Vince Cable has spoken about his mixed race marriage in a moving way. His first wife was Indian and they had a happy marriage by all his accounts till her death from cancer at a young age. Both sets of parents were against the marriage. You can read about it here. It’s a story that is particularly timely and will resonate because this week will see the union of a high-profile mixed race couple, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

While mixed marriages may be common place the reality is that being in a mixed race relationship is still a difficult one to navigate. There are things that do not occur to you when you are in the happy throes of planning the wedding. Overcoming cultural differences is lost in the mists of the love cloud which instead causes you to labour under the illusion that love will conquer all differences. It doesn’t.

Once the years start going by the cultural differences  surface in ways that one never anticipated it would. Differing attitudes over how to spend holidays, bringing up the kids and, even, something as mundane as food tastes can cause rifts. Racism is never far away which adds to the strain. Well meaning people will point to your mixed race marriage as evidence that racism could not possibly exist.

It takes a lot more than love to keep going in a mixed race relationship. It takes both sides to acknowledge that cultural differences do exist regardless of best intentions and beautiful weddings. It takes both sides to make the time and effort to learn about the nuances of each other’s cultures. Love may be powerful but an understanding and respect borne out of that love is what will keep mixed race couples together in the long term. This may be true of all marriages but my focus here is on mixed race ones.

The worst example of a mixed race marriage was depicted in the movie ‘East is East’. Only one culture was allowed to prevail in the family home and this was heavily dictated by misogyny as well. The wife was unable to practice her cultural beliefs out of fear. Why people find this movie funny is a complete mystery to me.

By contrast, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle seem to be equipping themselves well for their future together. They have embraced race issues and are keen to be seen to be embracing diversity. There is much adversity against diversity, especially since the Brexit referendum. I wish them well because mixed race relationships are an amazing way of embracing the differences that life gives us. It is a coming together reflective of the societies that we live in. And Vince Cable ought to be more vocal about his personal experience. No other party leader has even a similar experience to speak off.

Nationalism, a thirst for democracy and an inspiring sense of unity were the guiding concepts that saw Malaysia, a small nation-state, come together as ferocious Asian Tigers to break the shackles of a political party that dominated Malaysian politics for 61 years.

To put this in context, Malaysia, a former British colony, gained independence in 1957. Harold McMillan came to power in Britain in January 1957. Since then Britain has seen the two party system, Labour and the Conservatives (Tory) with the exception of a Lib Dem-Tory coalition from 2010 to 2015, govern alternatively.

In Malaysia, by contrast, one party, Barisan Nasional or the National Front was the sole party in power for six decades plus one year. Democracy suffered from a gradual erosion all through the years with a deluge taking place from the 1980s onwards with the dismantling of the independence of the judiciary, the dominance of the executive and cronyism taking a firm hold both via financial handouts and the allocation of positions of power.

All that changed on 9 May when a 71% voter turnout channelled people’s power at the rate of knots to topple a government that had plundered the country’s coffers for years.

What is even more remarkable is that at a time when the Western model of democracy, which has always been held as the epitome of Liberal Democracy, is riddled with ‘bad’ nationalism, untrustworthy politicians and a biased media, a small country situated in a region where autocracy is the normal political model has bucked the trend.

 

While Nationalism in Europe and in Britain means a sense of division among people and a constant drip and drip of misinformation about political facts which one is compelled to believe in to remain part of the hegemonic peoples,  Malaysians voted in unity for the sorts of principles borne out of the French Revolution in 1789. The former is now sullied and the latter was delivered in a purist form – equality and liberty.

I was born and raised in Malaysia before coming to the UK in 1981. I left before I was old enough to vote. The election result was a dream come true for me because I am a political idealist. I wept when the opposition won. Finally.

In the 1980s it was obvious to me that the Malaysian political trajectory was a dangerous one. Living in Britain exposed me to a level of democracy that I had never experienced. Newspapers were free to be critical of governments, people indulged in exchanges of free and frank political discussions and there was no fear that your ballot paper would be tampered with as soon as your back was turned.

Fast forward to present time, British newspapers operate along party lines (except for The Guardian), some sort of ridiculous pilot saw voters being wrongly turned away during the local elections last week, the BBC spouts Government lines and the separation of powers is at a precarious point. The Government of the day is ruled by the Daily Mail who derides judges and foreigners. A foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, thinks being racist is the height of witticism.

There is always ambiguity in political earthquakes but, while caution is advised in waiting to see how Malaysia goes forward, I must end by saying that not in my wildest dreams could I have predicted this paradox at this moment in time.

Maelo Manning otherwise known as Libdemchild was able to vote for the first time last week after joining the party at the age of 10. It was a proud Mama moment. Maelo is photographed above with Adrian Trett who was a splendid candidate in Lambeth. No words can convey the pride at seeing her finally being able to participate in the democratic process.

I was somewhere among the hundreds of people who turned up on this day in 1998 to lend support to the Lawrence family during the Macpherson Enquiry. Stephen Lawrence had been dead for 5 years by this time. I watched the killers come out of the building.

They were utterly devoid of any shred of shame, humanity or remorse. They goaded the crowd through hand gestures and bodily swagger. Their confidence had been bolstered, I am guessing, by the lack of evidence and an ensuing conviction.

I wondered then as I do now – what was it in their upbringing, social environment and personal characters that had contrived to give them such a sense of false superiority? They had killed a Black boy but quite obviously were racist down to every cell of their body so as not to give a damn about their actions and consequences. You had to be there to see it.

In the three part documentary screened on BBC1 we learn that Enoch Powell was a hero of theirs. We see them spouting utter hatred for people based on skin colour. These boys personifed that (ugly) American label of ‘White trash’. They suffered from a feeling of White superiority despite being uneducated as compared to Stephen Lawrence who had dreams of being an architect.

Has the 20 intervening years made any difference? I don’t think so. Trump’s supporters suffer from high doses of White superiority malaise. In the UK, UKIP strives to keep this going. The Tories are hanging their heads in shame over the Windrush fiasco. And somewhere a White community is still colluding over withholding evidence in the killing of Stephen Lawrence.

 

I once had a very demanding boss. On the occasions when his demands were super unrealistic, I would wait till he had finished before asking him whether he wanted a Unicorn thrown in too. On National Unicorn Day, Brexiters, in the same vein,  would be wise to contemplate whether their list of demands needs to be accompanied with the question, ‘Would I like a Unicorn too with that?’

Evidence points to Britain coming worst off after withdrawing from the EU. On an everyday level of living food prices are predicted to rise, jobs will be lost and slower growth is forecasted.  As for UK democracy, rule based Liberal democracy is being eroded in the quest for a Brexit that will only satisfy the right wingers.

The left-wingers who voted for Brexit have, in my opinion, made the similar sort of mistake which led Hillary Clinton’s supporters to reject her politics in favour of Trump because they wanted change. This voting strategy let Trump and his alt-right politics in. While the EU is in many ways an undemocratic institution the alternative is a further drag on democracy and the evidence is being played out everyday.

So, Brexiters, would you like a Unicorn with your wish list on National Unicorn Day?

P/S I love Unicorns myself but I know that they don’t exist.