Tolerance fuels our economy

Our ethnic mix was a positive factor that helped London win the 2012 Olympic bid.

by Matthew Gwyther, MT editor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A bit of a change for our cover feature this month. The subject isn't a smooth, MBA-equipped corporate heavyweight from the FTSE-100 but a diamond geezer from Plymouth, who began as a street trader, has difficulty reading, but is, nevertheless, worth over £100 million. Chris Dawson claims not to have been able to afford underwear until he was 12, but his drive and ambition is a great example and our economy needs more from his mould.

Italy could certainly do with a few Cristoforo Dawsoni at the moment.

It is the sick man of Europe, in recession with a dog of an economy burdened by rigidities that allow precious little in the way of new enterprise.

The current paradox, however, is that all things Italian, including the famed dolce vita lifestyle, are hugely sought after in this country. Our feature shows how Brand Italia - from the macchiata to the Maserati - is being gobbled up by Brits for whom the American way is mildly naff and French style is beyond the pale.

It would be remiss to make no mention of the events of 7 July here in the capital. A week before the attacks I was on a bus to Peckham, in south-east London, to attend a party at a friend's house. I recall thinking, not for the first time, what an extraordinary melting pot of a city it has become in the past few years. Nowhere is this more apparent than on a red double-decker. As we stood and sweltered and swayed along on the lower deck, I must have heard conversations going on in at least six different languages, from Africa, South America, eastern Europe and Asia.

This remarkable mix is certainly one of the positive factors that helped us win the 2012 Olympic bid. It isn't always easy rubbing along together with people with whom one often cannot communicate, let alone fully understand - just look at our relationship with the French, with whom we are at perpetual loggerheads over everything from food to federalism. But this island is now home to these recent arrivals, and they are here because, by and large, it has welcomed them and offered them opportunity denied elsewhere. We would all do well to remember they are the mixed lifeblood that will create the coming generations of our country. They bring fresh prosperity as their new ideas, new ways of doing things and their need to get on in life moves the British economy forward.

That these fascistic attacks have been made on us from the inside is deeply depressing. We now need to defend ourselves, and in this necessary process I fear things will get very ugly before they get better. But what will defeat this vicious, narrow-minded bigotry is not more of the same.

The openness and tolerance that create the mix on the Peckham, Brunswick Square or Bradford buses is in the long run our strength, not a weakness.

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