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Keir Starmer Is "Disappointed" At Race Report Findings For Failing To Accept "Structural" Problems

Keir Starmer Is 'Disappointed' At Race Report Findings For Failing To Accept 'Structural' Problems
4 min read

The Labour leader has called for the introduction of a race equality act as he claimed there was a "reluctance" to acknowledge structural issues.

It comes after the government-ordered report from The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities concluded there was no evidence of institutional racism in the UK and that the country was a "model" for other nations.

The controversial study, led by Dr Tony Sewell, has also come under fire from racial equality activists who claimed the report was "breathtaking in its cynicism".

The report, commissioned in the wake of last summer's Black Lives Matter protests, also hit out at the "idealism" of "well-intentioned young people" who they claimed had "amplified this inter-generational mistrust".

But speaking on Wednesday, Starmer said there needed to be a "proper acknowledgement" of "structural" problems facing black and minority ethnic communities.

"I haven't seen the full report yet and, obviously, I'll want to read that," he said. "I've seen the briefings out of it and I'm disappointed.

"On the one hand, there's an acknowledgement of the problems, the issues, the challenges that face many black and minority ethnic communities.

"But on the other hand, there's a reluctance to accept that that's structural."

He added: "We have had report after report. We have seen the disproportionate impact on black and minority ethnic communities of the pandemic.

"I think what we now need to see is a proper acknowledgement of the depth of that, the structural nature of that, but, most of all, to act on the very many recommendations that we've had for many years, whether that's in the business community, at board level, in criminal justice, on the pandemic.

"I think, in the end, what we need is a race equality act, which is what the Labour Party is committed to."

Anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate also condemned the report, calling its findings an "insult" to those who had faced racism in the UK.

"These findings, which downplay the impact of structural factors in ethnic disparities so loudly raised by the Black Lives Matter movement this summer, are an insult to all whose lives are shaped by racism, though the come as little surprise," the group said.

"It is breathtaking in its cynicism. It asserts that the UK is an exemplar of racial equality, and plays down the impact of structural racism. This is counter to the lived experience of millions of people in the UK today."

They added: "Of course, there have been huge advances in race relations in Britain over recent decades, but there is still a very long way to go.

"Rather than celebrating, the Government needs to address the very real concerns of minority communities in Britain today. That starts with acknowledging the depth of structural racism."

But defending the study, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government was "fully committed" to tackling disparities.

"The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was launched to conduct a detailed, data-led examination of inequality across the entire population, and to set out a positive agenda for change," he said.

"It is now right that the Government consider their recommendations in detail, and assesses the implications for future government policy.

"The entirety of government remains fully committed to building a fairer Britain and taking the action needed to address disparities wherever they exist."

The government is also facing calls to give an "urgent explanation" for comments written in Sewell's introduction to the report which suggested a "new story" about slavery which was "not just about profit and suffering".

Responding to the comments, shadow equalities minister Marsha de Cordova said the report "glorifies" the slave trade and called for ministers to "immediately disassociate themselves" from the remarks.

And Dr Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust, said the report showed a "cultural deafness".

"I'm absolutely flabbergasted to see the Slave Trade apparently redefined as 'the Caribbean Experience'; as though it's something Thomas Cook should be selling – a one-way shackled cruise to purgatory," she said.

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