Sir Humphrey Appleby, the amoral official who served his lazy minister on the BBC’s long-running series, could have allowed himself a wry smile this week at the release of a report on racial inequalities which, although it comes from ‘an independent panel, had strong echoes of the opinion expressed by the UK government on the issue. However, like many of Sir Humphrey’s fictitious ploys, this one risks igniting the very problems he claims to solve.
The report’s phased release began with a summary of the findings that made headlines across the country on Wednesday morning. He said the report found no evidence to support “the well-meaning idealism of many young people who claim the country is still institutionally racist.” In fact, the successes of part of the UK’s ethnic minority population should be “seen as a model for other white majority countries”.
‘Poor quality work’
“It was pretty universal on the part of everyone who was credible in these areas, who all said it was shoddy work,” said Jonathan Portes, professor of public policy at King’s College London and an economist. chief at the Cabinet Office between 2008 and 2011. “What they’re trying to justify a particular rhetoric about racism in the UK,” he told CNN.
The report was politicized from the start to downplay legitimate concerns about racism and how to deal with it, activists say. “The whole structure of this commission had to fit into this worldview they had from the start of the report,” said Simon Wolley, founding director of Operation Black Vote and chairman of the government advisory unit on racial disparity in July of last year.
“The way this was spun is evidence based policy, not policy based on evidence,” Wolley added.
Although the commission is independent from the government, experts said the report’s findings echoed the “war awakening” mentality of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his administration.
CNN has contacted Downing Street for comment.
“It is absolutely essential that a government watchdog … be seen as independent and impartial,” said Martin Bright, editor of Index on Censorship. “It is of great concern to the public to come to conclusions that are acceptable to ministers before seeing all the evidence, as whistleblower Alice O’Keefe suggests,” he added. CNN has reached out to HMIC for comment.
The race report “was always going to cause that kind of backlash. And presumably that was part of the intention,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London.
By ignoring calls from Black Lives Matter protesters and playing into the culture wars debate, the government is appealing to its traditional Conservative base and new working class voters in northern England, many of whom have put an end to to their long-standing allegiance to the opposition Labor Party in the 2019 general election.
Therefore, the denial of institutional racism would directly appeal to socially conservative voters across the country who feel anxious about cultural change, feel defensive – in terms of attitudes towards race, and feel unduly criticized. by what the government called the ‘woke up the warriors,’ Bale said.
The long-term risk with this approach, however, is the further deprivation of young Britons, many of whom are suffering amid the pandemic-induced recession.
“Many young people, whether from an ethnic minority or a white majority, are very attached to these issues and will remember this report and take it as a signal that the Conservatives have no understanding of their values “Bale said. It will also lead to broader concerns that the party “is not getting what it wants in housing, benefits, education and jobs – this may not bode well. . [electorally] long term, ”he said.
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