BAME Labour members raise alarm over treatment of black MPs

Sienna Rodgers

BAME Labour members have raised alarm over the treatment of black MPs, with hundreds signing open letters to the new leadership that call for internal party reform and increased transparency.

One of the open letters was penned by a group of 26 graduates from the Bernie Grant Leadership Programme, which was launched by Labour in 2019 to empower members and develop their skills.

“The programme was set up to nurture the next generation of BAME leaders in the Labour Party but the treatment of senior black MPs in the party has caused us grave concern,” the letter reads.

The signatories express concern that progress has “stalled” and report that members believe a “disturbing culture of patronage, side-lining and gaslighting” exists within the party.

Referring to the recent leaked report on Labour’s handling of complaints, the graduates describe the alleged treatment of Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler and Clive Lewis as “stomach-turning” and “very upsetting”.

They also comment on the leadership and deputy leadership campaigns of Lewis, who withdrew early as he could not secure enough MP nominations, and Butler, who placed last in the deputy results on April 4th.

The way that these campaigns unfolded “raise worrying questions about who gets institutional and financial support within the party”, the BAME activists say in the letter.

It calls for the immediate suspension of members who have been accused of “racism, sexism and bullying”, for the report to be published with redactions, and to be sent to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Another open letter circulating online has been signed by more than 700 BAME Labour members and non-BAME allies. It makes similar points about the leaked report, described as “shocking but unsurprising”.

BAME communities are “taken for granted by the Labour Party”, the letter claims, before arguing that “immediate action” must be taken if BAME members are to stop “becoming embarrassed to be associated with it”.

The letter stresses the need for reform of party-affiliated organisation BAME Labour, which it brands “ineffective” and “inaccessible”. It relays reports that many were not aware of the recent election of a new BAME rep on Labour’s ruling body.

It calls on the Labour leadership to:

  • “Implement the recommendations made in the 2018 Labour Democracy Review report with a new set-up that involves all BAME members;
  • “Commit to a date for the next BAME Labour elections;
  • “Clearly communicate their plans for reform to BAME Labour members.”

A number of new BAME organisations have been set up by Labour activists in recent weeks, including Socialists of Colour and the 1987 Caucus for young black men in the party.

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