I was driving back to Scotland up the M1 when I heard the traffic reports of chaos ahead.
No point sitting in a jam for hours, so I pulled off the motorway and headed for Coventry. Might as well take a look at the cathedral and have something to eat.
Walking around the city centre with its concrete plazas and dreary shopping centres, I was struck by how, well, ethnic it appeared. To be blunt: there were very few white faces. It almost didn’t feel like an English city. The majority of passers-by looked Asian or Afro-Caribbean. I’d seen something similar in some wealthy areas of London but nothing like this.
Casual racism alert! These “ethnic” people were almost certainly British citizens, most of whom had probably been born here. Coventry was one of the key centres of Asian and Caribbean immigration after the Second World War when Britain needed workers for its booming factories and growing public services. Ministers, including Enoch Powell, advertised throughout the West Indies and the Commonwealth for people to come and work here.
Coventry had one of the first mosques in Britain, established in Eagle Street in 1960. It is a tribute to the tolerance of Britain’s working class that it allowed wages to be depressed and communities to be transformed without turning in large numbers to racist politics; especially after Coventry went into steep economic decline in the 1980s and had some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. The 33% of Coventrians who are identified as “minority ethnic” are overwhelmingly located in working class districts. Middle class Britons exercise racial exclusion through property prices.
Article in The Herald. Click here to read on.