Trying to reset the agenda, UK's May sets out to tackle social injustice

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 02, 2017 7:07 PM

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May will on Tuesday describe the scale of social and racial injustice she plans to tackle, hoping to shift the focus of her ruling party's annual conference away from rifts over Brexit and her leadership.

After a bruising start to the Conservative Party's annual meeting in the northern city of Manchester, May will try to reset the agenda after remarks on Brexit policy by foreign minister Boris Johnson deepened rifts in her top team of advisers.

She will announce that an audit will be published on Oct. 10 spelling out the "uncomfortable truths" of life in Britain, examining how people of different racial backgrounds are treated in the health, education, employment and the criminal justice system.

"In doing this ground-breaking work we are holding a mirror up to our society," May said in a statement.

"My most fundamental political belief is that how far you go in life should be based on your talent and how hard you work - and nothing else."

May promised to build a "country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few" when she became prime minister just over a year ago after Britain voted to leave the European Union and her predecessor David Cameron stepped down.

But she has had to shelve many of her domestic policies - such as reforming social care policy and corporate reforms - since losing the Conservatives' majority in parliament in a June election. That setback has undermined the party's confidence in her ability to lead it into the next election, due in 2022.

The preliminary findings of the audit showed that the unemployment rate for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people of working age is nearly double that for white groups, while more than nine in 10 headteachers are white, the government said.

The findings, the government says, can help ministers better target training and mentoring programs, helping employers close the employment gap among other measures.

"The idea itself is not new," May said.

"Charles Booth's maps of rich and poor areas in Victorian London drew attention to hardship that was too often hidden – but this focus on how ethnicity affects people's lives will present findings that are uncomfortable."

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Toby Chopra)