Sorry, Suella Braverman, your bleak picture of a ‘ghettoised’ Britain doesn’t stack up

<span>Suella Braverman: Britain ‘sleepwalking into a ghettoised society’.</span><span>Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty</span>
Suella Braverman: Britain ‘sleepwalking into a ghettoised society’.Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty

That was a grim week for British politics. Making an unspeakable tragedy in the Middle East about ourselves takes some doing, but the Commons managed it. Worse, some politicians, rather than recognising the danger of this type of division, have sought to weaponise it.

In Friday’s Telegraph, Suella Braverman declared Britain was “sleepwalking into a ghettoised society”, arguing that ours is not a country “where different faiths and races [coexist]” peacefully. Her words imply Britain is ever more segregated, but is that true?

The 2021 census lets us test her claims, and luckily recent research has used it to document changes since 1991. In the Britain we actually live in, not the bleak place Braverman paints, residential segregation along ethnic lines is eroding decade after decade. As Britain has become more diverse (74% of the population of England and Wales was white British in 2021, down from 87% in 2001), so have far more places within it.

We simply don’t have any big cities with the kind of segregation seen in, say, New York or Chicago

This isn’t just because the ethnic minority population has grown. All ethnic groups have become less geographically concentrated over time. Segregation is down not up. When people talk about ghettoes they are normally referring to some of our cities where the white British population has become a minority. But, with some exceptions, such as Leicester, these places are actually among the most ethnically diverse, because so many different ethnic groups call them home. We simply don’t have any big cities with the kind of segregation seen in, say, New York or Chicago.

The UK is far from perfect. But those trying to smuggle US-style culture wars across the Atlantic in the name of patriotism need to realise that you can’t be a patriot if you’re not at peace with the more diverse, and less segregated, country we are now.

• Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation and author of the forthcoming book Great Britain? How We Get Our Future Back

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