West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes was first on his feet at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday to question the appointment of Munira Mizra to lead the Commission on Racial Equality.
The SNP man told colleagues on the sparsely-populated green benches of the Westminster chamber: “The journey of Munira Mirza from the pages of the Srebrenica-denying Living Marxism and the Revolutionary Communist party into the heart of No. 10 has not gone unnoticed.
“On Monday, the Prime Minister appointed them to lead the commission—the Government’s commission—on racial inequality, and it was greeted with some disbelief, given their well-known views on the matter.
“So I wonder: can the Prime Minister tell us today, does he agree with Ms Mirza that previous inquiries have fostered a “culture of grievance” within minority communities?”
Boris Johnston was unrepentant: “I am a huge admirer of Dr Munira Mirza, who is a brilliant thinker about these issues.
“We are certainly going to proceed with a new cross-governmental commission to look at racism and discrimination.
“It will be a very thorough piece of work, looking at discrimination in health, in education and in the criminal justice system.
“I know that the House will say we have already had plenty of commissions and plenty of work, but it is clear from the Black Lives Matter march and all the representations we have had that more work needs to be done, and this Government are going to do it.”
His Conservative colleague, Andrea Jenkyns, asked: “Following the disgraceful events of the last week, with folks defacing national monuments, including Churchill and Queen Victoria, and offending the memory of hero PC Keith Palmer, what will the Prime Minister do to uphold British values and carry out the rule of law?
The PM assured her: “Any incident of vandalism or attack on public property will be met with the full force of the law, and perpetrators will be prosecuted. I can also confirm that we are looking at new ways in which we may legislate against vandalism of war memorials.”
At Holyrood earlier this week, ,The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf, also spoke about BLM. He said: “I was completely appalled by the shameful scenes that took place in George Square last Sunday, first because there is never any excuse for violence or intimidation, and secondly because our police officers have been on the front line in keeping us safe during this pandemic, and for them to have to face the disorder that we witnessed on Sunday is simply unacceptable.
“The scenes were very much in stark contrast to the peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations that took place in Scotland the week before.
“I remind everyone that we continue to be in a crisis situation and that mass gatherings of people put at risk the lives our citizens and front-line public service workers. The First Minister and I have been crystal clear in supporting everyone’s right to protest, but we have called on those who wish to do so to consider alternative ways to protest, such as through social media and digital means.”
Munira Mirza is a political adviser who has served as Director of the Number 10 Policy Unit since her appointment by incoming Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 24 July 2019. She previously worked under Johnson as Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture when he was Mayor of London.
Mirza attracted criticism for saying that “it seems that a lot of people in politics think it’s a good idea to exaggerate the problem of racism”, and Theresa May’s proposed racial disparities audit for public services set the scene for “another bout of political self-flagellation regarding the subject of race in Britain”, and that “accusations of institutional racism — and their official endorsement — have corroded BAME communities’ trust in public services, thereby making things worse.”
On Boris Johnson’s column likening the burqa to a letterbox, she said “There are many people in this country who are uncomfortable about the burqa. When people argue we should use more sensitive language what they are really saying is let’s not be critical at all, let’s not offend, let’s not criticise this practice because it upsets Muslims.”