Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 3 November 2016


What sort of country do you want to live in? One where people who are different are welcome, or one where we pick on people from other countries and make their life a misery? The statistics about the rise of hate crime since 23rd June 2016 are disturbing. In the 38 days following the referendum result in June 2,400 hate crime incidents were recorded in London alone, compared to 1,300 in the 38 days before the result.

In Plymouth and elsewhere in the country, people who had been here for years working and paying their way were insulted, abused and told to clear off by some of our fellow citizens.

Some of you, like me, can remember the Alf Garnett programmes of the 1970's, which at the time many of us thought were funny, but were laden with racial insults and offensive language.

Since about that time, political leaders have realised that racial prejudice does lurk within the human heart and that we have to inspire people to a better way. We have sought to do so firstly by legislation: including several Race Relations Acts. Martin Luther King said that a law cannot make a white person love a black person, but it can stop him from lynching him.

We have tried to impact change by example, encouraging organisations, including Parliament, to look more like the country in which they are rooted. Positive role models and massive engagement from civil society, including the excellent BBC, have all made a difference. My children's generation do not really see race or colour. We have come a long way since the Empire Windrush arrived in 1948 with 500 people from Jamaica on board.

We seemed to take a backward step after the referendum result, hopefully only temporarily. We know that prejudice against people who are different does not lurk very far below the surface for many of us. Most of the time this is constrained by law and social norms. However, with some of the language during the referendum debate becoming over-robust, political leaders appeared to be giving permission to people to unleash their prejudices.

Does this mean we cannot talk about immigration? No. Does this mean we should take into our country anyone who wishes to come here? Of course not.

But it does mean, during the rest of the Brexit debate, conducting ourselves in a way that will encourage the best in us, not play to the worst.

posted by Gary @ 09:21