“Cops are cool and Britain isn’t racist...” The establishment marks its own work and the newspapers swallow it.

Well, why wouldn't they? The conclusions suit them just fine.

Great news for everyone living on this Union Flag-wrapped, Churchill statue- caressing, British Empire-loving cursèd island: Not only did police at the Sarah Everard vigil do absolutely nothing wrong but the UK, in general, is a beacon of anti-racist tolerance. And if you think otherwise, well, you’re just a pinko.

In entirely unshocking news Number 10’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, led by Tony Sewell — a former education charity boss who was already on record saying he doesn’t believe in institutional racism — has concluded that the UK is a shining example of racial equality and largely dismissed the notion of structural factors contributing to ethnic disparities.

The Commission was set up on behalf of the Prime Minister by the head of his Downing Street policy unit, former Revolutionary Communist Party member and Spiked alumna Munira Mirza. And… here’s another surprise: Its conclusions just happen to exactly match her previously expressed views on the issues.

Sewell’s tenure as chair of the Commission began with an apology for a virulently homophobic article he wrote in The Voice in 1990. Writing in the wake of the footballer Justin Fashanu disclosing that he was gay, Sewell said:

We heteros are sick and tired of tortured queens playing hide and seek around their closets. Homosexuals are the greatest queer-bashers around. No other group of people are so preoccupied with making their own sexuality look dirty.

In his apology, Sewell noted that his views and those of wider society had changed in the 30 years since he wrote the article. No doubt, but his more recent statements made it quite clear what the Commission would conclude, long before fingers hit keyboards.

Commissioned in 2010 by Mirza, who was then Boris Johnson’s cultural adviser at City Hall, to write a piece for a Prospect magazine issue on multiculturalism, Sewell wrote:

What we now see in schools is children undermined by poor parenting, peer-group pressure and an inability to be responsible for their own behaviour. They are not subjects of institutional racism.

They have failed their GCSEs because they did not do the homework, did not pay attention and were disrespectful to their teachers.  Instead of challenging our children, we have given them the discourse of the victim—a sense that the world is against them and they cannot succeed.

The headline on the piece reads Master class in victimhood and the subhead hammers home that view: “Black boys used to fail at school because of racism, now they fail because they don’t pay attention” Who could possibly have guessed what Sewell’s conclusions would be?

The full 264-page report, which includes 24 recommendations, has not been published yet but the preview released by the government describes it as “a major shift in the race debate” and while it acknowledges overt racism does exist in the UK, it claims the country should be considered “a model for other white-majority countries”.

In a Spectator article published in May 2017, Mirza attacked a previous audit of racial disparities in public services commissioned by Theresa May, writing:

Several studies have already shown that some ethnic groups experience different outcomes in policing, health, employment and education. There are many causes behind these disparities but the evidence will be carefully selected to suit a predetermined agenda.

She went on to say that she believed “anti-racism is becoming weaponised across the political spectrum” and “a lot of people in politics think it’s a good idea to exaggerate the problem of racism”.

By focusing on educational outcomes in high school, the Commission’s report seems to duck issues including disparities in school exclusion rates, the attainment gap in higher education and the fact that young black people are more than nine times more likely to be imprisoned than their white peers. But we’re meant to believe the country of ‘Go Home vans’, Grenfell, and the Windrush Scandal is a beacon of racial tolerance that other countries should copy.

The report is manna from heaven for the right-wing newspapers. The Daily Mail — which never fails to mention the one occasion it had an anti-racist front page because its then-editor had met Stephen Lawrence’s father when he was painting his front room — can barely contain itself. It splashes on the headline Britain’s Race Revolution and follows it with a deck that declares “Landmark report says UK ‘a model to world’ on diversity — and finds NO evidence of institutional racism”.

The Daily Mail’s report quotes a spokesperson for the Commission, who says:

We have not seen conclusive evidence of institutional racism in the areas we have looked at. That is not to dismiss it out of hand, but our report is built on data and evidence. There is definitely disadvantage, discrimination and there are barriers. That is what our report is about and how to overcome them.

