Khan reaffirms the place of race on Labour’s agenda

15th May, 2014 7:04 pm

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The Labour Party hasn’t talked too much about race in this Parliament. After over a decade of equal rights legislation, it would be easy – too easy – for much of the country and even many in Westminster to think that issues around race were settled, and that legal equality and the passing of time would automatically deal with societal inequalities about race. That’s a dangerously complacent attitude – and one that Sadiq Khan has implicitly taken on in a speech to Operation Black Vote this afternoon.

Policy areas in which Khan pledged Labour would act on race include stop and search reform, and increased diversity in some of the most closed and/or elitist institutions in our society – the police, the judiciary, the civil service and – perhaps most tellingly – company boards.

Only a week after Policy Exchange explained the importance of ethnic minority voters to the future of British politics – Khan also contrasted Labour’s position on race, that “the impact of Government policy and work on ethnic minority Britons will be one of our highest priorities”, with Cameron’s government, for which such issues have been “barely been an afterthought”.

Khan – the son of a bus driver from Pakistan who became the first Asian MP to attend cabinet, via being Chair of Liberty – is a success story for the British Asian community, and shows that race need not be a barrier to success in modern Britain. But the challenge for Labour and Britain that Khan has outlined today is for successes like his to be far more common. When unemployment amongst BME communities rises as overall unemployment falls – leaving ethnic minority Britons more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white Britons – there’s still much work to be done.

Khan deserves praise for taking on an issue that Westminster often finds more comfortable to ignore. And with the party opening a Race Equality consultation– it looks like Labour will be talking more about race in future.

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  • JoeDM

    So is this more multiculturalism and separate development? Or is the objective true integration and a colour-blind, secular, liberal society?

    • MikeHomfray

      No such thing as colour-blind while genuine inequalities exist.
      Of course it is multiculturalism – wishing something away won’t make it happen. We don’t live in a unicultural society

      • JoeDM

        That is the sort of attitude that has allowed schools in Birmingham and other inner cities to be taken over by religious extremists !

      • Rob

        No, and we don’t live in a multicultural one either. Its multiple groups and ethnicities moving further apart, and with less and less in common. some of this division was explicitly encouraged by people like Ken Livingstone, and is deeply regretable, I think.
        And yes, colour blind is far batter than obsessing about colour. Many problems around inequality in this country about about culture, not colour, but that’s a bit uncomfortable for some “progressives”. It makes them have to think rather than be smugly sanctimonious.

        • MikeHomfray

          Obviously another UKIP interloper…..race and ethnicity still exists as a social division. Labour will not ignore this.

          • Rob

            I am a Labour member for over 20 years. I live in one of the most diverse boroughs in London, and i am fed up of stupid, guilty liberals who understand nothing about the real world calling anyone they disagree with (which is most of the country) racist/UKIP or fascist. Its this sort of idiocy that has driven people to UKIP and worse. Most of them are not racist. They feel like they were lied to and ignored. They have been. You really don’t get it, do you?

          • MikeHomfray

            You mean I don’t agree with you. No, I don’t. And if Labour ever goes down your preferred path, then I wouldn’t be voting for it.

          • Rob

            Farewell then, Mike. Social democrats, people who genuinely believe in equality in the Labour party will be relieved to know that you’re heading off down the Respect path. Its a lonely place over there, but at least you can feel righteous…

          • MikeHomfray

            As Sadiq Khan’s statement here has indicated its your view which will be ignored – the above is Labour policy and what Labour intends to do. Nationalist workerism with left wing economics and UKIP policies on immigration will never be Labour policy.

          • JoeDM

            So more of the same multicultural failure and uncontrolled immigration !!!

    • FMcGonigal

      Equality is a step toward integration.

  • EricBC

    One day BAME activists will realise that there are half a million British citizens of Far Eastern ethnicities, be they Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian etc.

  • Rob

    Argh. This is like a throwback to the 1980s. Do we really want to alienate the white working class vote even more? Does the “increased diversity” include a look at the class background of people joining the “elite institutions”, or is it just race?

