Concept of Britishness excludes millions, Straw told

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The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, is expected today to welcome a major report on multiculturalism which calls on Britain to re-evaluate its national image and consider dropping the concept of "Britishness".

The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, is expected today to welcome a major report on multiculturalism which calls on Britain to re-evaluate its national image and consider dropping the concept of "Britishness".

The two-year report by the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain says there is a need to "rethink the national story and the national identity". It claims that "many customary images" of Britain are "southern England-centred" and "leave many millions of people out of the picture".

The report has been compiled by a commission of 23 peers, academics, writers and lawyers, many of whom act as advisers to the Government. Mr Straw is expected to welcome the contribution of the report to the race debate but is unlikely to act on its more radical recommendations.

They include a new Equality Act to cover all areas of discrimination, an independent body to investigate complaints against the police and a guarantee that 15 per cent of all new members of the second chamber will come from ethnic minorities.

The report has already caused uproar in right-wing circles. The Daily Telegraph yesterday denounced its findings as "sub-Marxist gibberish". But the commissioners, brought together by the Runnymede Trust charity in 1998, say Britain must "re-imagine" its identity if it is to be an "outward-looking, generous, inclusive society". It questions whether Britain's image of itself has stood the test of time and suggests some elements may need to be "jettisoned, revised or reworked".

It asks: "Does 'Britishness' have a future? Or have devolution, globalisation and the new cultural diversity undermined it irretrievably?"

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