Mish Rahman: Why I’m standing to represent local parties on Labour’s NEC

This pandemic has changed the world, and there is no going back. We now have a choice. We can use this moment to build something stronger – a sustainable society that treats people as equals. Or we can be passive and wring our hands while the old system, built on structural racism and the prioritisation of profit over planet, is patched up once again.

The Labour national executive committee (NEC) slate I’m standing on, Grassroots Voice, believes that our party must choose the first route. We must meet the challenges we face head on and build a Labour Party that fights for the future we all need.

For me, this fight isn’t an abstract one. As a British Muslim male with Bangladeshi heritage, born in Walsall, whose father campaigned with the Anti-Nazi League against the National Front in the ’80s, I’ve always been a committed anti-racist activist.

I was the first Labour candidate of Bangladeshi heritage to stand in Walsall’s council elections, one of the first graduates of Labour’s Bernie Grant Leadership Programme, and I’m now standing in the NEC elections to push for better inclusion and representation for BAME communities. I want to ensure that this important body reflects the diversity of our party, but I also want to prove that people like me offer more than just diversity – we have a huge amount to contribute to the fight for a better society.

Progress on racial justice, both within and outside the party, has been far too slow. I’ve seen tokenistic reforms and half-measures fail to tackle the UK’s deep-rooted racism too many times. Which is why our party must join with Black Lives Matter in their fight for systemic change – change to a justice system that criminalises young people, to a housing sector that charges so much for so little, and an end to racialised health inequalities that cost so many lives. I will lead from the front on these issues.

Labour has been far too quiet on the Tories’ scapegoating of refugees and migrants, which is why I – along with Momentum, Open Labour and Labour Campaign for Free Movement – have called on Keir Starmer to stand up for the rights of refugees and migrants and make clear that no human is illegal.

If elected to the NEC, I’ll fight for Labour to adopt strong policies in support of refugees and migrants’ rights, including providing safe and legal routes for asylum seekers and ending indefinite detention. Inequality and unemployment are caused by Tory policies, not by migrants – but if Labour doesn’t make this clear, the Tories’ racist narratives flourish without opposition. 

The climate crisis must also be top of our agenda. By 2030, we need to create a zero-carbon economy that works for us all, or we face a real threat of climate collapse. This means our party must start building support for a transformative Green New Deal now.

The only way to win power is to address the real problems facing ordinary people. Coronavirus has changed the way people think about society and what is seen as politically possible, but its economic fallout threatens millions of us. There’s massive public support for transformative socialist policies that can create the future we need.

If we don’t harness this deep desire for a better world, we will have wasted a historic opportunity. Our party must be at the forefront of the fight for an economy that protects and empowers the workers that the Tories hold back. The Green New Deal is the perfect framework through which to do this.

But to successfully champion these vital policies, we must also get our house in order. This means, first, ensuring proper NEC accountability. For example, members deserve to know if the party went against its own legal advice to make the recent Panorama payouts from our subs, and we deserve assurances that these payouts won’t undermine the ongoing Labour leaks inquiry – a concern that has been expressed by many Black MPs, staff and members. Banning discussions of these payouts within CLPs is an affront to democracy and free speech within our party, and comes after the Labour right on the NEC voted down a motion to allow CLPs to conduct normal business online. We must stand up to such attempts to silence CLPs and stifle democracy.

A properly transparent and accountable NEC would enable members to hold their representatives accountable for the huge decisions they make on their behalf. In fact, I’d go further: it is members who should decide matters of policy and procedure wherever possible. We’re a party that believes in democracy, after all.

Second, Labour’s NEC must establish a meaningful and dynamic relationship between the top and the bottom of the party, and local party reps have a vital role to play here. We must end selection stitch-ups and let local members decide their candidates. No more ‘knowing the right people’: transparency, fairness, and member-led democracy are key. By fostering Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) as engines of local creativity and talent, we can transform Labour into a powerful campaigning organisation.

Finally, we need an NEC with a strategy to win communities back to Labour – be that rebuilding the Red Wall or healing damaged trust between the party and BAME communities. We can’t do this if we let the Conservatives set the political agenda. We must capture people’s hunger for change by offering them a vision of the future we need: a sustainable, equal society where good jobs and decent homes are the norm, not the exception. A society that supports people to flourish no matter the colour of their skin, class, gender identity, or where they come from. We have a future to win, and the right NEC will be vital in helping us get there.

Support the Grassroots Voice NEC campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

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