On stage at Tory conference, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch declared that there was no better place in the world to be black than modern Britain. In an era where toxic racial tribalism has contaminated our national political discourse on race and identity, her assessment is refreshing – and correct.
She was speaking as a minister of Nigerian origin, though in this sense she is unremarkable. In Cabinet she’s accompanied by James Cleverly, whose mother was born in Sierra Leone, Suella Braverman, the daughter of Indian immigrants from Mauritius and Kenya, and of course the first non-white Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.
The Tories need not flaunt this as a great accomplishment. Indeed it has become normalised in a party which is at ease with its idea of multi-racialism – one focused on British pride rather than progressive segregation. This stands in stark contrast with the Labour Party conferences I have followed, where an emphasis on racial difference, and special rights for particular groups, has often taken hold.
The truth is that Britain, for all its flaws, is arguably the most successful multi-racial democracy on Earth. Back in 2000, Professor Bhikhu Parekh, co-author of the landmark Runnymede Trust report on race relations, said that Britain was relatively relaxed with its status as a diverse democracy compared with the likes of France, Germany and the United States. He added that the notion this country has severe racial problems is a “skewed and partisan” view. This very much holds true today.
Post-Brexit Britain comfortably outperforms other Western European nations when it comes to providing anti-discrimination protections on the grounds of race, ethnicity, and religion. It is home to some of the most robust equality bodies in the world, with race and religion (or belief) being two protected characteristics enshrined in existing equalities legislation.
In England, moreover, people tend to frame “Englishness” in primarily civic terms with an emphasis on social and economic contributions, as opposed to an identity centred on race. It is no surprise that a recent report published by British Future to mark the 75th anniversary of Windrush found that 80 per cent of ethnic-minority people believe that the UK is a better place to live when set against ultra-secularist France and others. We do not suffer from the racial tensions of America, a youthful experiment which is continuing to get to grips with the traumatic legacy of slavery on its soil.
The only country which can perhaps challenge the UK for the crown is Canada – but the toxic spread of radical gender identity politics and introduction of hyper-liberal social policies under Justin Trudeau are unlikely to have gone down well with its traditional-minded communities of Haitian Catholic origin and Somali Muslim heritage.
So once again, Kemi Badenoch should be thanked for raising her head above the parapet and saying what is right as opposed to what is fashionable. We should take pride in the significant strides that modern Britain has made when it comes to racial equality.
And if you are in any doubt, just watch the Tory conference hall: there you will find the living embodiment of the aspirational multi-ethnic society we should all hope to live in. It is a society which the race radicals do not want to see come to fruition.
Dr Rakib Ehsan is the author of ‘Beyond Grievance’