If only there was evidence that the design of data collection, the analysis of data, and the selection of what data to include can be suffused with bias.

It’s pretty clear that the Commission was set up to deliver exactly this set of conclusions and to put a stopper in the bottle uncorked by Black Lives Matter. The Daily Mail gleefully writes:

Earlier this month, the Duchess of Sussex used a US television interview to make allegations about racism in the Royal Family. And Prince Harry claimed racism from the tabloid press that filtered into the rest of society was a 'large part' of why he and his wife left the UK. But the report suggested that the well-meaning 'idealism' of many young people who claim Britain is still institutionally racist was not borne out by the evidence.

The report’s conclusions could have been delivered by a machine-learning algorithm trained on a corpus of columns from the Mail, Telegraph, Sun and Spiked. Of course, it’s also delighted The Daily Telegraph which opines in a leader column today that:

… [the report] commissioned by Boris Johnson in the aftermath of the BLM street protests endeavours to see matters such as inequality and poverty not through the prism of racial identity but that of low expectations and a culture of victimhood.

… No one argues that inequalities do not exist but there are many causes that are missed when everything is blamed on race. Low aspiration, poor educational achievement and a chronic lack of confidence is common to black and white people.

This is the starting pistol for a new round of comment pieces from the ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ school of newspaper columnists. It’s important for those cosied up in establishment positions to believe that they are there not because of luck, nepotism, and structural advantages. The report offers red meat for the government’s right-wing outriders in the media and succour to the establishment generally that can reiterate the shared belief that people who don’t succeed were simply not hustling hard enough.

The Times follows the same line as the Mail and Telegraph, with a story headlined Diverse UK hailed over narrowing of race gap that, like the other papers’ reports, contains no quotes from critics of the Commission. It’s down to The Guardian to present opposing voices. It quotes a spokesperson for Black Lives Matter UK — which is clearly one of the targets of the report — who says:

We are also disappointed to learn that the report overlooks disproportionality in the criminal justice system – particularly as police racism served as the catalyst for last summer’s protests. Black people in England and Wales are nine times more likely to be imprisoned than their white peers, and yet, four years on, the recommendations from the Lammy review are yet to be implemented.

The Guardian also spoke to Halima Begum, chief executive of the Runnymede Trust race equality think-tank, who says:

As we saw in the early days of the pandemic, 60% of the first NHS doctors and nurses to die were from our BAME communities. For Boris Johnson to look the grieving families of those brave dead in the eye and say there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK is nothing short of a gross offence.

But then, for all its problems, The Guardian’s general agenda is not one of minimising racism or fuelling the culture war to simply hate it. That’s the space The Daily Mail, Telegraph, and Times are all scrapping for like three bald men, convinced they’ve still got lustrous locks, grabbing for a comb.

On the same day that the report preview made its way into the eager hands of newspaper reporters, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services published its speedily compiled report on policing at the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard. And guess what? It concluded that the police basically did nothing wrong and that social media was very mean to them.

Now, you might have thought that this…

… was a pretty clear example of disproportionate policing, particularly at an event following the arrest of one of the force’s own. But you — and I — would be wrong. The very sensible men at HMICFRS have been told by the police that they “did their best to peacefully disperse the crowd” and that they “remained calm” so that’s that.

You’re also being needlessly cynical if you conclude that HM Inspector of Constabulary Matt Parr — formerly a Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy and an investigator for the Ministry of Defence, appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath in 2013 — might be inclined to believe men and women in uniform over a bunch of protestors.

And don’t you dare suggest that videos like the one below are designed to shift public anger directed towards the police over the Everard case onto protestors instead. That would be far, far too cynical:

The British establishment marks its own work time and time again. And the majority of the British press — which also marks its own work through ‘self-regulation’ and the toothless and tame regulator IPSO — nods and smiles and accepts that. Just as it accepts that Boris Johnson follows the Nolan Principles and acts with … sorry I just had to stop writing to vomit … integrity.

Don’t worry about what you see with your own eyes, they’ve cherry-picked the data and listened to the ‘right’ experts and it turns out you were wrong all along.

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