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Mehdi's Morning Memo: The Segregation Myth

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The ten things you need to know on Friday 14th December...

1) THE SEGREGATION MYTH

Oh look, yet more proof that we never ever talk about immigration - Ed Miliband is giving his second (self-flagellating) speech on the subject in less than six months and the Today programme has been leading on the story.

From the BBC:

"Segregation along ethnic or cultural lines in careers and neighbourhoods in the UK must end, the Labour leader is due to say in a speech later.

"Ed Miliband will acknowledge that the Labour government did 'too little' to tackle the 'realities of segregation' in struggling communities.

"He will emphasise his pride in 'multi-ethnic, diverse Britain'.

"But he will also say that universal proficiency in the English language is integral to his 'One Nation' ideal.

The Guardian reports that Miliband "will make proficiency in the English language a key priority for a future Labour government, which would seek to achieve what he calls a 'connected nation' rather than a 'segregated one'."

The paper says Miliband will use his speech in south London to "outline a three-point plan": 1) prioritisng the teaching of English over the distribution of translation materials, 2) demanding that staff in all publicly funded jobs who interact with the public demonstrate proficiency in the English language, and 3) encouraging parents and schools to share responsibility for helping foreign-born children learn English.

Now, I'm all for teaching and promoting English but Miliband, wittingly or unwittingly, is echoing the (false) 2005 claim of the then head f the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, that Britain is "sleepwalking into segregation". As I wrote in this New Statesman essay on multiculturalism and integration back in April 2011:

"There is much talk of 'cultural ghettos' in Britain and of 'ethnic enclaves'; of 'parallel lives' in 'parallel communities'. There is, however, little empirical evidence. Three of the country's most prominent social geographers, Ceri Peach at Oxford, Ludi Simpson at Manchester, and Danny Dorling at Sheffield, were quick in 2005 to question Phillips's claim that the nation was sleepwalking into segregation. Their research suggests that segregation is either stable or in decline."

2) LIVE BY THE RATINGS AGENCIES, DIE BY THE RATINGS AGENCIES

Uh-oh. Standard & Poor’s has become the third of the three main credit rating agencies to put the UK on a “negative” outlook. Why? Not just because of its concerns about rising government debt but - wait for it - because of our dismal growth. I promise not to use the words "you", "told", "I', "so" in any particular order...

"S&P cut to Britain's debt outlook gives Downing St a bloody nose," declaims the headline on the front of the FT.

"Warning to Osborne over credit downgrade," says the Times front-page headline.

The paper reports:

"The chancellor has set great store in his ability to maintain an untarnished credit rating, hailing the triple-A status in July as a sign of global confidence in the UK."

The shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, was quick to stick the knife in: “We have always warned the Government not to set their economic policies by the credit rating agencies, but George Osborne has repeatedly set their views as the key benchmark of success or failure. And he is now failing on the tests he set himself."

Indeed he is. Poor, poor Gideon...

3) TONGUE-TIED MILLER

From the Guardian:

"Maria Miller is to face an investigation into her expenses by the parliamentary standards watchdog after a Labour MP lodged an official complaint stating that the culture secretary has breached parliamentary rules.

"As David Cameron declared that Miller had provided 'excellent answers' to questions about her expenses, the parliamentary standards commissioner John Lyon opened an inquiry following the complaint from John Mann. The MP claimed that Miller's domestic arrangements were identical to those of the former Labour minister Tony McNulty, who was ordered to pay back more than £13,000."

Will Miller survive? The culture secretary gave a rather garbled and confused answer to a simple question posed by the Evening Standard's Joe Murphy yesterday - why did she suddenly stop claiming on her Wimbledon 'second' home in 2009, at exactly the moment the expenses scandal broke?

“Because I think there was a lot of concern about the rules and, er, a lot of concern about, you know, the whole issue, and it’s something I felt that I didn’t want to be, sort of, mixed up in, the fact that I... I just made that decision.”

Not, er, um, the strongest of, er, er, defences...

4) HEY, C OF E: SURPRISE!

From the Times:

"The Church of England was given no warning that proposals for gay marriage would include religious institutions, the Bishop of Leicester said yesterday.

"The Right Rev Tim Stevens told a meeting of MPs and peers that senior church leaders were neither consulted on the matter nor informed that they would be given a special exclusion."

Oh dear. According to the Guardian, Stevens said "the government had not consulted the church on the proposal, adding that the church had never sought the government's so-called 'quadruple lock' on gay marriage. He also expressed his regret at the government's lack of consultation."

Maria Miller was supposed to have met with church leaders to discuss the government's proposals last Thursday but cancelled the meeting at the last minute. Could she perhaps have been distracted by the Telegraph's inquiries into her expenses?

5) SHOW SOME "COURAGE", NICK TELLS DAVE

Nick Clegg continues on his quest to put the "Liberal" back into Liberal Democrat. From the Sun:

"Nick Clegg declared the war on drugs a disastrous failure last night — and demanded that David Cameron plucks up the 'courage' to order a major review of Britain's ageing narcotics laws.

