A Tory minister has been told that appointing “people of colour to the Cabinet” does not erase the Conservative Party’s race relation issues.
Justice minister Chris Philp was told his party had “housework” to do regarding race relations during a row with The New European writer Bonnie Greer on Question Time.
Panellists were discussing the damning findings of an EHRC report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party when Philp attempted to deflect a question on race issues within his own party.
The human rights watchdog accused former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of “unjustifiably” failing to pursue anti-Semitism complaints in the party and had, at times, interfered in them.
Current leader Sir Kier Starmer suspended Corbyn after he claimed the findings were “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.
Host Fiona Bruce asked the minister when a report on Islamaphobia in his own party – launched last year – would see the light of day.
“Well, that report is underway, it’s independent, it’s being conducted by a former commissioner from the ECHR,” he said before Bruce asked him again.
“I can’t give you a date tonight, the work is underway,” he replied as Bruce cut in: “Because it’s been over a year now.”
The minister said: “I would point out, there’s only one political party in history that is being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission – and that is the Labour Party on this anti-Semitism issue.”
He went on to say the Conservative Party had “appointed the most diverse government in British history”, highlighting the appointment of people from ethnic minorities as chancellor and home secretary.
“We have appointed the most diverse cabinet as a symbol of our commitment to this important issue,” he said.
Greer cut in to accuse the minister of tokenism.
She said: “Chris, that’s what they used to say to folks when they were desegregating a neighbourhood.
“‘Oh, well we have a black person in our neighbourhood, so we’re cool, we’re alright’.
“It doesn’t wash anymore, okay?” she said. “You don’t judge people like that anymore. We look at human beings.”
She alluded to Tory Baroness Sayeeda Warsi who she claimed had been warning her party about the issue of racism “for years”.
“This does not excuse a wash over the Labour Party. I’m not doing that,” continued Greer, who said she is a life-long Labour voter but the EHRC report made her “sick”.
“But there is housework you need to be doing too and putting people of colour in the Cabinet does not erase that fact,” she added.
Twitter was awash with praise for Greer.
“Well said Bonnie Greer!,” one user posted. Activist lawyer Fahad Ansari tweeted: “Glad someone said it.”
@Fcribbes wrote: “The only person talking sense on the panel tonight is Bonnie Greer”