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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "racism"

David Lidington: Why I profoundly disagree with my friend and former colleague, David Gauke

David Lidington was the MP for Aylesbury from 1992 to 2019, and has held a number of roles including Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

Last Thursday, in a piece that was characteristically both thoughtful and thought-provoking, my friend and former Cabinet colleague David Gauke came to a pessimistic conclusion. Choices had been made, he argued, which compelled the Conservative Party to pursue “the war on woke and Rooseveltian economics”. Implicit in his analysis was the suggestion that those whom he termed “small state free marketeers and one nation social liberals” had no future in the party and might have to look elsewhere.

I profoundly disagree. Throughout the 45 years that I’ve been a member and for decades before that the Conservative Party has been a coalition. Economic liberals, defenders of traditional values and institutions, social reformers, blue-green environmentalists: all have found a home. Different leaders of the party, at different times have chosen to emphasise different elements of the broad Conservative tradition.

As Paul Goodman pointed out yesterday, human beings tend not to fit neatly into a single, neat political category. Margaret Thatcher was strongly in favour of opening up broadcasting to greater competition and market discipline. Yet she was also passionate about the need for high standards of decency in what was broadcast – which meant intervention and regulation. I have crossed swords with Iain Duncan Smith many times over Europe, but have also admired his efforts to promote a Conservative approach to social justice.

The present government’s commitment to “level up” the opportunities available to people living in towns and estates that have for years felt left-behind and ignored will need to draw on all strands of Conservative thinking if ambition is to be realised: incentives for free enterprise to create wealth and jobs, and government action, both national and local, to provide modern infrastructure, drive urban regeneration and boost expectations and outcomes in education and training.

For years, Conservatives have fretted about our loss of support in old industrial areas and among people on lower incomes. The fact that we now represent seats in County Durham and South Yorkshire as well as Surrey and Sussex is something to be celebrated: it gives our words about standing for One Nation much greater credibility.

If a successful policy of levelling up (and at the same time improving our chances of holding those seats) means a tilt towards the economic and industrial policies of Macmillan, Heath and Heseltine, it should be seen as a pragmatic response to the needs of the times, certainly meriting debate and argument, including within the Conservative family, not some heretical departure from the one true faith.

Nor do I share David’s pessimistic conclusion that there is an inexorable electoral logic which must compel the party to abandon the ideas, policies and perhaps even the support of liberal Conservatives.

By 2024 the Conservative Party will have been in office for 14 years. The coming economic storm, even if, as we all hope, it is short-lived, will have left many people scarred. The Labour Party will be led by someone who is not Jeremy Corbyn. The temptation to vote “for a change”, to “give the other lot a chance” will be strong. It will be as great a challenge to secure re-election then as it was for John Major in 1992. We shall need every vote from as broad a coalition of support as we can.

Of course we shall want to hang on to traditional Labour supporters who lent us their votes last December, which in turn means that in four years time they need to see that we are at least beginning to deliver results for their families and neighbourhoods.

But that on its own won’t be enough. By 2024 there will be about three million new electors on the register who were too young to vote in 2019. According to YouGov, at last year’s election the tipping point – the age at which someone is more likely to have voted Conservative than Labour – was 39.

That is better than 2017, when it was 47, but still leaves no room for complacency. While it is possible that those who were in their teens, twenties and thirties in 2019 will automatically shift into the Conservative column by 2024, we cannot count on it happening.

In any case, we ought to be seriously concerned that so many people in their twenties and thirties – working, paying tax and often holding both professional and family responsibilities – should have preferred Jeremy Corbyn’s socialism to what we had to offer.

To win again in 2024 we shall need to secure support from more younger voters than we did in either of the last two elections and to do that will mean reaching out to people whose values are, in the convenient shorthand, more “socially liberal” than those of their parents and grandparents, and who want to see political parties to take seriously their concerns about issues like the environment.

Next year, the Prime Minister will host a world summit on climate change. The Glasgow conference will be an opportunity for the United Kingdom and its Conservative government both to showcase its own ideas to address the climate emergency and to demonstrate global leadership on the issue.

In recent years, “green” policies have been identified with the liberal wing of the party. David Cameron took a lot of flak early in his leadership for focusing on this agenda.

Again, it’s easy to oversimplify: I’m old enough to have been in the audience at the party conference in 1988 to hear Mrs Thatcher declare that: No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy – with a full repairing lease. This Government intends to meet the terms of that lease in full. The key point is that it will be both right and in our electoral interests to take action on the environment and to be seen to do so.

Another political reality that the party must grapple with is the fact that voters from British people of Caribbean, Asian, African and central European heritage make up a significant proportion of the electorate in a growing number of constituencies.

Yet again, we need to beware of oversimplification. Many of my former constituents from Pakistani, Indian and Polish backgrounds are on the social conservative rather than social liberal end of the spectrum. They are certainly a long way from being “woke”.