    This is the sort of communitarian politics that divides rather than unites, and makes an awful lot of people who are neither racist nor xenophobic, wonder what the hell Labour offers them.
    They are told, through the media prism of an Oxbridge Middle Class outlook, that the country is racist, that “diversity” is of singularly great importance. And then the same people wonder why UKIP has a certain appeal… It really is not difficult. Fetishise race, call major organisations and institution racist and you are essentiallyignoring the majority population.
    OK, Sadiq, will Labour policy also include looking at why Indian Asians and the Chinese, to take two examples, do much better in education and work than white Britons (hardly a sign of racism) but Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are bottom of the pile? is it white racism? Or, perhaps, certain cultures that do not like girls being educated, that can’t quite get to grips with what living in a modern secular society is all about, perhaps there is just the teensiest element of self exclusion?
    Khan’s speech will not win many votes, and will emphaise to the doubters that Labour is clueless about what really matters to them, and what’s really important to the country. Livingstone’s communitarianism, and obsession with race, managed to lose him boroughs like Barking and Dagenham in the last mayoral election. Will we ever learn?

    • MikeHomfray

      So, we simply ignore the fact that people are diverse and that racism exists, just to appease ‘the white working class’?
      The majority population doesn’t generally get discriminated against for being in the majority.
      However, any strategy would clearly have to take into account the way that different inequalities intersect – but overall there are still issues which need work with regard to racial equality.
      We can’t just walk away and ignore them

      • Rob

        Mike, no of course we don’t ignore racism. But we must stop obsessing about it. This country has a fantastic record on racial equality, but pushing anything that even remotely approaches quotas and there will, rightly, be a backlash So, the Police or magistrates “reflecting the population” could mean more able and competent white working class being rejected in favour of someone because of their skin colour. Positive discrimination is really not a road I want to go down.
        OK, here’s a couple of ideas to help minority groups which would be far better..
        Stop translating public documents into multiple languages. make learning English a priority. Nothing impedes acces to work more than a lack of English.
        Stop chain migration of illiterate brides (nearly always brides, not grooms…why?) from Pakistan, Bangladesh in particular, and eslsewhere. It reinforces segregation.
        And stop calling people like Gunnerbear rightwing for making valid points that normal people (ie those who do not obsess about politics) think is the right thing to do. Almost every knife and gun murder in London is commited by certain BME groups. I want to know why, and then how to stop it, not whether it might be seen as racist or discriminatory to question people from the same ethnic background.

        • MikeHomfray

          We don’t ‘obsess’ about it.
          But we don;t shy away from recognising it either, for fear of losing some racist white voters.
          I very much doubt whether there is any reason why institutions should not reflect the population, unless you are suggesting that BME people are less ‘able and competent’. The question is far more why they are not applying or being appointed. Indeed, with the police, the issue is actually one of retention rather than recruitment.
          Your proposals read like a UKIP manifesto. If Labour turns into that sort of party, then count me out. What’s the point of having a left wing party which speaks the language of right wing nationalism?
          I’d rather stay in opposition than adopt those views – there is a damned sight more to politics than class and economics. Stick your putative white workerist party where it belongs.

          • Rob

            Good grief. So its UKIPist to want people to speak English? Its UKIP to have concerns about arranged marriages with illiterate brides? Its racist to notice that there are far too many black boys in London stabbing eachother? And you think you are left wing? Seriously?
            We had far too many party members with your apologist views. Its one reason why we lost the last sodding election. I don’t want to lose the next one, and a desperate desire to have some sort of equal opps nirvana is going in precisely the wrong direction. Stupidity and rehashed sociology lectures sounding like its circa 1983 are not progressive. And you typically do that ultra leftie thing of calling anyone who disagress a racist. Its not true, and it does not work any more.

          • MikeHomfray

            There are already programs to assist people to speak English, but refusing to assist those who cannot is another matter. One does not have to rule out the other.
            The ‘illiterate brids’ you mention are now rarely permitted here because of the earning rules
            And the BME community and the Police are certainly aware of knife crime, which certainly isn’t confined to one ethnic group, and gang warfare, which again exists in a variety of urban environments – in cities like Liverpool the protagonists are nearly all white.
            If we start to move towards your view then you may gain a few recalcitrants who wouldn’t vote otherwise. But you would lose far more people from BME groups – who vote Labour in very large numbers – and the middle-class Labour vote which votes in very high numbers would be likely to shift to the Greens.

