Former EHRC Staff alleges politics prevented Tory Islamophobia probe
A former staff member at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) claims politics was behind the reason why it investigated alleged antisemitism in Labour but not Islamophobia within the Conservative Party.
Preeti Kathrecha also accused the EHRC of downplaying "institutional racism as an objective fact."
The former senior associate and race lead at the EHRC until 2021 is suing the equality watchdog for race discrimination and unfair dismissal in an employment tribunal this week. The EHRC denies all the claims.
Kathrecha claims she was punished for doing her job by speaking up about race, according to the Guardian.
Despite greater evidence of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, Kathrecha says the EHRC instead chose to investigate antisemitism allegations in the Labour Party in 2019.
She also adds that the group looked into whether the Home Office unlawfully discriminated against the Windrush generation, only after the 2019 general election.
In her particulars of claim, Kathrecha says the EHRC is institutionally racist. "I was vilified by the senior management (including HR) for speaking up on race, and ended up suffering from work-related stress. The very same race issues which were said to exist at organisations and employers we investigated existed at the respondent," she says.
Founded in 2007, the organisation has consistently been accused of failing the UK's Muslim population.
Islamophobia allegations against the Tories have been a longstanding issue, but the party has never been investigated by the EHRC.
The MCB this week again urged the EHRC to investigate Islamophobia in the party following comments by Conservative London Mayoral candidate Susan Hall.
Hall insinuated that some of London's Jewish community are "frightened" of a "divisive" Mayor Sadiq Khan, which the MCB described as "dog whistle Islamophobia."
Denying institutional racism
According to Kathrecha, in her role as head of evidence for an EHRC inquiry examining racial inequalities in health and social care, she found "clear objective evidence of structural and institutional racism." However, she alleges she was told "that there would never be a finding made on these terms."
She adds that similar evidence of institutional racism was downplayed or disregarded in EHRC reports on higher education, the Met police, and the coronavirus pandemic. She says the EHRC "began to deny the existence of 'institutional racism' as an objective fact, and to prohibit such findings in its reports."
Kathrecha says race leads were ignored when they requested a cross-party inquiry into racism within political parties. "Although there was evidence of racism in the Labour party, it was found to be far more pervasive in the Home Office (but we ignored it) and was said to be far more pervasive in the Conservative party (but we ignored it)," her claim states.
According to her claim, in January 2021, her race training was ended "because it spoke about structural and institutional racism".
Later in the same year, she claims she received an informal warning, partially due to an internal email raising concerns the EHRC was being used in a government "witch-hunt" against race thinktank Runnymede Trust.
Runnymede criticised the controversial Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities race report in 2021.
The report was widely attacked by MPs, unions, and equality advocates for being divisive and failing to enact systemic reform.
It faced backlash for downplaying structural racism in modern British society. UK bodies cited in the report quickly distanced themselves, while UN human rights experts described it as an attempt to "normalise white supremacy".
The tribunal comes during a tumultuous period for the watchdog. Its chair, Kishwer Falkner, faces an independent probe into bullying and harassment allegations, which she denies.