But they care passionately about racism – sadly almost always because they and their children have been at the receiving end of abusive or insensitive comments – or worse. They judge politicians in part by how they handle these matters. Community relations and anti-racism are causes that, like the environment, have been championed within the Conservative Party by its liberal wing and, once again, are issues where our electoral interest coincides with what it is right to say and do.

The Conservative Party’s electoral success has rested in large measure on its ability and willingness to adapt to the realities of social and economic change. Far from giving up in despair, liberal, centrist Conservatives should redouble our efforts to influence the party’s thinking about how we can win again in 2024.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Teachers collaborate on Virginia social studies curriculum with anti-racist focus

A group of social studies teachers in Virginia created a new curriculum for students with a focus on teaching diverse perspectives, and it could be taught in the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 11th grades as early as this fall.

Teachers from Virginia’s largest school system — Fairfax County Public Schools — collaborated with teachers from five other Virginia school districts to create the curriculum that they say is anti-racist and culturally-responsive.

It would help students “critically examine materials, events, and institutions for bias, identity, and multiple perspectives,” according to a Fairfax County Public Schools news release.

The Fairfax County teachers started working with teachers in Albemarle County, Virginia Beach City and Charlottesville in 2018. Madison County and Powhatan County teachers then joined the effort to come up with a statewide curriculum, beginning with a focus on fourth grade Virginia Studies.

In 2019, about 70 teachers collaborated with museums and historic sites to further develop a curriculum that would “encourage students to engage in critical inquiry, gathering information from a variety of perspectives, ultimately resulting in well-reasoned analysis and understanding.”

“In addition to our work with the Virginia Inquiry Collaborative, FCPS Social Studies has undertaken significant curriculum revisions and professional development over the last 18 months to address the overrepresentation of white and Eurocentric history and the lack of diverse perspectives in social studies courses,” said FCPS Social Studies coordinator Colleen Eddy.

“This is particularly true on our U.S. history courses in which African American history deserves a truer and fuller account.”

The curriculum is currently under review by the Governor’s Commission on African American History Education and could be revised in 2022.


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Fairfax citizens’ group debates redirecting police funding

A citizens’ group devoted to battling racism in Fairfax County, Virginia, held a discussion about redirecting police funds to other agencies during an online forum Wednesday.

As racial justice protests have erupted following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and sparked growing calls to “defund the police,” the Fairfax Communities of Trust Committee sponsored an online forum which, among other topics, featured a discussion about the idea of redirecting funds away from police agencies and toward other government programs.

“We have to rethink what we call a crime and we have to re-imagine how we respond to the community on public health issues,” said Claire Castanaga, executive director of ACLU in Virginia.

“We can’t be sending the police when somebody has a mental health crisis … We shouldn’t be asking the police to address homelessness by arresting people for vagrancy and trespass. We shouldn’t be addressing substance abuse disorders by criminalizing our way out of it.”

Another panelist, a former parole officer in D.C., struck a cautious note against calls to defund the police, insisting that everyone should understand the need for policing.

“Of course we need to divert money from police departments, but I also think about the other side of the argument where people may say ‘who is going to come when you call 911 in the middle of the night?’” said Wiliam Ware IV, deputy chair of the Air Force Clemency and Parole Board.

Ware said some police funding should be reallocated to social service programs.

“When it comes to mental health crisis, different social service needs, I think you do have to invest in those social services within underserved communities, poor communities,” he said.

Other panelists said overhauling police funding could free up money to address the root causes of some problems that lead to contact with police, particularly mental health issues.


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For Johnson and the Conservatives, the power of patriotism is a plus

At the end of April, when the Conservative poll ratings were higher, Labour’s were lower and his leadership had only recently begun, Keir Starmer went to marginal Bury, and sought to fix his party’s biggest weakness.

“I’m really proud of my country,” he told local voters, adding that “we love the country we live in” – and that the Labour movement and British patriotism were “two sides of the same coin”.

In his methodical, deliberate way, Starmer was moving early to start fixing his party’s biggest vulnerability under his predecessor.

Voters may not have known much about Hamas, Hezbollah and even, in the case of younger ones, the IRA, and not all them can remember the Soviet Union or the Falklands War.

But they sniffed out that Jeremy Corbyn was uneasy with today’s Britain.  Perhaps the poisonings in Salisbury, after which he refused to acknowledge Russian culpability, marked a turning-point.

His successor is set on correcting his party’s mistake, and this offers a way into thinking about Black Lives Matter and Britain’s present troubles.

The first point to make about the organisation is that it is very different from Labour – or even a far-left body like the Socialis Workers’ Party.  Because it is not a party at all.

Nor is it a campaign – in the sense that Marcus Rashford’s push for children’s meals was, for example.  In other words, an enterprise with a clear aim, led by an identifiable person (or persons).

Black Lives Matter has no visible leader or leaders.  As irony has it, it is delivering a white supremacist tactic: “leaderless resistance”.

