Global News: Quebec’s premier, Pauline Marois, suggested last week that while France’s efforts at secularism were “not perfect,” they were still preferable to the multiculturalism policies practised in the U.K., saying: “In England, they’re smashing each other in the face and throwing bombs because of multiculturalism and nobody knowing any more who they are in that society.” What do you think of her assessment?
Alan Sked: Complete rubbish. The British have a very strong but very understated sense of nationality. They are naturally very tolerant and would be very suspicious of the need for government-sponsored patriotism. When Gordon Brown started a debate on Britishness nobody knew what he meant. Most Britons would fail the government test on citizenship set for foreigners.
GN: Do you think it’s helpful to draw a distinction between “multiethnic” and “multicultural”?
AS: No. I don’t support illiberal policies of banning religious symbols or modes of dress. It reeks of insecurity and paranoia. People should have the right to express themselves. I believe in tolerance.
GN: Do you think that multiculturalism has split British society and undermined its cultural values?
AS: No. There is little evidence for that. Most Indians and Pakistanis in polls say they are prouder to be British than most natives. UKIP is trading on this issue as a form of covert racism. It is a dog whistle policy to racists.
GN: Why do you think parties like UKIP and the Parti Quebecois are adopting what many describe as anti-immigrant policies?
AS: They are desperate or lack intelligence or both. It’s illiberal and pathetic and displays a lack of confidence in one’s own culture.
GN: Like many in Britain, there are Quebecers who are concerned with protecting their cultural traditions and language. Are there policies that you would suggest that could help maintain a common culture and language in the province?
AS: No. If you are happy with your language and culture you will use and enjoy them. They will survive as natural and living things. Cultural enthusiasm cannot be produced artificially and attempts to do so will backfire. Look at Scotland’s attempts to secure Gaelic.