Sentamu: Britain's failure on race

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Britain's failure to tackle "major questions of race" has hindered the development of a cohesive society, the nation's most outspoken archbishop said last night.

Dr John Sentamu warned that the Government's failure to find a vision for the country after three decades dominated by a "rant" about immigration has left Britain in "a very, very uncomfortable place" and no longer the "great nation" that it had once claimed to be.

The Ugandan-born Archbishop of York lamented the development of Britain's "broken society" in a wide-ranging speech at Cambridge University, during which he contrasted the face of the nation when he arrived in the 1970s to the troubled climate of 2008.

Dr Sentamu said: "When I came here in 1974, we were treated with dignity, with love, and in the rest of the nation there was this sense of magnanimity, the will to meet another person.

"Over these 34 years, we've had a rant about immigration and haven't met major questions of race. Britain is in a very, very uncomfortable place."

The chilling observations on Britain in a multi-cultural age follow months of debate between religious and political leaders about the cohesion of British society after successive waves of immigration. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, provoked a furious reaction when he questioned whether Britain would adopt elements of Islamic sharia law.

The latest contribution jarred with the message of Gordon Brown at Labour's spring forum in Birmingham, where he vowed to build "the Britain of our dreams".

In his speech, on "the relationship between faith and society today", Dr Sentamu said Britain must regain the values of "mission and enterprise" that had made it so successful when it had an empire.