Anacronisms and Affirmative Action

The BBC are promoting a rather extraordinary artists’ bursary from the Oppenheim John-Downes Trust.

Successful applicants must be … Natural born British Subjects born within Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man of parents both of whom are or were British Subjects born within the British Isles and neither of whose parents was or is of colonial or overseas original subsequent to the year 1900 (Section 34 of the Race Relations Act applies).

(The relevant legislation reminds us that since these provisions do not make reference to race/colour, they can be followed in full).

I suppose Mrs Downes was entitled to place whatever restrictions she wished on how her own money was to be spent. But it is clear she had a very narrow conception of what it means to be British, and the criteria leave a horrible taste in the modern mouth. It is odd that the BBC should be endorsing this sort of anacronism.

6 Replies to “Anacronisms and Affirmative Action”

  1. Apparently that legalise guff means parents and grandparents must have been born within the British Isles. So by her narrow, jingoistic definition I don’t cut it. That’s strangely pleasing.

  2. I really can’t see the problem. Its obviously to prevent people who have no connection with the UK from wining the prize. No other country would find this odd and most would take such a restriction for granted. You might be surprised to know that very similar wording applies to applications for a significant number of civil service jobs, so hardly “anachronistic”. You really must get away from this patronising defence of multi culti as “modern” which is really just liberal speak for “fully paid up member of the London based cognoscenti”

  3. Its obviously to prevent people who have no connection with the UK from wining the prize

    Sorry Matt, I don’t buy it. If it was simply to prevent people who have no connection with the UK, then simply make the criteria “must be a UK citizen”.

    You really must get away from this patronising defence of multi culti as “modern” which is really just liberal speak for “fully paid up member of the London based cognoscenti”

    This isn’t a defence of multiculturalism. It is a defence of civic nationalism, where anyone who is a citizen should be treated just the same, regardless of origin. You and Mrs Downes don’t believe in this principle, and instead believe that some people are more British than others.

    As I said in the post, both you and Mrs Downes are entitled to believe whatever you want. I don’t think the charity should be legally obliged to change its stance (indeed, the Race Relations Act is perfectly clear that it does not have to). But the BBC is funded by all British citizens through the licence and taxes, and its values should reflect that.

    And the “London based cognoscenti” is a pointless ad hominem. “Edinburgh based cognoscenti” next time, please.

  4. 1) Because “UK citizen” is a fairly meaningless term nowadays.
    2) But people are not treated “the same”, women/men, working/middle class, rich/poor etc etc are treated differently – how many working class organisations get charity grants or money from the national lottery for example ? How much tax does a cleaner pay compared to a non domiciled hedge fund manager ?
    To me it’s fairly simple, if you have spent some time in this country and contributed to society economically then you can benefit from it, if not then you can wait. I don’t accept that’s a “britishness test” – it’s just common sense, practiced the world over. If you were waiting in a queue and someone pushed in, you’d be annoyed I imagine ? Would you somehow be less annoyed if that person was an immigrant ? This is the same principle. And don’t start me on the BBC which increasingly represents the opinions of a tiny minority of the population.
    Apologies for putting you in the wrong cognoscenti !

  5. But people are not tre eated “the same”, women/men, working/middle class, rich/poor etc etc are treated differently – how many working class organisations get charity grants or money from the national lottery for example ? How much

    I agree that this is a grey area, but I think these differences a there by a kind of common consent. In both of the cases you cite, there is redistribution at work (either through lottery handouts, or the tax system) in an effort to equalise the differences that have come about by other means.

    I don’t see the ‘redistribution’ argument working for Mrs Downes.

    To me it’s fairly simple, if you have spent some time in this country and contributed to society economically then you can benefit from it, if not then you can wait.

    There’s a couple of problems here. Are you saying that there should be a probationary period between winning citizenship, and the rights due to a citizen? Surely the granting of citizenship is the very thing that says “your probation is over, you’re one of us now”?

    Further, by aligning yourself with Mrs Downes, you seem to be implying that the contribution to society that one needs to make before becoming one of the “deserving” has to take place over three generations! That can’t be right. I seem to recall you saying you have Italian heritage. Do you class yourself as someone who has yet to make a sufficient contribution? Mr Downes certainly does. That is anacronistic, and wrong.

    As for “pushing in” – it depends what the queue is for, doesn’t it? If I’m waiting to get a sticking plaster, and someone is wheeled in with a gaping headwound, then of course its fine for them to push in. That is also basic common sense – the humane thing to do. Same goes for more politically charged issues like Immigration and Ayslum.  Some people require our help before they have a chance to prove themselves deserving of it.

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