Boris Johnson has announced a new “cross-governmental commission” which will look at “all aspects” of racial inequality in the UK.
The prime minister said there remained “much more that we need to do” to tackle racism — but criticised attempts to “rewrite the past” by removing statues of historical figures.
The new commission will, the PM said, look at “all aspects of inequality — in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life”.
According to The Telegraph, it will report directly to Mr Johnson and be overseen by equalities minister Kemi Badenoch.
The new review comes amid the global Black Lives Matter protests against racial inequality, sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in the United States.
The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities follows Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May’s Race Disparity Audit, which was published in 2017.
A recent Public Health England review into the impact of Covid-19 on black and minority ethnic communities meanwhile found that BAME people were disproportionally affected by the virus, although the government has been criticised for not publishing any of the recommendations drawn up by the review team.
Launching the review, Johnson told broadcasters: “What I really want to do as prime minister is change the narrative so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination.
“We stamp out racism and we start to have a real expectation of success.
"That’s where I want to get to but it won’t be easy.”
But those comments were criticised as “condescending” by Labour.
Shadow equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said: “We are in the midst of a global health pandemic that has sharply exposed deep structural inequalities which have long since needed urgently addressing.
“That the prime minister now says he wants to ‘change the narrative… so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination’ is condescending and designed to let himself and his government off the hook.”
The launch of the review meanwhile comes amid a bitter row over statues and memorials in Britain.
Parliament Square’s statue of wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill was daubed with the word ‘racist’ during protests last week.
Meanwhile other monuments around the country have been targeted for removal by campaigners angry at depictions of those with links to the transatlantic slave trade.
Writing in the The Telegraph as he announced the commission, the prime minister said Britain could not “photoshop” its cultural history.
Calling Churchill — whose statue was boarded up and became the sight of clashes between police and far-right protesters this weekend – “one of the country’s greatest ever leaders”, Johnson said it would be the “height of lunacy” to accuse the late PM of racism.
“I will resist with every breath in my body any attempt to remove that statue from Parliament Square, and the sooner his protective shielding comes off the better,” he said.
Johnson added: “If we start purging the record and removing the images of all but those whose attitudes conform to our own, we are engaged in a great lie, a distortion of our history – like some public figure furtively trying to make themselves look better by editing their own Wikipedia entry.”