I have expressed publicly my shock at the killing of George Floyd and have made clear that Black Lives Matter. My hope is that one possible good legacy from this dreadful event is a wider recognition of the need for more action on race equality, both here and in the US.
However, I deplore the riots and criminal damage we have seen in recent days. It is illegal to gather in large crowds during the Covid 19 crisis and even peaceful demonstrations risk the health of the protestors, their families and the police. The violent scenes we have seen are completely unacceptable, coronavirus or not. We must uphold the Rule of Law not the rule of the mob. There is a lawful and democratic process to remove statues and criminal damage cannot be condoned.
I consider policing in the USA to be very different to that in Britain and I am worried that an attempt is being made to conflate them. Our officers do not routinely bear arms and are lightly protected. They police by consent.
In Britain we have made great strides in society since the Stephen Lawrence murder. There are more BAME MPs and professionals. The Cabinet is the most diverse ever. The Church is gradually making progress and John Sentamu has been a great force for good. I was very pleased Rose Hudson-Wilkin, former Speaker’s Chaplain has become Bishop of Canterbury with Dover. There are more opportunities for BAME people in every walk of life, including in the police service. The police consult minority communities all the time.
A great deal is being made of stop and search statistics, but we should bear in mind that they had fallen to a low level and were increased again recently following gang violence about drugs which led to many deaths by stabbing. Stopping the casual use of knives was an important policing priority. The number of deaths by stabbing included a large number of young black men. Their lives matter too.
I would agree that there is much more to do to achieve race equality, but a great deal has been achieved. In my time in Parliament I have supported equality measures, whether highlighting the disproportionate number of black men in secure mental health facilities, undertaking pre-legislative scrutiny of the Equalities Act, being a Minister involved with the Modern Slavery Act, being a member of the Conservative Parliamentary Approval Board which widened the range of Conservative candidates and employing interns and researchers including BAME youngsters, who have gone on to great things. I have also successfully taken sentences for hate crime to the Court of Appeal as unduly lenient, including racial hatred. Most of the legal changes since Stephen Lawrence have had my support.
Violent protest undermines the positive work that is being done. It must stop. We have a great Equalities Minister in Kemi Badenoch MP and she needs the support and space to come up with proposals for further steps forward.