Louise Casey is now really confusing me. Not just about motorways and two way streets, but about what her line on social integration is.
The Casey Review, already much debated, seemed on first reading to suggest that as members of the public, we should indeed embrace the two way street (which presumably, Casey herself had to in touring 'the most isolated communities in Britain'). Casey even referred to Ted Cantle's concept of 'living together' as a 'shared sense of belonging', becoming 'comfortable with difference and plurality'. In a further article published by the Fabian Society, it was clear that she had indeed spent some time really listening to the concerns of Bangladeshi and Pakistani women, albeit with the conclusion that we should immediately devise a 'route map' of British feminist principles and charge ahead to the rescue.
Now, in her latest address to MPs, we apparently have the map and are already on the motorway, hurtling down the middle lane, leaving minorities and new arrivals to negotiate their way on from the slip road - a dangerous manoeuvre at the best of times.
What is disturbing about this is not simply the incongruity between motorway behaviour and our ascribed 'British values' of 'gentleness and acceptance', but that we should somehow be teaching our foreign neighbours all about how to behave while putting the rubbish out (could this be a Freudian slip?)
In all my work on social integration in communities and schools over the past 10 years, 'gentleness' and 'acceptance' (as well as 'frustrated', 'confused' and 'lonely') are words which I would most often use in describing those from migrant and refugee backgrounds, most of whom have not yet been able to afford driving lessons.
Overall, I have a better analogy for British motoring and social integration which is that we're pretty good at following the rules, but will randomly either sit in the middle lane or cut people up if we need to get somewhere in a hurry. Give me the two way street, with pavements, any day.
“I don’t think it is a two-way street. I think that’s a soundbite that people like to say. I would say if we stick with the road analogy, integration is like a bloody big motorway and you have a slip road of people coming in from outside,” she said. “What you need to do is people in the middle need to accommodate and be gentle and be kind to people coming in from the outside lane but we’re all in the same direction and we’re all heading in the same direction. There is more give on one side and more take on the other and that’s where we have successively made a mistake, which is where we’ve not been honest about that.”