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Last week saw the publication of the report from the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, sometimes dubbed the Sewell Report. It is an interesting and important piece of work from an impressive panel and offers detailed recommendations based on thorough research. It is proper that it should be scrutinised and debated. Yet the response from of its critics amounted to little more than abuse and wilful misrepresentation. BBC broadcasts announced that “racial equality campaigners” were greatly dismayed by the report – thus giving a sly implication that the report must be against racial equality. The consideration that the credentials of Tony Sewell and his fellow commissioners in fighting racism are rather stronger than those of their BBC critics, was overlooked.

One of those the BBC was keen to quote was Halima Begum, the chief executive of the Runnymede Trust. If the BBC wanted an emphatic and rapid condemnation, rather than something more nuanced or considered, then they could rely on the Runnymede Trust to produce the goods. But the BBC’s audience was presented with the message that the response was impartial and expert – rather than entirely predictable and contrived. A report in The Times offers rather more context:

“The director of a charity that called for the government to retract the Sewell race report has branded Boris Johnson an “entitled Bullingdon Club brat”.

“The Runnymede Trust, under Halima Begum, has been a strident critic of the government. It has joined legal action accusing it of cronyism for handing three key coronavirus-related jobs to politically connected figures.

“It has also attacked the report by Dr Tony Sewell on race relations, released last month. Critics of the long-established charity have questioned whether it has been “hijacked” by socialists.

“Begum, 45, a Labour Party member, has described the report as “entirely lacking in credibility”. The trust helped to co-ordinate a public letter this week calling for the government to “repudiate the commission’s findings immediately and withdraw its report”. The letter states that “signatures from politicians and political party representatives will not be accepted in this open letter to preserve its political neutrality”.

“Begum is open about her political leanings. She became chief executive of the trust last September after standing as a prospective parliamentary candidate for Labour in Poplar & Limehouse in the 2019 general election campaign. She failed to make the selection shortlist but campaigned for Labour.”

Begum has also attacked Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, as an “Islington-born millionaire one-percenter”. Other staff members on the Trust had previously worked for Labour MPs.

A leader in The Times says:

“The suspicion must be that the trust’s response was prepared in advance rather than on the evidence, and with a political subtext…

“In a further indication of its priorities, the trust joined a venture last year called the Good Law Project, which sought to sue the government over its appointment of three senior figures in its response to the pandemic, accusing it of nepotism. These appointees included Kate Bingham, who has achieved success in heading the government’s vaccine task force. The project itself has nothing to do with the trust’s stated objectives.”

The Runnymede Trust refutes claims of being partisan by stating that it is responsible for “holding” the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community. The Group does include the Conservative MPs Helen Grant and Sir Peter Bottomley and the Tory peer, Lord Sheikh. But its Chairman is the Labour MP Clive Lewis who sent a highly offensive tweet about the Sewell Report.

This saga should caution local authorities against given credence – and their Council Taxpayers money – to assorted lobby groups. The Runnymede Trust is by no means the worst offender. We also have Stonewall, an increasingly extremist outfit with its creepy demands to promote transgenderism in primary schools. Councils wishing to embrace virtue signalling via box-ticking find such associations tempting. What’s a few thousand pounds out of a budget running to hundreds of millions? In return, they can win an award or be recognised as “partners” or “champions” and display a logo with some mushy tautology about “valuing values” or “being positive about positivity.”

“Our Greenwich Race Equality Scorecard was commissioned by the borough,” says the Runnymede Trust. An earlier one was produced for Croydon Council. Some funding was provided for that from the Trust for London (which is supposed to assist the work of the Church of England.) But it was also carried out in “partnership” with Croydon BME Forum – which is funded by Croydon Council.

While council officials in Croydon spend time and money on such reports, they show less priority for repairs on their housing estates. The film below indicates the scale of the neglect. It so happens that the tenants interviewed are black. Evidence of institutional racism? Probably not. More likely Croydon Council treats all its tenants equally badly. A proud boast…