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Race

The Blatant Hypocrisy of Theresa May's Racial Disparity Report

We've had years of reports already, and little has changed.

by Bisi Akintoye
12 October 2017, 2:28pm

Theresa May visits a school in Streatham, south London. (Geoff Pugh/Daily Telegraph/PA Wire/PA Images)

This week, Theresa May decided to follow up her car-crash conference speech with some rank hypocrisy.

Your favourite Prime Minister of all time has announced the findings of the "race disparity audit" she commissioned to assess the inequalities between ethnic and social groups, including figures on access to healthcare, education and criminal justice. You may have been surprised by this announcement, particularly coming from someone whose legacy as Home Secretary is defined by making the UK a "hostile environment" for immigrants, but let's take a look.

The findings showed that inequality in Britain is drawn largely along racial and class lines. Ethnic minority communities are at a significant disadvantage by almost all indices of inequality.

To take a few key findings: black Caribbean students are three times more likely to be excluded from school than white British students; black women are seven times more likely to be detained under mental health legislation than their white counterparts; black men are incarcerated at a rate of 112 to every 100 white men; ethnic minority families are less likely to own their own homes; among the very poorest children, white students are consistently performing worse than ethnic minority students, with just 32 percent reaching reading and writing standards by the age of 11.

May said the report contained "uncomfortable truths", but that "for society as a whole – for government, for our public services – there is nowhere to hide. These issues are now out in the open. And the message is very simple: if these disparities cannot be explained then they must be changed." She also claims that these findings "will influence government policy to solve these problems".


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There's nothing particularly new in these reports. May herself said: "People who have lived with discrimination don't need a government audit to make them aware of the scale of the challenge." But the government would have also been aware if they had bothered to look. Just last week, Operation Black Vote determined, to no one's surprise, that 97 percent of wealth and power in the UK is still white – another "difficult truth".

Another example: last month, the Lammy Review revealed the hugely disproportionate levels of black men in the criminal justice system. In response, the Ministry of Justice is putting into place recommendations from the report, which include key performance indicators to determine the treatment of different races of prisoners. Additionally, the Department for Work and Pensions has committed to providing mentoring schemes and training for ethnic minorities in targeted hotspots.

So, the government knows these problems exist, and as a result of this audit has said it will introduce schemes to counteract them. What the audit doesn't do, however, is identify the reason for many of the inequalities it exposes.

Prior to the government's audit, numerous studies have laid the blame squarely at the foot of austerity measures for exacerbating racial and economic inequality, but this charge doesn't appear once in the entire report.

Runnymede Trust, a think-tank dedicated to racial equality, determined that the group worst hit by austerity is black and ethnic minority women, caused by cuts to public services, the closure of children's centres and other fuckeries, aggravated by frozen housing benefit and tax credits. It also determined that single parents (i.e. women) will endure living standards dropping by 18 percent between now and 2020.

Runnymede Director Omar Khan said, "We have had decades of reports into the problem. The time for talking is now over; we must now move to debating solutions."

A Labour-backed report earlier this year showed that women shoulder 86 percent of the austerity burden. Mary-Ann Stephenson, of Women's Budget Group, said, "The chancellor's decision to continue with the decisions of his predecessor to cut social security for these low income families, at the same time as cutting taxes, is effectively a transfer from the purses of poorer women into the wallets of richer men."


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Who are the architects of that austerity? The Conservatives, of course. Can they expect us to believe that they're suddenly shocked and appalled by these figures?

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid admitted the audit wasn't perfect, but stressed the government's commitment to tackling it. But the examples Javid gave were hypocritical: "There are hundreds of thousands of Pakistani or Bangladeshi women who don't speak proper English or hardly speak it at all," he said. "That might be through choice in some cases, a cultural issue. But it is a big issue because it does then hold those women back from the employment market and other opportunities."

This might be a good time to remind ourselves which government closed many English-language schools. You guessed it: the Tories slashed the £45 million programme that funded English-language classes in 2015. That was around the same time they also made fluent English language skills a requirement for public sector roles.

Tory MP Rehman Chishti described the report as a "step in the right direction", and then went on to make the understatement of the century by admitting more could have been done over the past few years. Theresa May went one further when she had the gall to call the report a "starting point".

She also warned there will be "nowhere to hide" following its publication. Let's see. The audit is informative, but to make sure it's not another empty gesture, we now need real change to address inequality.

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Sajid Javid