Trevor Phillips will break with years of political convention to call for the law to be changed to enshrine positive discrimination in favour of disadvantaged whites.
His startling intervention in the race debate is a rebuke to Harriet Harman, who earlier this year trumpeted plans to make companies discriminate in favour of women and ethnic minorities.
Mr Phillips said ministers should allow councils and education authorities to introduce 'positive action' programmes aimed specifically at young whites unable to compete with highly skilled immigrants because the 'need is so great'.
And he warned that immigration has fuelled 'resentments that are real and should not be dismissed – resentments felt by white, black and Asian'.
The chairman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission set out his thinking to the Daily Mail ahead of his appearance at a CBI event on immigration today alongside immigration minister Phil Woolas.
Mr Phillips said failure to help white families hit by the downturn could drive them into the arms of far-Right parties similar to those that have brought turmoil to Austria, Belgium and Holland.
He also warned that ministers needed to acknowledge the resentment by some whites over what they see as unfair help given to blacks and Asians.
'What we are seeing is that there is a whole group of people, a large proportion of whom are white, who are going to suffer from this crisis who are going to be the people we should want to help, particularly because they come from the wrong side of town,' he said.
'We are going to have to do something special for them. We are going to have to put extra resources where young people can't compete with migrants' skills.
'And in some parts of the country, it is clear that what defines disadvantage won't be black or brown, it will be white. And we will have to take positive action to help some white groups, what we might call the white underclass.'
And he warned: 'We know what the political consequences are because we have seen it on the Continent.
'If we ignore the fact some white groups are going to be disadvantaged we will end up with the same kind of conflicts we have seen in Austria, Belgium and now Holland, where the anti-immigrant racist Right-wing parties get a big boost.
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