Many of us were disturbed by research published this week by Hope Not Hate that showed high levels of Islamophobia amongst Tory members. But xenophobic views should not be thought of as confined to the Conservative Party. The Home Office has recorded racially and religiously motivated hate crimes increasing year on year since the vote to leave the EU in 2016. Politicians and pundits alike have preyed on divisions drawn by Brexit to push their own agendas, and attitudes toward black and minority ethnic communities have often paid the price.
As basic principles of a fair and open British society are now routinely challenged in the mainstream, it is critical that Labour moves to firmly assert itself as the party of equality and progress. To embody these principles and drive forward our progressive agenda, we must increase our BAME representation in parliament. It is now more than ever that BAME people need to feel represented and at home in Britain, and the Labour Party should clearly show that it is an inclusive party that reflects our diverse society.
Moreover, we desperately need new and wide-ranging voices to help us navigate this next phase in British politics. We are in the midst of one of the most important and intractable periods of political change in recent history. Regardless of the eventual Brexit outcome, entirely new challenges face the country and we need a range of people from different backgrounds to help navigate this next phase. In pursuit of an outward-looking Britain that works for all sections of society, it is vital that the Labour Party is comprised of a range of MPs from different backgrounds who can offer fresh perspectives on our future.
I am proud of the broad-base coalition that Labour has built under Jeremy Corbyn’s stewardship. Diversity is one of our greatest strengths and we must capitalise on it. I was honoured to be elected as Lambeth’s first Eritrean councillor in 2018, and I see in Lambeth and elsewhere a wealth of BAME talent in our local Labour parties. We need this dynamism reflected in our PLP. With several winnable seats in areas with diverse populations becoming vacant, this is our time to decisively move the party forward. In Ealing North, Enfield North, Limehouse and Poplar, Streatham and in my own constituency, Vauxhall, we should seize the opportunity to significantly increase our BAME representation in London.
Now is the time for Labour to build a positive vision for the future. By championing our party’s BAME talent, we can help counter the regressive turn against our multicultural values and draw upon our party’s greatest strength to help us navigate the country’s forthcoming challenges.