London Diary: Home Secy Priti Patel's brush with 'institutional racism'

After London Mayor Sadiq Khan and two cabinet ministers—Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi—spoke of suffering covert racism, Home Secretary Priti Patel speaks of her own brush with 'institutional racism'

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel
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Hasan Suroor

After the London Mayor Sadiq Khan and two Muslim cabinet ministers—Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi—spoke of suffering covert racism (London Diary, Oct 24), Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, has also gone public with her own brush with “institutional racism”.

She said she felt “uncomfortable” entering the Home Office as an ethnic minority minister and pledged to root out the department’s “binary” culture. “I have my own views quite frankly, I’m an ethnic minority home secretary coming into a department where it didn’t feel that comfortable,” she told the House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs committee.

Ms Patel reckoned that it would be “a long, long haul” for any start towards “just understanding and recognising and respecting” different cultures.

“Now, it’s easy for me to say that — look at how ethnically diverse I am, I’m an internationalist, that I have been brought up like that and that speaks to my own personal values, but you can again see in government — large, large government departments across government — you become very binary in your thinking, very silo-rised. Absolutely I walked into all of that, completely,” she said.

Ironically, Ms Patel herself is no dove on immigration and has announced a tough policy to control it. She championed Brexit and is a cheerleader for Hindu nationalists.

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Where is the friendly Bobby?

Forget the misogynist Indian police. More than 2,000 officers of the much-vaunted British police have faced accusations of sexual misconduct, including rape, over the past four years.

But an overwhelming majority—nearly two thirds to be precise—got away with it, according to Dispatches, Channel 4’s investigative documentary series. More than 60 per cent of allegations did not result in disciplinary action, and this despite the fact that some 300 of these officers had previously been reported for misconduct.

A separate investigation by The Times showed that allegations of sexual misconduct against police officers are routinely covered up. Forces frequently hold hearings to examine cases in private, even though they should be heard in public.

“Damning information on the outcome of cases is also deleted from websites where the public could see it,” it reported.

British police’s attitude towards women has come under intense scrutiny following national outrage over the abduction, rape and murder of a young woman in London by a senior Scotland Yard officer. He was convicted and jailed for life. A number of women have since come forward with their personal experiences of male police officers’ misconduct prompting calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime.

Whatever happened to the famously friendly British Bobby?

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Smart phone-less in UK

In the rush to “virtualise” everything in the name of technological progress, it’s often forgotten that there are lots of people even in rich and technologically advanced countries such as Britain who don’t own (can’t afford) smart phones or don’t have access to internet.

For many of them, life has become a huge struggle. As The Times columnist Ann Treneman wrote: “My attempt to get an actual ticket and a railpass card have ended in failure. I have a railpass only available on my phone and a ticket on an email. What about people who don’t have phones? Or, indeed, printers? Must life grind to a halt if we lose the phone (which I am prone to do)?”

Answers anyone?

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Suicide vests as “art”?

Art is known to reflect life, but is there a red line that artists should not cross? Or should artistic licence be allowed a free run however distasteful?

Britain’s most famous artist duo—the Chapman brothers, Jake and Dinos—have caused outrage with an exhibition of “artistic” suicide vests. They have been accused of cheapening art by presenting a series of mounted bronze cast vests, Monuments to Immortality, based on YouTube videos and internet images of suicide bombers.

London Diary: Home Secy Priti Patel's brush with 'institutional racism'

Experts have found them “horrifyingly detailed” prompting calls for them to be removed.

“My brother was killed by a terrorist wearing one of these jackets. I strongly urge this insensitive exhibition to be removed immediately,” said a senior Tory MP and former minister Tobias Ellwood. Critics have described them as “tasteless”, “offensive” and “irresponsible”. The artists say it represents a “dialogue with death and beauty”—a defence which has found few takers.

The Chapman brothers are known for their proclivity to shock. A few years ago, they infuriated Jewish groups with an exhibition called Adventureland Golf in which a statue of Hitler did a Nazi salute every time a ball went past it.

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And, lastly, a woman stopped for suspected drink-driving refused to blow into the breathalyser, saying she was “too fat” and her lungs didn’t have enough puff. Clearly, she wasn’t aware of an old trick to fool the machine: a two-pence coin placed on the tongue when blowing into the breathalyser is claimed to mask the effect of alcohol.

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