LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May pledged on Tuesday to “hold a mirror up to society” with a study showing sharp racial disparities in Britain, as she looks for a way to demonstrate her leadership is about more than just delivering Brexit.
Among the findings of the audit, the data showed Asian, black and other minority ethnic households were most likely to be in persistent poverty, that ethnic minorities have a lower employment rate than white people, and that they were under-represented in senior public sector jobs.
Bogged down by Brexit and losing her parliamentary majority in a snap election in June, May has struggled to deliver on social reforms to tackle what she has called “burning injustices” since taking control of the ruling Conservative party in July 2016.
Attempting to relaunch that agenda, she published the findings of a “Race Disparity Audit” which pulled together existing data from across sectors such as health, education, employment and the criminal justice system and analyzed it to discover how ethnicity affects people’s lives.
“This audit means that for society as a whole – for government, for our public services – there is nowhere to hide. These issues are now out in the open,” she told a private meeting to launch the report, according to her office.
“The message is very simple: if these disparities cannot be explained then they must be changed.”
May’s center-right Conservatives were blindsided in June’s election by a surge in support for the left-wing policies of opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has presented higher state spending as part of the cure for voters he says have been let down years of cuts to public services.
“The prime minister has done nothing but exacerbate the problems. Far from tackling the burning injustices she has added fuel to the fire,” Labour’s equalities spokeswoman Dawn Butler said. She called for the government to start offering solutions to the problems the audit highlighted.
At last week’s Conservative conference, May was keen to show party members that she had a plan to counter Corbyn’s rise and allay fears that Brexit was squeezing out action on Britain’s social problems.
“It will hold a mirror up to society and allow us and wider society to see where action is needed,” May told a meeting of her senior ministers, according to a spokesman.
May’s deputy Damian Green said the audit’s findings were not “relentlessly negative”, but added in a forward to the document: “There is still a way to go before we have a country that works for everyone regardless of their ethnicity.”
(This refiled version of the story fixes date, no change to text; updates after publication).
Editing by Alison Williams