OBV's role in the Race Equality Audit


Operation Black Vote director Simon Woolley writes in The Times newspaper:

The findings from the race disparity unit present us with a real opportunity to dramatically confront and deal with persistent race inequality in the UK.

Yes, there’s a lot of information that will make uncomfortable reading. Not least because Britain prides itself on being a fair and decent society but in reality millions of people continue to face discriminatory practices in no small measure because of the colour of their skin and/or the religion they hold.

The naysayers or deniers will attempt to herd this important debate into a cul-de-sac, arguing that persistent racial discrimination doesn’t really exist, and that just because there are racial disparities it doesn’t necessarily mean there is race inequality.

The beauty, however, with having a lot of data in one place is that you can cross-reference. You see that young black men are three times more likely to be unemployed, and yet much more likely to have a university degree. So these young men and women are doing everything society tells them to do — “if you want a good job, then study hard” — and too many of them still can’t find employment. But it’s not just the data that should inform this discussion but also those personal stories about black men and women changing their African and Asian-sounding names just to get a job interview.

This report, driven from the top, has been a long time in the making. And this isn’t, as some have suggested, the prime minister’s knee-jerk attempt to woo BME voters post-election. We at Operation Black Vote put this idea to Theresa May when she was home secretary. The conversation came about because she was struck by the racial injustice of tens of thousands of law-abiding black youths being stopped and searched and, in their eyes, humiliated. We drew up plans for a Home Office audit along with Nick Timothy and Will Tanner, two of her advisers at the time, but tensions with David Cameron’s team at Downing Street meant the idea got shelved. That was until Mrs May became prime minister. Then she pledged that the project we’d discussed would span right across Whitehall and, if done well, she argued it would give us the platform to effectively confront the scourge of racism.

I’ll be honest: after the prime minister’s near-defeat in the general election, I thought all this work would never see the light of day. But, no, true to her word she stood by this and enlisted Damian Green and Sajid Javid to help her.

Her message today from Downing Street was clear; this is above party politics and needs to be embraced, not just across every Whitehall department, but also across local government, big and small business and in communities.

I informed the prime minister and the other delegates around the table that if we all took ownership of this with a clear plan of action we could begin to unleash a deluge of untapped talent, for businesses and for the well-being of our society.

This article first appeared in The Times.

The Race Disparity Unit website: