Cultural Conflicts from George Orwell to Jack Straw
COMMENTING on the relations between the American troops stationed in England during the Second World War and the attitudes of the ordinary Englishman, George Orwell in his Letter from England to the Partisan Review (9 January 1942) wrote: 'The cultural differences are very deep, perhaps irreconcilable, and the Americans obviously have the profoundest contempt for England, rather like the contempt which the ordinary lowbrow Englishman has for the Latin races.' The idea that ordinary folk of all nations will love each other at sight, Orwell says 'is not backed up by experience' and, he writes that the 'popular good will towards the U.S.S.R. in this country partly depends on the fact that few Englishmen have ever seen a Russian.'
Awareness of this deep cultural xenophobia lies not far beneath the surface of the current exchanges in the views of local social service staff; northern politicians; police and other pundits, following the sentencing last month of nine Asian men to a total of 77 years last month for grooming five young girls in Rochdale and Heywood: we have had a former Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw, who has said that certain elements in the Asian communities regard vulnerable white girls as 'easy meat', and Labour Councillor, Colin Lambert, Rochdale Council Leader, dismissing this and telling the Home Affairs Select Committee that 'I think it is all too easy to badge this crime (in that way, as one of race) ...' Councillor Lambert also denied the suggestion that fear of offending the Asian community had stopped the authorities in Rochdale from tackling the problem earlier saying: 'We would never in our authority back away from taking decisions because of the nature of someone's sex or colour of skin.'
Elsewhere, as reported in last Saturday's Rochdale Observer, the Labour MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, last week during a debate in Parliament on protecting vulnerable children said: 'The perpetrators sometimes referred to the girls as prostitutes, and it was interesting that some of the social service staff referred to them in the same way.' The costs of an English Defence League (EDL) demonstration protesting against these matters in the centre of Rochdale just over a week ago, was estimated in the Rochdale Observer to have been £500,000 in terms of police time and lost business to local shops in the town.