CONSERVATIVE leaders have slammed critics of No.10 adviser Munira Mirza’s involvement in the new racial equalities commission announced by Boris Johnson.
Following the recent anti-racism protests in the UK, the prime minister had said he was setting up a commission to study “all aspects of inequality — in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life”.
Reports on Mirza playing a key role in setting up the commission left critics fuming, with a Labour MP calling the panel “dead on arrival”.
Mirza’s allies, however, defended her involvement as No.10 policy unit head, with Priti Patel calling the barrage of criticism an “orchestrated pile-on” that was “deeply unpleasant”.
The critics argued that Mirza was “unsuited” to lead the commission, as she had earlier been embroiled in row after criticising past inquiries into institutional racism.
Mirza had said “a lot of people in politics think it’s a good idea to exaggerate the problem of racism”, and that former prime minister Theresa May’s proposed racial disparities audit for public services meant “another bout of political self-flagellation regarding the subject of race in Britain”.
Mirza had also stated that “accusations of institutional racism — and their official endorsement — have corroded BAME communities’ trust in public services, thereby making things worse”.
Furthermore, in a recent article, she wrote: “By appeasing the anti-racism lobby and affirming its culture of grievance, public institutions and business leaders are not making Britain a fairer place but harming the very people they aspire to help.”
Shadow justice secretary David Lammy – whose review on inequalities in the judicial system had been criticised by Mirza – said her involvement “further undermines” the race commission.
“My review was welcomed by all parties: Corbyn, Cameron and May. But Munira Mirza went out of her way to attack it,” tweeted the Labour MP. “Johnson isn’t listening to #BlackLivesMatter. He’s trying to wage a culture war.”
Labour MP Diane Abbott said the “new race equalities commission led by Munira Mirza is dead on arrival”.
“She has never believed in institutional racism,” the former shadow home secretary stressed.
Gross hypocrisy by Boris Johnson to talk about need for “a cross-governmental commission to look at all aspects of inequality” Black people don’t need another commission. They need action on existing reports and reviews #BlackLivesMatter
The Institute of Race Relations said it was “difficult to have any confidence in policy recommendations from someone who denies the existence of the very structures that produce the social inequalities”.
“Munira Mirza’s previous comments describe a ‘grievance culture’ within the anti-racist field and she has previously argued that institutional racism is ‘a perception more than a reality’,” said a spokesperson of the think-tank.
The prime minister’s office, meanwhile, clarified that an “independent figure” will lead the commission, and an announcement will be made soon.
“Munira is the prime minister’s head of policy, so you would expect her to be involved in setting this up,” added a spokesperson.
The home secretary said Mirza was “one of the most talented people working in government”.
“She has dedicated years of her life to public service,” said Patel. “A self-made woman who knows her own mind. This orchestrated pile-on is deeply unpleasant.”
Munira Mirza is one of the most talented people working in government. She has dedicated years of her life to public service.
Journalist and chief of ConservativeHome website Mark Wallace said: Sadly part of the reason for attacks on Munira Mirza is that — like Priti Patel — she doesn’t hold the views that some people think she ought to because of her background. Being an independent thinker is an asset, not a weakness.”
Dr Rakib Ehsan, research fellow at Henry Jackson Society, opined that Mirza was being assailed by ‘progressive anti-racists’ who were “interested in neither social progress nor fighting all forms of racism”.
“Unfortunately, a growing number on the Left are ultimately obsessed with framing British society as a white-supremacist superstructure, and locking non-white people under a perpetual state of victimhood,” he wrote in a column for The Telegraph.
“There really is no surprise that Mirza is being subjected to racially motivated attacks from this dangerous political cult. A successful working-class Northern woman of Pakistani Muslim origin, who refuses to tow the identitarian line, is the radical Left’s worst nightmare.”