31 December 2018

2018: the British Future year

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With issues of identity, immigration and integration never far from the headlines, these were some of British Future’s main contributions to the public debate.


The Home Affairs select committee published its report on how to build consensus on immigration policy, drawing heavily on the National Conversation on Immigration, whose interim report was published simultaneously as a major input to the work of the select committee inquiry. The committee’s proposals included making building consensus an explicit objective of immigration policy, institutionalising public engagement around an annual immigration day in the House of Commons.


The National Conversation continued to gather local evidence – including hearing about Brexit trade-offs in Macclesfield, what makes integration work in Preston, why language matters in Lincoln, economic exclusion in Grimsby, and how migrants engage with Welsh culture and identity in Abersytwyth.


The government’s integration green paper was a step forward towards a national integration strategy. Our research shows a strong public consensus for action on integration. British Future’s response to the green paper in May set out priorities for action, starting with increasing twinning in schools.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan also set out his social integration strategy, with the focus on making integration an everybody issue. The Social Integration strategy resulted from the successful push from British Future and London Citizens for a dedicated deputy mayor to lead an integration team at the GLA.


The 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech saw our report Many Rivers Crossed take the long view on what has and has not changed in race relations over half a century, with research in Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Dudley, alongside new national polling on attitudes, comparing ethnic minority and white British attitudes to race and discrimination today. We found a story of incomplete progress and future challenges, an enormous generation gap so that three-quarters of those under 45 had never heard of Enoch Powell. The Observer featured how West Park Primary School in Wolverhampton, at the eye of the political storm in 1968, was using that legacy constructively.

At a Birmingham anti-racism event with local MPs at the same hotel in which Powell made that infamous speech fifty years previously, Sunder Katwala spoke about the Labour party’s need to eradicate anti-semitism today.

The Windrush scandal evoked echoes of the Powell era – and its unfairness angered National Conversation participants in our final citizens panel in Bedford.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd was forced to resign. An open letter to new Home Secretary Sajid Javid urged him to seize the ‘reset moment’ to rebuild public confidence that immigration could be managed effectively and fairly.


Prince Harry married Meghan Markle. The public saw Britain’s first mixed race Princess as a reflection of new social norms, but the wedding symbolised a shifting public conversation about race.

Getting it right locally on integration was the theme, as British Future, Hope not hate and the Barrow Cadbury Trust brought over 200 people together at the British Library to explore the lessons of the national conversation for local practitioners. Watch the video.

Our No Place for Prejudice campaign, as part of a Facebook ‘create against hate’ project, sought to draw on the insights and lessons from our Many Rivers Crossed research to take anti-racism messages to broad public audiences.


England had travelled to the World Cup in Russia more in hope than expectation – yet a talented, young and diverse team, the lifting of the curse of penalties and a dapper managerial waistcoat saw sport bring people together.

Parliamentarians, faith and civic leaders welcomed the government’s adoption of Windrush Day as an annual celebration, announced at the 70th anniversary Thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey. A civic coalition had been marking Windrush Day on the anniversary since 2013. The Windrush scandal had reinforced the importance of Windrush as an important new chapter in Britain’s longer history of migration.

The West Midlands Leadership Commission – convened by Mayor Andy Street – set out its evidence and ideas for making the region’s leadership better reflect the population it serves. Commission member Sunder Katwala reflects on what we learned about how regions can drive inclusion at the top.

Could the sustained evidence of shifting public attitudes on immigration help the government to unlock a constructive consensus?


Though England’s World Cup ended with defeat in the semi-finals, it had been a summer with the potential to change how we think about England, as long as its lessons about an inclusive English identity were taken beyond sport.

The Commission for Counter-Extremism formed an expert group, including British Future Director Sunder Katwala, which will offer advice and challenge to the independent commission as it seeks to publish a comprehensive study on extremism in the UK during its first year.


Positive Twitter Day made the case for civility on social media: it will now be an established fixture on the final Friday of August each year.


The final report of the National Conversation on Immigration – the largest ever public engagement on immigration, conducted by British Future and Hope not hate – found starkly low levels of trust, but an appetite for greater public voice in what happens next.

Most people are balancers – seeing both pressures and gains of immigration – but the online debate is much more polarised.

The report was published on the eve of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report into EU/EEA immigration. It called on business voices to engage with local integration challenges, as well as their national economic argument.

The MAC also reported on the impact of international students. The National Conversation found a strong consensus on the benefits of student migration, both nationally and locally, and set out how universities could deepen their local engagement. The National Conversation proposed that a new wave of universities could help bridge the Brexit divides.


The National Conversation report was debated at the party conferences: we set out how the immigration debate was about more than numbers but required politicians to commit to sustained public engagement.

We are part of a broad civic coalition supporting the Lift the Ban campaign, coordinated by Refugee Action. This calls on the government to lift the ban on asylum seekers working, if it takes more than six months to decide their case, and draws on evidence from the National Conversation showing that seven out of ten people support this.


Our Remember Together campaign with the British Legion showed how those of every ethnicity and faith come together to mark Remembrance today, reflecting how the armies that fought a century ago look more like the Britain of 2018 than that of 1918.

Imam Qari Asim led an Imams workshop in Birmingham, to inform sermons for the Remembrance weekend, and was the Muslim faith representative laying a wreath at the Cenotaph centenary.

Schools in Bradford and in Waltham Forest took part in the project, before attending their local Remembrance services together.

British Future’s research tracking public attitudes to the centenary has shown a significant increase in public awareness that Indian and Commonwealth soldiers took part in the first world war, rising from four out of ten to seven out of ten people, across the first world war centenary. Our final report on attitudes to the centenary will be published in 2019, and we plan to continue and to expand the Remember Together project in future years.

A cross-faith, cross-party coalition called on the government to offer sanctuary to Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi.


The Immigration White Paper appeared in the week before Christmas. A tug of war inside the government showed that the key debates on immigration will continue during 2019, though debating the failed net migration target had become a distracting phoney war.

Over 200 public voices supported a call on the Bank of England to reflect Britain’s growing ethnic diversity on banknotes in future.


British Future’s latest activity on Twitter