Consequently, it is a kind of rainbow movement in which no-one has any more authority than anyone else.  There is a moderate end, represented by the newly toned-down and front-benched David Lammy.

The Shadow Justice Secretary does have policy changes that he wants made, not all of which are very different from those of his opponents, and Andrew Gimson pointed out on this site last week.

Then there is the extreme end – UK Black Lives Matter, for example, with its “commitment to dismantle imperialism, capitalism, white-supremacy, patriarchy”.

This wing may have no spokesman with even a smidgeon of Lammy’s media profile, but it doesn’t need one to force itself on more voters than he will ever reach.

Defacing Churchill’s statue, overthrowing Edward Colston’s, targeting Cecil Rhodes: all this has what the managers of focus groups call “cut through”.

So does the censoring of Gone With The Wind by HBO Max, or the pulling of Little Britain from BBCIPlayer or Netflix, or the RFU reviewing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Now, younger people are unlikely to see Tara, the slave-owning plantation the film, in the same way as older generations.  Most people wouldn’t champion Edward Colston.  Or laugh now at Desiree DeVere: taste changes.

Nor will your average punter in the provinces believe that Britain’s imperial history was all good with no bad.  But this is beside the point.

Which is that people need a basic self-esteem to keep going – the conviction that they and their home and their country are worth valuing, as is its history and culture.  This is lowest common denominator patriotism.

Starmer understands this – which is why, when he “took the knee”, he did so in as low-profile a way as possible, for a single photo in the insulated space of his Westminster office, as far away from the streets as he could manage.

He will also appreciate the root cause of the panic that seized a mass of Labour’s front bench MPs in the wake of Priti Patel’s eviscaration of the party in the Commons.

It has got used to treating ethnic minority Britons as though it owned their votes. Conservative politicians like Patel, Kemi Badenoch, and Rishi Sunak are a challenge to its sense of entitlement.

Hence their flustered letter to Patel, seeking to delegitimise her life story.  And the Left’s alarm at the emergence of clever, purposeful ethnic minority thinkers and actors who don’t take its line, such as Munira Mirza.

Starmer may also be alert to the risks that the corporates are running by taking up Black Lives Matter, powered by a mix of fear, guilt, shame, decency, greed and that most insidious moral danger of all: following the crowd.

For example, Premiership football may feel today that, by putting the slogan on the back of players’ shirts, it is in tune with the zeitgeist.  But what will it do when asked: why so many black players, and so few black managers?

The Labour leader is trying to run with the protesters’ hare while hunting with Bury’s hounds.  But political leadership means taking decisions, and his was to take that knee.

We doubt very much whether most voters, especially in the mass of Red Wall seats that the Conservatives swept last December, would be happy doing likewise.

The site wouldn’t quite go so far as to claim that majority opinion would see the gesture as unpatriotic (though we would like to see some polling).

But we know that the vast majority of Britons are proud of their country, and taking the knee suggests to many of them that they shoudn’t be.

However slow Boris Johnson may have been to respond alertly to the defacing of Churchill’s statue, or its boarding-up, he at least has more or less got there, and has had the elemental cunning not to follow Starmer.

Sunak, Patel, Badenoch have all been flinty.  So has Dominic Raab.  And in the response to his words last week, we saw yet again the cultural divisions that wracked Britain during Brexit.

Much of London and most of provincial Britain are different worlds, and it doesn’t follow that because the Foreign Secretary’s dismissal of taking the knee was slated in the first, it went down badly in the second.

Talking of which, we believe that Ben Bradley, whose 2017 win in Mansfield was a precursor of last year’s sweep through the North and Midlands, has his finger on the pulse.

Bradley resigned from the front bench recently and now has the freedom to speak his mind.  He’s been tweeting about everything from Churchill’s statue through white working class education to premiership football.

Are memories really so short?  It’s scarcely six months since a general election, for the first time in a modern election in Britain, delivered a result in which culture trumped economics, like the 2016 referendum before it.

It proved that patriotism is a potent electoral force.  Britain won’t have changed that much in little more than 24 weeks.  To be sure, the Conservatives have work to do when it comes to Covid-19, the economy and “levelling-up”.

As well as in building real diversity in Britain – by which we mean a diversity of views as well as people.  For which Mirza is becoming a bit of a poster woman.

The challenges and problems are legion.  But at least Johnson hasn’t got to grapple with one that Starmer can’t shake off: the sense that his party doesn’t feel at home in the country that it seeks to govern.

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Sunder Katwala: Race and age. To older Britons, the pace of progress seems swift. To younger ones, frustratingly slow.

Sunder Katwala is the Director of British Future.

What do we talk about when we talk about race? Policing and crime. Coronavirus and health. Education and Jobs. Discrimination and racism. Immigration and Integration. National identity. History – and statues.

