Yesterday the equalities minister, Liz Truss, gave a speech in which she attempted to lay-out a new direction for the British government. The speech (which can be read here) rejected the identity-group politicking of the radical left which has dominated ‘equalities’ discussions in recent years. It tried to describe not just how wrong this has been, but how inadequate it is. One way in which Truss did this was by describing how this government aims to focus on geographic and socio-economic inequality.
She is completely right on this, and the whole racket of groups in the UK which focus on alleged racial or sexual inequality have little to say about such issues. Not just because it doesn’t fall into their bailiwick, or pay their pensions, but because even to admit the conundrum exposes the sectarian and divisive little game they are playing. Such groups need to try to keep hold of the ball, and must pretend that focusing on inequality between the regions of the UK (for instance) is somehow an insult to LGBT people. Or that ‘racism’ is the only prism through which to see anything. So much so that white working-class people in the UK today cannot by definition be disadvantaged.
In one sentence Truss said, ‘we need the equality debate to be led by facts not by fashion.’ And the media tended to use this in the headline. ‘Equality debate can’t be led by fashion, says Minister’. This allowed the usual engine to get into motion. The Labour party accused Truss of ‘gratuitous provocation’, and the tidy little ‘equalities’ industry tried to pretend that Truss had deliberately insulted all members of racial minorities as well as LGBT people and women. Naturally.
A fine example was the Runnymede Trust, which has always enjoyed a good name but not a good reputation. The Runnymede Trust is a left-wing campaigning organisation that seeks to make everything in the UK explicable primarily by reference to our country’s alleged ‘racism’. Runnymede responded to Truss’s speech with all the wound-up online rage they could manage. ‘If you want to tackle poverty you need tackle racism’ they said on Twitter. ‘Liz Truss’s attempts to “overhaul” the equalities work in the UK is nothing short of a whitewashing of British history and its relationship with race.’ They went on to say that for ethnic minorities in the UK ‘to hear from a Minister of the Crown that the centuries long fight battle against racism in which this country has been engaged is a fad, or a “fashion”, is an affront to every single one of those millions of voters.’ On and on Runnymede went, whipping themselves (and their followers) up into a great lather of not especially persuasive offence. They even wrote a formal letter of complaint to the government.
To give them credit, these professionals do know how to play their game of choice. The Runnymede’s attack on Truss was duly reported in the various media reports of the speech. So a speech that sought to address a serious problem was partially presented through the reactions of a group who whipped themselves up over what they pretended Truss had meant through the use of a single word.
As it happens, I went on BBC Radio 4 yesterday evening to discuss the speech and found myself opposite the CEO of the Runnymede Trust, one Halima Begum. We had an interesting exchange. Begum managed to talk about a lot of things, including Dr Martin Luther King’s assassination, Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech and – inevitably – the death of George Floyd. None of which I thought had much to do with Liz Truss.
For my part I explained that inequality, such as it can be addressed, is indeed a bigger problem than the race-relations industry likes to pretend. And I suspect one reason they won’t admit this is because it throws up problems that are much harder to solve than simply shouting ‘racist’ at everything and everyone. For instance, if racism is the major cause of ‘inequality’ in the UK then how do we explain the evidence that shows the people with the worst chances of making it to university in the UK are boys from a white working-class background? And if ‘racism’ is the only explanation for wage disparities then let’s not just be selective and point out that people in the UK whose families have come here from Bangladesh earn less than the average white British worker. Let’s also try to understand why people from an Indian background earn significantly more than the same white British worker. Some of which Christopher Snowdon explored in his cover story for the magazine back in July. It seems to me that that these are serious, and seriously interesting, questions.
Anyhow – we went back and forth a bit, and the exchange was perfectly courteous. Begum insinuated that racial minorities, sexual minorities and, er, women, will have something to fear in Liz Truss. I doubted that. But there was one amusing corner. I referred to the fact that the whole equalities agenda had for a generation been hijacked by the radical left and that this was a shame. Begum objected to this. She had been insistent from the outset that her organisation deals only in facts and data, as if Runnymede is some grand, impartial organisation which could never be accused of being partisan or anything other than wholly objective. Indeed she made a point of protesting against my insinuation that Runnymede is even a ‘left-wing’ organisation. ‘We are not left-wing’ she insisted. The BBC presenter quite rightly tried to move us on, so we didn’t get stuck in a discussion about the politics of the Runnymede Trust.
But here is a funny little thing. Halima Begum, who denies that the organisation of which she is CEO is in any way partisan, is an active campaigner for the Labour party. Indeed, she literally sits on the board (as a non-executive director) of a Labour party campaign group called the ‘Labour Campaign for Human Rights’. Here is her bio on their website.
In a way it is the perfect example of the nasty little political tie-up that Truss and her colleagues clearly know they need to break. There is a cartel in the ‘rights’ and especially the ‘anti-racist’ industry. It is packed with people who leap out and attack any sensible pronouncements. They tend to do so with the cover of being from ‘impartial’ organisations. But they are, in reality, merely radical political campaigners of the left who rarely even bother to disguise the fact. Personally, I thought Truss’s speech a good start. Next stop must be rewriting the ‘Equalities Act’. I look forward to the faked-up foaming that will inevitably provoke in due course.
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