            A party reflecting economic leftism and social conservatism simply couldn’t bring together enough votes to form a majority government. Indeed, maybe this is the problem – our electoral system relied on parties which could do this, but they no longer exist because views and values have dissipated too much. It may be almost impossible for any one party to contain within it so many diametrically opposed views and concerns

    • FMcGonigal

      “Does the “increased diversity” include a look at the class background of people joining the “elite institutions”, or is it just race?”
      Yes it does. If institutions are more open and democratic this will help the white working-class as well as ethnic and other minorities.

  • gunnerbear

    ” act on race include stop and search reform, and increased diversity in some of the most closed and/or elitist institutions in our society – the police, the judiciary, the civil service and – perhaps most tellingly – company boards.”

    Ehh? Targetted SUS laws actually help those in poorer areas by making it more difficult for criminals to operate. The IRA hated the SUS laws because it meant that any know ‘person of interest’ could be stopped at any time which is why the political wing of the IRA did their best to try and get rid of them,

    And before any start whining about the rights of the criminal, I said targeted (and incidentally being a chunky chap who works odd hours and often carries a rucksack, I’ve been stopped frequently).

    I don’t care what colour the copper is provided he or she is a thief taker. I want the coppers to be containing and stopping the criminal scum, not wittering on about diversity.

    “elitist institutions in our society…”
    Hell-f***in’-fire….honestly….I don’t care if ‘The Beak’ is black, white, asian, Chinese, lesbian or gay so long as they are good at their job and lock the criminals away for the maximum possible time.

    I wouldn’t give a f**k if the judge was a black lesbian from Stockwell so long as she ‘dropped the hammer, good ‘n’ hard’ on those that needed it. I’d much rather a judge like that, instead of some Oxford educated tool who always believes what the defendants mouthpiece has to say.

    Again, not sure if that makes me left, right or centre.

    • MikeHomfray

      Right-wing. No change

      • gunnerbear

        Wow, must say then that in terms of hammering criminals, I know more than a few chaps who are solid red mob voters yet according to your scale are now right wing.

        • MikeHomfray

          Yes, I am sure you do

          • gunnerbear

            So does a wish to see criminals face the full fury of the law make someone right wing? Can I now say that anyone who even considers the rights of criminals to be a lefty apologist for criminal scum?

          • MikeHomfray

            If you wish. I’m not in the least bothered about what you think, as I hardly think you would ever be someone who would or should vote Labour

          • gunnerbear

            Why should I not vote Labour? Strangely, according to you at least, I should not vote Labour….must tell my Red Mob MP that I shouldn’t be voting for him.

          • MikeHomfray

            Well, you can if you want, but given your views, I fail to see why you would want to

          • Rob

            Unbelievable arrogance, patronising, happy to call anyone you disagree with racist. I thought this antiquated vision of “the Left” was dying out due to irrelevance and wrong-headedness.
            And WTF is “nationalist workerism”? it sounds like the sort of thing very sad people selling Socialist Worker drivel on about with the mates in the pub after calling for worldwide proletarian revolution.

          • JoeDM

            It seems to me that his is a viewpoint and attitude closer to the SWP than Labour.

    • MonkeyBot5000

      Targetted SUS laws actually help those in poorer areas by making it more difficult for criminals to operate.

      They don’t make life more difficult for criminals because they aren’t targetting criminals. If they were, we could expect them to have a damn sight better arrest record.

      Police just search anyone they don’t like the look of – which would be fine if our police where the finely tuned crime-detecting machines that they like to claim, but they’re not.

      Even a Conservative Home Secretary is saying a quarter of their searches may have been illegal.

      • gunnerbear

        I used to live in poorer area of the town where I live now.

        I have no issue with SUS laws done in a systematic targeted manner. As I said when I used to live in that area I was stopped ‘coming and going’ from work and the pub at all ours of the day and night.

        I never once felt aggrieved or the need to go running to the Press or some who’s profession was to be an ‘offended person’.

        I agree though that it depends how the search is done and the reasons given. I never once felt the reasons given to me were unusual or problematic.

  • swatnan

    You would have to be blind deaf and dumb to not know that Britain is changing.
    Its an evolutionary kind of thing, and theres nothing that anyone can do about it other than accept it and adapt. The fact is people are on the move across frontiers, worldwide, to seek a different way of life. Its what the early pioneers did, wander and settle. Despite all the difficulties and hostility placed in their way, pioneers will always find a way and survive. Sadiq desreves credit for speaking up.

    • JoeDM

      So we open our boarders and let anyone in to take our jobs and use our tax funded NHS !!!

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