Statues, mostly, is where the wheel of fortune has landed for now. So I fully support both Boris Johnson and David Lammy in wanting to keep Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square. The sole difficulty has been tracking down anybody to argue that against. My own anecdotal twitter experiment, canvassing non-white views specifically, got two tweets in favour of removing it among about a hundred against. As the Prime Minister said, announcing his new Commission on inequalities, it is time to move from symbols to substance.

The story of race in Britain can be very subjective. Eight million of us have different experiences of being not white in Britain. Half of us were born here, the children or now grandchildren of those who came as migrants, with markedly different experiences – by generation and gender, by geography, social class and ethnic group.

We are each shaped by our own lives. My parents came here from India and Ireland. Growing up Irish Catholic, with an Indian name, in 1980s Merseyside, I was quite likely to take some interest in history, and to follow football as well as cricket, but to be sceptical of a “community of communities” multiculturalism which hoped to slot us all into neat and tidy federated boxes.

So my lived experience is mostly of the retreat of racism and how opportunities opened up. My 14-year-old self, an Everton season ticket holder introduced to anti-racist causes by monkey chants in the stadium, would be glad to hear that racist incidents at big matches today are rare enough to merit shocked analysis on Match of the Day. When I left university, there were very few black or Asian faces in public life, outside sport and a few popular newsreaders. I cast my first vote, in 1992, for a parliament with six ethnic minority MPs out of 650 – so the shift from one in 100 non-white MPs to one in 10 seems a big deal to me.

There had never been an ethnic minority Cabinet minister in Britain before this century began. How surprising it now seems that there had not yet been a single Asian woman in the Commons, nor any Asian Cabinet minister, until 2010 now that British Asian Chancellors and Home Secretaries seem as frequent as London buses.

Yet I also experience direct racist abuse more often now – on social media – as the Internet takes the effort out of being a racist troll.

Experiences vary, however. If I felt less defined by my surname at work in this century than in the school playground in the last, British Muslim friends often felt the opposite: that 9/11 or 7/7 saw them viewed predominantly through the lens of their faith. The Black Lives Matter protests put the specific black British experience under the spotlight, reflecting distinct patterns of opportunity and disadvantage across different minority groups.

A striking generational paradox emerges in British Future’s research, talking to people about race. Young adults, aged 18-24, undoubtedly hold the strongest norms against prejudice or discrimination that this country has ever seen. Yet younger black and Asian participants, and their white peers too, were much less likely than older generations to think that any progress was being made.

That there has been progress over time, and that Britain has a comparatively good record on race, are the mainstream right’s two favourite arguments about race. Those are broadly accurate arguments. The blind spot can be in understanding when they may not seem relevant.

Britain certainly has the strongest framework on race policy in western Europe. Yet it would be hard to set a lower bar. The overwhelmingly white EU institutions seem allergic to discussing race. Britain and Ireland are unusual in western Europe in even collecting ethnicity data. Emmanuel Macron has pledged to act on racial inequality – but would need to change the law to investigate it properly. Britain’s race disparity audit would be illegal in France.

But these comparative arguments can be especially tone deaf if used to contest lived experience.  If I am a young graduate in Manchester, wondering if I will get a similar number of job interviews as my classmates, despite my ethnic surname or headscarf, the hypothesis that I might face more discrimination in Marseilles or Budapest would seem especially irrelevant.

Twenty-somethings have little interest in history lessons about the “bad old days” before they were even born. Who would expect the Stormzy generation to express gratitude at being less likely to get beaten up by NF thugs? Their birthright expectation is that the equal opportunities of which every Prime Minister speaks should have become a reality by now.

Evidence should matter in policy-making – but politics is always about identity and emotions too. David Goodhart sets out how there has been significant, though incomplete, progress for a growing black middle-class. But the framing of “facts versus feelings” won’t work for the liberal right on race any better than it has for the liberal-left on immigration.

It is because race is about feelings and facts that our public conversation about race often struggles to bridge the divide between those – particularly older, white Britons – for whom the pace of rising diversity has felt pretty fast, and the young black perspective that our journey to equal opportunities remains frustratingly slow.

Even the labels we use to talk about race shift across generations too. I never called myself black. I might have done, if I had gone to university in the 1970s rather than the 1990s. Black voices of an earlier generation would sometimes still tell me that I should. “Mixed race, mixed race, what’s all this mixed race nonsense, boy? If you’re not white, you’re black”, the late Darcus Howe told me in 2012, as we prepared to talk about some race Twitterstorm on Newsnight. Had I belatedly taken his advice then, I might be asked to drop that label now.

“We assure you that all organisers of BLM UK are Black (not politically black)”, says a statement of the Black Lives Matter (UK) organisers.  So the new Black movement politics also brings an era of the old black politics to a close.  Yet those who have turned up to Black Lives Matter events in both the US and the UK capture that these are also distinctively more cross-racial protests.

They come from a generation impatient if the story of incremental progress does not focus mostly on what still needs to change. Rishi Sunak’s response, making the case for patient gradualism, exemplifies the challenges of navigating that.

