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Black Lives Matter: Education minister says he would ‘of course’ take the knee after Dominic Raab brands it ‘subjugation’

People take a knee during a Black Lives Matter protest rally at Windrush Square, Brixton, south, London.

3 min read

Education minister Nick Gibb has said he would “of course” take the knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters amid a political row over the gesture.

The Conservative MP and long-serving schools minister’s stance puts him at odds with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who said on Thursday that the move was a ”symbol of subjugation and subordination”.

Taking the knee was first popularised by American sportsman Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when he knelt during the national anthem before an NFL game. 

The act is considered a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism in the United States and has been adopted widely during recent demonstrations across the world following the death of George Floyd in US police custody.

Mr Raab told TalkRadio on Thursday: “I take the knee for two people: the Queen and the Mrs when I asked her to marry me.”

And, suggesting the act had been inspired by TV series Game of Thrones, he said: “It feels to me like a symbol of subjugation and subordination rather than a one of liberation and emancipation. 

“But I understand people feel differently about it, so it’s a matter of personal choice.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and his deputy Angela Rayner are among UK politicians who have been pictured performing the gesture in recent weeks, amid nationwide Black Lives Matter protests. 

Mr Gibb was asked by the BBC on Friday whether he would take the knee. 

He said: “In the right circumstances, yes of course. 

“But my focus, the focus of the government, the work I do, is about making sure we address the injustices that are the subjects of these campaigns.”

And he added: “It's wonderful we have a country where you can protest, you can make your thoughts and views clear, [and] that we are a tolerant and open society that has been built over the centuries on waves of immigration from around the world. And that's why our culture in this country is so vibrant and welcoming.”

The education minister’s comments come after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the armed forces needed to “reset” their “woeful” record on discrimination against black and minority ethnic personnel.

The Cabinet minister told The House magazine that his own department had historically “not done well enough” in either recruiting or welcoming people from a black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background.

And Mr Wallace said: “From a purely selfish point of view, by not having more BAME personnel, not having more women, we are losing the opportunity to have some great talent. So it's really, really important that this is stopped, crushed, got rid of, and we have to double our efforts.”

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