I love living in Brighton because it is one of the most vibrant, liberal and progressive cities in the country. With a population of less than 300,000, it boasts night life that rivals the biggest cities in England. Since the Prince Regent came to Brighton in 1786, he developed Brighton as a party town: permissive? Yes, but racist? Profoundly not.
Brighton has been known historically as, ‘London by the Sea.’ Creative industries are among the fastest growing industries in the city. There are five theatres, four of them, amateur. It protects and celebrates its LGBT community, hosting a gay club to match every straight one. Innovation and art are everywhere, immortalised by Banksy’s Policemen. The gig scene is exciting and modern because every musician starting out wants their tour to include Brighton. The Brighton Festival rivals Edinburgh’s festival and needs no further introduction.
However, today was a sad day for the city of Brighton & Hove. The good news is that most of the English Defence League (EDL) agitators and supporters came to march in Brighton from elsewhere. The Police, drafted in from Devon, maintained the peace, kettling the EDL protestors to prevent any local extremists from joining their number. The rain kept many dissenters at home and after they had left, the rain cleared.
It is an outrage that the British Taxpayer should spend £500,000 policing a March for England and protecting those peaceful protestors marching against them. If people want ‘little England’ with its insular mentality, they should join UKIP. This is not general advice. It is advice for the xenophobic who, for a few hours only, may unsettle our liberal, progressive, bohemian city that celebrates difference and rejects prejudice.
Those who feel threatened by the other, by terrorism, by the unknown, should not succumb to prejudice, bigotry and at worst, violence. They could read Jonathan Sacks, ‘Dignity of Difference’ or similar secular works.
In the 1950s after the partition of India, many Indians and others from Commonwealth countries travelled at their peril to Britain. Britain offered them refuge and work. Once settled, the Government then wrote to these immigrants and invited them to apply for citizenship.
I do not advocate a return to this open door policy but let us hold fast to the philosophy that racism and fascism can only fracture the vibrant, multi-cultural tapestry of people in Brighton, Hove and throughout Britain. Some of these people run the NHS; some are humble cleaners doing jobs that many Brits believe are beneath them. Their economic contribution is significant. Many are totally assimilated into our culture, while retaining their ethnic heritage.
All of these people, whether European or from further afield are welcome; and there are policies in place to ensure that they work and pay for the public services that they consume. Britain can only become a richer place if we embrace those from other cultures, learn from them and their experiences and open our minds in search of a broader point of view. The choice is simple: we can hide behind conformity, reacting out of fear or even worse, greed that breeds resentment and inter generational prejudice. Or we can value colour, difference and diversity with open hearts and enlightened minds.