This moment is undoubtedly a challenge to the significant racial disparities that remain in our society. It is a product, too, of ethnic minorities having more presence, more voice and potentially more power in British society than ever before.  Things did change for the better on race in Britain. The next challenge is that expectations rose faster still.

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Profile: Black people in Britain, and whether this is an irretrievably racist or a wonderful country

“Would you write a profile of black people in Britain.” Seldom has a request from the editor of ConservativeHome filled me with greater perplexity.

I consulted a young white woman who has been on several of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. She warned me, as she would warn any 62-year-old white man: “You have to understand that you will never understand.”

Next I consulted a black woman, a writer who has lived for many years in Harlesden, in north-west London. She said:

“How can anyone write a profile of black people in Britain? Black people? Somalis, Nigerians, St Lucians, Brazilians, Canadians, Guyanese – there are so many nationalities, languages, religions, customs, cultures – can they even tentatively be labelled one cohesive group? 

“In London a typical schoolchild will tell you, ‘My mum’s half Thai and half Ibo, she was born in Swansea but grew up in Hong Kong, and my dad’s half Latvian and half Jamaican, he was born in Paris but he grew up in Kenya.’  Is this child black? White? Label free?

At the 2011 census, 67 per cent of the population of Harlesden identified themselves as BAME – Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. About a fifth of the ward’s 17,162 people described themselves as Black Caribbean, another fifth as Black African, and there are also substantial numbers of Portuguese and Brazilians, with Portuguese and Somali the foreign languages one is most likely to hear.

My friend the writer did what she could to help:

“I do know that the local black teenagers in Harlesden are constantly being stopped by the police for no reason.  Many innocent young men I know have been ‘roughed up’ by the police. 

“I also feel that school teachers have low expectations of Caribbean youngsters and will not push or challenge them to achieve academically.  Teachers are often scared of black boys and find it easier to leave them to their own devices. Leaving teenage boys to their own devices is never a good idea. 

“Black girls have an easier time of it at school as the predominantly female teaching staff do not feel so threatened by girls. As a result, the girls achieve ridiculously higher grades than the boys.

“But just as you’re about to say such and such a group (Ghanaians) are achieving academically and such and such a group (Afro Caribbeans) are not doing so well, you’ll read the opposite statistics from some other source. It’s such a fluid subject.”

Few writers about blacks in Britain attempt to convey that fluidity –  the sense that things are changing, and even the categories in which we think are dissolving or evolving.

One is instead presented with competing snapshots, generalisations, moralities, and an overwhelming urge to condemn anyone who ventures, no matter how politely, to question the line being taken.

Which puts a writer like myself in a difficult position. One of my many defects is a desire not to give unnecessary offence. If only I enjoyed annoying people, I would be better known.

When I reviewed Afua Hirsch’s bookBRIT(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging, for ConHome, I argued at the end of the piece that being British is not a racial but a political characteristic, so the House of Commons is “the essential British institution”.

It goes against the grain to write a profile of black people in Britain, or indeed of white people in Britain, as if we can divide ourselves along racial lines.

When the late Richard West used to visit South Africa in the apartheid era, and was asked to state on some form what race he belonged to, he would write “human”.

But the House of Commons is now much preoccupied by questions about race. On Tuesday, Kemi Badenoch, the Minister for Equalities, made a statement in the House on the latest report by Public Health England into the impact of COVID-19 on BAME groups. The report found:

“An analysis of survival among confirmed COVID-19 cases showed that, after accounting for the effect of sex, age, deprivation and region, people of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death when compared to people of White British ethnicity. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Other Asian, Caribbean and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50 per cent higher risk of death when compared to White British.”

 In her statement, Badenoch said:

“If we want to resolve the disparities identified in the PHE report, it is critical that we accurately understand the causes, based on empirical analysis of the facts and not preconceived positions.”

Alison Thewliss (SNP, Glasgow Central) put it to Badenoch:

“it is one thing to say that black lives matter and quite another to force black people and people from BAME backgrounds out to work who have no choice other than to go to work because they have no recourse to public funds. No recourse to public funds is a racist policy. Will she abolish it now?”

Badenoch retorted – the clip can be watched here:

“I must push back on some of what the hon. Lady said. It is wrong to conflate all black people with recent immigrants and assume, which is what she just said, that we all have to pay a surcharge. That is wrong. I am a black woman who is out to work. My employer—[Interruption.] This House has done everything it can to make sure that I am following the guidelines and that all of us are. It is absolutely wrong to try to conflate lots of different issues and merge them into one, just so that it can get traction in the press. I go back—[Interruption.] I go back to what I said in my original statement. It is not right for us to use confected outrage. We need courage to say the right things, and we need to be courageous in order to calm down racial tensions, not inflame them just so that we have something to put on social media.”


