The PM has a plan to deal with racial inequality — but will he go through with it?
The risk of delay is being overtaken by events. The Government took almost a year to publish their response to the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (CRED), and as a result it ended up getting a little overtaken by events in Ukraine.
Which is a shame, because Kemi Badenoch — the Tory MP who has taken the lead on equality issues — is doing good work.
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She isn’t going as far as some on the Right might wish. Specifically, she opposes repealing the Equality Act, the legislation which spawns all those advertisements for well-remunerated public-sector diversity officers which go round Twitter every so often.
But among the 66 action points included in Inclusive Britain are some worthwhile steps, such as new guidance for civil servants explicitly banning their supporting political campaigns such as BLM on their work accounts.
And during the Q&A she made arguments which hint at useful future work, such as trying to build a school curriculum which brings all students together rather than catering separately to this or that identity group.
Yet despite the strong performance, and a good response from an engaged and friendly crowd at the Royal Society of Arts, it was difficult to shake off the feeling that the Government might not end up following through.
Badenoch had already explained that few of her parliamentary colleagues were particularly engaged in the issues raised by CRED and Inclusive Britain. “I’m doing this more as a duty,” as she diplomatically put it.
Then there’s the fact that any push towards a more Conservative line on equalities risks seeing her specific approach caught between two conflicting poles: on the one hand, the Prime Minister’s aversion to controversy; on the other his newfound need to throw red meat to his backbenchers in order to shore up his leadership.
Depending on which side of bed Boris Johnson gets out of, that could push him either to back away from the programme outlined in Inclusive Britain or shoulder it aside for something more radical.
And what better excuse for taking the former, non-confrontational path than current events. Don’t you know there’s a war in Ukraine? How can we waste time on potentially controversial domestic issues when there’s a war in Ukraine!
Such a narrative might suit a Prime Minister thankful that a foreign policy crisis has driven his problems off the front pages. But it would be a short-sighted approach for the Tories.
Voters are not nearly as engaged with foreign affairs as either politicians or the media. If the Government gets so caught up in the international scene that it neglects the nitty gritty of actually governing, it will be turfed out in 2024. Not even Winston Churchill managed to win on a “thanks for saving the world” ticket — Johnson certainly won’t.
It is also past time that the Right started focusing on structural questions like this over the long term, rather than lurching opportunistically from one headline to the next. As the Left know all too well, the only way to win a ‘culture war’ is to wage it even when it isn’t front-page news.