Thursday, 28 March 2013

'20 Years on after Stephen Lawrence's death': British Future debate in Eltham

David Lammy MP sitting on left; Deborah Mattinson standing
On Wednesday 27 March, British Future and Britain Thinks held a citizens’ jury and debate in Eltham, at Eltham's new Harris Academy (formerly Eltham Green school) "to help to ensure that local voices are heard during our national conversations about how Britain changed since 1993."
The panel included two backbencher MPs, Conservative MP Gavin Barwell and Labour MP David Lammy, as well as 'public attitudes specialist' Deborah Mattinson to discuss public attitudes and proposals from the workshop.

There was a thoughtful essay by way of preview to the event posted by Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, here who co-incidentally has also lived in Eltham. "...Living in Eltham when the inquiry reported, I remember how the media coverage seemed to me to only capture part of the story. It was important to see justice done. But that should never depend on choosing whether to deny the existence of racism or stereotype white working-class communities instead...."

BBC 4's Today programme reported on the Eltham Harris Academy event the next morning - link to the 8 minute report by Mike Thomson here (starting at 2.44.30 secs in). There are also some tweets about the event by British Future at @britishfuture.
British Future have released this short video from the debate MPs

Here's my quick notes from listening to the Today programme this morning:

....Stephen Lawrence's killing in 1993 is an unavoidable reference point in any conversation about race in Britain....the British Future event brought together two generations to discuss how much has changed in Eltham since the then (although attributed the Harris Academy to 'Greenwich' rather than Eltham)....

Deborah Mattinson moderated discussions of one group, 17-18 yr olds (?). Reporter refers to the 1999 MacPherson enquiry which found the police to be "institutionally racist" but says that "few believe that's true today". One of the young people says that "it's fear or ignorance rather than racism", that's how he likes to view things. Others believe the levels of racism in Eltham have been exaggerated and now there is more of a mix of races and cultures in Eltham which has helped improve the situation. There are references to a 'groundswell of youth who are disengaged from society'....

The 'top vote' on what to propose was for a need for 'more practical learning' - should be able to do things like 'plumbing' and not just 'geography'. Gavin Barwell MP promised to take this back to his 'boss' Michael Gove.

The report finishes by asking whether "this gathering will prove to be anything more than well-intentioned hot air?" Patrick Carswell (?) concludes "that's up to the residents of Eltham".

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