‘Think before you speak!’ Sadiq Khan accused of escalating social divide over coronavirus

Writing in the Guardian on Sunday, Sadiq Khan urged the Government to act promptly in studying the demographics of those affected by COVID-19, so to get a better understanding of why BAME communities are being disproportionately affected. The London Mayor branded COVID-deaths in BAME communities an “injustice”, sparking criticism from TalkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer who asked Director of WebberPhillips Trevor Phillips to comment on the Mayor’s suggestions.

The radio host said: “I was very angry about this, Sadiq Khan the London Mayor saying that we need to tackle this injustice. He used the word injustice that ethnic minorities were dying at a higher rate than white people.

“Do you think that is a case of someone jumping to conclusions?

“Was it helpful for Sadiq Khan to refer to this as an injustice?”

Mr Phillips replied: “Well, you’re not going to take me down that road Julia, I’m working as a scientist rather than as somebody in politics.

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“All I can say is that I suspect that the Mayor was working with the information and advice that he had been given.

“And it was certainly incomplete and I suspect in some respect incorrect.

“And I would just advise everybody in the public domain to just think before they speak on this particular issue.

“Not only it is, of course, damaging in terms of public health, but we know that if we start to get into a situation where we talk about different ethnic groups in a way that is incorrect, we know that the effect of that will be politically and socially divisive.

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“We just don’t need that at the moment.”

In his Guardian opinion, the London Mayor wrote: “At the moment, we know the age and sex of everyone who contracts and tragically dies from the coronavirus, but we still have little additional reliable information, including about their ethnicity.

“If the information was collected and published in real-time, it would help bring the true scale of the problem to light and provide more evidence about how to protect communities from the virus.”

He added: “Promises to provide this data in the future is not good enough – we need it to be collected and published right now.

“There simply is no good reason to wait

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“It’s by no means a revelation that there’s a link between health and socioeconomic inequalities – certainly not for those who live these lives, or for all the charities, campaigners and organisations, including City Hall, that have been fighting these injustices for years.

“But one of the unexpected consequences of this crisis is that the depth of these inequalities is being laid bare in such a stark fashion.

“Of course I welcome the Government’s announcement last week to launch a review into why people from BAME backgrounds are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“But I fear we already know the conclusions of the review, and what action is needed.”

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