaican family and was born in Manchester.

He said he preferred the term ‘British’ because he was born and bred in England but now lives in Wales but did not feel the term English has racial connotations.

‘I have represented England and have carried the St George’s flag. It is a huge pride.’ Lord Tebbit, the former Tory party chairman, said:

‘I think the results are encouraging, it’s a thoroughly good thing. I am not altogether surprised by it. It’s a mark of integration…of minorities working towards integration.’

Writer and comedian Meera Syal, who calls herself British Indian, said British identity was ‘in crisis.’

She said: ‘The whole label British is being redefined at the moment.

‘I don’t think people know what that means any more. There has been a lot of debate about what exactly is the British character, what is the British identity.

‘Britishness is a bit nebulous. I think our borders are more fluid now and that’s why everybody is having to redefine Britishness and I don’t think it will be clear for another 20 years.’

Ethnic minority Britons who are fiercely patriotic include Dame Kelly Holmes and boxer Amir Khan.

When he won his silver medal at the Athens Olympics, Khan’s father Shah, who came to the UK from Pakistan in the 1970s, famously wore a Union flag waistcoat every time his son fought.