Sky News unveiled a data poll suggesting that Britain is “more racist and less happy” than a year ago, with the supposedly worsening mood framed as a direct consequence of the country voting to leave the European Union (EU) last June.
The findings were reported by Sky News by the broadcaster’s Head of Data, Harry Carr, who previously managed the political polling for Ipsos MORI, a polling organisation which suffered a severe blow to its credibility after putting the probability of Britain voting to Remain in the EU at 74 per cent.
Carr writes that 57 per cent of respondents believe the UK is more racist than it was 12 months ago, immediately after an allusion to Home Office statistics which claim allegations of crimes motivated by racial or religious hatred are up by 41 per cent.
This increase in allegations is likely to have been driven by government policy, which is geared towards positively encouraging an increase in hate crime reporting.
The Home Office launched a hate crime action plan in July 2016 in which the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, made it clear the government has been pushing “measures to increase the reporting of hate incidents and crimes”.
Past measures have included a scheme launched by the British Transport Police which allows people to register hate crime allegations via text, which logged 32,500 incidents in its first three years of operation, and the online True Vision portal, which logged 4,300 hate allegations in 2014/15.
Assistant Chief Constable of the Essex police force, Maurice Mason, admitted some of these reported incidents reported even include “members of the public complaining about Nigel Farage, or whatever … If the person feels it’s a hate crime it will get recorded as a hate crime”.
Mason’s comments underline that there is virtually no requirement for evidence of a crime to be presented before a hate incident is logged. The College of Policing’s Hate Crime Operational Guidance manual states that, “For recording purposes, the perception of the victim, or any other person, is the defining factor in determining whether an incident is a hate incident”.
The guidance goes on to make it clear that “the victim does not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief, and police officers or staff should not directly challenge this perception. Evidence of the hostility is not required for an incident or crime to be recorded as a hate crime or hate incident.”
The police will take action against false reporting, as when a Muslim woman was fined for lying about being attacked in Birmingham last year, but the guidance is clear that challenging people to substantiate hate crime allegations is generally discouraged.
This has not stopped broadcasters and mainstream media outlets such as Sky News from reporting that hate crime has “soared” prominently and repeatedly, which is likely the key factor in the public allegedly perceiving an increase in racism.
Another driver for any increase in hate crime, not explored in the Sky News report, is the accelerating pace of mass immigration, with migrants in poorly integrated minority communities harbouring racist attitudes towards the majority population themselves.
Police Scotland conceded that white Britons were the most likely victims of racist attacks towards the end of 2015, a widely unreported phenomenon. Sir Peter Fahy, former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, has been reported as saying that it is “a fact that it [is] harder to get the media interested where murder victims [are] young white men.”
Broadcasters have come under strong criticism for their failure to report such crimes in the past, with the BBC acknowledging it “underplayed” the murder of Kriss Donald by a Pakistani gang in Scotland’s first ever race hate killing.
Biased, negative media coverage following the Brexit vote, such as that uncovered at the BBC by researchers at News Watch, will also have played a part in any increasing apprehensions about the future.
Sky Data did not believe that voters would back Brexit if they thought it would damage the economy before the referendum, which would seem to contradict its new report suggesting most members of the public believe it will.
Sky’s previous survey also indicated that “Brits do not think the UK will be less respected on the world stage if it leaves the EU”, that Britain gets “a raw deal” from the EU compared to France and Germany, and that EU immigration “undermines British culture and values”.