How Labour NEC candidates are being held to account on anti-racism

Socialists of Colour was founded to campaign on anti-racism both within and outside the Labour Party. We want to see a Labour that is a home for communities of colour, that is vehemently anti-racist and works to dismantle the structural inequality we see in society. Unfortunately, in its current state, this is not the case – with many communities of colour feeling alienated by the party. If Labour is supposed to be a ‘natural political home’ for minorities, this must be reflected in the actions and stances of the leadership and the governing body. Our votes and support can no longer be taken for granted.

Black Lives Matter is not a “moment”, as our leader described (in comments he later said he regretted). It is a vital, continuous, protest movement against state-sanctioned murders in our own country; the cross-party inaction by our elected officials to address and rectify this; the fact that 21 years from the publication of the Macpherson report, the Met’s Commissioner cannot bring herself to admit that perhaps stopping more than a quarter of all Black boys aged 15-24 in London, during a pandemic that disproportionately affects Black communities, was not only a mistake but a manifestation of the very institutional racism she does not find “helpful” to name. For this reason, we felt it crucial to hold Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) candidates accountable on issues that affect minorities within the party.

As activists frustrated with our party’s record on anti-racism, we thought it imperative to compile questions to help voters ascertain whether those running to be on our NEC are not just sympathetic to dismantling systemic racism but competent in that aim. We need candidates committed to helping craft and call for restorative and transformative legislative action, not vacuous symbolic gestures that ultimately fuel culture wars.

Those at the top of our party must acknowledge and understand that due to the institutional nature of racism within society it continues to be an insidious presence within the party. It’s not enough to have relatively anti-racist politics and rhetoric in a political environment where the other side is wielding violent systemic racism and scapegoating minorities at every turn. Given the severity of the situation, we need the members of our governing body to be constantly aware of how structural racism may operate within the party, and to dismantle it from the inside.

As such we, alongside the 1987 Caucus, decided to send a list of questions to all candidates standing in Labour’s NEC elections. Our questions were decided by a working group absent of candidates running in NEC and Young Labour elections. They were emailed to all candidates with email addresses on the Labour Party candidate page on the 17th August with candidates having 12 days to respond, which we believed was an adequate and accessible timeframe for a response from any soon-to-be elected official.

Our questions covered a wide variety of topics including Black Lives Matter, institutional racism in the Labour Party, international solidarity and engagement with members of colour. We have tried to ensure that candidates answer questions that reveal their stances on all concerns that members of colour may have. Questions range from enquiring how candidates will fight for a more rigorous complaints process, to how they will tackle anti-GRT (Gypsy, Roma and Traveller) racism, their views on the Iraq war, and their understanding of the lack of Black and minority representation within the party. All the questions, alongside the candidates’ responses, can be found on our website.

We want to thank all the candidates who did engage with our questions and took the time to answer them to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, not all of the candidates whom we contacted chose to respond or to communicate with us effectively in the time period we provided, including individuals backed by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance and Labour To Win. We find this incredibly disappointing as the primary aim of these questions was to give candidates the opportunity to share their vision for the Labour Party and explain how they plan to engage with issues affecting people of colour. We hoped that any candidate who claims the title of an anti-racist would find time to engage with socialists of colour regarding our communities’ questions and concerns.

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