Toby Neal on inconvenient truths for those who don't agree

Two reports this week, both shot down in flames because they came to the "wrong conclusions."

Police were cleared of blame for actions at Sarah Everard vigil
Police were cleared of blame for actions at Sarah Everard vigil

First came the probe into the police handling of the Sarah Everard vigil. The report a lot of people wanted to read is the one which said that the police overreacted, were heavy-handed, and responded with institutional sexism to a peaceful event.

Instead out comes the tome saying they acted in a professional and appropriate manner. So that's gone in the bin, a headline for a day and then move on, unmoved.

Then along comes the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. This was set up by one Boris Johnson, so there's an immediate dodgy dossier alert.

Instead of a finding that Britain is riddled with racism and people from ethnic minority groups are fundamentally disadvantaged and discriminated against by a rotten system, the report came to the conclusion that things are not that simple and while racism continues to be a reality in modern Britain there are a lot of factors in play which need to be taken into account.

The disappointment is palpable. I was struck by the interview by the BBC's Evan Davis in which he seemed to suggest that the commission's report may have been typed up in Downing Street and something had gone awry with its intended conclusions in the process.

When told that was not the case, he switched to suggesting that those on the commission were all hand-picked by Downing Street to reflect a view Boris wants to promote.

In that, he may have inadvertently put his finger on an inherent Catch-22. The report was compiled by 10 people, of whom nine were from ethnic minority backgrounds. But if those compiling the report have reached such status that they are the sort of people no less a place than Downing Street looks to to compile such reports, does that not automatically disqualify them from writing a report about discrimination and disadvantage?

Skimming through it, the tone is unfashionably optimistic – indeed, it cautions against what it describes as overly-pessimistic narratives.

It says that ethnic minorities have one advantage in that they are disproportionately based in London, pointing out that around 40 per cent of the UK’s ethnic minority population live in the capital.

There's language that captures the eye too, saying there are still some "snowy white peaks" at the top of the public and private sectors.

The reaction shows that it has not hit the spot. It's clear that its findings simply haven't been widely accepted and I think a clue as to why that is comes from something within it when the commission says: "Most of us come from an older generation whose views were formed by growing up in the 1970s and 1980s.

"And our experience has taught us that you do not pass on the baton of progress by cleaving (sic) to a fatalistic account that insists nothing has changed."

Ah yes, but those who are younger people and living now see their lives through the perspective of how they see things to be now, not how things were long before they were born.

Life is what you yourself experience, not something you measure against how much worse it was for people in history. Saying it's better today than it was cuts no ice with those who were not around for the was and whose views are shaped by things as they are.

Anyway, the upshot is that it will probably be another of those reports commissioned in response to some topical need which buys some time politically and quickly loses relevance. Even Boris says he doesn't agree with everything in it.

If the Covid inquiry comes up with "wrong" conclusions it will end up in the bin too.

It’s the way Queen Nicola tells ‘em

One of the unnoticed and unappreciated qualities of Queen Nicola The Forgetful is her talent for deadpan comedy.

It’s the way she tells ‘em.

She says that her predecessor Alex Salmond is “recklessly gambling with Scotland’s future” after he announced he was forming a new independence party and standing for election.

Ha, ha, ha, what a cracker!

This is Nicola Sturgeon, whose idea of playing safe is leading Scotland to independence without any clear idea what currency an independent Scotland would use, no clear idea what border arrangements would be made with its biggest trading partner (England), and no idea whether an independent Scotland would be allowed to join the EU.

Nicola and the Scottish National Party rail against their inability to exert influence on Scottish matters in Westminster. Interesting fact – nearly one in 10 MPs at Westminster represents a Scottish seat; when Scotland last had MEPs in the European Parliament, there were six out of a total of 751, which according to my maths is fewer than one in 100.

Scottish influence in the EU? It’s another of Nicola’s deadpan gems.

Little Scotland could end up being remote and isolated on the outer edge of Europe. Talk about a cliff edge.

Let’s hope there’s some proper scrutiny and debate so Scottish voters know what they’re voting for.

And the change is so fundamental that any new independence referendum should of course be subject to a confirmatory People’s Vote referendum because democracy doesn’t stand still, as Nicola will readily agree.

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