Good morning. Last summer, in response to concerns highlighted by the Black Lives Matter protests, Boris Johnson set up a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities to look at the extent of racial inequalities in the UK. This was less than three years after Theresa May’s government published its own race disparities audit, but the motives were different. May wanted to reduce racial disparities, which she saw as some of the “burning injustices” she highlighted in a speech on her first day as PM (an agenda she was never able to address properly because of Brexit).
Johnson is also committed to racial equality, but his commission had a different agenda, or sub-agenda. Some of those around him (particularly Munira Mirza, his head of policy at No 10), are sceptical of claims that structural racism is embedded in the UK, and they were hoping the commission would reshape the argument on this issue.
There was an obvious political agenda here too. Both wings of the Conservative party coalition – middle-class, Telegraph-reading southerners and “Red Wall” working-class northerners – would broadly agree with Johnson on this issue. But for the Labour coalition it is more problematic, because the strongly pro-BLM views of its activist base are not always shared by more socially conservative, working-class Labour voters.
The 264-page report from the commission is out later this morning, but last night the Government Equalities Office sent out a two-page summary. It was not widely distributed (one of the leading specialists covering race did not get a copy), and the press notice seemed intended to provoke a reaction. It said:
The landmark report challenges the view that Britain has failed to make progress in tackling racial inequality, suggesting the well-meaning “idealism” of many young people who claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence.
My colleagues Peter Walker and Aamna Mohdin have written it up here.
It may well be that the full report is more nuanced than the press summary suggests. In an interview on the Today programme, Tony Sewell, the education specialist who chaired the commission, insisted that the report does not deny racism exists. But he said he did not accept that Britain was institutionally racist. He said:
No one in the report is saying racism doesn’t exist. We found anecdotal evidence of this; however, what we did find was the evidence of actual institutional racism, no, that wasn’t there, we didn’t find that in our report.
What we have seen is that the term ‘institutional racism’ is sometimes wrongly applied and it’s been a sort of a catch-all phrase for micro-aggressions or acts of racial abuse but essentially – and also people use it interchangeably, systematic racism, structural racism … just being used wrongly.
In fact what we’ve done is we want to almost protect the term, we want to almost say that, look – what you have do is look at this thing in terms of the evidence, where there is robust assessment and evidence of it, then apply it, deep-seated racism in institutions, yes.
Here is the agenda for the day.
11am: The Green party holds a local election campaign launch in London.
11.30am: The government publishes the report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.
12pm: Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, delivers what is being billed as a major speech on foreign policy.
1.30pm: Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, holds a press briefing.
Politics Live has been mostly about Covid for the last year and I will be covering UK coronavirus developments today, as well as non-coronavirus Westminster politics. For global coronavirus news, do read our global live blog.
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