Racism inquiry “dead on arrival”, opposition says

The inquiry will be set up by a known sceptic of institutional racism.

16 Jun 2020| News

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the launch of a new inquiry into racism in an article published by The Telegraph on Sunday.

The investigation follows a weeks of protests led by the Black Lives Matter movement, which was sparked by the murder of George Floyd in the US.

“No one who cares about this country can ignore the many thousands of people who have joined the Black Lives Matter movement to protest peacefully, as most of them have, in the last few days,” he wrote.

“It is time for a cross-governmental commission to look at all aspects of inequality – in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life.”

However, his plans drew immediate criticism for being vague, biased and even offensive.

The Labour Party condemned the proposals as “written on the back of a fag packet”, announced as they were within two sentences in the middle of an opinion column.

Johnson also angered campaigners by saying he aimed to reduce the “sense of victimisation” felt by BAME communities, appearing to suggest that racism was a perception more than a reality.

Now, news that a known sceptic of institutional racism has been tasked with setting up the review has added to fears the inquiry is a political exercise moreso than a genuine attempt to understand racial inequalities.

Munira Mirza, a No. 10 Aide, has been put in charge of recruiting the commission, according to reports in the Guardian and Financial Times.

She has previously been outspoken in her criticism of previous race inequiries, including the Lammy Review, which she felt encouraged a “culture of grievance” among the BAME community.

David Lammy, who is now Shadow Justice Secretary, responded to her appointment by saying: “My review was welcomed by all parties: Corbyn, Cameron and May. But Munira Mirza went out of her way to attack it. Johnson isn’t listening to #BlackLivesMatter. He’s trying to wage a culture war.”

Indeed, the Guardian reports that Mirza has already named Trevor Philips as a potential member of the commission. The former Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has drawn widespread criticism in the past for describing the UK’s Muslim community as “a nation within a nation”.

“I am tired of fighting the government on this issue. The only review needed is a review into all the past consultations and reviews as well as their failure to implement over 200 prior recommendations,” she said.

The Institute of Race Relations think tank told the Guardian: “Any enquiry into inequality has to acknowledge structural and systemic factors … 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.”

For his part, Boris Johnson called on the public to take a more “cheerful” approach to race.

“What I feel most strongly is that there are so many positive stories that are not being heard,” he said. “Things really are changing.”