Keir Starmer has told an LBC caller who raised concerns over his recent comments on the Black Lives Matter movement that he will be the first of Labour Party staff to undergo unconscious bias training.
A Labour Party member who identified herself as Sharon from Waltham Forest told Starmer this morning that she was “disappointed” he had referred to the Black Lives Matter movement as a “moment”.
Asked whether he would consider taking unconscious bias training, the Labour leader replied: “What I was saying last week is that Black Lives Matter needs to be a moment, and I meant a defining moment and a turning point…
“The reason I said that Sharon is because I’ve spoken to lots of Black community leaders over the last few weeks and they’ve told me over and over again, for heaven’s sake this has got to be a turning point.”
He added: “I have to admit that if I’d put the word ‘defining’ actually into the moment, it would have been a lot easier.”
Addressing the point about unconscious bias training, Starmer said: “In the Labour Party, we are introducing that for all of our staff, and I’m going to lead from the top on this and do that training first.
“I think it’s very important we do. We took a decision to introduce it across the Labour Party, and I think that’s the right thing to do and I think I should lead by example by doing it first.”
The Labour leader went on to tell LBC host Nick Ferrari that the training takes around “two or three hours” and said he would “do it as soon as I can book in for it”.
He told Ferrari, who questioned the need for the training: “I think everybody should have unconscious bias training. I think it is important. There is always the risk of unconscious bias.
“Just saying, oh well it probably applies to other people, not me, is not the right thing to do. So I’m going to lead from the front on this and do the training.”
Asked whether he regretted ‘taking the knee’, Starmer said: “I don’t regret it at all. It was an expression of solidarity, a recognition of the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and what they stand for across the world.”
Starmer also talked about the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey, reiterating that he thought the Independent article she tweeted included antisemitism. He said the firing was a “shame”.
Asked about a tweet by shadow cabinet member Steve Reed describing developer Richard Desmond as a “puppet master”, the Labour leader said: “I haven’t seen that tweet and I’ll have a look at it when I finish here.”
Reed, Labour’s spokesperson for local government, tweeted: “Is billionaire former porn-baron Desmond the puppet master for the entire Tory cabinet?”. The post has now been deleted.
Amid concerns that the comment about the Tory donor involved in the Westferry scandal played into an antisemitic trope, Starmer said he would be talking to Reed after the LBC session.