Rupa Huq (Lab, Ealing Central and Acton) quoted a placard she had seen at a Black Lives Matter demonstration, “Being black should not be a death sentence”, and called for “a detailed plan” from the Government, “so that this does not just look like a box-ticking exercise”.

Badenoch replied:

“I agree that we cannot be seen to be doing a box-ticking exercise, but we also should not just accept statements such as ‘being black is a death sentence’ in this country. It is not true, although it is true there are disparities and other factors that can make outcomes worse. Let us look at that, but let us not in this House use statements such as ‘being black is a death sentence’. Young people out there hear that, do not understand the context and then continue to believe that they live in a society that is against them, when actually this is one of the best countries in the world in which to be a black person.”

The Commons is working out what the argument is about, and so are the political parties. Boris Johnson, to whom it comes naturally to preach a gospel of hope rather than moral condemnation, will with the help of Badenoch and others promise that racism can be dealt with and our country become ever more wonderful, with black Britons ever more successful along with everyone else.

Badenoch herself, stiffening at any suggestion from the Opposition that Britain is irretrievably racist, promises “evidence-based action to address the disparities highlighted”.

So what is the evidence? In the last few years, the Government has commissioned half a dozen reports into what is actually happening.

The reader of these reports is presented, unfortunately, with an almost irresistible temptation to cherry-pick from them the evidence to support whatever view he or she already holds.

Space does not allow for examination of all the reports, but here is one of the most important and informative.

In January 2016, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, commissioned David Lammy MP (Lab, Tottenham) to investigate evidence of possible bias against black and other ethnic minority defendants in the criminal justice system.

This work received strong support from Theresa May, who on becoming Prime MInister in July 2016, said she would fight “the burning injustice” that “if you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white”.

The Lammy Review was published in September 2017. Its opening lines could have been written by Badenoch:

“Across England and Wales, people from minority ethnic backgrounds are breaking through barriers. More students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are achieving in school and going to university. There is a growing BAME middle class. Powerful, high-profile institutions, like the House of Commons, are slowly becoming more diverse.”

Lammy went on to say that “our justice system bucks the trend”, for those who are “charged, tried and punished are still disproportionately likely to come from minority communities”:

“Despite making up just 14 per cent of the population, BAME men and women make up 25 per cent of prisoners, while over 40 per cent of young people in custody are from BAME backgrounds.”

Lammy freely admits that this is not a simple story:

“The focus of the review is on BAME people, but I recognise the complexity of that term. Some groups are heavily over-represented in prison – for example Black people make up around 3 per cent of the general population but accounted for 12 per cent of adult prisoners in 2015/16; and more than 20 per cent of children in custody. Other groups, such as Mixed ethnic adult prisoners, are also over-represented, although to a lesser degree.The proportion of prisoners who are Asian is lower than the general population but, within categories such as ‘Asian’ or ‘Black’ there is considerable diversity, with some groups thriving while others struggle. This complexity mirrors the story in other areas of public life. In schools, for example, BAME achievement has risen but not in a uniform way. Chinese and Indian pupils outperform almost every other group, while Pakistani children are more likely to struggle. Black African children achieve better GCSE exam results, on average, than Black Caribbean children. Wherever possible this report seeks to draw out similar nuances in the justice system.”

He hopes his recommendations “will benefit white working class men, women, boys and girls too”, and offers some  international comparisons:

“In France, Muslims make up an estimated eight per cent of the population and between a quarter and a half of the prison population. In America, one in 35 African American men are incarcerated, compared with one in 214 White men. In Canada, indigenous adults make up three per cent of the population but 25 per cent of the prison population. In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners make up two per cent of the population, but 27 per cent of prisoners. In New Zealand, Maoris make up 15 per cent of the population, but more than 50 per cent of the prisoners.”

These figures constitute a warning against supposing that deep-seated inequalities are likely to be caused entirely by defects in the criminal justice system. Nor does Lammy make that error:

“many of the causes of BAME over-representation lie outside the CJS, as do the answers to it. People from a black background are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than those from a white background. Black children are more than twice as likely to grow up in a lone parent family. Black and Mixed ethnic boys are more likely than White boys to be permanently excluded from school and to be arrested as a teenager. These issues start long before a young man or woman ever enters a plea decision, goes before a magistrate or serves a prison sentence.” 

Lammy goes onto remark that “trust in the CJS is essential”:

“The reason that so many BAME defendants plead not guilty, forgoing the opportunity to reduce sentences by up to a third, is that they see the system in terms of ‘them and us’. Many do not trust the promises made to them by their own solicitors, let alone the officers in a police station warning them to admit guilt.”

When Lammy’s report came out, Munira Mirza, profiled recently on ConHome, had stopped working for Boris Johnson at City Hall, and was yet to take up the role she accepted last summer as Director of Johnson’s Policy Unit at Number Ten.

