Among the crowds packed along the Thames and front of Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen’s sixtieth year on the throne, it was hard to avoid noticing the disproportionately large number of brown faces.
This shouldn’t be a surprise: It’s hard to avoid noticing what recent polls have shown: that admiration for the Queen, and support for the system of constitutional monarchy, is somewhat higher among Britain’s immigrant communities than it is among native-born citizens.
This makes life difficult for Britain’s struggling republican movement, whose demonstration during Sunday’s Jubilee flotilla attracted about 1,000 soggy people, almost all of them white.
Among the more surprising immigrant-offspring voices speaking up for the Queen this week is Sunder Katwala, a former head of the venerable left-wing Fabian Society, who shook up Britain’s Labour Party supporters with an essay in the left-wing New Statesman under the provocative headline “The left should love the Queen.”
As a Briton of Indian descent, he argued that the left is in danger of losing the support of people like him if they become too intensely focused on abolishing the monarchy.
“Against the backdrop of Britain’s increasing ethnic diversity, the monarchy has become more relevant,” Mr. Katwala wrote.
That seems to be a lesson that both the Conservative Party and the monarchy itself have eagerly taken to heart. Indeed, the House of Windsor deliberately chose to begin its Diamond Jubilee tour in the midland city of Leicester, which “by the end of this decade will become the first city in Britain that is no longer majority-white,” Mr. Katwala writes.
Indeed, some of the most outspoken critics of the Queen today are right-wing Britons who are opposed to their country’s racial diversity. “I tend to think,” the Daily Mail columnist Peter Hitchens wrote of Her Majesty this weekend, “that she has been more multicultural and politically correct than she needed to.”
On the other side of the coin, this weekend saw the London district of Brixton hosting a “refugee Jubilee” in which hundreds of refugees gathered to salute their “Queen of Sanctuary.” It was organized by Mr. Katwala’s left-leaning think tank British Future.
“Some refugees told me she represents the stability which makes Britain a safe haven, citing freedom of religion,” Mr. Katwala explained.
His observations have been supported by a string of surveys and studies which show that immigrants – especially those from religious-minority backgrounds – tend to be more loyal to the institutions of the British state, including the monarchy, than native-born citizens.
One large-scale survey last year by the research group Demos found that 83 per cent of British Muslims (who are more likely than other religions to be foreign-born or directly descended from immigrants) said they were “proud to be a British citizen” and loyal to their country’s existing institutions, versus only 79 per cent of Britons in general. A 2009 Gallup survey found that Britain’s minorities “are more likely than all populations surveyed to identify strongly with their nation, and to express stronger confidence with its institutions.”
Perhaps that isn’t surprising: The Queen, after all, is a third-generation immigrant, and she’s married to a man, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, who was born in Corfu and immigrated to Britain - - effectively as a refugee, after his father was banished in a military coup. So immigrants have a number of reasons to be more loyal to the British monarch; they may well see themselves in her.