Boris Johnson has announced he will establish a cross-government commission to examine “all aspects” of racial inequality in the UK.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the prime minister acknowledged that Britain had much more to do to tackle racism.
He said the commission on race and ethnic disparities would look at “all aspects of inequality – in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life”.
Mr Johnson wrote: “No one who cares about this country can ignore the many thousands of people who have joined the Black Lives Matter movement to protest peacefully, as most of them have, in the last few days.
“It is no use just saying that we have made huge progress in tackling racism. There is much more that we need to do; and we will.”
In separate comments to broadcasters, the PM added: “What I really want to do as prime minister is change the narrative so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination.
“We stamp out racism and we start to have a real sense of expectation of success.
“That’s where I want to get to but it won’t be easy.”
The announcement follows two weeks of protest across the country by the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing in the US of George Floyd who died as a white police office knelt on his neck.
However the announcement, which included little detail, was sharply criticised by opposition parties.
For Labour, shadow equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said: “We are in the midst of a global health pandemic that has sharply exposed deep structural inequalities which have long since needed urgently addressing.
“That the prime minister now says he wants to ‘change the narrative … so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination’ is condescending and designed to let himself and his government off the hook.
Liberal Democrat equalities spokeswoman Christine Jardine said the commission was a “welcome first step” but said the government must go further.
“Too many people’s lives are blighted by discrimination, inequality and injustice. The government must move further and faster to redress institutional racism in the criminal justice system and many other parts of our society,” she said.
The Telegraph reported that the new commission will report directly to Mr Johnson and also be overseen by equalities minister Kemi Badenoch.
The newspaper said that an independent chairman or woman would be appointed to oversee the body which would comprised of people “with a mix of ethnic, social and professional backgrounds”.
The prime minister also used his article to defend the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, which some protesters want pulled down, and to warn against attempts to “photoshop” Britain’s cultural landscape.
He lauded Churchill as “one of the country’s greatest ever leaders”, saying it was the “height of lunacy” to accuse him of racism.
“I will resist with every breath in my body any attempt to remove that statue from Parliament Square, and the sooner his protective shielding comes off the better,” he wrote.
He went on: “It is not just that it is wrong to destroy public property by violence.
“I am also extremely dubious about the growing campaign to edit or photoshop the entire cultural landscape.
“If we start purging the record and removing the images of all but those whose attitudes conform to our own, we are engaged in a great lie, a distortion of our history, like some public figure furtively trying to make themselves look better by editing their own Wikipedia entry.”
Mr Johnson also condemned the counter protesters who clashed with police in London on Saturday as “far-right thugs and bovver boys”.
“It was right that a good number should have been arrested. They were violent.
“They were aggressive towards the police. They were patently racist.
“There is nothing that can excuse their behaviour,” he said.
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