"In an explosive intervention that will rock the Coalition, the Deputy PM insisted: 'It's time we told the truth.'"

Um, if I were Clegg, that's maybe not a line I would repeat too often. Anyway, the Lib Dem leader says he welcomed Monday's Home Affairs Select Committee report calling for a reconsideration of cannabis decriminalisation and a royal commission on the subject - unlike his good friend, the Prime Minister:

"[Clegg] said: 'I was disappointed that the Home Office ruled out an open-minded, level-headed look at all this before the ink had even dried on the committee report.

"'I told the Prime Minister that this was a missed opportunity.

"'He knows my views on this. He and I don't agree on this.'"

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of the Hobbit/Office mash-up starring Ricky Gervais as 'Gollum'...

6) FRACK YEAH

The papers are divided on fracking. The Sun says:

"There may not be gold in them thar hills ... but there could be plenty of gas. Nearly £1.5TRILLION-worth, if some estimates are to be believed.

"Energy Secretary Ed Davey yesterday gave the go-ahead for exploratory drilling which could unearth a bonanza of jobs, cash and cheaper energy.

"... So what are we waiting for? Let's get fracking."

The Guardian, however, says the government

"... looks to have relinquished... leadership in favour of a doubtful bonanza from fossil fuels. The government's embrace of shale gas will not only help explode Britain's climate targets, but leave the UK exposed on the world diplomatic stage."

7) DO THEY GIVE ATOS?

From the Guardian:

"A disabled man who was incorrectly found fit for work under the government's disability benefit assessment is launching a legal action against the government and Atos, the private company performing the tests. Patrick Lynch, a former social care worker who was forced to stop work because of a condition affecting his brain, is seeking a judicial review of the controversial 'work capability assessment'.

"... Charities and disabled groups say the assessment is 'not fit for purpose', with appeals against 40% of claims that are turned down. They cite cases of suicide where the coroner has said denial of benefits was a contributory factor. The BBC's Panorama this year found a case of a man who died of heart failure just 39 days after being found fit for work."

8) REPUBLICANS 1, OBAMA 0

He may have won re-election and smashed his Republican opponents in the process, but the 'weak Obama' narrative is re-emerging just weeks before his second-term inauguration. The Guardian reports:

"Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, withdrew from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state in the face of sustained Republican attacks over her handling of the 11 September attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya in which the American ambassador and three other US citizens were killed.

"Although Rice said the decision had been hers alone and that she was not pushed by the Obama administration, it provides the Republicans with an early victory barely a month after the election.

"The danger for Barack Obama, even though the White House said it did not push her, is that it will be interpreted as weakness by a president reluctant to face a fractious nomination battle."

So, I guess there won't be another US secretary of state who is black, female and called Rice.

The good news, though, is that the less hawkish and more cerebral John Kerry is now favourite to be secretary of state in Obama's second term while former Republican senator Chuck Hagel, who became one of the strongest congressional critics of the Iraq war, is said to be in the running to be defence secretary.

9) ALL IN THIS TOGETHER?

The Telegraph splashes on the government's "raid on higher rate pensions":

"High earners will be around £1,000 a year worse off following the Government’s planned state pension reforms, the Pensions Minister has admitted.

"Steve Webb said that the Government’s proposed single-tier state pension means that high earners will receive around £20 a week less than they get under current rules when they retire."

10) "DON'T DO IT AGAIN!"

Forget the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards... Her Maj has been getting to the bottom of what went wrong in our financial sector.

From the Telegraph:

"Four years ago, the Queen asked academics why no one had foreseen the 'awful' financial crisis that has blighted the country ever since.

"Yesterday, during a tour of the Bank of England, she effectively answered her own question as she talked about 'lax' City workers and a regulator that 'didn't have the teeth' to intervene.

"The Duke of Edinburgh, meanwhile, had a typically blunt piece of advice for the Bank's executives: 'Don't do it again!' The Queen and the Duke grilled Bank of England staff during a tour of a vault stacked with £27billion worth of bullion.
vision of the queen wandering amind gold bars in papers."

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"[W]e know there is anxiety about immigration and what it means for our culture. The answer is not to sweep it under the carpet." - from Ed Miliband's speech on immigration and integration later today.

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 43
Conservatives 33
Ukip 10
Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 118.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@jameschappers 'We can't take it for granted everyone is going to be Ed Miliband or Sadiq Khan,' says, er, Sadiq Khan previewing immigration speech

@ChukaUmunna Whatever his differences with the PM on drugs, my constituents won't forget Clegg's support for trebling tuition fees and abolishing EMA

‏@BorowitzReport Think before you speak, or else go on Twitter.

900 WORDS OR MORE

Philip Collins, writing in the Times, says: "Disraeli was wrong. Coalition has worked. You may not like its record, but on health, schools and welfare the Government has been extraordinarily active."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Britain is glimpsing the crazy world of culture wars. The gay marriage row is bringing the politics of division to a country more used to tolerance."

Michael Cohen, writing in the Guardian, says: "At first the president passionately defended his friend. But when Susan Rice looked a liability, his poker player's instincts kicked in."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol