Theresa May vows to tackle inequality, hoping no one mentions her first act as Home Secretary

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The Prime Minister has vowed to tackle ethnic inequality. So she’s probably hoping no one mentions one of her first moves as Home Secretary.

May today

On 10 October, Theresa May called on institutions to “explain or change” persisting ethnic inequalities. She announced:

for society as a whole – for government, for our public services – there is nowhere to hide.

May in 2010

But right after becoming Home Secretary, May actually scrapped a legal requirement for public bodies to act to reduce inequality. In 2010, she dismissed the clause as “socialism” and said:

You can’t make people’s lives better by simply passing a law saying that they should be made better. That was as ridiculous as it was simplistic and that is why I am announcing today that we are scrapping the socio-economic duty for good.

The “socio-economic duty” would have secured more council funding for deprived areas, such as for health and education. While the clause did not mention ethnicity, ethnic minority people are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as white people, according to a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. And the UK still harbours a system of inherited wealth that may reproduce the ethnic inequalities of its colonial past.

‘Go home’ vans

May’s record isn’t encouraging for those hoping she will tackle inequality. As Home Secretary, the MP for Maidenhead stated outright that she wanted to create a “hostile environment” for immigrants without proper documentation. As part of the project, the Conservative leader established ‘go home’ vans that toured communities with high levels of immigration:

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Only 11 people left the country as a result of the vans, according to the official evaluation report.

On top of this, May introduced family migration laws where non-EU people must earn at least £18,600 to live in the UK. Since 2012, this has reportedly split up tens of thousands of families in Britain because a foreign-born spouse doesn’t earn enough money.

Fast forward to 2017 and May is claiming she will tackle ethnic inequality. Her rallying call comes in light of another report showing glaring disparities. The new data shows that people from minority backgrounds are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as white British people. But as Omar Khan, director of The Runnymede Trust, says:

we have had decades of reports into the problem… the time for talking is now over, we must now move to debating solutions.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s record on solutions is not very promising. Mainly because one of her first acts as Home Secretary was to scrap equality legislation, without replacing it.

The Canary contacted the Conservative Party for comment, but received no response.

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