Inclusive Britain: a new strategy for tackling racism in the UK

Government has revealed action plan setting out 74 steps that ministers will take

Protesters with Black Lives Matter sign
Demonstrators at a London protest in support of a 15-year old black schoolgirl who was strip-searched at school
(Image credit: Thabo Jaiyesimi/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Last year, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities concluded that Britain had made major advances in narrowing racial inequalities. It found that, although “impediments and disparities do exist, they are varied, and ironically very few of them are directly to do with racism”, as opposed to class and family background. For this, it was denounced by campaigners who prefer to depict Britain as an institutionally racist “dystopia”, said The Times.

Last week, the Government published its own response to the commission, Inclusive Britain, “which wisely replicates the practical ethos of the report itself”. It sets out 74 separate steps that ministers will take, such as: scrutinising the use of police stop and search powers; reducing the number of young black men sent to prison for drug offences; creating a body to measure racial health disparities; and revamping the history curriculum. These initiatives promise to do far more good than airing general grievances about structural racism, “micro-aggressions and white privilege”. Society will be all the better for it.

Of course, multicultural Britain has made many advances, and it’s not just race that determines people’s life chances, said The Guardian. “But minimising racism will not make it go away.” Consider the case, reported last week, of “a grotesquely inappropriate strip search” carried out by police on a 15-year-old black girl in east London. Because she allegedly smelt of cannabis, she was intimately searched by officers, without parental consent or the presence of a teacher. An official investigation found that racism was likely to have been an “influencing factor” in her treatment.

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The case is a reminder of the wealth of evidence that people from ethnic minorities are treated differently by Britain’s authorities. By failing to acknowledge this, Inclusive Britain has missed a chance to expose how racism operates in organisations such as the police and the Home Office. And while many of the measures it proposes are sensible, it provides very little funding; “warm words” won’t reduce inequality.

That’s unfair, said Sunder Katwala on CapX. The commission’s original report may have been flawed, but the Inclusive Britain strategy is more “consensual”. It accepts that many institutions need to change: that the police need to reflect the public they serve in terms of ethnic diversity, for instance.

The action plan is also right to focus on specific problems affecting specific groups: it mandates the scrapping of the unhelpful generalised acronym BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic). All in all, the plan offers the chance to have “a more constructive conversation about the state of the nation on race and, especially, what can be done about it”.

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