It’s census time again, and that fat, nosey questionarre that wants to demographise every detail of your life has landed on the doormat. Thankfully, Andrew Marr is on hand to explain the whys and wherefores of all those ‘what’s and ‘how many’s, and ask a more important question; what do our answers really mean?
Everything from the address on the envelope to the detailed questions on health, family values and religion help the government to plot out your life. As Marr tells us, if you live in London you’re more likely to be female. If you live in some areas of Glasgow, your life expectancy is one of the worst in Western Europe. If you’re under 25, your occupation is most likely waiting tables. From national identification – are you British, or are you Welsh British? English British? Muslim British? – to changing attitudes toward marriage, children, class, and even living space, Marr guides us through the rapidly evolving land known as Modern Britain.
The hottest of Marr’s many hot potatoes are immigration and ethnicity, the changing face of the country. He illuminates a striking difference in ethnic diversity between the urban and the rural, an oar Midsomer Murders producer Brian True-May recently used to paddle himself up s**t-creek. Some theorists even predict cities like Leicester and Birmingham will become majority ethnic-minority in the next few years, segregating races by postcode and therefore by other factors – property type, transport, access to healthcare, schooling. Recent English Defence League rallies and comments from David Cameron that “multi-culturalism has failed in Britain” cast a shadow on these figures, forcing us to tackle head-on the concept of racial integration, and what shape it will take in this century and the next.
Marr also reveals us to be a country segregated by wealth. The richest 10% of us are more than 100 times richer than the poorest 10%. Although the money of the traditional upper classes has all but evaporated in the last 60 years, the super-rich, bankers and businessmen, now inhabit the highest echelons of society. In a country biting the bullet of recession the dramatic inconsistency of wealth, and therefore quality of life, between the rich and poor is perhaps the hardest of Marr’s pills to swallow.