For a few seconds, time stopped and the audience dropped a collective jaw as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown asked if we knew that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne’s brother was a Muslim convert, Mohammed Osborne. No we didn’t! But…but… how did that happen?
It was a sell out session with the charismatic journalist and writer, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and her fellow broadcaster/journalist, Bidisha at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Yasmin hoped that her new book Exotic England, The Making of a Curious Nation would be an antidote to ‘the UKIP-ery’ taking place in England. Note that right wing, anti-immigrant sentiments are regarded by both journalists to be a curiously English affair, not Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish. Yasmin traces the history of this small island with boundless enthusiasm and curiosity for what lies beyond the surrounding seas. Foreign cultures have helped shape the architecture, language and cuisine in Britain presumably for the better!
Bidisha has spent much time volunteering for charities, law centres and NGOs helping asylum seekers. She recalled the systematic way in which migrants are being de-humanised with basic rights refused as they fall through legal loopholes whilst waiting for their applications to be processed.
Both Bidisha and Yasmin lamented the lack of a strong opposition party in Parliament to counter the prevailing narrative from the current government.
An audience in Edinburgh is hardly representative of the whole of Britain, however, the sentiment was overwhelmingly in favour of multiculturalism and shame at the rhetoric from the Conservatives and Labour party. That was an optimistic end.