Miliband to put speaking English at the heart of his approach to “One Nation” social integration

December 14, 2012 8:11 am

Today in Tooting, Ed Miliband will put speaking English at the heart of his “One Nation” agenda for integration of divided and culturally segregated communities. In a speech later this morning, Miliband will put forward a series of proposals including:

  • ensuring that publicly funded, public facing staff have a sufficient proficiency in English (especially in the Social Care sector)
  • prioritising English language teaching for newcomers over the production of materials in multiple different languages
  • a focus on English language teaching for the one million young people for whom English is not their first language
  • cracking down on criminal landlords who pack people into overcrowded accommodation
  • end the practice of using forced indebtedness and tied-in housing that locks migrant workers into terrible conditions
  • banning recruitment agencies advertising only for workers from particular countries.
  • prevent the exploitation of new migrants and the undercutting of workers already here by strengthening and enforcing minimum wage laws

Miliband will also be clear to underline how proud he is of “multi-ethnic, diverse Britain”, and those close to him are keen to stress that the Labour leader is not adopting “the Daily Mail agenda” on integration (further signalled by the fact that Sadiq Khan is doing much of the media work ahead of the speech). Yet there will still be an acknowledgement from the Labour leader that mistakes were made under the last Labour government, including a sense that integration would take place automatically if the economy was strong and allowing free movement of those from EU ascension countries. Miliband’s team are also keen to stress the Labour leader’s awareness at the public anxiety about immigration and the pace of change in communities over recent years.

But whilst Ed is keen to see a greater level of integration of immigrants, he’ll also be making clear that he’s opposed to the idea of assimilation into British society – pointing to Team GB and the Olympics as an example of a nation that is united and integrated but also celebrates its cultural differences.

The Miliband camp argue that if we allow people to live separate lives it allows ignorance which builds prejudice, which is why a “comprehensive strategy for integration” is necessary. The speech is being pitched as part of Miliband’s “One Nation” agenda – especially the notion that everyone has a place in society and everyone plays a part. In particular, the argument Miliband will make will be that in a situation where people are allowed (or forced) to live separate lives, we can’t have One Nation.

Another way of looking at today’s speech is that it allows Miliband to speak about immigration not just in a “One Nation” way, but also in a way that speaks to the concerns many people have about the effects of immigration, without speaking about the debate in terms of raw numbers (in the way that David Cameron has done, and the way the debate has been shaped this week following the census). It is believed that Miliband wants to avoid committing himself to targets on immigration that he’ll then struggle to keep – a position that David Cameron has often found himself in.

Selected extracts from Ed Miliband’s speech this morning:

On The English language

“We all know that the beginning of any real connection with a neighbour or colleague, work-mate or friend is a conversation. But we can only converse if we can speak the same language. So if we are going to build One Nation, we need to start with everyone in Britain knowing how to speak English. We should expect that of people that come here. We will work together as a nation far more effectively when we can always talk together.”

On Housing

“It is far too easy for unscrupulous landlords to prey on newcomers to our country. The Mayor of Newham, Robin Wales, says that the record is of one house with 38 people  of whom 16 were children. Let’s be clear: this is terrible for people living there and it also terrible for people in the neighbourhood. We can’t expect people to embrace their neighbours, to build communities, if it means 38 people living next door.”

On the workplace

“Far too often we have people not meeting and mixing in the workplace as they should. There are recruitment agencies that close their books to local workers and hire only from overseas, often advertising only in foreign languages. There are some shifts in some factories that are still segregated by language and by background. And there are jobs which still recruit far more easily from within one community than from other.”

  • http://twitter.com/KulganofCrydee Kulgan of Crydee

    It seems Labour are now taking UKIP’s policy of controlled immigration. Good. The Census 2011 revealed how affected the country has been by uncontrolled immigration.

  • JoeDM

    Is Ed going to repeat Crash Gordon’s “British jobs for British workers”?

  • NT86

    Good. I have no problems with anyone speaking in their mother tongues at home, but at work, education, public life, people must be expected to know English! Of course those mouthbreathers on the left will shout “racist” and “BNP” like they always do (the same ones who probably never have any contact with minority groups as it is). If we resided in any other part of the world where English wasn’t spoken widely, we’d be expected to know their language. Britain should expect this of all people, immigrants included!

    Immigration and multiculturalism were two of Labour’s biggest failures. If One Nation policy can mitigate the damage done by New Labour, it will go some way of reassuring traditional voters that the party is redeeming itself on the matter.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

      I don’t think Ed was suggesting an abandonment of multiculturalism, though. It is only its opponents who portrayed it as being about ‘segregation’. I think its a reality and can’t be abolished – culture isn’t something which people just drop or pick up at whim.

      • JoeDM

        The history of multiculturalism is that of separate development and the unacceptable introduction of monocultural immigrant ghettos into British cities.

        Clearly the problem is one of lack of integration on the part of recent immigrants into our culture.

  • JeevanJones

    Miliband would be foolish to prioritise English teaching over translation services. There are many – often vulnerable – elderly people living in this country who can speak perfect English, but may struggle with complex written English. Rather than punishing them, it’s important communications with the government are provided in the best language to ensure the greatest understanding.

    For younger people with English as a second language, that is when you of course concentratw on classes. But you have to maintain the supportive framework of translation services.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Homfray/510980099 Mike Homfray

    Very sensible stuff – and as the son of refugees who didn’t have English as their first language, he spoke with knowledge and authority. In my experience, though, immigrants are desperate to learn English – its why many come from Eastern Europe – and as it benefits us too, this is the right strategy

  • Amber_Star

    Let the media frenzy begin! Seriously, from some of the reporting you’d think Ed had joined the BNP.
    I’ve just listened to his speech (before the BBC cut away from it) & it was really good; insightful & very well balanced. His timing is good too; the Olympics are in people’s minds because of the Sports Personality award, the census is just out, the media rise of UKIP & also because it’s mid-term so Ed has plenty of time to correct misinterpretations before the 2015 elections.

  • PaulHalsall

    What about monolingual Welsh, Irish, and Scots Gaelic Speakers? They were all here before the Anglo-Saxon great migration?

  • PaulHalsall

    What about monolingual Welsh, Irish, and Scots Gaelic Speakers? They were all here before the Anglo-Saxon great migration?

  • PaulHalsall

    And while agree that people need enough English to get along (this varies widely by occupation), Punjabi is the second most spoken language in then UK. Perhaps we could have, like, a few school GSCEs available in it. Native French, German and Spanish speakers can all get easy As at GSCE and A Level. Why not Punjabi and Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani as well as Bengali speakers?

    I thought we wanted to build bridges with BRIC economies?

  • PaulHalsall

    And while agree that people need enough English to get along (this varies widely by occupation), Punjabi is the second most spoken language in then UK. Perhaps we could have, like, a few school GSCEs available in it. Native French, German and Spanish speakers can all get easy As at GSCE and A Level. Why not Punjabi and Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani as well as Bengali speakers?

    I thought we wanted to build bridges with BRIC economies?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nikitha-Roy/100000578870423 Nikitha Roy

    Now a days learning English is necessary as it is the common language spoken every part of world.I like learning languages specially i prefer english language.I am poor in english i enjoy learning english with video conversations http://youtu.be/ixG2hewznNo

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nikitha-Roy/100000578870423 Nikitha Roy

    Very interesting stuff.English is the common subject every school is having.Not only this all immigrants are eager to learn English languages.English is the prefered language everyone wants to learn http://youtu.be/aaoPI4W2LuU

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