Boris Johnson appoints aide who said institutional racism was a myth and railed against multiculturalism

Munira Mirza called for diversity policies to be 'dismantled'

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Tuesday 16 June 2020 11:56 BST

Boris Johnson has appointed a Downing Street aide who railed against multiculturalism and said institutional racism was a myth to lead a commission on racial equality.

Munira Mirza, director of the Downing Street policy unit who also worked for Mr Johnson while he was Mayor of London, said it was not racism but "anti-racist lobby groups" to blame for some of the problems ethnic minorities faced.

She has also called for the government to "dismantle the countless diversity policies that encourage people to see everything through the prism of racial difference".

The prime minister this week announced a “cross-governmental commission” to look at all aspects of racial inequality in the UK in the wake of global Black Lives Matter protests.

Mr Johnson said there was “much more that we need to do” to combat racism, though he also urged ethnic minorities to consider the progress that had been made.

But the commission will reportedly be led by Ms Mirza, who has written dozens of controversial articles for fringe right-wing website Spiked Online, in some of which she lays out her views on race.

In one piece from September 2017 the aide attacks the findings of a previous racial equality review by Labour MP David Lammy and argued that it was wrong to point the finger at institutional racism.

In the article she suggested that "the current accusations of institutional racism by lobbyists and activists" were "a perception more than a reality" and that the accusations of racism themselves led to worse outcomes for people from ethnic minorities, particularly in the justice system.

"When anti-racist lobby groups criticise the authorities for their racism, it is not surprising that BAME communities start to believe they cannot trust their own professional solicitors," she argued. "They then make decisions that might harm their chances in the justice system."

In another 2017 article, this time for the Spectator, she claimed that “anti-racism is becoming weaponised across the political spectrum”.

The Tory insider has also slammed the "race-relations industry", writing in another Spiked Online article from 2006: "The ‘race relations industry’ has expanded massively on the back of government policies, legislation and funding.

"Most public services – housing, healthcare, arts and cultural provision, voluntary support, public broadcasting, and policing – have strategies to accommodate the supposedly different needs of ethnic users. Many organisations now have targets to ensure they are employing enough ethnic minorities.

She argued: "A major step towards the universalist approach would be to dismantle the countless diversity policies that encourage people to see everything through the prism of racial difference.

"We should get rid of ‘tick box’ measures that do nothing to address underlying inequality in areas like employment. And we should interrogate the claims of victimisation made by some organisations to get their slice of pie."

The Institute for Race Relations suggested that Ms Mirza was probably not the right person to lead a review into racial inequality.

“Any enquiry into inequality has to acknowledge structural and systemic factors. Munira Mirza’s previous comments describe a ‘grievance culture’ within the anti-racist field and she has previously argued that institutional racism is ‘a perception more than a reality’,” a spokesperson said.

“It is difficult to have any confidence in policy recommendations from someone who denies the existence of the very structures that produce the social inequalities experienced by black communities.”

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