Ignored: Gordon Brown's attitude to Mrs Gillian Duffy represented the political class's attitude to voter's reasonable concerns
Imagine yourself back in 2002. The census for England and Wales, compiled the previous year, has just come out, showing the extent to which the country has changed. You decide to extrapolate from the findings and speculate about what the next decade might bring.
"The Muslim population of Britain will double in the next ten years," you conclude. "White Britons will become a minority in their own capital city by the end of this decade."
How would those statements by your younger self have been greeted? The terms "alarmist" and "scaremongering" would certainly have been used, as most likely would "racist" and (though the coinage was in its infancy) "Islamophobe". Safe to say, your extrapolations would not have been greeted warmly. Readers inclined to doubt this might recall that when the then Times journalist Anthony Browne made far less startling comments in 2002, they were denounced by then Home Secretary David Blunkett — using parliamentary privilege — as "bordering on fascism".
Yet that widely abused younger self of 2002 would be proved utterly right. The 2011 census, published at the end of last year, revealed the following facts and more. It showed that the number of people living in England and Wales who were born overseas rose by nearly three million in the last decade alone. Only 44.9 per cent of London residents are now white British. And nearly three million people in England and Wales live in households where not one adult speaks English as their main language.
The religious make-up of Britain has altered as well. Almost every belief other than Christianity is on the rise. Only Britain's historic national religion is in freefall. Since the previous census in 2001, the number of people identifying themselves as Christian dropped by 13 per cent, from 72 to 59 per cent. The number of Christians in England and Wales dropped by more than four million, and the number of Christians overall fell from 37 million to 33 million.
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