Prime minister Theresa May set up The Race Disparity Audit but leaves office with a country more divided.


by BARNIE CHOUDHURY Former BBC journalist TODAY, like Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony, I come to bury Theresa May, not praise her. But unlike Mark Anthony, I will say nothing about those who plotted her demise, because it could easily be argued that she was the instrument of her own downfall. I come to bury May because we shouldn’t kick people when they’re down. It’s simply not British. I know politics is a game of sharp elbows and even sharper tongues, but we should at least try to walk a mile in her shoes. So, let’s begin that day in July 2016 when she became prime minister. May promised fairness and opportunity to everyone, regardless of their colour, creed or class. She stood outside Number 10 and told the country the stark statistics of inequality. May set a lofty goal: “a mission to make a Britain that works for everyone”. So, she set up the Race Disparity Audit, a research project that looked at how non-white Britons fared against indigenous whites. Unfortunately, Asians don’t need to be told about disparity. Many live it on a daily basis, but the report made sobering reading. For Bangladeshi and Pakistani people, the unemployment rate is about 11 per cent, more than double that of white people, at four per cent. When it comes to pay, Indians tend to be the highest paid of ethnic groups, while Pakistanis and Bangladeshis the lowest – and worse than white workers. And overall, more than half of Asian households fall into the bottom two-fifths when it comes to income. But May’s research did point to one positive trend. Ethnic minorities were proportionately more likely to go onto further and higher education post-18 than white people. Even as I heard the Theresa May of July 2016, I was left dumbfounded. Wasn’t this the former home secretary who devised and led the “hostile environment” policy that pretended to tackle illegal immigration? We soon found out that May’s policy tenet was to “deport first and hear appeals later”. By gum that worked well for thousands of the Windrush generation, whose parents came to answer the call of their Empire, and Asian university students accused of cheating on their language tests, didn’t it? Remember the racist ‘Go Home’ vans under May’s watch? They were reminiscent of Leicester Council in the 1970s, which took out newspaper adverts urging Ugandan-Asians being expelled by the dictator Idi Amin not to come to the city. And yet, according to a study by the University of Manchester, the horrendous Home Office policy was likely to be supported by Asians. Why? Because in May’s words, it would “no longer be the case that EU nationals, regardless of the skills or experience they have to offer, can jump the queue ahead of engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi.” Words of comfort and joy for Indians, and Bangladeshis, according to this research. They backed Operation Hostile Environment because “restaurant owners blamed freedom of movement for the staff shortage crisis in the curry industry and the difficulties associated with recruiting staff from outside the EU.” Goodness me, how stupid are we? This is the colonial strategy of divide and rule, and we Asians fall for it every time. All those years ago, when Asians first came to the UK, they were thought of as one community. In today’s Britain they have shown they’re divided – just like their nation. The truly sad thing is that Asians have battled the relentlessness of racism alongside our white friends for decades. Thank goodness that most white people in our country recognised a long time ago that colour makes little difference when it comes to fighting hatred. In her resignation speech, the prime minister spoke of the great saviour of children before and during World War Two, Sir Nicholas Winton. He protected hundreds by arranging their evacuation from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia via the Kindertransport. As her constituent, Winton advised May to compromise. It was something she never quite did, for part of her legacy, no matter how unfair this may read, will be that she ripped families from the home they had made and often, in the case of children, the only safe home they ever knew. So how do I bury Theresa May? I think the European Elections gave the UK’s verdict; the woman whose leadership led to the worst results for Conservatives in 200 years. A woman who had great intentions, but whose actions proved otherwise. She espoused equality, but never achieved it. She promised a better Britain for all of us, yet we feel worse. She said Brexit meant Brexit, and it has not. We are, more than we have ever been, a Disunited Kingdom, and we won’t know when these divisions will heal. We only know they must.