The Prime Minister said that there is “a lot we have to do” to tackle racism, but the UK should not try to “rewrite the past” by removing historical symbols.
Writing in the telegraph, Boris Johnson said he was setting up a committee to look into all “inequalities”.
He said that “nobody is interested in this country” could ignore the anti-racist demonstrations sparked by the killing of George Floyd in US police custody.
However, he added that the British heritage should be left “in a wide range of peace.”
Johnson also condemned the “far-right thugs” involved in Saturday’s violent protests, which saw more than 100 people arrested in London after thousands gathered, saying they were protecting the statues.
He said their mission was “completely ridiculous” but added that it was “unfortunate” that the statue of Sir Winston Churchill was in danger of attack.
This comes after the statue was painted in Parliament Square with the words “he was racist” at the end of last week. In Bristol, anti-racist protesters withdrew the statue of slave dealer Edward Coulston.
The Prime Minister said that he was forming a committee to look into inequality because “there is no point in merely saying that we have made great progress in addressing racism”.
He wrote: “There is a lot that we have to do, and we will do it. It is time for a cross-government committee to consider all aspects of inequality – in employment, health outcomes, academia, and all other walks of life.”
Questions were raised about unequal health outcomes over and over during the coronavirus pandemic after figures showed that more ethnic minority backgrounds were dying “disproportionately” with the virus.
Thousands marched in the UK as part of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last month.
Johnson said that the “dangerous spots” raised by anti-racist protesters must be taken seriously.
However, he said, this does not mean “wasting time” in the controversy in the life and opinions of “every historic figure currently immortalized in bronze or stone.”
He said: “Let’s fight racism, but leave our heritage in peace on a large scale. If we really want to change it, there are democratic means available in this country – by the way, Winston Churchill.”
The matter comes as the English Heritage Company reviews the blue plates 950 in London to check if any of them have “problematic” connections and will ensure an additional context is posted about them online, As reported for the first time in the Thames.
As for the statues, the English Heritage also said it believed that the best course of action was to give an additional context. “With the statues in our care, we need to make sure that the stories of those who have already been remembered are completely told, without embellishment or excuses,” she said.
Marsha de Cordova, Minister of Equality in Work, criticized some of Johnson’s words.
“We are in the midst of a global health pandemic, which has sharply revealed profound structural disparities that for a long time need urgent treatment,” she said.
The Prime Minister is now saying that he wants to “change the narrative … so we stop the feeling of abuse and discrimination” is arrogant and designed to allow himself and his government to get out of trouble. “
Liberal Democratic spokeswoman Christine Jardine said the commission was a “welcome first step” and showed “black life” protests working.
But she added: “Its findings should not just become another report on the shelf in Whitehall – the government should implement it without delay.”
“Conservative ministers should not use this committee to avoid tackling racism and injustice at the present time. There are measures they can take tomorrow, such as abolishing hostile environmental policies or ending suspicion and non-stop research, which will begin to address divisions and bring justice to the BAME communities.”
Meanwhile, a survey of people’s ethnic attitudes in Britain during recent protests indicates that people are increasingly optimistic that the UK will become more tolerant and diversified.
When asked if they were optimistic, Britain would be more tolerant and diversified within 10 years, two-thirds of people surveyed by Ipsos Mori said they were, compared to half in 2009. And 84% of people disagreed vehemently when asked whether someone should be White to be really British – from 55% a decade ago.