Stewart Jackson is a former Conservative MP and Special Adviser, and is the Founder and Director of UK Political Insight.

If nothing else, the comprehensive report by Tony Sewell’s Commission on Race and and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) and the Government’s response to it, Inclusive Britain, is that it has allowed conservatives to reclaim the language of and intellectual self-confidence in self-improvement, patriotism and community, individual and collective agency and equality of opportunity.

Kemi Badenoch, long the scourge of the so-called “progressive” middle class liberal elite, has produced a commendably balanced and pragmatic prospectus to take forward Sewell’s recommendations.

It follows a traditional Tory path of incremental social reform mapping wider social changes and evolving societal mores. Even those not necessarily predisposed to Conservative politicians, such as Halima Begum of the Runnymede Trust, have given the document at least a caveated welcome.

Badenoch is admirably tough and emphatic on challenging the pervasive culture of divisive, radicalised and contested concepts such as Critical Race Theory, prevalent and normalised throughout both the private and public sector, thus: “It is never appropriate to promote political ideas or communicate in divisive language which singles out any community in a negative way, in  a public sector environment….and such characteristics are “…unhelpful, stigmatising…as they have the unintended consequence of pitting groups against each other.”

Meanwhile, the Labour Party srisks careering further down the arid cul de sac of aggressive identity politics and narrow sectarian campaigning in order to shore up the prejudices of its membership and the votes of its most loyal core supporter -, refusing to accept that whilst racism exists, institutional racism is being challenged, and the causes of both of as much economic and geographic as they are cultural.

It has seemed for many years that the Left’s toxic ideological brew of Woke grievance-mongering and division, an analysis in which every “BAME” person was a victim of white privilege and institutional racism, was set to dominate the debate as a template for tackling endemic social, political and economic problems in the UK across all our national institutions.

And that every attempt to challenge it was met by a cacophonous campaign of delegitimisation and censorship as well as personal attacks, culminating in efforts to “cancel” heretical dissenters. Hence the tokenistic and indefensible decision last week by the University of Nottingham to withdraw Sewell’s honorary degree.

In this context, he is a hero: courageous, independent, thoughtful and with a hinterland of public service and real achievements aimed at changing lives of those at the margins, as a teacher, thinker, lobbyist and philanthropist – most notably as a founder of the Generating Genius charity helping disadvantaged young people into STEM careers.

What has really irked his detractors is that his work has been based on empirical data and rooted in robust evidence, not merely anecdote. The decision of the Ministers to phase out  (“disaggregate”) the term BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) speaks to a desire to focus not on an homogenous group which is perceived to have automatic victim status, but to address instead the lived experience of all Britons with their varied and granular identities – and boost what the report response describes as “personal agency”.

Sewell has, for instance, suggested that the pay gap between different ethnic groups has all but disappeared, and that between young Afro Caribbean people and the rest of the workforce is shrinking fast. He also points to the huge educational success of, say, Indian and Chinese boys and girls, compared to white working class children and gypsy and Roma pupils, as an example. The former have performed well above the average for many years, especially in higher education.

The Government’s 70 key objectives arising from the 24 Sewell recommendations published in April 2021, are therefore seen through a prism of fairness, the need to tackle real disparities and a commitment to not just an inclusive society based on equality of opportunity.  They are also based on unity and shared experiences – building social capital and social cohesion across all the UK’s communities.

In this sense, Badenoch’s response chimes perfectly with the wider Boris Johnson project of levelling up, tackling regional differences, poor skills and infrastructure and economic stagnation. The Government has an ambitious list of targets which will find little opposition from reasonable people – including reform of stop and search practice, the establishment of an Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, a drive to make the police and judiciary more representative of their communities, better legal and careers advice and for young people from ethnic minority communities, better data collection on the ethnic pay gap, the teaching of a new national curriculum and dedicated family interventions.

Ironically, critiques of capitalism, market failures and the “left behind” (including issues of ethinic disparities) have been led not by the Left but by Conservatives over the last number of years, and Sewell has consolidated their work.

Robert Halfon has campaigned for recognition of and policies needed to tackle the underperformance of white working class boys in mainstream education, in particular.

The excellent Centre for Social Justice report released in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota in 2020 (Facing the Facts: Ethnicity and Disadvantage in Britain” ), sought to put ethnicity and ethnic disparities within a broader context of socio-economic and  geographical factors, employment, education, family stability, and examined disparities not merely through the prism of Black v White, but by examining the dynamic differences within different ethnic groups (e.g Black African and Black Caribbean) including White British people.

Indeed, once we move away from concepts of culture and identity as being the sole parameters of debate over racism and ethnicity, and see these endemic problems in a wider context, we can ask tough but necessary questions about sucg difficult issues as misogyny and employment opportunities, integration and the learning of English, fatherless families and family breakdown, cultural appropriation and the building of shared British values.

The truth is that the United Kingdom, though far from perfect, is arguably the most successful multi-ethnic democracy in the world, and the opportunities for its ethnic minorities are incomparably greater than they’ve ever been. The passage of time, civility and a sense of faith play has meant that obnoxious and bigoted views once commonplace are now unconscionable.

It’s refreshing that a Conservative Government in its twelfth year still has the bandwidth and intellectual heft to tackle these long standing problems in a positive, optimistic and collaborative way, and the Government’s response to Sewell is testament to the new management team supporting the Prime Minister in 10 Downing Street.

But we still don’t know enough about the complex reasons which give rise to the differences in social and economic outcomes and life chances between different groups of British people, including working class white Britons – and that remains a huge undertaking.

Moving on from anecdote and grievance to a data driven debate focused on fairness, transparency and respect for all is a good start and Sewell’s report and the Government’s response is hopefully, though perhaps unlikely, the beginning of the end of the culture wars over race.