They think institutional racism is all over…

Forget David Cameron’s summit to tackle racism in football… whatever happened to his pre-election promise to tackle racism in society?

There was a time – two months before the general election to be precise – when a former Leader of the Opposition made a bee-line for the Peckham Academy to promise the world to a mainly-black audience.

At the same time Cameron wrote this article (“We’ll change black Britain”) in which he pledged a “new energy” to “take down the barriers that prevent so many black people realising their potential”

Yet more than halfway into the political season he’s delivered less than Chelsea’s Fernando Torres.

A few piddling internships in Whitehall.  The truth is, tackling race inequality was never on this Bullingdon Boy’s agenda, and so it has proven.

A few headlines about racism in football, sparked by the Luis Suarez / Patrice Evra and John Terry / Anton Ferdinand controversies, and Call Me Dave wants to grab a piece of it.

The Sunday Telegraph reported this morning that Cameron plans to hold a Downing Street summit on the issue.

What an ideal chance to score with some anti-racist rhetoric and show the Prime Minister actually gives a fig about the national game. What shameful opportunism.

Of course any effort to eradicate racism from football must be welcomed. Cameron’s call for more black football managers last month was positive.

But placed in a true context the battle to kick racism out of football has come along way… unlike the battle to tackle unequal racial outcomes in society.

Thanks largely to the likes of Lord Herman Ouseley and ex-pro’s like Brendon Batson and Paul Elliott, football has gone some way to cleaning up its’ act. Still a way to go, but nothing like the torrent of hostile racist chants and hurled bananas that used to plague football grounds.

I wrote on this blog last month that the outcome of the Stephen Lawrence murder trial was a golden opportunity to assess racism in Britain.

While the Independent on Sunday took up this challenge Cameron and his crew hid, hoping no-one would remember his pre-election pledges to do something about it. Let’s refresh our memories for a minute. Cameron said:

“In Britain today, too many people are denied the chance to escape poverty and build a better life for themselves and their family. Sadly, this is especially true for people in Britain’s black community.

“Black pupils are permanently excluded from school at more than twice the rate of white pupils. Some 9,500 black children leave primary school every year unable to read, write and add up properly. And of the 3,000 students who started at Oxford in 2008, only five are black Caribbean in origin.

“This inequality extends to the job market too, with recent research showing almost half of young black people are unemployed, well over twice the rate for young white people.

“I want to take down the barriers that prevent so many black people realising their potential…But we won’t just rely on across-the-board measures to boost social mobility. We’ll introduce concerted action to overcome the racial barriers that exist in Britain today.

“A Conservative government will tackle the racial barriers in Labour’s Britain. We’ll bring new energy to the task of building a country where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, irrespective of the colour of their skin.”

Fine words but where’s the beef? All mouth and no trousers, that’s our Prime Minister.

The only chinks of light I’ve seen has been Nick Clegg’s Scarman Lecture, and the formation of a panel to advise the Deputy Prime Minister on policy solutions.

The Race Equalities Taskforce – of which I am a due to be member – offers hope that the government will deliver specific policies to address the scandal of unequal racial outcomes in society. Failure to do so will damn both coalition partners.

At the Peckham Academy before the general election I caught Cameron backstage and asked him whether he believes institutional racism exists. The question followed Jack Straw’s declaration that it was no longer an issue.

Cameron fudged the question, but didn’t say “no.” His article at the time suggests he recognised the enormity of the scandal of unequal racial outcomes – or at least his ghost-writer did.

He needs to stop playing political football with football, and start delivering on the greater, more urgent, task of tackling the racial barriers in Britain… just like he promised.

Follow me: @suttongoingon

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