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Government needs to get its ‘knee off the neck’ of BAME people and tackle racism, Labour MP urges

Labour's Dawn Butler called on the Government to do more to tackle racism (PA)

3 min read

Labour MP Dawn Butler has told the Government it must get its “knee off the neck” of the BAME community and take action in the wake of protests against systemic racism.

The former shadow equalities minister said people “are done with kicking this issue into the long grass” after Boris Johnson announced a new commission into inequality.

And she adapted the "I can't breathe" mantra, the last words of George Floyd, to say: "My breath is taken away by the lack of care, empathy and emotional intelligence shown by this Government time and time again."

Leading a debate on the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities, Ms Butler said: "Black lives have more in common with white working class people, with the LGBT plus community, with people who are underrepresented, than this cruel Government.

"In the words of the late, amazing [Labour MP] Jo Cox, 'we have more that unites us than divides us’.

"So I stand to tell the Government that we are done with the games, we are done with the platitudes and we are done with kicking this issue into the long grass - enough is enough.

"Now is time to act. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to get the Government's knee off the neck of the black, African, Caribbean, Asian, minority ethnic communities."

The Brent Central MP spoke emotionally about Mr Floyd, whose death at the hands of police in Minneapolis sparked Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the world.

"Every time the Government gets dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing, I can't breathe," Ms Butler said.

"I can't breathe every time the Government hides a report or kicks an issue into the long grass by announcing another commission or another report, I can't breathe.

"My breath is taken away by the lack of care, empathy and emotional intelligence shown by this Government time and time again.”

And she told the Government to stop trying to "erase the injustices" towards members of the BAME community from reports, citing a failure to implement the recommendations of the Baroness McGregor review, the Lammy review or the Race Disparity Audit 2018.

“Stop trying to erase the injustices towards black and brown people and working class people from Government reports, it's a disgrace,” she added.

”The Government announces reviews and consultations to get itself out of trouble and then thinks that everybody will just forget as we stumble into the next crisis.”

The Commons address comes in the week Boris Johnson announced a new Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, with its report and recommendations are expected by the end of the year.

The study will “examine continuing racial and ethnic inequalities in Britain”, reporting into Mr Johnson with the support of the existing Race Disparity Unit.

“The aim of the commission is to set out a new policy agenda for change, balancing the needs of individuals, communities and society, maximising opportunities and ensuring fairness for all,” a Number 10 spokesperson said.

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