Star comment: Celebrate our differences and our democracy

The census provides us with a fascinating insight into the make-up of the UK, although it probably tells us little that we do not already know.

More people in the UK live in families that are a mix of ethnicities than ever before, while fewer people identify as Christian as the rise of the non-religious continues. Both trends are evident on a daily basis, they are clear for us all to see.

The census picture paints a picture of a diverse nation that has done more than most countries on earth to welcome others and to bring about integration irrespective of race, religion and background.

There are stories of doom and gloom, of course, and the sense of division in our United Kingdom has risen in recent times, notably around the debate surrounding referendums on Scottish independence and on Brexit. Both were very valid issues to debate, but some used them to widen divisions in our society.

Racism does exist, of that there is no doubt, and we have a long way to go before we are a truly democratic, inclusive and welcoming nation. Yet for all of the UK’s faults, the bigger picture is that we remain a tolerant and welcoming society that understands and accepts points of difference.

Closer to home, Wolverhampton has been identified as the local authority with the largest percentage of people with Punjabi as their main language. That community has contributed so much, has also suffered from racism, yet is now rightly cherished as an essential part of the city’s identity.

Britain should never be complacent in fighting prejudice. Yet, for all of the UK’s faults, we should also celebrate our freedom, our cultural differences and, above all, our democracy.

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Adrian Chiles has become something of a national treasure. The West Midlands broadcaster, so likeable for his down-to-earth style, is an advocate of safe drinking.

He has displayed remarkable candour in talking about his own problems with drink and is now highlighting the need for all of us to keep an eye on our drinking habits.

Social drinking can creep up on us and our health. It is wise to come up with strategies to limit it.

Of course many, like Chiles’s friend Frank Skinner, find the addictive nature of alcohol too damaging and find the best way is to abstain completely.

While a drink can be a wonderful way to pass the time with friends, it can also destroy lives and ruin your health. The trick, as Chiles says, is to be aware of your relationship with it and act accordingly for the sake of yourself and those around you.

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