She subjected the report to scathing analysis:

“Lammy claimed his report ‘clearly shows BAME individuals still face bias — including overt discrimination — in parts of the justice system’… this is not what the statistics in his report revealed at all. Rather, they showed the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision-making was broadly proportionate, once other factors were taken into account. Jury conviction rates were similar across ethnic groups at between 66 and 68 per cent. In some measures, BAME groups actually had more favourable treatment compared with whites. It is true that in the area of rape and domestic abuse, black and ‘Chinese and other’ groups had disproportionate rates of prosecution, and the report rightly called for more research to understand why. But if racial bias were a problem throughout the system, one would expect the overall conviction rates to reflect this. By and large they don’t.

“In fact, the detail of Lammy’s report concedes that there are many reasons outside the criminal justice system for the ethnic disparities it describes… there are many social and economic factors that go a long way to explain these ethnic disparities. It makes no sense to blame racism or the failings of professionals in the criminal justice system. Differences in racial outcomes are not the same thing as institutional racism any more than the fact that far more men than women are incarcerated is evidence of institutional sexism.”

In Mirza’s view,

“When anti-racist lobby groups criticise the authorities for their racism, it is not surprising that BAME communities start to believe they cannot trust their own professional solicitors. They then make decisions that might harm their chances in the justice system.”

So in her opinion, by undermining defendants’ trust in lawyers, the anti-racist lobby groups are harming the very people on whose behalf they campaign.

Blaise Pascal remarks somewhere on the danger of mistaking a part of the truth for the whole. One’s error is not to believe something which is wrong, but to fail to believe something else which is also true.

It seems to me there is truth on both sides of this argument. The nuances to which Lammy refers get lost once combat is joined.

It ought to be possible to believe both that racism is a serious problem, and that in many ways, whether one is black or white, this is a wonderful country in which to live.

Instead each side strives to put its own righteousness, and its opponents’ depravity, beyond question.

Perhaps any readers on either side of the argument who have managed to get to the end of this article, and are dissatisfied by the modest conclusion that has been reached, will be content to agree with the young white woman whom I consulted at the start: “You have to understand that you will never understand.”

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WATCH: ‘I wouldn’t support Churchill’s statue coming down’ – Lammy

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WATCH: ‘They sting in a way that other things don’t,’ Sunak says about racist comments

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Thousands come together in NoVA and DC in support of George Floyd

Westlake Legal Group protestors-in-nova-photo-by-kadee-walker Thousands come together in NoVA and DC in support of George Floyd walks Walking walk support racism Race protesting peaceful demonstrations peace News & Updates News demonstrations democracy Culture black lives matter
Photo by Kadee Walker

Over the weekend, thousands of people gathered in the District, as well as parts of Northern Virginia, to peacefully protest police brutality and pay respects to George Floyd. From teenagers walking hand in hand down the newly instated Black Lives Matter Way to four-legged friends showing their support, here’s what the day looked like through images.

In Arlington, an estimated 3,300 people participated in various marches and protests in Arlington on Saturday, according to ARLnow, with some later moving into DC to join more than 10,000 demonstrators in the nation’s capital.

Protestors took to the streets of Clarendon, just steps away from boarded-up businesses, carrying signs and chanting “No justice, no peace!”

In preparation for the peaceful protests in DC on Saturday, June 6, Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a large street banner reading “Black Lives Matter,” leading directly to the White House. On the morning of the affair, Bowser retweeted the banner’s radiant glow in space.

Although protests in the nation’s capital got worldwide attention, protests and demonstrations were also held and highly attended in Manassas over the past 10 days.

In Washington, DC, streets were closed to vehicles, giving protestors the chance to paint the roads with words of hope, wisdom and justice.

In Clarendon, some protesters carried signs in Spanish, showing solidarity with the Black community.

Business owners, celebrities and politicians, including Sen. Mitt Romney, joined Black Lives Matter Protesters in Washington, DC on Saturday.

Even four-legged friends showed their support at this weekend’s protests, carrying signs or just wagging their tails along the route.

On Sunday, June 7, DC Washington, D.C.’s Major League Soccer Team the D.C. United took to Audi Field to paint “I can’t breathe” in big red letters in honor of the week-long protests over George Floyd’s death. Here, midfielder Julian Gressel poses while working on the final product.

For more news on what’s happening in Northern Virginia and its surrounding region right now, subscribe to our weekly newsletters. 

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Ben Obese-Jecty: Victory in London means winning over ethnic minority voters

Ben Obese-Jecty is the Deputy Chairman (Political) for Hornsey and Wood Green Conservative Association and stood as the candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in the 2019 General Election.

The General Election saw a resounding victory for the Conservative Party across the country, but of the few areas that remained resolutely red, there was one in particular that refused to drift with the national tide, London.

Amidst a febrile atmosphere in Labour-run areas that sees the Conservative Party portrayed as the enemy, and non-white Conservatives portrayed as traitors, how can we make inroads into gaining support from London’s ethnic minority communities?

