RAJ BHOPAL did Britain’s ethnic minorities a big favour last summer when he revealed the government had suppressed a report which suggested that structural racism could be one reason why the pandemic had caused such a high death toll among black and Asian people.
The government was fine about releasing the first part of the report by Public Health England which confirmed that the ethnic minorities, particularly Bangladeshis, were disproportionately affected by Covid-19.
But the equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch – although of Nigerian heritage herself – got up in the Commons and denied any such report existed and nor were there any recommendations that had been made by PHE.
She even attacked the BBC and its community affairs correspondent Rianna Croxford for “fanning the flames of racial division” by claiming the government was not telling the truth.
The most charitable explanation for the government’s policy of obfuscation was this was a very sensitive time as the Black Lives Matter protest over the killing of George Floyd had spilled over from the US to the UK. That had fed into the narrative that Covid deaths were also related to racism.
One man who knew for sure that the government was not telling the truth was Bhopal. In fact, he had been asked to peer review the second report in his capacity as the much respected Emeritus Professor of Public Health at the Usher Institute, Medical School, University of Edinburgh – and his responses were even acknowledged. He had to struggle with his conscience as to whether he should blow the whistle because those who are asked to peer review a document are expected to keep it confidential.
In the end, after consulting senior colleagues, Bhopal decided the public had a right to know the truth. He feared the government would in