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Thursday, Oct 29, 2020

Rishi Sunak says 'of course' racism exists here after PM claims UK is not racist

The Chancellor has taken a remarkably different stance on the Black Lives Matter protests to Boris Johnson this evening, by acknowledging that ‘of course’ racism exists in the UK.
Rishi Sunak condemned the ‘small minority’ who committed acts of violence and vandalism, following demonstrations over the death of George Floyd – but said anti-racism protesters would help make permanent change.

His comments follow much harsher interventions from the Prime Minister and Home Secretary Priti Patel, who both condemned ‘thuggery’ at marches in London, after dozens of police officers were injured and statues were vandalised.

Mr Sunak tweeted: ‘As a British Asian of course I know that racism exists in this country. And I know people are angry and frustrated. They want to see, and feel, change. But a better society doesn’t happen overnight – like all great acts of creation, it happens slowly and depends on the cooperation of each of us toward that common goal.’

Earlier, the PM had said he did not believe Britain was a racist country. But this evening Mr Johnson made more conciliatory comments in a Twitter video calling for the country to ‘lawfully defeat racism and discrimination’.

The Chancellor spoke out hours earlier, amid ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations, which have seen anti-racism campaigners take to the streets worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic.

He acknowledged the anger and frustration of people who ‘want to see, and feel, change’.

His words came after the PM and Ms Patel, who has Indian and Ugandan heritage, both condemned violent scuffles in strong terms.

The Home Secretary promised to double the sentences for those who assault police officers, branding them ‘thugs and criminals’.

Mr Sunak’s statement, posted on Twitter this evening, continued: ‘The truth is we have created a country far more inclusive and fairer than at any point in its history. Does this mean our story is over? No, but we shouldn’t ignore the hard work of the many generations who came before us.’

Addressing those who caused trouble, the Chancellor said: ‘To the small minority who committed acts of violence and vandalism last weekend, not only were your actions criminal, but they also perpetuate a dangerous lie: that the temporary excitement of destruction is the same thing as change.

‘You are, and always will be, wrong.’

Offering hope to those peacefully demonstrating, he added: ‘But to the vast majority who seek only peaceful protest within the law and a better future for themselves and their children: whilst our progress feels slow, I promise you it is permanent.’

There also appeared to be some division among Labour MPs over the anti-racism movement today, after new leader Sir Keir Starmer said activists were ‘completely wrong’ to topple a statue of a slave trader in Bristol.

Former Shadow Equalities Secretary Dawn Butler tweeted: ‘I’m sorry but Activists were not completely wrong.’
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