Eight Labour MPs have declared that they will not seek reselection ahead of the next general election. Our colleagues will be missed, but these vacancies could provide the opportunity for Labour to correct its minority ethnic under-representation. Only 26% of London Labour MPs are BAME compared to 41% of Londoners. As a party dedicated to championing diversity and resolutely committed to progressive social change, we must urgently redress this imbalance.
British politics has been brought almost to a standstill by the colossal pressure exerted by Brexit upon parliament. The slow-motion horror show of the Conservative Party tearing itself apart over the backstop has only served as a long and painful distraction from serious issues struggling for parliamentary time. Be it rising knife crime, stressed local services, or the NHS staffing crisis, people from less well-off and BAME communities often suffer disproportionately from such issues.
Watching the two public school-educated millionaire Tory leadership hopefuls traverse the country promising tax cuts to the (disproportionately white) richest threw into sharp relief recent research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on pay disparity. According to the recent ONS report, there are significant pay gaps between white and minority ethnic workers, even when education and occupation are accounted for. In London – our most diverse region – the gap is largest at 21.7%. With Brexit likely only to exacerbate the effects of systemic inequalities, it is now more than ever we need strong BAME voices in parliament to bring about radical change.
I am proud to be a member (and former chair) of the Co-operative Party, whose ethos is founded upon democratic, public ownership of services and utilities. Equality is essential to forging the UK’s co-operative movement, where control and wealth is shared amongst customers and workers. The Labour and Co-operative Parties alike must ensure that no one is left behind in our radical re-imagining of work, wealth and power within society. To ensure this, we must select BAME candidates to replace our outgoing colleagues, especially in constituencies such as Vauxhall, Poplar and Limehouse, and Ealing North with significant BAME communities.
With the aid of all-women shortlists, we have taken great strides forward in selecting and electing women, who now make up 46% of the PLP. Let us apply the same methods to increasing minority ethnic representation ahead of the next general election.
We must urgently oust the Tories from government to take control of the Brexit process and combat the deepening inequality affecting Britain. Boris Johnson’s premiership will not champion BAME rights. It is, as ever, the charge of the Labour and Co-operative Parties to be the vehicle for progressive change and equality in this country. Let’s ensure our party truly reflects our values as we enter the next general election.