On Tuesday, Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch spoke in Parliament about the release of the Sewell Report on Race and Ethnic Disparities as well as some of the abuse the commissioners had been facing from organisations and even from Labour Members of Parliament.
I wanted to raise with the Minister concerns about certain organisations pre-judging the Sewell report for political ends without actually fairly assessing the findings.
One concerning example is the Runnymede Trust which organised a campaign against the report over a week before it was even published and broadcasted a livestream event with Patrick Vernon, Chair of Labour’s Race Equality Advisory Group where they argued that the report authors were equivalent to “Holocaust deniers being asked to develop a strategy on antisemitism”.
I asked if the Minister agreed that not only does this kind of bad faith political action undermine the Runnymede Trust’s charitable objective of improving race relations, but that their shameful treatment of the report’s commissioners may actually discourage ethnic minorities from contributing to public life and public debate.
The Minister explained that the action was part of the climate of intimidation surrounding the report’s authors and outlined how the Runnymede Trust is now the subject of a complaint to the Charity Commission.
One of these complaints describes some of the horrific behaviour of the Trust’s CEO and staff towards ethnic minorities who have a different approach to racial equality. Kemi Badenoch explained that it included calling a black Conservative a “house negro” as well as horrific views on mixed-race relationships expressed by one staff member comparing white people having relationships with black people to slave masters sleeping with their slaves. I do not believe that these actions are appropriate for a charity committed to racial equality.
It is notable as well that just before I spoke, the Labour MP, Dawn Butler even accused Kemi Badenoch of being a “racial gatekeeper”. Kemi replied that it was disgusting behaviour and that the fact that Dawn Butler MP stood up in Parliament to ‘use that phrase without any shame whatsoever just shows how far the Labour party has fallen’.
It is clear to me that some people are simply unable to have rational debates about these topics. I think it was right for Kemi Badenoch to condemn the attacks on the authors of the report and to fight back against the insults thrown at her from Labour MPs. Ultimately, it is ok for people to disagree about what to do with the findings of the report, but it is not ok to spread misinformation about the report or its authors.