As London and later other parts of the country faced riots one could ask where was the Church?
The Archbishop of Canterbury found his voice in the House of Lords, five days after the riots commenced. The Bishop of Manchester was far more in tune with his diocese, as were his local police and magistrates.
In my part of East London our newly installed Bishop managed to criticise Canary Wharf, apparently for existing in an area of poverty. Here is the headline he sought “Bishop calls on Canary Wharf’s affluent to mix with community in poverty” He completely ignored the extraordinary work that the Canary Wharf Group does in working with the community across the borough, supporting community groups old and young. Whether it be pensioners clubs, youth sporting events or the Baishakhi Mela, Canary Wharf are at the forefront.
I have sent the following letter to the Bishop. It will be interesting to see how he responds.
Dear Bishop Newman
Firstly may I congratulate you on your appointment as Bishop of Stepney and wish you well in this most challenging of areas.
However, as both a resident and elected representative of the Canary Wharf area I do not believe that your recent press interview is an accurate portrayal of the Wharf. Canary Wharf is one of the four great financial centres of this planet. The Canary Wharf Group undertakes an enormous amount of work within the local community, and is much appreciated for it. Just being at Canary Wharf station or on the DLR, morning or evening, one cannot fail to be struck by how diverse in terms of language and ethnicity those heading for the Wharf are.
I would suggest that those who work and run business in Canary Wharf have a far more diverse ethnic and educational background than the Director General’s management team at the BBC, the editorial board of the Guardian or (with the exception of the Archbishop of York) the Bishop’s bench in the House of Lords.
There is far too much poverty in this borough, but this is not the fault of Canary Wharf. We know that business wants to hire more locally educated employees. The problem is not the existence of a great financial centre, but rather educational attainment.
In the area of London for which you are responsible 63% of white working class and 50% of black Caribbean boys aged 14 have a reading age of seven or less. Even worse, 50% of men and 75% of women who are of Bangladeshi origin are unemployed. A shocking 10% of our young people have no educational qualifications; according to data provided by the University and College Union. In the decade leading up to 2007, an OECD survey of industrialised nations revealed that the UK had dropped from 7th to 17th in reading, 8th to 24th in maths and from 4th to 14th in science. This is the fundamental problem that we face as a nation. Too many pupils leave school with almost worthless qualifications, which are routinely dismissed buy universities and employers.
An often shining exception are the many diocesan schools in this area, a reason why they are invariably oversubscribed.
The world’s greatest financial centre is Wall Street, yet a short trip on the subway will take you to Bedford Stuyvesant, an area of incredible deprivation and poverty. Likewise the boulevards of fashionable Paris are a very short journey from the crime ridden and unemployment black spot of Clichy-sous-Bois. By contrast, this area of Paris has none of the advantages of Tower Hamlets and perhaps more of its disadvantages.
The common denominator of such areas, in this country, parts of Europe and the USA is, as I have said, low educational attainment. China is now producing over three times as many engineering and science graduates as the United States, and we are trailing far behind both of these countries. London was once a power house for innovation and if we are not to suffer as a borough, city and nation then we need this innovation to return. To achieve this, our young people need to be educated to compete with the Chinese, Indians and Brazilians.
I very much hope that in your ministry you are able to see the good in having a world financial centre in our borough, whilst helping to raise educational standards to ensure that our young people can compete for every job that is available.
Councillor Peter Golds