Labour needs to empower BAME members – here’s how

The Tories are in crisis and a cabinet reshuffle won’t save them. Labour are increasingly ahead in the polls and demonstrating that we’re the government-in-waiting. Labour’s massive increase in membership and popular policies – ending austerity, protecting jobs, investing in our NHS, building council housing, fighting climate change and securing equality and opportunity – are all achievements we can be proud of.

Labour’s stunning result in last year’s general election saw Jeremy Corbyn’s naysayers left gagging as Theresa May was deprived of her Parliamentary majority. Labour’s vote surged by 9.6% as millions were filled with hope and inspiration from Labour’s radical manifesto. People from all backgrounds and walks of life were attracted to what Labour had to offer them, their families and community.

The key question facing Labour is how does it consolidate that success and build the winning electoral coalition that can get Jeremy Corbyn as our next Prime Minister.

Securing support from Britain’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) voters will be vital to Labour’s success.

With people of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean heritage making up at least 14% of the population – Labour will need us at the heart of its winning coalition. Analysis by Operation Black Vote has highlighted the pivotal role of BAME voters in marginal seats. And we saw this was proved right with fabulous Labour gains not only in London – in places like Battersea and Croydon Central – but also in Reading, Peterborough and Bedford.

Labour has historically enjoyed significant support from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic voters – and rightly so. The Labour Party, working with trade unions and BAME people, have been at the forefront of advancing equalities legislation, challenging discrimination and providing opportunity for full participation in society. The record is far from perfect but it’s undeniable that BAME communities are better off with Labour. This is in stark contrast to the Conservative Party who have repelled BAME voters over the years with an incredible record of racism and have attacked the public services that BAME people work in, and use.

Labour should never take BAME voters for granted though. For decades, Labour could expect overwhelming support of Britain’s BAME voters. But there has been a downward trend and BAME voters have increasingly been staying at home or casting votes elsewhere.

Thankfully, this trend is now on the reverse since the 2017 general election. Support for Labour amongst BAME voters went up 6%to 73%. In addition, the 25-year high in overall voter turnout was boosted by a 6-point increase in turnout of BAME voters.

This indicates that the anti-racist, anti-austerity platform adopted by Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell enthuses and mobilises BAME voters.

Labour didn’t participate in a race to the bottom on immigration with the Tories – instead championing multiculturalism, diversity and the benefits of immigration to the economy. It stood up to the cuts that have undermined institutions like our NHS, schools and transport systems that BAME workers have been central to building.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP has rightly rejected the racist scapegoating framework of the Tories when it comes to immigration saying – “Our priorities are growth, jobs and prosperity. We make no apologies for putting these aims before bogus immigration targets.”

It’s incredibly inspiring that Corbyn’s Shadow front bench is the most diverse in Labour’s history.

There is huge potential to build on the new direction that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Party is taking us in. With tens of thousands of new BAME members, the Labour Party has an historic opportunity to engage, support, train and effectively represent a new generation of activists and leaders.

Unfortunately, as Rebecca Boumelha writes – the organisation which should be empowering BAME people and championing our issues is in desperate need of reform. Labour’s Democracy Review provides a crucial opportunity to set this right. The top things I want to see are automatic entitlement of all Labour members who are BAME to fully participate in democratic structures, policy-making conferences, candidate training, elections and events and a real commitment to BAME representation at all levels of our movement.

By properly integrating and empowering its BAME members, Labour gives itself the best chances of being able to relate to and represent the interests of everyone. This will help us secure BAME voters that are critical to securing a Labour government that can provide prosperity, equality, and dignity for all.

Aaron Kiely is a Labour Party member in Walthamstow CLP and former NUS Black Students’ Officer

The Labour Party Democracy Review is currently inviting submissions from party members on BAME Labour, Young Labour and the Labour Party Women’s Conference. These submissions must be made by January 12th. Find out more here:

https://labour.org.uk/about/democracy-review-2017/

More from LabourList