BLACK lives matter – and we have more work to do to make that self-evident truth a reality for more people in this country.

The UK is one of the most extraordinary places on earth. We are fortunate to live in a society where the opportunity to succeed, regardless of your background, has never been greater than it is today.

But there is undoubtedly further to go to end injustices for our black and ethnic minority fellow Britons, to improve education, health and employment outcomes, and to tackle hateful prejudice wherever it is to be found.

I believe this very strongly. But this is entirely separate from saying we should all sign up to the campaign objectives of Black Lives Matter, the protest group that has been formed in the aftermath of the atrocious killing of George Floyd in the United States earlier this year.

Black Lives Matter has made a series of intensely political statements with which I strongly disagree. Saying we should “defund the police”. Opposing the deportation of foreign national offenders. Seeking to “dismantle capitalism”, and arguing that “prisons and detention should be abolished”.

Last weekend, Environment Secretary George Eustice told Sky News: “My personal view is that Black Lives Matter is a political movement that is different to what most of us believe in, which is standing up for racial equality.”

I tweeted in support: “This is completely right. Racism is an evil that demands our common determination to defeat. But the BLM movement has a specific and controversial political agenda, as they themselves have declared. We cannot conflate one with the other and it’s time this was said clearly.”

I hope that many readers of The Northern Echo would agree. But for saying this, former Redcar MP Anna Turley condemned me, saying: “Teesside Tories at it again. The only people conflating the clear, mainstream Black Lives Matter message with a ‘controversial political agenda’ are those who want to delegitimise and deny it.”

In this column yesterday, Arun Arora, the vicar of St Nicholas’ Church in Durham, called my comments “bewildering”, and cited a Twitter user accusing me of “stirring the pot on racism”.


Apart from being offensive, this is demonstrably untrue. For Ms Turley and Mr Arora to suggest that the only way we can oppose racism and injustice is to subscribe uncritically to whatever agenda Black Lives Matter might set out is an example of what has gone wrong with our national conversation in this space.

We can do so much better than this. Last month, leading pollsters Opinium found that 55 per cent of UK adults believe BLM has increased racial tensions. The same polling found that 44 per cent of minority Britons felt the same. These findings should worry us all, and it certainly does not help for certain topics to be placed outside the scope of rational debate for fear of invoking the wrath of Twitter.

Quite rightly, Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch, herself born and raised in Nigeria, has taken a stand on these issues in our schools. We all want to live in a confident modern Britain, where the content of your character is what counts, not the colour of your skin. In wider society, we need to up our game too.

Simon Clarke is the Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland