Politicians are often accused of being “out of touch” with voters. The political class (or so goes the argument) have no idea what the price of bread is, haven’t got a clue how much a state pension is worth, and live their lives in comfortable bubbles of safety. This applies to a range of issues, but perhaps none are so emotive as the question of immigration and diversity. Across Europe, growing numbers of people are rejecting mainstream political parties and instead turning to populist, anti-immigration movements such as Pegida in Germany.
The charge of being “out of touch” has been made in the past by some of our commenters, including Marcel, who said he was fed up with hearing about the benefits of multiculturalism from wealthy elites:
We are tired of being preached to by elitists who all live in their rich neighbourhoods where they get none of the problems we do in poorer neighbourhoods where all these immigrants come.
We also had a similar comment sent in by Sunny, arguing that multiculturalism was an elite-led project and contributed to a disconnect between politicians and the public:
It is easy for politicians and rich to advertise life together with people of different cultures, religions and way of life, while they live in mansions and well protected and secured parts of the urban area. What about rest of us?
We put this comment to Bashy Quraishy, Secretary General of the European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion. What would he say to Sunny?
Well, I personally live and work in an area where a lot of Danish people live alongside ethnic minorities. And, actually, when people live together like that and get to know each other, then there is no friction. It’s only when people don’t know each other that the problems start.
But I am not of the opinion that politicians who live outside these areas don’t know anything about the realities of multiculturalism. And, in fact, some politicians come out with statements that are very discriminatory. So, it doesn’t matter where politicians live, the most important thing is that they are inclusive and protective of everybody.
So, this argument that people have to live among people of different religions and cultures to see how society is changing is not valid. Society is changing, in my opinion, in a better and more inclusive direction. But what is important is contact between people – and not so much between politicians.
We also spoke to Dr Chris Allen, Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Birmingham and author of the book Islamophobia. How would he respond?
If you look at some of the issues being raised in Sunny’s question, it’s not necessarily about race, or ethnicity, or culture, or religion, but actually about our social standing. It is – to be an old Marxist – about class. And so those at the bottom of society are suffering the biggest inequalities. And you’ll see that actually there’s white communities, black communities, Asian, Muslim, Christian – there’s lots of different communities which are in that lower end of society.
It’s very easy to blame multiculturalism as the cause of that, but if you look in those kind of low level spaces where people are suffering in poverty, actually you will find it’s different cultural groups that are disproportionately represented there.
Are politicians “out of touch” with the realities of multiculturalism? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!