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Black Lives Matter: Boris Johnson faces backlash for announcing new review of inequality despite ‘countless’ reports on race

UK’s review into racial equality will also look at ‘white working-class boys’, says No 10

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
,Andrew Woodcock
Monday 15 June 2020 14:21 BST
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Racial inequality review written on the 'back of a fag packet', says David Lammy

Boris Johnson faces criticism from across the political spectrum for announcing a review into racial inequality in the wake of protests across the country – despite “countless” similar inquiries that have not been acted upon.

The prime minister promised a Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which Downing Street said yesterday would also look at wider inequalities such as issues facing working-class white boys.

But David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, accused Mr Johnson of drawing up plans on the “back of a fag packet”, while the Lib Dems branded it a “botched PR move”.

And Tory MPs highlighted the need for action, with former chancellor Sajid Javid warning that “shining a light on injustice isn’t enough”.

He added: “We need an action plan to tackle it. The Racial Disparity Audit found the data. The commission must deliver the solutions.”

Nus Ghani, Tory MP for Wealden, said: “We have the data on obstacles, prejudice and inequalities. We just need to crack on with real practical solutions which will have a positive impact.”

Dr Zubaida Haque, interim director of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank, said the government was “knee deep in evidence about racial inequalities” from its own reviews – including the Race Disparity Audit, established by Theresa May as part of her drive to tackle “burning injustices”.

“There’s no shortage of recommendations on what to do to close these racial inequality gaps – there’s over 200 recommendations out there,” Dr Haque told The Independent.

“It’s astonishing that this government are declaring yet another review on racial inequalities when they still haven’t published the withheld report on how to save black and ethnic minority people’s lives during Covid-19.”

Dr Haque said there was “dismay and anguish” from black and ethnic minority communities over plans for a “toothless” commission.

She said: “What it looks like is yet another attempt by this government to bury the problem of racial inequalities rather than addressing it. It’s in the long grass.”

The announcement of a new commission was slipped into a lengthy Telegraph article by the prime minister, defending Parliament Square’s statue of Winston Churchill, which was defaced at a recent anti-racism demonstration. Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch will oversee the review, with a report and recommendations expected by the end of the year. However there were no details on the membership of the commission or its full remit, other than the fact it will examine wider inequalities.

Labour’s David Lammy accused Mr Johnson of drawing up “back of a fag packet” plans and demanded action rather than further reviews into racial inequality. Mr Lammy, one of the UK’s most prominent black politicians, told the Today programme: “It feels like, yet again in the UK, we want figures, data, but we don’t want action.

“Black people aren’t playing victim, as Boris indicated, they are protesting precisely because the time for review is over, and the time for action is now.”

He said: “I don’t know why he’s announced a commission, behind the paywall, in The Telegraph, buried in the middle of yet another article about Churchill.

“If he was serious, why are there no details about how it will be staffed, its remit, its terms of reference, its timetable?

“That’s the question. It’s because it was written on the back of a fag packet yesterday to assuage the Black Lives Matter protesters.”

Mr Lammy said he felt like he was being “gaslighted” by questions of whether racism was an issue in Britain, adding: “It is deeply worrying and frankly immature that Britain is still having a conversation about whether racism exists.”

David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said there had already been “countless reports” on the issues surrounding racial inequality.

“We know the scale of the problems we face to tackle the entrenched racial inequality in our country. It is not new,” he said.

“Now is the time for urgent action. We need to see a clear and comprehensive race strategy with clear targets and timescales from government.”

The prime minister’s spokesperson said: “The aim is to set out a new policy agenda for change, balancing the needs of individuals, communities and society, maximising opportunities and ensuring fairness for all.”

Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat equalities spokesperson, said: “The more we hear about this commission, the more it seems like a botched PR move from Number 10. This is typical of this government – all spin, no substance.

“The fact that there is discrepancy over what the commission is even looking into – whether its the inequalities faced by the Bame community or at wider inequalities in our society – simply shows how little it had been thought through when the prime minister decided to announce it.”

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