What we learned at this week's PMQs

Black Lives Matter dominated the debate, as Labour clarified how it will hold the government to account over systemic racism. 

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Labour has decided on its response to the Black Lives Matter protests  

Today's PMQs revealed the precise way in which the Labour Party will pressurise the government to implement solutions to the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. Keir Starmer didn't call for another inquiry into systemic racism, nor did he make general points: instead, he pushed specifically for the recommendations of the Lammy report (an independent review into the treatment of black and other ethnic minority individuals in the criminal justice system) and the Windrush report to be implemented. 

The government is taking one action to tackle disproportionate BAME deaths from Covid-19

In response to the disproportionate numbers of deaths from Covid-19 among black and ethnic minority people, the Prime Minister announced one specific action. Those in high-contact professions, who are disproportionately likely to be BAME and are at higher risk of Covid, are to be prioritised for testing. 

Black Lives Matter's concerns have been taken on board by backbenchers on all sides of the House 

Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat and several Conservative backbenchers asked questions relating to the issues highlighted by the recent anti-racism protests. Maria Miller, the Conservative MP for Basingstoke, asked about the government's plans to address systemic racism within the criminal justice system and within government departments. Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat's acting leader, noted that under “suspicionless stop and search”, a black person is 47 times more likely to be stopped than a white person. The Prime Minister's tone was conciliatory as he agreed on the importance of these issues, another confirmation that the government has shifted tone on the issue since it first condemned the "thuggery" of Black Lives Matter protests that became violent.

There's a stalemate between the party leaders on schools reopening

The Labour leader repeated his request to Boris Johnson to begin a "national taskforce" to work out a strategy for the reopening of schools in England, following a government U-turn on its plans for all primary school children in England to return to school before the summer. Johnson rejected the request and dealt Starmer a rare blow by accusing him of inconsistency on the issue. "Last week he was telling the House that it was not yet safe, this week he is saying not enough kids are going back. He needs to make up his mind." Starmer, meanwhile, said that the public had lost confidence in the government over its handling of the issue.

Ailbhe Rea is political correspondent at the New Statesman.

She co-hosts the New Statesman podcast, discussing the latest in UK politics.

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