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Tue, 7 July 2020

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By Andrew McQuillan
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Boris Johnson says his ‘levelling up’ agenda will tackle racial inequality in wake of Black Lives Matters protests

Boris Johnson says his ‘levelling up’ agenda will tackle racial inequality in wake of Black Lives Matters protests

Boris Johnson spoke with his Cabinet about tackling racial inequality (PA)

3 min read

Boris Johnson has suggested his "levelling up" agenda will help tackle racial inequality in the wake of the Black Lives Matters protests across the UK.

The Prime Minister addressed his Cabinet on Tuesday morning and discussed the “anger and the grief” felt across the world following the killing of George Floyd by police in America.

His official spokesman said he told his senior ministers “those who lead and govern simply cannot ignore the depth of emotion that has been triggered”.

The PM said “there is an undeniable feeling of injustice” and that “people from black and minority ethnic groups do face discrimination in education, in employment, in the application of criminal law”.

Mr Johnson added: “We are a much much less racist society than we were, but we must also frankly acknowledge that there is so much more to do in eradicating prejudice and creating opportunities.”

But he said while his message to “all those who have protested lawfully “is “I hear you and I understand”, those who engaged in violence or criminal damage will “face the full force of the law”.

Asked how Mr Johnson specifically plans to address racial discrimination, the Number 10 spokesman said: "Very specifically, he has a levelling up agenda which has its core aim in ensuring that everybody across the country has the same level of opportunity, and you can expect him to be talking much more about that in the coming weeks.

“It’s core to what this government wants to achieve during its time in office.”

The “levelling up” slogan, first used by the PM in his campaign to become Tory leader last summer, has usually referred to balancing regional inequalities within Britain.

But the spokesman insisted it “is about ensuring that all people have the same opportunities in life”.

It comes after Mr Johnson delivered a video message via afro-Caribbean newspaper The Voice on the issue.

The PM said the "spectacle" of the death of George Floyd, who was filmed being forcibly restrained by a police officer despite repeated protestations that he could not breathe, had triggered a "depth of emotion" in people the world over.

“In this country and around the world his dying words – I can’t breathe – have awakened an anger and a widespread and incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice, a feeling that people from black and minority ethnic groups do face discrimination: in education, in employment, in the application of the criminal law," he said.

“And we who lead and who govern simply can’t ignore those feelings because in too many cases, I am afraid, they will be founded on a cold reality.”

But, pointing out that he now leads “the most ethnically diverse government in the history of this country”, Mr Johnson flagged his own record as mayor of London in trying to “recruit and promote more young black people, in the police and other walks of life”.

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