Morris savages Blunkett for his 'attack-the-immigrant' approach

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Indy Politics

The Union leader Bill Morris has compared David Blunkett's recent statements about immigrants with the views of far-right politicians in Austria and Germany.

Mr Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union and one of Britain's most high-profile black leaders, was commenting on the Home Secretary's remarks that immigrant communities should accept British "norms of acceptability" and have a better grasp of citizenship and language.

Four new reports into this summer's race riots have called for concerted action to tackle inner-city racial segregation. The main report, drawn up by a former council chief executive, Ted Cantle, recommends that new immigrants should sign an oath of allegiance to show their "clear primary loyalty" to Britain.

Writing in today's Independent, Mr Morris highlights the fact that the British National Party had taken comfort from Mr Blunkett's remarks.

"He only has to look at our cousins on the Continent to realise the sorry consequences of measuring immigrants' worth against a limited national identity – Germany, Austria and now Denmark have all seen social cohesion troubled by politicians travelling on the attack-the-immigrant ticket," Mr Morris writes.

"With his instructions to do more to fit into British culture, Mr Blunkett has handed the burden of integration over to those who are too often forced to the fringes of our society."

Mr Morris describes the Home Secretary's comments as "a classic case of blaming the victim" and points out that yesterday's reports showed the riots were due to a complex web of poverty and failures by Whitehall and town halls. The union leader also attacks the Government's plans to promote more faith-based schools, describing them as "nurseries for segregation". His views were echoed by yesterday's Home Office-commissioned reports, which urged a 25 per cent quota of pupils from different faiths in faith-based schools.

Mr Blunkett received strong support from the main report, which said that both black and white communities should cease to "tiptoe around" the sensitive issues of race, religion and culture and instead tackle head on the idea of British "nationhood".

Mr Blunkett indicated that the Government wanted a debate on the idea of citizenship and held open the possibility of an oath of allegiance. The Home Office announced the creation of a new community cohesion task force to oversee the development of local strategies to implement the reports' proposals as speedily as possible.

Action teams were ordered to be set up in in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley by next April at the latest so that the lessons from the disturbances could be learnt and solutions implemented.

The main Cantle report suggested that the English language should be accepted universally by ethnic groups and recommended that prospective British passport holders should give a commitment to becoming fluent within a fixed period of time.