Here is my latest column from the Grantham Journal, and a few additional thoughts after this week’s events.
“My original column this week was going to be on parking and residential schemes, but after the events of this weekend in Norway, I feel that subject can wait a while.
As of writing this, Anders Behring Brevick has admitted carrying out a massacre on an island youth camp in Norway. When the true horror of this event came to light on Saturday morning, I was appalled and shocked. I was glued to the rolling news channels, only imagining how the parents of these children must have been feeling.
As an avid user of Twitter, I saw people initially blaming “Islamist terrorists” for this atrocity. Then it came to light that a Norwegian, one of their own, with strong Christian fundamentalist, right-wing views had been arrested for the crime.
This man, aged 32, had posted You Tube Videos and a 1500 page manifesto outlining his views. Views which fear the “danger” of multiculturalism, which aim to protect the nation from “intruders”, and which seek to reap vengeance on those he holds responsible for the changes he sees.
I am a similar age to Anders. I too have seen the results of mass immigration on our town and our country. Whereas I understand why people would be concerned about how a national identity can be changed due to high levels of immigration, I do not agree that it is something we should consider a threat to our country.
I do, however, think that it is time we looked at and debated what our town can do ensure that people of all cultures, backgrounds and faiths are welcomed and helped to feel part of our community.
I look at Grantham and I see segregated communities, I see fear of other cultures and other Nationalities. I see shops where no products are labelled in English, and I see entire communities not engaging with the political process. Is this right? Should we keep our lives and communities separate from one another?
I don’t think we should, but what can be done to bring the people of Grantham together, regardless of their nationality, religion or background?”
Additional thoughts from this week.
On Monday 25th July, we saw Anders Brevick attend court, and although he admitted to the act, he did not feel that it was a criminal act as he felt he was “protecting Norway and Europe” from continued Islamification by preventing the young from continuing their careers in the ruling Labour Party.
I personally was appalled by these acts of violence and do not agree with the politics that motivated Anders, but has this sort of act been a long time coming? Has there been signs of far-right wing extremists that have gone under the radar with the general pre-occupation with Islamist terrorism?
These are questions for the security services, and I do feel that it is pertinent for the security services to review their operations to ensure the risk from far-right wing extremists is appropriately calculated.
How about closer to home? In Grantham, is there an under current of these views? Is there a general intolerance of all things foreign? Do we do enough to integrate foreign nationals into our communities or do we do too much?
In the last General Election, the BNP achieved 4.7% of the vote in the Grantham & Stamford Constituency, and by doing so nearly kept their deposit. They did this without really having a platform to speak locally, apart from the local press statements and a one hour slot on community radio (the same as all other candidates). So, in our constituency 2485 people felt strongly enough that the BNP represented their views that they were prepared to vote for them.
In addition to this other groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) have been gathering support by holding street protests across the country and have been active in areas not too far from us, such as Leicester.
In my opinion, I believe that people from different cultures, religions and backgrounds can be brought together in strong communities that are willing to support each other. It is clear that there is still some way to go to ensure that everyone is comfortable with this.
I do not share Anders opinion about Europe and I do not think what he feels has happened to Norway is happening in Britain. I also do not share the opinion of the BNP or EDL. I do not see an “Islamification” of Britain and do not feel like a foreigner in my home town.
To help facilitate better integration, a few steps are being taken in Grantham with local meetings and workers forums, and I am aware of activities of local union branches to ensure that Eastern European workers are aware of their rights. I am also aware that I do not really know enough about local initiatives that may be out there, so I will undertake to look at what is being done in the Grantham area.
I do feel, however. that more needs to be done to encourage people to engage with the local political processes so that a more diverse range of people can be represented properly. This is down to the local district and county councillors communicating with all of their communities and helping them understand why they are relevant to their lives.
Only by ensuring that everyone feels a part of Grantham will we achieve a true sense of community pride for our town.