Labour’s David Lammy questions why ‘Black English’ is not an option on census

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Labour shadow justice secretary David Lammy (PA)
Labour shadow justice secretary David Lammy (PA)

Labour MP David Lammy has criticised the lack of a “Black English” option in this year’s census, after discovering respondents are given the option of choosing “White English” as their ethnic group.

The shadow justice secretary questioned the absence of the category, having accused census chiefs at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) of getting into a “muddle” over ethnicity options.

Mr Lammy pointed out that there was a “White English” category – as well as a “Black Welsh” and “Asian Welsh” options available for those living in Wales.

“Why can’t I describe myself or my children as English on our census form? Black British yes, English no. You can be White English but you can’t be Black English,” the MP told the Radio Times.

The ONS claimed the evidence did not “support” a change in the census to include a Black English option after carrying out a review on ethnicity questions.

A spokeswoman for the ONS said: “After testing different options in England and Wales, we recommended a change in the Welsh questionnaire to include Black Welsh and Asian Welsh, alongside Black British and Asian British.”

She added: “The evidence did not support a change to include Black English in England.”

Mr Lammy had previously questioned the ability of the census to accurately capture the UK’s multicultural society, asking on Twitter: “Why can’t I be both Black Caribbean & English when I was born in London?

“Why can’t my kids be both mixed Black & White and English (their mother was born in Northampton)? Since when do you need to be White to be English?”

Meanwhile, Mr Lammy used his Radio Times interview to condemn home secretary Priti Patel for failing to back the England team over their decision to take the knee.

Ms Patel refused to condemn spectators who booed England footballers over their anti-racism stance and desmissed the players’ protest as “gesture politics”.

“Let’s remember taking the knee is an act of prayer effectively – that’s why you take the knee as Martin Luther King did – to pray for a better future for black people in which they are no longer experiencing the racism they still are,” Mr Lammy said.

“To describe that as gesture politics and to condone booing was an extraordinary intervention by the home secretary.”

Asked if he felt optimistic about the future of the UK, the Labour MP replied: “I’m afraid I don’t, no” – citing the Windrush scandal and the failures of the Grenfell Tower fire.

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