Life in a northern town: … Eliot’s link to an analysis of the parallels between Northern Ireland’s troubles and this summer’s conflicts between whites and Asian youth in Burnley, Oldham, Bradford and Manningham reminds me of the passage in Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth” (just finished — David, you’re really going to dig it, I promise) about Alsana Iqbal recalling how boots used to smash windows in East End basement flats.

It is 33 years since the late Enoch Powell was fired from the Tory shadow cabinet for predicting that the build-up of racial minorities in Britain would lead to a society “foaming with much blood”. It is exactly 20 years this month since the police lost control of violent clashes in the Toxteth ghetto in Liverpool and had to withdraw.

There used to be signs in landladies’ windows in the 1950s saying ‘No Paddys and No Pakis’. These days there is very little noticeable anti-Irish prejudice in most of mainland Britain and it is against the Race Relations Law to ban ethnic minorities from jobs or housing or to inflict any other form of discrimination.

But the reality of everyday life does not match the tolerance supposedly enshrined in the laws of the land.

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