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Race Report Commissioners Were Sent Death Threats Amid Wide Criticism Of Findings

4 min read

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said commissioners of the government's race disparity report were sent death threats and that those who argue for a "different approach" had been abused.

The report has been widely condemned since its release on March 31 by medical groups, academics, trade unions, a working group of UN experts, Labour and the Scottish National Party.

Accusations include cherry picking data and denying the scale of institutional racism, and that it was offensive to suggest there is a "new story" to be told about the slave trade.

Even some of its own contributors have sought to distance themselves from its findings, claiming their contributions had been manipulated, which the government denies. 

Dr Jonathan Portes, professor of economics and public policy at King’s College London and former chief economist at the Cabinet Office, told PoliticsHome today that errors of fact or interpretation had been identified in almost every section, from Covid to drugs policy.

But taking questions on the report in the Commons today, for the first time since it was published last month, Badenoch robustly defended the 258 page document. She did not deny that institutional racism exists, something the report is considered to imply otherwise, but said the term must be applied with care and evidence.

She believed the report's findings had been "wilfully" misinterpreted, and there had been "bad faith" attempts to undermine its work, including those who said the report put a positive spin on slavery.

The introduction to the report stated: "There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain."

Badenoch also criticised Labour MP Clive Lewis for Tweeting a picture that presented the commissioners as members of the Ku Klux Klan and said it was clear "racial hatred". 

"It is to be expected members will disagree about how to address racial inequality and the kinds of policies the government should enact, however it is wrong to accuse those who argue for a different approach as being racism deniers, or race traitors," she said.

Labour's shadow equalities minister Marsha de Cordova, said the report had no credibility, "gives a green light to racists" and had been picked apart by experts including representatives from the British Medical Association, UN and trade unions.

"Its cherry picking of data is misleading and incoherent," she said. "It's conclusions are ideologically motivated and divisive." 

Badenoch said de Cordova was determined to create a divisive atmopshere around race in the UK, and accused Labour of "trying to stoke a culture war".

The report, authored by Chair of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Dr Tony Sewell, was criticised earlier this week by a working group of the United Nations who said it could fuel racism. Badenoch said in the Commons that the UN's group's comments appeared to have been "cut and paste" from a Labour party press release.

Other critics of the report include 33 trade union general secretaries who said it denied the experiences of black and minority ethnic workers and its recommendations would not lead to positive change. 

The British Medical Association, The National Black Police Association and Simon Woolley, who led No 10’s race disparity until last summer, have also criticised the report. 

Sir Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology at University College London, said his work from a decade ago had been quoted, but not two reports on race inequality from 2020 which had looked at the role of racism on health outcomes.

"I don’t think I have ever seen one where the evidence and analysis has been so comprehensively discredited so quickly and completely," Dr Portes said. 

Author Stephen Bourne, who has published several books about the history of Britain's black community, told PoliticsHome he had been "manipulated" into being involved with the report and he had not known that his name would appear in it within a list of stakeholders.

Badenoch said the commissioners involved in the project were united, despite a report in the Observer that the charity Voice4Change, whose boss contributed to the report as a comissioner, said the it does not demonstrate an understanding of discrimination.

Another commissioner, who did not give their name to the paper, accused the government of “bending” the work of its commission to fit “a more palatable” political narrative. They said they had not read Dr Sewell's foreward to the report. 

Badenoch told the Commons that it was false that commissioners had not read or sign off their own report or that they are breaking ranks. 

"The Commission remains united and stands by their report," she said.

Badenoch was backed by father of the house, Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley, who highlighted that the report's 24 recommendations would improve the lives of people in the UK. 

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