The forthcoming London Mayoral and London Assembly elections are likely to come too soon for any material change to have been implemented, but with a BAME candidate in Shaun Bailey who understands and has personal experience of the issues upon which he’s campaigning, there is an opportunity for the Conservative message to fall upon ears that have been deaf until now.

Having seen the Red Wall collapse, how will the Conservatives knock down the London Wall?

If the resounding rejection of the Conservative Party by the BAME community during the General Election were not comprehensive enough, rather than plot a corrective course in the weeks that have followed, the Party has taken a number of decisions and mis-steps that have compounded previous errors. It is fair to say the Party is on the cusp of writing off a significant swathe of London’s population as potential voters.

Labour have been imperious in their stranglehold on the most diverse areas of London. It is no coincidence that many of their highest profile MPs have adjacent seats inside the North Circular, some of whom have a tenure stretching back decades. However, it is Labour’s failure to make discernible improvements to some of the most deprived areas in London that has been defining.

In October 2019, the Index of Multiple Deprivation revealed that nine of the ten most deprived London Boroughs were under Labour control. All ten had a Labour MP. Labour relies upon areas of significant racial diversity and lower socio-economic status to prop up ailing support; to buttress the London Wall.

What steps should the Party take to prevent a complete capitulation regarding the pursuit of winning votes from the growing number of ethnic minority voters? Which areas will alter perceptions of the Party amongst those who are adamant that racism within the Party is endemic?

It will be a long time before the Conservative Party is able to pitch to London’s black diaspora without facing immediate reference to 2017’s Windrush scandal, the “hostile environment”, and the ongoing bad feeling that has been exacerbated by the recent Jamaican deportation flight.

The scars of the Windrush scandal run deep. The Windrush report will be published shortly and the initial draft conclusion labels the Home Office as “institutionally racist”; an independent assessment of the Government which tars it as such will be as hard to remove as the metaphor implies.

The Government must be prepared to respond to accusations with a cogent explanation of its actions. Labour’s hijacking of the recent deportation flight of Foreign National Offenders is a prime example of how this manufactured victimisation is leveraged. Over the past decade the UK has deported over 54,000 Foreign National Offenders without significant objection from Labour. The impassioned grandstanding viral clip of David Lammy’s excoriating speech in the Chamber was as predictable as it was grandiloquent.

Quotes from 2002 of picaninnies and “watermelon smiles” are oft-repeated in any conversation centred upon racism and the Conservative Party, specifically in relation to the Prime Minister. Given that the original Daily Telegraph column is an 18 year old article about Tony Blair and behind a paywall, the majority of those repeating them are doing so parrot-fashion from elsewhere. We must take steps to combat the slur lest the opinion that this is the Party’s true belief becomes entrenched. The catastrophic decision to appoint Andrew Sabisky as an adviser, without realising that his comments regarding Eugenics and the intelligence of black people would reinforce suspicions that the government is racist, is yet to be explained but is there any explanation that could paint that decision positively?

The narrative that we are far right has emerged as a combination of the factors mentioned previously as well as those beyond our control. The endorsement of the Party by Katie Hopkins, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, and Paul Golding, alongside rumours that each had become members has only accelerated the accusations, despite being robustly denied publicly at the time by James Cleverly, the Party Chairman. The 2020 Hope Not Hate report refers to the threat of far-right groups diminishing, but attributes this to a shift further right by the Conservative Party. The Left’s bivouac on the moral high ground with regards to this, despite Labour’s EHRC anti-semitism investigation still pending, is increasingly looking like a permanent encampment.

However, it is not just the black population that needs to be convinced. With upwards of 80 per cent of Muslim voters opting for Labour in recent elections, the Conservatives have significant ground to make up in order to persuade potential voters that the Party has their best interests at heart. With a continuing narrative from detractors on the Left that makes reference to comments about letterboxes and bank-robbers and the spike in Islamophobic attacks that occurred thereafter rather than the existence of anti-Islamic policies, high-profile appointments to the great Offices of State are unlikely to offset the slew of negative headlines already in circulation.

Promises regarding an inquiry into Islamophobia have come to nought and so we continue to find ourselves unable to respond to criticism with a clear name. To do so would enhance efforts to foster relationships with communities that are increasingly drifting away, not towards, voting Conservative, despite being socially conservative and aspirational.

What the Conservative Party needs to be able to offer these communities is opportunity. The recent Race Inequality in the Workforce report showed that BAME millennials are 58 per cent more likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. Given the concentration of the ethnic minority population in London, this merely reinforces the feeling that levelling up the areas that have been left behind doesn’t include ethnic minority communities in the capital.

With victories across the Midlands and the North-East, the Conservative Party no longer needs to win in London. Overturning Labour’s dominance in the capital, and the high-profile scalps that would accompany it, would be the jewel in the crown of the Party’s impressive upward trajectory. However, the reality is that in much the same way as those seats in the former Red Wall were gained, without decisive action, it may take a generation for the London Wall to come down.

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