Former government race adviser says report ‘steeped in denial’

Protesters outside the US Embassy in London (Yui Mok/PA)
Protesters outside the US Embassy in London (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)
22:10pm, Wed 31 Mar 2021
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

A former government adviser on race has said a report into racial disparity is “steeped in denial”.

Former equality and human rights commissioner Lord Simon Woolley described the review as a “monumental moment missed” following the death of George Floyd in the US last year and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests.

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities led by Dr Tony Sewell, found Britain is no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities” and said there was no evidence of “institutional racism”.

Speaking at an online talk hosted by race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, Lord Sewell – who was appointed by then-prime minister Theresa May in 2018 to create and lead the government’s Race Disparity Unit – said: “This is a report that is steeped in denial.

“Actually, this report isn’t for African, Asian, Caribbean and other ethnic minority communities, it isn’t for us. It’s not for our consumption.

“They have a different audience, an audience which is probably white working class, middle England, that wants to tell them that because we focus on Black Lives Matter and the issues raised from the devastating impact that Covid has had on our communities and the hundreds of thousands of people that protested on the streets, never mind about that, if we focus on you, we might win your votes.

“I think it is reprehensible to position the heartache, the tragedy that we have had to endure, to find a few grubby votes that say our attention’s towards you and not to them.”

Lord Woolley, a veteran political and equalities activist who launched Operation Black Vote in 1996, said the reaction to Mr Floyd’s death was an opportunity for the UK to “have a conversation that it’s never had in our history”.

But he said: “It is a monumental moment missed in which we could not only build back better, as people say, but build new better. Not just for generations of black and brown people but for white people too.”

Lord Woolley was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2019 and was created a life peer later that year.

He sits as a crossbencher in the House of Lords.

He has become the first black man to be elected head of an Oxbridge college and will be the next principal of Cambridge University’s Homerton College.

Sign up to our newsletter