Rob Davidson

Institutional gaslighting - Tories inflame racial tensions to maintain power

The timing could not have been more aggressive. Derek Chauvin's trial for the murder of George Floyd started and, on the same day, the UK Government press-released the findings of its report into institutional racism: an investigation that had been sparked by the murder and ensuing civil liberties movement. The released findings were incendiary- Britain was free from institutional racism and race was not such an important issue anymore.

And then the controversy grew deeper.

Of course there was outcry. People of colour, researchers and experts went on the record to point out that there are many outstanding issues in Britain and that many people experience racism that is systemic and institutional.

The government's own race adviser, Sam Kasumu, quit straight away. His departure had been on the cards for a while but the report was the last straw.

Having successfully 'triggered' almost all the ethnic minority population and their allies within the nation, the clear and obvious problems with the report and it's 'findings' quickly emerged.

A cursory look into the team behind the report immediately damaged its credibility. The commissioners had been hand picked by Munira Mirza from the government's policy unit, who had previously stated her belief that racism was not institutional. Her chosen lead for the commission, Tony Sewell, had publicly already said that any evidence of institutional racism was "somewhat flimsy."

This was like Christopher Nolan's classic film, Inception, where a team of criminals plant the seed of an idea deep into your subconscious and then watch it bubble up through the layers, later to emerge as 'your idea.' Government reports are designed to say where the country can improve - this inception had been so successful that the report was the first to say that Britain should be "a beacon to the world."

A full copy of the report went online, but only after the deliberately divisive headlines had done their job. The race report consisted of many, many pages. There was nuance and other work that was far less controversial. As people focused their anger and attacks on the pre-release headlines, the government and Sewell hid behind the reasonable sounding parts.

Straight away, experts named and thanked for providing evidence to the commission denied their involvement. The Kings Fund pointed out that it had briefed the commissioners on old research, not new research as described - a possible oversight? No. Another cited individual, S.I. Martin said he had never been contacted or consulted at all.

New revelations have gone further still. The government has rewritten significant sections of the report after the commissioners had finished and several named authors of the report have come forward to say that they don't recognise its contents.

Some government insiders have admitted that the report was deliberately divisive and controversial. The government's aim was to use race as a wedge to force Labour into either 'attacking Britain' and offending its more nationalist 'Red Wall' voters or defending the findings and offending liberal, metropolitan voters.

Surely this is about as low as a government can go?

And yet it goes deeper. This is not just about using racial tension and division to split your opponent. It's about destroying facts, experts and evidence and ensuring that the only thing that matters from now on is opinion.

This is gaslighting a nation: releasing controversial headlines and then hiding behind reasonable sounding nuance; setting up a commission that is easily discreditable; making claims about who helped and knowing they will deny your claims; editing the work of your authors and knowing they will tell the world it's not their work.

This is not new. This is the work of the manipulative modern despot. This is Putin, Orbán, Trump, and ... Boris Johnson. This is illiberal democracy.

The Tories have discredited their own official report, deliberately. They have destroyed facts and experts, there is only opinion. There are now two truths in UK politics: the country is both institutionally racist and not institutionally racist. It's Schrodinger's racism.

The only fact is which side are you on? The only expert is the one that supports your team. When faced with this and a divisive, highly charged backdrop, most people prefer to believe in their own past choices: handy for an elected government that wants you to vote the same way next time.

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