Keir Starmer has said the government-backed review of racial disparities in Britain “lacks credibility”, amid growing calls for the prime minister to reject its “disingenuous” findings.
The Labour Party leader’s comments come after the report said that geography, family influence, socio-economic background, culture and religion all affect life chances more than discrimination, dismissing the idea that structural racism is an issue in Britain.
The report also criticised the “accusatory tone of much of the current rhetoric on race, and the pessimism about what has been and what more can be achieved”.
“The government’s race review report was a missed opportunity to seriously engage with the reality of structural and institutional racism in the UK,” Sir Keir told The Independent, in his first comments after having read the report in full.
“The report is not credible and has ignored the lived experiences of Black, minority and ethnic communities in Britain.
“As prime minister, I would introduce a new Race Equality Act to tackle the structural inequalities which have existed in our society for too long.”
The Independent understands that Labour has further intentions to lobby the government for remedial action following this report.
Meanwhile, Baroness Doreen Lawrence has said said the report gives “racists the green light” and the report’s authors are “not in touch with reality”.
Sir Keir committed to introducing a Race Equality Act in October, following a review, led by Baroness Lawrence, into the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on black and ethnic minority communities in the UK.
Entitled An Avoidable Crisis, the Labour-commissioned review concluded that “decades of structural discrimination” led to the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on these groups.
Baroness Lawrence was made a Labour peer in 2013 after campaigning for justice for her son who died in 1993 following a racist attack in south London.
Speaking at a public event organised by De Montfort University Leicester’s (DMU) Stephen Lawrence Research Centre last week, she said: “When I first heard about the report my first thought was it has pushed [the fight against] racism back 20 years or more.
“You know, all these things we’ve been working for and showing that structural racism exists – we talk about the pandemic when you look at how many of our people have died, all the nurses, the doctors, the frontline staff, of Covid, and to have this report denying that those people have suffered … they are denying that the likes of my son was murdered through racism and the fact that it took 18 years to get justice for him.”
On Friday, a group of civil society leaders hand-delivered a petition to Number 10 urging Boris Johnson to withdraw the report and instead implement the recommendations of the long-standing Macpherson, Lammy, Marmot and Williams reviews.
The open letter was signed by organisations including Black Lives Matter UK and the Runnymede Trust and notes that the commission has failed to address issues including institutional racism, and that its claims have led to “public incredulity and national indignation”.
“It is important that [the prime minister] acknowledges the lived experiences of minoritised communities and especially those experiencing the hostile environment and the ongoing impact of the Windrush Scandal where institutionalised is still alive and kicking in Britain today,” signatory Patrick Vernon OBE told The Independent.
In under 48 hours the letter has gained more than 20,000 signatures and counting, with the campaign under the slogan #RejectTheReport, trending online.
Notable signatures from high profile commentators include Afua Hirsch, Bonnie Greer OBE and Lord Simon Woolley CBE.
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