Letters: Multiculturalism and national identity

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David Miliband is not strictly correct when he says that the third of the population who class themselves as ambivalent on the issue of multiculturalism identify with Labour Insecurity is fuel for hate, 28 February. It would be more accurate to describe them as those who used to identify with Labour, as it was this group that deserted the party at the last election. As a Labour candidate I lost count of the number of times I heard when out canvassing that we had failed to get a grip on immigration including from many ethnic minority voters. It is also a view reinforced by the fact that every time a Labour MP brings up these difficult issues, such as Margaret Hodge and housing allocation in 2007, or Jack Straw and sexual grooming earlier this year, they are always ostracised by liberal commentators.A key factor in making Labour electable again will be to come up with policies on immigration that reflect the economic insecurity that many communities now feel, regardless of race. Not doing this will simply leave the debate open to David Cameron, and the far right.Nicholas MiltonStratford-upon-AvonDavid Miliband rightly highlights the need for people of all cultures to enjoy an authentic sense of identity, but surely that is not the point of difficulty in Britain today. The national sense of identity reveals itself through our media, our schools and many other institutions. If there are groups within society whose sense of alienation is a potential source of discontent, then we will not win them over by lectures about muscular liberalism, nor even by advocating a common identity which already exists. What is needed is to open a real social dialogue, which not only calls for those from minority cultures to recognise British identity, but also shows them that legendary British tolerance still thrives, and that they can continue to participate in their traditions while being valued members of the mainstream community. Until our leaders grasp this nettle, rhetoric about muscle and identity will remain just rhetoric.Stephen Hockman QCLondonDavid Miliband notes that Britain has not had the same experience as continental countries with their extremist parties. Could this be because our electoral system prevents populist identity political parties from winning seats, save in the more proportional European parliament elections? I lost faith in PR as I witnessed PR delivering seats in continental parliaments to xenophobes and antisemites. AV is not PR and is no help to the BNP, EDL or Ukip or single-issue parties. But the 47% of anti-immigration voters identified in the Searchlight survey will, under AV, be pandered to as candidates trim their views to search for second and third preferences.Denis MacShane MPLabour, RotherhamBritish identity and societyImmigration and asylumRace issuesThe far rightLabourguardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions More Feeds

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