Marsha de Cordova has criticised the race and ethnic disparities report published last month as a “shoddy, point-scoring polemic” and told parliament that its conclusions are “ideologically motivated and divisive”.
Responding to a statement from Conservative minister Kemi Badenoch, de Cordova told parliament today: “Following the Black Lives Matter movement, the commission had an opportunity to meaningfully engage with structural racism in the UK.
“Instead, the published incoherent, divisive and offensive materials that appear to glorify slavery, downplay the role if institutional and structural racism and blame ethnic minorities for their own disadvantage.
“If left unchallenged, this report will undo decades of progress made towards race equality in the UK. Since publication, this report has completely unravelled.”
The report from the race and ethnic disparities commission, commissioned following the Black Lives Matter protests, argued that the UK is no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”.
It also said: “There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African/Britain.”
“Its cherry-picking of data is misleading,” de Cordova added. “Its conclusions are ideologically motivated and divisive. It is absolutely clear to all of us on this side of the House and across civil society that this report has no credibility.”
She highlighted Office for National Statistics figures that show the unemployment rate for Black people is triple the rate for their white counterparts, as well as the data showing Black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth.
De Cordova asked the Conservative minister what the government is doing to implement the collective 231 recommendations put forward already by the Timson, McGregor-Smith, Angiolini and Lammy reviews previously carried out.
“This is what her government would be focused on if they were serious about ending structural racism,” the Shadow Equalities Secretary argued this afternoon. “Instead, they have published a shoddy, point-scoring polemic that ignores evidence and doesn’t represent the country I know and love.”
Badenoch in response accused the opposition member of being “determined to create a divisive atmosphere around race in this House and in this country” and claimed that the government is pushing “for a fairer Britain, for levelling up”.
She said that the comments made by de Cordova, Labour backbenchers and other critics were “false” and “hypocritical”. “Labour members in particular continue to misrepresent what is happening,” Badenoch told MPs this afternoon.
Professor of epidemiology and leading expert on public health in the UK Michael Marmot argued last month that the commission had used outdated references and underplayed the impact of structural racism in health outcomes in its paper.
“The minister has accused people of criticising the report in bad faith,” Diane Abbott said today. “Is she really saying that professor Michael Marmot, a world-renowned expert in public health, is acting out of bad faith?”
“This is widely seen, particularly by people who have been quoted and misquoted, as a shoddy, cynical report,” the former Shadow Home Secretary said, adding the document “packages racist tropes and stereotypes into facts and twists data”.
At least 20 organisations and individuals who were listed as stakeholders in the government’s race disparity commission have distanced themselves from the report and its findings since the document was published at the end of March.