Changing face of Britain

BRITAIN, THE country that played an important role in shaping the course of world history over the last two centuries, is at the centre of change. Ironically, the immigrants from its former colonies are the driving force behind this change. And a large number of them are from the Indian subcontinent.

During the course of a discussion on the "Changing face of Britain", organised by the Association of British Scholars (ABS) and Rotary Club of Coimbatore Metropolis, Rupa Haq, Lecturer, School of Education (SOE), University of Manchester, explained how Britain witnessed changes over the past few years.

Tony Blair became the Prime Minister of Britain harping on the slogan "New Labour" synonymous with the changes that he brought about in his party's ideology. Things started to change in a big way since then. "There was some sort of a recolonisation. Regional diversity also gained importance. Certain regions started becoming more assertive." For a nation attuned to addressing the Queen `Her Royal Highness' the Prime Minister's remark "Call me Tony", brought a fresh breath of informality among the British, normally associated with stiff upper lip and curt manners.

`Cool Britannia' and `New Britain' were the phrases that described the changes. "From then on Britain started to break away from tradition and slowly began to recognise the multi-cultural influxes," she observes.

The public reaction to the death of Princess Diana was seen as an indicator to the emergence of `New Britain'. "There was instant outpouring of grief. The Royal family was criticised for not showing emotions. Hyphenated identities also came into existence. So there were British-Indians, British-Bangladeshis and so on. People became more outward in their approach."

The second generation Asians made a mark in Britain and for the first time a pop album of a Punjabi topped the charts. There were arranged marriages as well. "Arranged marriages are becoming quite common. But the system is a lot more open." Even in schools Diwali and Id were celebrated. So much was the influence that a report that analysed the impact of these influxes read "It would have been great if Prince Charles was told to marry a black."

Though Britain is changing largely due to the influences of various cultures Ms. Haq believes that things do not happen overnight. "The image of the Buckingham Palace and the Queen will be difficult to erase from public memory. But, cultures will mix and multi-cultures have only enriched British society."


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