Keir Starmer has marked the anniversary of the UK parliament electing its first ever Black MPs by announcing a new race equality strategy and measures designed to boost diversity within the Labour Party.
Recognising that Labour’s Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant were elected for the first time 33 years ago today, the leader has unveiled a set of policies to tackle anti-Black racism in the party.
In a video to be released on social media, Starmer will reveal his intention to do the following:
- build on Labour’s Bernie Grant Leadership Programme to increase representation across Labour’s elected representatives;
- introduce an immediate audit into the diversity of Labour staff, including the representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff;
- an action plan and targets to follow the diversity audit; and
- a training module that works at all levels of the party on racism and unconscious bias.
Starmer also plans to create a “fully integrated race equality strategy that spans across all government departments”, which will be developed alongside Labour’s race relations adviser Doreen Lawrence.
The message will call for celebration of the “great pioneers” who took their places in the Commons in 1987, while also declaring that “racism, discrimination and social injustice are all rife in our society”.
“The reality of anti-Black racism, the impact of Covid-19 particularly on Black and Asian communities, and society’s inbuilt racial inequalities have shown that we’ve still got a long way to go,” Starmer says.
“When I became leader of our party I said my first job was to rebuild trust and confidence in the Labour Party. I want Black members to be able to put their trust in me… Now is the time for action.”
The move follows reporting by HuffPost UK that said Labour was losing Black party members and voters amid concerns that it had not acted robustly enough in response to allegations of anti-Black racism.
An internal report on Labour’s handling of antisemitism complaints, which was leaked and distributed online in April, alleged that staffers seeking to undermine Jeremy Corbyn targeted Black Labour MPs.
The subsequent investigation now underway – chaired by Martin Forde QC and supported by three Labour peers – is looking into the commissioning and content of the document as well as the party’s structure, culture and practices.
There is also work being undertaken by deputy leader Angela Rayner and Marsha de Cordova, the Shadow Equalities Secretary who is also leading on equality and inclusion in the party, on setting up a BAME structure.
“As Labour leader, I will work with both Angela Rayner and Marsha de Cordova to tackle anti-black racism,” Starmer promises in his video. After setting out the new measures, he refers to the leaked report and vows to “take action based on its findings”.
“These are initial steps and over the coming months we will continue to develop meaningful and substantial change. I am under no illusion about the scale of the challenge.
“We need overall systematic change within society and our party. As leader, I am dedicated to doing whatever it takes,” the opposition leader concludes.